It’s a quiet Thursday evening in Miami when singer-songwriter Chan Marshall picks up the phone. Marshall's voice — equal parts sweet and dreamy — strikes an apologetic tone; she's in Los Angeles recording her new album, and her chat with New Times had to be rescheduled three times owing to scheduling conflicts.
But, as the saying goes, the third time is the charm.
Although she's on the West Coast, the Atlanta-born indie rocker — also known by her stage name, Cat Power — has been living in Miami for the past 20 years. She'll return to her longtime home soon enough, because she's the featured artist at the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami's 365 AfterParty, set to happen at the Faena Forum this Saturday, January 18, three days before her 48th birthday.
Marshall has spent most of her life on the road as a touring musician, but somehow she settled down in Miami Beach with her only child.
“Spiritually and visually, it reminds me of Manhattan after a nuclear war after things had settled down," she says of her adopted home. "The climate is warmer; the sights are not overbearing.”
The singer spent many years in New York and even wrote a song titled "Manhattan" that was included on her ninth studio album, Sun. She made the move to Florida in 2002 and has remained here ever since.
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“Miami Beach still has that island culture; Miami is supersucculent with the canals, the rivers, the ocean, and the air, and I think that’s why I love it so much," Marshall says with a palpable sense of fascination. "It reminds me so much of Manhattan, but in a different dimension. It has plenty of multicultural diversity and languages and food, heritage. The iguanas, the birds, and the ecosystem — all those things together affect us as humans, spirituality and biologically.”
Marshall has been releasing music since the early '90s and has amassed a discography that winds through an array of genres, including jazz, indie, and folk. Most of her compositions are also accompanied by her nostalgic and powerful voice, which has been honed through a series of trials and tribulations. The singer has endured depression and alcohol abuse. Besides influencing her music, Marshall's struggles also led to her hospitalization at Mount Sinai Medical Center more than once.
Fortunately, those days are long gone, and she says her life has changed comprehensively since the birth of her son.
“I did more journeying," Marshall says. "Having my son and the environment that I’m speaking about — the trees, the river, and the sea, the lizards and the birds, all of those things — became so much more precious to share with him. Since the day I brought him home, he was with me outside in nature, in my arms. Having my son has enhanced my union with nature.”
Marshall takes her 4-year-old son, Boaz, with her on tour, and part of their routine includes visiting museums around the world. Her experience as a mother and attempts to instill the importance of a cultural education in him is partly why she'll appear at the ICA's fifth-anniversary party.
“With [George W.] Bush starting to take all the programs when he was president, and with Trump and the lack of funding in the music and the arts in general, it’s important to have places like the ICA that are centrally located and are available," she says. "All the creative power and the creative thinking is sparked in us from when we are kids. With everything going on in the world around us, it is precious to be able to think freely.” Marshall is an active supporter of the ICA, a fan of its programming, and enjoys the fact that the museum has a backyard that is interspersed with art.
Saturday's performance at the Faena Forum will be curated by Marshall herself, who believes the strength and memorability of a performance rely on a number of factors beyond physical attributes. “It’s more than the space: It’s the vibe, the humans sitting there, [and] what it needs to be said."
This year is set to be an eventful one for Marshall, who's working on the mixing of her upcoming album, which will be the 11th of her career and the third collection of covers. She shows the same level of enthusiasm and passion when talking about the record as she shows when discussing Miami.
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“I’m very excited because it’s very different: It has qualities of everything I’ve done before, not just one thing," she says. "It has improvisation qualities, live qualities, guitar, older storytelling. I'm very happy about it.”
Marshall says her passion for covers correlates with her overall love for music and the simultaneous sense of lineage and opportunity for the new that comes with being a creative.
"My favorite thing in music is the amount of it and the inspiration you get from it. One song can save your life, and there are so many of them, so I will always enjoy every cover that I get the opportunity to give people.”
Cat Power. With Dan Milewski. 10 p.m. Saturday, January 18, at the Faena Forum, 3300-3398 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-534-8800. Tickets cost $100 to $1000 via icamiami.org.