Interview: Cat Clyde on how blues, jazz and country move her

Credit: Laura Lynn Petrick

Singing as a child grounded her and Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, and Bobbie Gentry inspired her.

The term singer-songwriter is used with abandon within the americana and folk genres but there are only a few artists who are great singers and also great songwriters, but Canadian singer-songwriter Cat Clyde is one of that select group of artists. She released her third album ‘Down Rounder’ earlier in the year and has recently toured the UK. Americana UK’s Martin Johnson caught up with Cat Clyde over Zoom to discuss ‘Down Rounder’, and what it was like working with producer Tony Berg in Los Angeles. She explains that what she looks for in music is that it really moves her, and this has led her to listen to the blues and then jazz, particularly Billie Holiday, and how these influences have influenced her own music. She also cites Lee Hazlewood, Patsy Cline, and Bobby Gentry as influences which helps explain the eclectic nature of her own songs. For anyone curious, she also explains the meaning behind the album title, ‘Down Rounder’.

How do you view yourself as an artist? You have a great voice and also write songs. What gives you the most satisfaction?

Wow, that’s a great question. I really enjoy sharing my songs and my expression, and my own view of the world and my own emotions. I feel I use music as a tool to better understand myself, When I write things it sometimes takes some time to understand the songs and what they really mean to me, but I feel it resonates with people and helps people to see themselves more clearly, I hope  ’Down Rounder’ does that. It does feel very good to express my true self and my true feelings, and I really do enjoy that.

Is that what made you want to be an artist in the first place?

I feel that I never really necessarily felt I wanted to be an artist, I always wanted to express myself and music just became a pathway for me to do that.

How has being Canadian influenced your music?

That’s where I’m from, that’s my home, and I feel I’ve been greatly influenced by the natural world and nature here. I feel there is a lot of natural space and it has always been a great friend to me and a great source of inspiration and wisdom. Yeah, I love Canada, I love the nature and I love the land.

How were your recent UK dates?

It was great, I had such a great time and I had a great crew of people with me, the journey was great, the turnout was great and the audiences were really lovely. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it.

You have your new record ‘Down Rounder’. Where did the title come from?

I feel that the term “rounder” has always encapsulated the drifter, traveller, kind of tramp vibe of a person, and I feel what I do is very much like that. I’ve moved through a lot of sadness and darkness and I love the term rounder and I always feel I resonate with that word, and I’m a ‘Down Rounder’, so there you have it. I felt it really connected with the songs and pulled it all together.

‘Down Rounder’ was recorded in six days with Tony Berg producing. What were the sessions like?

Being with Tony was incredible, it was such an amazing experience working with him and being in the room with him, and he had this intuitive ability to serve the song in the best way possible. He was really an anchor for that throughout the process. The process of recording was quite short, it was only about six days of recording, but it was just fantastic. He brought the most fantastic musicians in, and we all connected very easily and very well. It all just felt really effortless in a lot of ways, the way it unfolded and that was all due to Tony’s intuition, and his ability to see from a very high view what the songs really needed, and what I needed from them as well.

Who selected the songs that appeared on the record?

I did. I definitely had an idea of what I wanted for each song, and I felt I’d spent a long time figuring out where I wanted them to live, and how I wanted them to live. I think Tony was able to expand on that and bring even more out of them. There were a couple of them that were kind of hard to nail down, and one of them was ‘The Gloom’, and originally I’d wanted to record them all in my home studio, and that one ended up being a mash of the version recorded in the studio and the version I recorded in my home studio. We threw those two together which was kind of interesting. Other than that, everything flowed easily and it was easy to make decisions and make the call on the songs, it just felt the answer was fairly obvious to serve the song in the best way.

If you’d recorded the whole record in your home studio what do you think the differences would be, what did Tony bring?

He brought a fresh set of eyes, and he brought incredible musicians, and basically, he was able to pull more out of the songs than I could have myself.

Tony Berg has worked with a lot of artists, including Taylor Swift. Are you hoping this moves you to the next level?

I’m always moving to another level, I’m always walking through doors, always growing, always changing, shape-shifting.

There are videos of you covering Patsy Cline and Blind Willie McTell. Who are your big influences?

I feel like my influences are always changing. There’s so much good music out there, and also so much good old music just waiting to be discovered, and I’m so grateful for that. But, I mean, my early influences were a lot of blues music, Leadbelly and Robert Johnson and things like that, and that moved me into things like jazz, Billie Holiday and Etta James are really powerful female vocalists and very inspiring to me. In the last few years, I really feel like I’ve been influenced by Lee Hazlewood, I really love his work, and Bobbie Gentry, I mean, finding her was such a wonderful treat and I’m really happy her music exists. It is exciting to know there is still music out there that I haven’t heard that is going to move me very deeply, and the new music that is being created out there. There are some new artists I’ve fallen in love with recently like Dean Johnson. It is kind of never-ending, you always want to keep inspired by music and there is always something new to hear and be inspired by, and also listening to stuff you really love when time passes and you go back to that and a lot of times I find new inspiration and new movement and new ways because I’ve changed.

Who helped and inspired you to get the voice you have now?

I was always singing when I was a young kid and I always loved to express myself through singing, I feel like a lot of my childhood was very chaotic, and I think the reason I started singing was that the vibration was very calming to my nervous system. Singing a lot just made me feel better, it made me feel comforted, and it made me feel grounded. Billie Holiday was a huge influence on my voice, and so was Patsy Cline, Etta James and Bobbie Gentry. I don’t know, anything that I felt really moved me with that power that comes with a very strong voice, and I’ve always resonated with that and felt I could express myself in that way, and it feels good to express myself in that way.

You mentioned some great artists but some are old, what drew you so far back in music history?

I think it was that nothing really moved me the way that that music did, and it felt that I was showing and sharing something very deep and honest, I didn’t feel as if I resonated with a lot of newer music because it didn’t have that power. I don’t know, I feel that some of those wonderful old artists and songs have this magical power that exudes from the voice that you can feel. I felt it was very easy to resonate with that, and I didn’t really care about something that didn’t move me.

What’s your view on streaming, you’ve had some success with it. Has it helped your career?

Yeah, I think streaming is the new radio, and it is the way to exist in the business today. It is difficult because you don’t make money, it is hard to make money from streaming, that is just so hard, you know. I’ve just seen recently that Spotify has upped their monthly charges, but they are not paying artists more and it is hard. I do appreciate streaming though, and I’ve found a lot of great music from streaming that I probably wouldn’t have been able to find without it. It opens a very big world of finding things and discovering things, which I think is really incredible and really amazing. I’m definitely very grateful for that.

Streaming is the new radio is a very good analogy, but radio gave limited access to music.

Yeah, I feel I don’t have a deep understanding of radio because it is not something that has a lot of the things that move me. There are times I’ve found cool things on the radio and it has been a very cool experience. It is a great experience when you are driving and you hear something good on the radio, but I feel it is not very often, and it is not really the place to go to find something to really move you.  That’s unfortunate because the radio is such a cool realm and it’s sad in a way it’s not as alive as it once was.

What does 2024 hold for you?

I hope to be creating some new music, to be touring, writing some new music and figuring out where I want my songs to go and how I want them to be. I think it is important that when you make something you really like you shouldn’t get too attached to that, to keep moving forward and seeing what’s next. I feel growth is really important, and I don’t like to hold on to anything too tightly, I really love letting things unfold the way they’re meant to unfold. I really just hope to be playing music and sharing songs and sharing myself and hoping that that resonates, and just having fun. If you’re not having fun, don’t do it.

At AUK, we like to share music with our readers, so can you share which artists, albums or tracks are currently top three on your personal playlist?

I’ve really been enjoying ‘Acting School’ by Dean Johnson, that whole record is fantastic but that song, in particular, is very moving to me. Another song that has moved me recently is ‘Me and My Shadow’ by Peggy Lee. There’s this really lovely song by this band The Mellows, ‘That’s How The Story Goes’ and I’ve really been enjoying that as well.

Finally, do you want to say anything to our readers?

I had such a great time when I was over there, and I just want to say I’m so grateful to everyone who came out for my shows, and everyone who supported me. It’s not easy to come across the world and share myself and my music, but the response was lovely and so warm and I’m just so grateful, and I hope to come back soon.

Cat Clyde’s ‘Down Rounders’ is out now on Second Prize Records.

About Martin Johnson 417 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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