According to a recent press release regarding the new release: “Blending pop, soul, and Baroque arrangements, Kat Cunning shares her new video for recently released single “Wild Poppies” with Refinery 29. A rising voice on the NYC arts scene, Kat Cunning draws from her study of dance as well as her time on stage as a Broadway actress (Dangerous Liaisons, Cirque Du Soleil’s Paramour, Sleep No More). Directed by D.K. Dennison and Matilda Gaona, the video is highlighted by a series of stunning visuals and was choreographed by Kat herself. Alongside the new video, Kat announces a North American tour as lead support for acclaimed singer-songwriter LP (aka Laura Pergolizzi). The 12-date run kicks off on February 24th and will hit cities such as Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn. See below for a full date listing.”  We recently spoke with Kat to discuss the tour, her music, the Grammy’s, and much more…

Toddstar: Kat, thank you so much for taking time out. I know you’re busy, you’re up in Toronto today. Let’s talk about your live performance, your live show. You had a show in Detroit recently and Chicago the night before that. How is your music and your show being received by the fans out there?

Kat: I think it’s being received really, really well. Our merch booth is selling like crazy if that’s any indication. I’ve gotten so many messages after shows from people telling me that they didn’t know who I was, or didn’t know I was playing, and they just decided that they would love to come see me again, or telling me who they’d love to bring. It’s really been such a pleasure. And LP’s fan base is awesome; they love music, and they love strong women. I think that definitely bodes well for my performance.

Toddstar: Your performance is different, in that, in speaking to you – like we talked about the other night – doing a little digging on the Internet, you are pop, you are soul, you are baroque; you bring in a bunch of different things. What is it about your art, or your performance, that you think brings something to the music world?

Kat: I think you kind of just said it for me. All the stuff that I’ve done in all these different facets of the art world and the performance world sort of come together in what I’m making. When I create a song, I’m visualizing how I’m going to stand and live in that song, and what sort of character portrayal is needed from me. And what it means as a character speaking the monologue of the song. And I think really visually when I write as well, like, it was such a pleasure to be funded by Apple to make my first video for “Wild Poppies” because so often people are asking me what my aesthetic is about or what inspires it, and how all these things I do come together in one place. The first time I got to show you my choreography, my costume ideas, my idea of these characters, some of them clear, neat stranger dancers that are not hip-hop dancers. And just put it all in one place and sort of articulate how I see all these things coming together. I feel like I’ve had a couple people be like, “It’s great, you’re not pop, your dance is not pop and this aesthetic is not pop,” and I’m like, actually, it absolutely is a celebration of how elastic pop music is, and how elastic the aesthetic can be when you have something that is an ingraining pop hook that everybody can hum to, you’re given the permission to share with them all of these other things you see and feel so they can experience it and have that intention to being invited into enjoying those things. For me, being a dancer, sometimes the audiences, more mainstream audiences, feel left out of dance, because it’s not a language they’re familiar with. And we literally don’t speak to you to help you feel welcome. And for my senior project in school I wrote a spoken word poem that sort of gave an introduction to the whole show to like, invite people to know how to receive dance. And I think what inspires me to be a musician is that it’s a little bit more communicative, it’s a little bit more inviting, and it’s more inclusive of all the things that I believe in, plus I’m behind the wheel. I’m not reading somebody else’s scripts and I’m not singing somebody else’s songs. I’m sharing what I believe in and what I want to see showcased.

Toddstar: There’s a couple things that you hit on that I’d like to visit. You talk about pop and dance and everything else and you and I kind of joked about it the other night, how you said you wanted to get into having dancers’ choreography. And I kind of went, “Arr, you’re going to turn into a pop star.” And-

Kat: Oh yeah, that was you! I forgot!

Toddstar: We kind of talked about that, and I said, your music, especially when you look at the “Wild Poppies” video, and you listen to the song, it doesn’t bring to mind that typical pop sound. Can you elaborate on how you would intend on using choreography and dancers to bring that pop image when you don’t necessarily have the pop sound?

Kat: Hmm! Well I mean, I think the video is a really good example, and it’s easy for me to visualize how that translates to stage. Basically it’s just a matter of maintaining the integrity of every art form I’ve been in, it’s usually in a niche-y fine art world, and bringing the music along with it. Like, I don’t necessarily have a pop aesthetic, but if you strip these songs down or if you had a pop singer sing them they’re absolutely pop songs. They have a verse and a chorus and a bridge and a double chorus at the end most of the time. So, I think it’s all a matter of being imaginative about how songs can live. And I’ve learned to celebrate pop by being a singer singing other people’s songs in my way. I realized that so many people who don’t like Britney Spears, or even Lana Del Rey, when they would hear me do a cover to a sitar, in my voice, in a very stripped-down totally opposite environment, they suddenly loved the song and felt invited into it. And that made me have so much respect for the people writing these songs, and excited by the many, many ways they can live. The many ways they can connect with the people who otherwise don’t feel welcome. This is part of what inspires me to write some songs.

Toddstar: Well, you’ve got two singles out there right now, “Baby” and “Wild Poppies”. What else have you got brewing? We discussed how the first thing I wanted to was go to the merch stand and looked for a CD, and you mentioned that maybe someday, but right now you’re doing the singles thing. What else have you got brewing? You have other songs ready to drop? You have other videos in the works already?

Kat: I have a ton of songs ready to drop. One of them, you can keep your eyes open for one to come right at the end of this tour, but I’m always writing. I have a whole cache of stuff that I’m excited to clean up and release. It’s all sort of a matter of time, I want to make sure there are enough eyes on the music by the time I release the stuff that I’m super excited about. And similarly with the video I don’t have anything in the works because, as you know, it takes a lot of money to make a video, and with my last video, I was so grateful to have Apple jump in. And, I actually have, I had waited until that point to make it a video at all, I had lots of offers from videographers and stuff but I wanted to do it in this fully produced way. And so I want to make a video for every single one of my songs, so if you know anybody that is looking to invest in music videos, tell them to call me. Hopefully that is definitely part of the plan.

Toddstar: Cool. What is it about the music industry now? I mean, you’re coming in at a point where nobody is having diamond album sales anymore. You and I talked about how potentially vinyl, vinyl singles for your stuff. What is it about the music industry right now in your opinion that limits you being able to go out there and put out a whole CD of music?

Kat: I wouldn’t say that the music industry is limiting me. I intend to release a CD. I think it’s just a matter of there are a lot more people who are able to make music, which is part of why I’m here. We can make an album in our basements, which means that there’s like, an album that comes out every single day. And so for me it’s more about strategizing that people hear the stuff that I really really care about. Taking my time to get it out there and not just releasing a ton of songs before anybody is really listening. I have a good group of people listening, but the dream is a Grammy, you know what I’m saying?

Toddstar: You’re one of the first artists I’ve ever spoken to that actually had the quote-unquote balls to say, “I want a Grammy!” Everybody’s always about whatever, and thank you for your candor and honesty.

Kat: Yeah, my pleasure!   Yeah, I want it because what it means is a million and however many more people loved the music and it resonated with them. And that’s why I have no shame about wanting success and fame, because my goal is to share my message and what I believe in aesthetically, and the beautiful people that I see and know. I want to see them shine. And so yeah. Hell yeah. I want the top.

Toddstar: Kat, you’ve done dance, you’ve done Broadway, how different is it for you to hit the stage as a singer-performer in a solo show, or in the performance you do while you’re out touring like you are right now with LP, how different is that than doing something as part of an ensemble or as part of a cast?

Kat: Well, something that’s like so funny about the art world is people, once their eye’s on you, they’re like, “This just happened, right?” I have been hustling, and like, I guarantee you most of the people that ever get to have an interview that are at least my age, and I’m not a sixteen-year-old that just got discovered. I’ve been hustling, I’ve been playing cabarets in the city, I’ve been playing late nights, shows. I luckily never really had to play shows that nobody was at, because my first debut as a singer was in a really beautiful show, and I gained a following and the response from the New York Times immediately. But that being said, you know, even that, or even a Broadway ticket, people are like, “Great, this is it.” And it’s so funny how, it just doesn’t happen overnight. So this is not new to me, but what I will say is, playing a fully music show is electric for me. I’m always the music moment in a theater show or a music moment in a dance show, or a dancer who sings at one point in a show. And I do feel this incredible sense of empowerment, and I feel like I belong, honestly. And having people come up to me after the show and say, “I want my daughter to see this show.” It makes me so happy to know that it’s fully mine, it’s not just like a hint of my aesthetic. I have the room to really, I have a platform to really share what my idea of a powerful woman is onstage. And I feel like, when I get to hear that that’s resonating with people, or that the songs are sticking in their heads, and to know that it’s my songs. That feels fucking amazing.

Toddstar: Just speaking with you, you can tell that you’re passionate about what you do, and passionate about the process. What, looking back, would you say would be a misstep that if you had a chance, you would correct it or change it?

Kat: That’s a hard one. I mean, my instinct is definitely to say that all of the possible missteps are things that have informed where I am now. That I wouldn’t change them. I guess I would’ve asked my parents to put me in commercials as a little kid so that I could pay for college. That would’ve been cool. But no, other than that, every weird picture that’s ended up online, or every weird recording that I did, or whatever, it’s all part of how I’ve become myself. And I believe in transparency. Like I said, I do want to be famous, and I don’t want to be famous for being somebody I’m not. And I believe we’re in that time of oversharing and I think that my response to that is to empower myself and be like, “Yeah, all of this is me.” I’m the girl in sweatpants and I’m the girl in a princess dress. I’m rock and roll and soft at heart all at once. So yeah, I don’t know. Off the top of my head, I don’t… of course we all have regrets, nights we drank too much or whatever, but I don’t think there’s anything that stands out as something I’d take back.

Toddstar: Fair enough. You’ve mentioned powerful women several times and that you like being that role model, and fitting into that role yourself. Who are those women for you? Who are those strong women that made you stand up and say, “I can do this?”

Kat: Oh my god, so many women are flashing through my head right now. I mean, lots of them are just people that I know interpersonally, some of them are dancers. People I’ve been in a room with for a class, like Kate Weare, she’s an amazing choreographer, Crystal Pite… I really spent my time in rooms learning my body from powerful women, and that goes a long way in terms of my confidence and willing to take space. There are the obvious people in the industry that are doing amazing things. I can’t go without saying Meryl Streep. There are these plus-sized models that really inspire me, like Ashley Graham. I’m inspired by Becca McCharen-Tran, who is the designer for Chromat, who’s making fashion for all types of women’s bodies. I actually wear her stuff onstage, it’s very lucky to call her a friend and collaborator. Honestly, I’m inspired by the general woman who’s willing to be herself and the uprising of that kind of woman at this moment.

Toddstar: Cool. Your sound is diff-

Kat: Wait, I’ve got to say Janelle Monáe.

Toddstar: Janelle Monáe. That’s a good choice as well. Your sound is different. Again, listening to Wild Poppies and Baby and even some of the older stuff out there, you’re constantly growing, constantly changing, constantly adapting. That said, what music drives you? What was the last song or album you listened to? What was the last song or album that you maybe drew some influence from?

Kat: Hmm. I’ve been listening to so much music on the road. I always get nervous about this question because my music taste is incredibly eclectic and I wonder if I’m just not that cool. But I really love James Blake, I’ve been dancing to James Blake in my house for years. And in the dance studio, I’m really moved by his approach to production, how it’s so soulful and contemporary. I’ve really been enjoying Katie Von Schleicher’s new album. Fiona Apple, always, is inspiring me as a vocalist and a writer. And honestly I most often listen to really old stuff. I love Nina Simone. I think mostly I’m drawn to vocalists with candor. But yeah. Yeah, the list is too long, you know?

Toddstar: With everything said and done, Kat, what’s the next step for you? You’re wrapping up this tour with LP I think mid-March. What can your fans start looking for once that wraps up?

Kat: We’ll have a release coming out around the end of the tour, and another one to follow that. I’ll be hitting Europe as well through the year. And eventually an EP release, and on top that I have something I cannot disclose that you can look for in the TV world. Just tell people to follow my Instagram, to listen to my songs, join my mailing list, and say hi.

Toddstar: I will definitely do that. Thank you so much for you time Kat, I really appreciate it.

Kat: Thank you!






Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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