WHERE & WHEN Cat Power, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, May 11,
at the Knitting Factor y, 74 Leonard St., Manhattan. Tickets are $12.
SHE'S DROPPED her boyfriend off at the airport, Marlon Brando is placing his
son in the escape pod as Krypton is blowing up on the TV in "Superman" and Chan
Marshall is gazing at an illustration of herself on the cover of the Portland,
Ore., alternative paper The Rocket. "It's like, an artist got paid to capture
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that person, that personality," she says, clearly knocked back by the whole
idea. "And they got it."
Marshall, the leader of slow-fi outfit Cat Power, is getting used to the idea
of being the popular kid. Another artist was paid to draw her mug for the New
Yorker last month. Then last week in a surreal moment after Keith Primeau
scored the game-winning goal in a five-overtime hockey playoff game, an ESPN
commentator proclaimed: "What Chan Marshall is to Cat Power, Keith Primeau is
to the Flyers!"
She also doesn't feel the need to lie in interviews anymore, like in her first
one for Spin, when she told her interviewer that the reason she came to New
York at the time was to become the first female broadcaster for the NBA and
"get rid of those damn rainbow wigs."
Chan (pronounced SHAWN) Marshall doesn't even hate to perform anymore. She will
do so alone Thursday, May 11, when she ventures into the Knitting Factory for
two shows to support Cat Power's latest disc, "The Covers Record," her fifth
album. Why covers? "Because I like these songs more than my own songs," she
says in a drowsy tone over the phone from a Portland hotel room. "I don't
really like my own songs. But I know for a fact that I like these songs."
The covers, ranging from Velvet Underground's "I Found a Reason" to Bob Dylan's
"Paths of Victory" to Smog's "Red Apples" are stripped bare by Cat Power, left
with only piano or guitar and Marshall's sweet, breathless voice, at the same
time distant and inviting.
The set is a respite from Marshall's original songs -stream-of-consciousness
numbers that usually tell sad stories. Marshall says she doesn't like those
songs (though she will perform a few at the Knitting Factory) because they were
written at a different point in her life. She's using the time on the road to
write new songs. Dare anyone say, happy new songs.
"All these shows, I've been with my boyfriend," Marshall says as Clark Kent
lands a job at the Daily Planet on the hotel television. "We're sitting at the
piano, and he's, like, 'Just make up a song real quick.' And I'm deeply in love
with this person and it's just (mimicking the notes on the piano) 'Don, don,
don, don, don, don. You like that?' and he's like, 'Yeah, that's nice. Then the
words, 'When I lay me down, when will you be around.' That's how I write."
Marshall claims she rarely just sits down with the purpose of writing a song.
"I'm just waiting for my boyfriend to get out of the shower and I've got my
The boyfriend, whom she wasn't supposed to be talking about, will be thousands
of miles away from Marshall when they celebrate their one-year anniversary this
week. Marshall seems genuinely happy for an artist whose bio on
RollingStone.com notes questions about her "mental well-being" and is
constantly mentioned in reviews as being "sad."
"I know what they mean, cause my tempo is slow, and my performance is never
practiced. But, no, I don't think it's sad." She pauses for a moment and moves
her mouth away from the phone. "Oh, Superman is going in the telephone booth