Cat Power on ‘Sun’, Her New Album, and the Power of Instagram

Cat Power Stefano Giovannini

You wrote, recorded, and produced Sun over four years, even dipping into your retirement fund to finance it.

I cashed out something I’d been saving for years. And it was a risk and a big decision, especially having many five-year plans and then just lighting them on fire. All that money went into renting a house, buying gear, flying my old band out to record songs ... Sorry, I’m distracted. I can’t find my phone. It’s one of those fake phones that look like a vintage receiver, and it’s gold. I call it my direct line to Beyoncé because I love Beyoncé.

You also directed the video for “Cherokee.” Is this your first time directing?

Yeah. Before I would think, That’s impossible. What am I, crazy? I just wanted to direct my own video. I feel like [self-judgment] has been falling off me recently. [Making the video] was like not sleeping for four days—going over the wardrobe, going over the treatment with [director of photography] Greg Hunt, going over all the shots to make sure they were possible with a cherry picker since we didn’t have a crane, working with the costume lady who got a bunch of bulletproof vests. Everybody worked for free except for four people, and I still owe $5,000 because I had to use my credit card. The first few shows I play will hopefully help pay that off so I can shoot the next one. My goal is to shoot an art film with no dialogue and just release each part of the film with a song or as one chunk. I think it’s kind of magical, the way this all came together. It was right before Mercury went into retrograde. Everything was a “yes”; everybody was a good egg. Cosmically it was kind of cool.

You’re a prolific presence on Instagram.

I love it. It’s instant communication with a thousand people, maybe a hundred that I know. I think we’re attracted or stimulated by images that tell the news. Sometimes images just tell the truth.

cat-power-om02-album-cover ‘Sun’ by Cat Power. Matador Records. $9.99

You recently cut off your trademark long hair and bangs. Why the change?

When I moved to New York in 1992, I had a severe breakup and I cut my hair super-duper short. And that’s the album cover. At first, I just cut all of the damn length off. Four months ago I had a difficult time, not a midlife crisis, like a midlife awesomeness, and during whatever I was going through, I just kept going shorter and shorter. The “Cherokee” video is kind of apocalyptic. I had a mohawk the summer of seventh grade, but I had never dyed my hair before, so this time I did.