Singer Cat Loud created one of our favourite shows of last year’s Fringe with her Big Night In. In the poky cellar of Moriarty’s on Lothian Road, she melted hearts as she sang the story of the quiet girl behind the big cabaret performer, impressing even curmudgeonly cabaret-sceptics like me. This year, she’s teamed up with premier Edinburgh rhythm ‘n’ blues band, The Blueswater, for a new, darker show. Here’s what she told us…
Last year, you were the island lass in the big city, torn between outer diva and inner homebody. This year, it sounds like things have taken an edgier, sleazier turn. What’s been happening?
I discovered gin. Only joking, I’ve been drinking for years.
Last year I was lucky enough to perform a couple of times with The Blueswater in their Storyville show, celebrating the filthiest, smuttiest blues songs. It was an education. I encourage everyone to go and listen to Dinah Washington’s Long John Blues immediately. I was really inspired by the innocence and sweet quality of Washington’s voice in contrast to the lyrics she sings; thinly-veiled euphemism delivered with total self-awareness. The contrast between outer appearance and the true inner self is fascinating. But I’ve also always been inspired by Britney’s transition from the Mickey Mouse Club to Slave 4 U. That’s what Wayward Girls is. It’s my Slave 4 U.
So, is this a sequel of sorts to the story of Cat Loud?
In a word, yes. I’m calling it a new adventure for me, because though I may like home comforts, I am a thrill-seeker. In hindsight, Big Night In felt like an exploration of homesickness and identity crisis, while Wayward Girls is characterised by taking risks and not being afraid in the face of change and opportunity. But I also don’t necessarily condone all of my own behaviour. Stranger danger is a thing.
Bigger venue and bigger band. Is this going to be a bigger show all round?
It’s certainly going to sound bigger. I’ve got an excellent three-piece band behind me this year, and I feel that I’ve been much more ambitious with my song choices knowing that the sound of the show is going to be fuller and have all the speakeasy components I love. The risks feel bigger, too. But I’m also not sold on the idea that bigger is always better, so I’m hoping to keep it intimate. It’s so much more fun to be intimate.
Who are your favourite “Wayward Girls”?
There are so many. I’ve been keeping a blog over the past few months, mostly for my own benefit, simply to keep track of all the men and women I classify as wayward girls. If I had to name names, I’d start with Mae West. She managed to create her own entertainment franchise in the midst of strict censorship by employing and perfecting the language of euphemism. I think she was one of the first mainstream performers to suck all the poisonous shame out of female sexuality. She’s fun, intelligent and powerful. Prince is another, Tilda Swinton, Little Red Riding Hood, the activist who started the petition to end Page 3, Thelma & Louise, I really can’t stop…
What it is that draws you to them?
When I look over that long list, one of the main traits they share is defiance. Defiance of gender stereotypes, defiance of societal expectations, of popular opinions. I think defiance is the first spark of activism, and it begins with the need to call out bullshit wherever it is found. I am aware of that responsibility more than ever now, the importance of standing up for myself and what I believe, and trying to be defiant in the face of difficulty. And by “difficulty” I mean internet trolls, sexism, discrimination of all kinds; the daily injustices that affect almost everyone. I think of people like Jane Austen. “Novelist” wasn’t really a career option for her, but she wrote anyway. Billie Holiday lost her cabaret license after drug convictions, but she continued to sing anyway. The Taliban tried to stop Malala from keeping a blog, but she wrote one anyway. Other people benefit from their defiance. And while I’m in no way making any grand political statements in my show, I am going to make fun of Donald Trump, the lyrics to Hotline Bling and unsolicited ass-grabbing and I won’t apologise for it. That’s the least I can do.
If there was one song that sums up the feel of the show, what would it be?
Cream by Prince. This is it. Time for you to go to the wire.
What are you looking forward to most about August?
Seeing as much work as I can and wearing at least one sparkly item of clothing a day so other cabaret artists can easily find me in a crowd.