Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, has moved to the beat of her own drum as an artist, delving into moody folk-rock on 1998's "Moon Pix", stark chamber pop on 2003's "You Are Free", Memphis blues on 2006's acclaimed "The Greatest" and covers on 2008's "Jukebox" and "Dark End of the Street". But on her newest, "Sun" (Matador, Sept. 4), she literally acts as her own drummer -- as well as guitarist, keyboardist and everything else -- as the only instrumentalist on the 11-track LP. While the album, particularly lead single "Ruin," is more upbeat in tempo, the lyrics find Marshall in downtrodden form, referencing her recent breakup from actor Giovanni Ribisi and comforting an anguished friend on "Nothin' but Time," a duet with Iggy Pop. Marshall, 40, will tour with an all-new band starting Oct. 18 in Ithaca, N.Y. The singer spoke from her home in Miami about calling the shots with her new sound, her love of covers and her "family"-like relationship with Matador.
1. You played all the instruments and produced all the songs on Sun. What made you go the DIY route?
I've never had a producer because I've always been very stubborn during the recording experience. Before, it was like recording as a means to an end, and my end was to be on tour. Recording an album never made me money, so I never put a lot of depth into it. But this time felt like a multi-weight championship title because I was being told by other people that I needed producers and that I needed management and that I needed a band. So this was in a way the most liberating experience and the most challenging.
2. The album is more rhythmic and beat-driven than your previous work. What inspired that?
I had written at the Boat Studio [in Silver Lake] when I moved to Los Angeles, like a half-mile from my ex-boyfriend's house, and I wrote all these songs there that I was going to record as well. I played them for someone and that person was like, "These are depressing. They sound like old Cat Power." So then I didn't work for eight months, but when I went back into the boat I didn't touch a guitar or piano, because that's what the other recording that I'd made sounded like. The only other instruments that were available were the drum set and different synthesizers and keyboards, and turning them on became the first sounds from Sun.
3. You're taking Sun on the road this fall. What kind of band will you take with you, and how will you reconcile touring the East Coast as a warm-weather fanatic?
I have a new band, and they're four girls and one guy. We've been practicing and we start touring in October. And I have some great clothes from cool labels like Acne -- eight pairs of jeans, leather jackets, all new stuff -- so I'm ready for the cold. [laughs]
4. You're known for your love of covers. Can we expect any on this next tour?
I would love to do Jay-Z's "My 1st Song" [from "The Black Album"]. I'd like to do another covers record: "Blood on the Tracks". Just record every song on the record, duetting with Bob Dylan.
5. You originally wrote "Nothin' but Time" in hopes that David Bowie would sing it with you. How did Iggy Pop come to do it?
I wrote that song for my friend, who just turned 15, but when she was 12 she was having a hard time. She had fallen in love with the "Ziggy Stardust" record-there's a line in [my] song, "Do you need to be a superhero?" I asked David Bowie and Iggy Pop because of [their work together in the '70s and Bowie's] "Heroes" record. David said "no" and Iggy said "yeah." I wanted them to sing together.
6. As your music and creative independence have grown through the years, how has your relationship with your longtime label Matador changed?
Matador reminds me of what I guess a family is like. They give a lot of support and open communication, and I'm not used to that. It's definitely a good learning experience, I think, on their side as well. Knowing that I'm just one person, it's difficult for them at times. They're like family to me, but at the same time I have to protect myself and my creativity.