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Sundial

Sundial Now: Cat Power on finding calm and making music in Miami Beach

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Courtesy of Cat Power
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Cat Power's tour with Jack White stopped in Miami this week.

Chan Marshall has seen Miami Beach change after living here for the last two decades.

She grew up in the South and lived in New York as an adult, but says Miami Beach is the place that brings her peace, despite the ever-growing presence of traffic and tourists.

"It just calms me down. What that does for my music, it does for my soul. So it's given me a lot of freedom to be healthy in my mind and my daily life," she told WLRN.

Marshall is better known by her stage name, Cat Power. Her brand of alt-rock - mixing punk, folk and blues - has been evolving and earning a passionate following since the 90s. She is currently opening for indie-rock royalty Jack White and their tour stopped in Miami this week.

The 50-year-old spoke with WLRN's Gerard Albert III about how the city has changed, making it as an alternative artist and how she approaches the covers she is known for.

Here is their conversation, which has been edited for time and clarity.

You've lived on and off Miami Beach for more than 20 years now. How does the place that you live effect the way that you make music?

Miami is super specific in that way because I feel more like I'm on a desert than on the ocean. I know that doesn't really make sense. But to me it does. It's really just like this horizon or place that reminds me of the desert. We are really super close to the sun. It just calms me down. What that does for my music it does for my soul and that's what I do is music. So it's given me a lot of freedom to be healthy in my mind and my daily life.

The city has changed so much. Do you still feel that way about Miami Beach? How do you see it now?

I do feel the calmness but I have to carve the calmness. It's a little frustrating, but being a mom it's important to have an active lifestyle. It's important to have the parks and the people and the different events and different things you can go do. It's definitely changed but that's part of growing up and as cities grow older things change. I still love it.

You've released a number of cover albums, including your most recent one this year, and you've been praised as someone who completely reinvents a song. Miami is a place where some people come to reinvent themselves. For you, what goes into this process of making a well-known song uniquely yours?

It's super simple. Number one, I want to hear this song. And when I say I want to hear it, [I mean] I want to play it, I want to sing it. Number two, I couldn't tell you a chord on the guitar to save my life. But that's why they sound the way they do, because I have no idea how to replicate the music that I hear. Like, I don't know how to do what I do.

It's like loving to cook. I love to cook. I could read a recipe. But as soon as I start working with the recipe, I go off the recipe. I start having fun and putting stuff in there that is it not called for. That's me being a creative thinker.

That topic of taking something and changing it, I think, reflects humanity really well.

Every abuela, every grandpa, everybody who did something the right way, they figured out something right in their life that they did every day that they loved, whatever that thing was. And [then] passing that on to your grandchildren. Then the grandchild making it in their way, but with that same elegance and grace. That's the good part of humanity. And that's why humans appreciate the arts. They know that there's something good innately in life.

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Gerard Albert III is back in Broward, where he grew up, after reporting on crime and public safety in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and West Palm Beach. Albert is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University.
Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.