NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on August 14, 2014.
Sitting on a black leather couch in a tent on a farm in Limpopo, 42-year-old singer-songwriter Chan Marshall – also known as Cat Power – shared some intimate details of her life.
Marshall had just come off stage after her first appearance at Oppikoppi on Saturday, a performance on the Bruilof stage that saw fans shout words of encouragement when the sound equipment was not working properly.
Between constantly apologising for the staccato nature of her performance, Marshall had to change the sound on the amplifier, sing into two microphones and figure out how to work a keyboard she had never played by herself – a visibly nerve-racking experience.
“I always have stage fright,” she says.
It’s a situation that’s not entirely foreign to Marshall, though in the past her erratic performances have been attributed to problems with alcohol and drugs. “People used to say ‘Oh, did you go see the train wreck?’” she says.
She does admit to having had a drug problem a while ago after her partner passed away.
“I chose it every day and I knew what I was doing every day. It wasn’t me being oblivious. I was riding that train because I couldn’t take the pain of losing the love of my life.”
Marshall wished the women in the audience a happy Women’s Day while on stage, and spoke about feminism afterwards.
“A lot of times women don’t have the simple, casual dignities that men have as their birthright,” she says.
“I’m called a feminist because I protect myself from someone else trying to get something from me,” she says.
Marshall’s latest album, Sun, was produced independently, using the singer’s life savings.
“I had to make a choice between what the label wanted me to do and what I knew I could do myself, and the album made the top 10,” she says.
She performed at the Baxter Concert Hall last week, a performance she had asked for in December when she came back after Nelson Mandela passed and she witnessed “social change” that inspired her.
Marshall intends to return to Cape Town next January to write about the experiences she has had in the city over the years.