Name: CATT / Katharina Schorling
Occupation: Singer, trumpeter, trombonist and pianist
Current release: Why, Why on Listenrecords
Recommendations: Look at this woman and her art piece of an house, I was so touched when I found this yesterday.
And Natalia Lafourcade is inviting you into her kitchen and sings & plays with these beautiful souls.
If you enjoyed this interview with CATT, find out more about her and her work on her personal website, instagram or facebook account.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started "producing" with my little plastic cassette recorder as a 6-year-old. My brothers had to sing, I improvised while singing at the piano. Finding these old tapes quite recently was so touching and also funny. One song was about me wanting to make music out on the streets to earn money to be able to buy as much ice cream as I wanted to.
One early influence was classical church music like Bach through my parents. Parallel to this, I started a CD collection with lots of pop and later jazz music - my first musical heroine was Nena. I guess I loved the feeling in her voice and the honest way she told stories.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I was surrounded by music almost always. I grew up in a tiny Northern German village where I could only make classical music because the cultural infrastructure for different genres was just not there. So I learned classical piano for years, started with trombone at the church choir.
I really spent much time in these choirs and ensembles. I read, wrote and arranged sheet music from when I was five or six. This classical education gave me lots of material and a good overview and ears. Probably I was copying and repeating all these things I listened to - same with the first songs I secretly started writing at the piano when I was eleven or twelve. I guess that’s the way you find your way into music. You find something you love and try to create something like that as well - aware or unaware.
Living in the countryside was also limiting. I was expected to be like "everybody else" (whatever that even means) and I quickly noticed that I wasn’t. Music was my way of expressing my heart, my own vision. It gave me a language to create special things in a surrounding where no one should act too special. So I really connected with my musical expression from the beginning - my playing was always connected right to my heart because it was my only way of communicating pure and true.
When I came to Berlin to make music professionally I first started to "collect material" again. I studied piano and music production, played with and for many artists live and in the studio. I listened to so much music and observed how others were doing it. When I started my project CATT with my first song "Moon" in 2018 I somehow naturally looked for my own musical path. I’m inspired every day by other musicians but I’m not copying their ideas - I’m more fascinated by special feelings, brave musical languages which inspire me to find my own. My own perspective. I also try to surround myself with other musicians whom I find inspiring in their own musical language.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
First I thought I would need a producer if I wanted to release my music. And so for the first three songs I collaborated with different producers. I slowly started to notice I was telling them what to do and how I wanted it to sound all the time. So after many communicative challenges to get the music in my direction (musical collaborations are always full of these and demand such an interpersonal fine tuning) I decided I wanted to produce my first EP myself. I wanted to make it myself - find my own voice and sound and started very minimalistically and song-based on this first little record.
That process gave me courage for Why, Why - I already knew that I could do it myself and people actually understood and liked it. So I was way more confident and experimental when writing the album. The composing part was always flowing naturally - I just play what I find beautiful and follow the traces then.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first "studio" when I still lived with my parents was just an USB microphone, cubase, my instruments and a laptop. It slowly developed - now I have a beautiful music room in my flat with a real piano, monitors, percussions and keyboards. But it’s still really minimalistic, I record mostly with only my Share SM7B Mic. When I need special vocal, brass or piano recordings I visit friends in real studios. My studio is rather a creative space.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I always play as much I can with real instruments. I always try to keep it human when it comes to the playing. But I love being creative with how to make it sound different or special afterwards.
What I never do is tune my vocals. I have the weird theory that it’s not touching in its original frequency anymore when changed technologically. So I don’t do that.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I love recording beats and sounds with daily items and to weirdly change them afterwards so no one will recognize them anymore. I play around with that a lot.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Until now I made almost everything myself to find my own way and sound. I had two close friends I showed the demos to when they felt ready enough to be shared and those two were also helping me with the final production, mixing and mastering. For the last two records, Moon and Why, Why it was mostly the three of us. I really like short ways of communication and the fact that you trust and know each other.
But I’m really curios to open that up in the future. To start jamming in the studio with musicians I love over ideas I had before. And to take a co-producer on the whole journey is also my plan for new music.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
When making my album in February and March 2020 I was given an artist residency at Roger Willemsen Villa near Hamburg. I was allowed to live and work there for these two months which was such a gift. I had just decided to quit all of my musical jobs for others and to focus on only being CATT. So I started a whole new routine after years of being on tour and in studios almost all the time.
I went up every morning to write some „morning pages“ first, all the thoughts that chaotically came into my head, unfiltered writing, my dreams. Sometimes yoga, sometimes coffee and straight to the grand piano in the living room. I recorded memos with my phone and took these fragments to the garden house where I created a little studio with my instruments and recording equipment. In between I walked through the forest, read books I found in the library, had long conversations with the wonderful women who lived there with me and cooked. It was kind of a self-chosen quarantine right before the real one started.
I noticed that such a time frame and safe space to live and concentrate on writing was a beautiful thing for me and my creative process. I would always do it again that way when it comes to writing and recording new music.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
I was collecting thoughts, ideas and observations, many little text fragments over the last year. I wrote down a lot while being on tour or somewhere on the road.
Every day during my writing process in Hamburg I took out one of these fragments that felt right that day and started to play around with it on the piano. For example "Rain" - I had a few text lines already and took it to the grand piano. The rainy piano riff came quickly. After a first idea like that I really try to follow the traces that feel good until I have a first little structure.
Then I’m mostly recording a first little demo on my phone and take it to a production and my other instruments afterwards.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I really loved this new experience of spending a few weeks at a new place where I could do nothing else but making music and be with myself / other musicians. To really dive into it and to not be distracted. This long continuous period of time kind of takes the pressure away because there’s still enough time to breath in between - even if you don’t feel creative for one or two days - or you feel like taking a break and just be outside or read for a day: There’s still enough time.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
When writing songs, I normally don’t think about an audience or playing it live. But when arranging the songs for stage I always try to leave space for improvised moments, intuitive changes and playfulness.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
For me the "naked song" should always work and speak for itself. But of course soundscapes, arrangement and production give possibilities to decide its feeling or perspective. I think on Why, Why those two flow into each other and encourage each other. I recorded and produced really intuitively and the sound of every single note became how I wanted and felt it, writing and recording was a parallel process.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
If someone starts playing a song the whole atmosphere in a room changes immediately. It immediately influences and changes the frequency of a surrounding.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think it’s two parts: Music helps me to give my emotions and my thoughts an outlet and a free kind of flow I don’t find in human rational communication and society as it is right now. The other part: I want to connect. When I write and sing a song with all my heart it somehow & somewhere will touch someone else’s heart and maybe plant some new seeds there again.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I have a vision of music being remembered again as a true gift of healing and connection.