Interview by Kit Burns
Catherine “Cat” McLean is a Rocker Girl, no doubt about that; she can riff on an electric guitar as well as a veteran axeman. However, she is more than that, a musician who doesn’t want to be tied down by stylistic boundaries. One of her influences is the iconoclastic Frank Zappa, the late, great Wizard of Odd who could produce just about any kind of music, and it’s that free-form attitude that Cat takes to the studio with her although, in concert, you might see preferential treatment given to the hard stuff.
Kit Burns: Your musically adventurous vision covers everything from country to alternative rock to House music. Where did this genre leap-frogging originate?
Cat: I love songwriting and doing something new. It’s taken a while to get to the point where I let the song write itself. Through years of writing over a thousand songs I have learned not to force my ideas on to a song. For example, “Leaving You” screamed country to me. I don’t listen to country music, but I grew up with my mom listening to it. I love all kinds of music and I love to explore all styles. However, only if it is the right thing for the song. While I do different genres it always ends up sounding like me. It’s kind of a Zen thing; I take an Idea and let it tell me what it sounds like and I don’t force myself on it. That’s the best way I can describe the process and that makes me cover a lot of genres.
Burns: In your live performances, do you juggle radically different styles as well or do you focus on one genre at a time?
Cat: Not always. With my band I do tend to rock more but do include a dynamic range from psychedelic, funky hip hop to rocking hard and then bringing it down into a ballad, but it does rock heavy. I do an unplugged set that incorporates a wide range of tunes and styles including some Middle Eastern influence. I do love to rock live with my band so I choose songs that lean towards a heavier sound when performing with them.
Burns: It’s been ten years since your debut album. How have you evolved creatively since then?
Cat: It’s never ending; there is always more to learn and to explore musically. Now that I’m playing cello it’s opened even more windows for me. [On] my first two CDs I programed almost all the songs on them
and then replaced all the sequences with real instruments and live performances. The third CD I played almost everything live. There are some songs that need programing like my industrial or dance tunes. I have
learn more about music over the years and continue to grow but all the CDs that I have released have songs that wrote themselves; not to sound pretentious, it’s just how I approach writing now. I can sit down and
decide to write something off an idea and have a song that same day or hour; the words take the longest to write. I have become a better musician over the years, and I’m working on a CD where I will be playing all the
instruments with some guest star performances after the release of Category 4, which is a compilation CD with some bonus tracks on it. You can go to myspace.com/catmclean and download some of the songs from Category 4 which is coming out next month.
Burns: You’ve opened up for rock gods such as the Tubes, Peter Frampton, and Heart. Any memorable stories to tell?
Cat: I must say the coolest person I have ever opened for was Peter Frampton. We signed a guitar from one of my sponsors Gibson and did a raffle for a women’s shelter and made 50,000 for them. He was gracious, kind, and nice on top of it. A lot of stars treat the opener like a second-class citizen but he is a wonderful person, and I will always remember how cool he and his band was. I have opened for a lot of famous people but he rules and on top of it he is one of the greatest talents ever in the business.
Burns: Are there any other artists who embody the spirit of how you perceive music as having no boundaries?
Cat: I’m sure I’m not the only one who writes so many genres but if I were to come up with a name it would be Frank Zappa. He did influence my writing and the Beatles did a lot of different styles as well. The British bands seem to explore and incorporate different genres, too, and I’m heavily influenced by them. I did hear a song by Slash on the jazz station and I was impressed by the diversity he demonstrated on guitar. That is a very good question and if anyone else can tell me of other artist out there like me I would love to hear about them.