We meet the innovative musician and actor to find out the secret to their sound.
“Write what you know, even if it’s your fantasies that you know best”, Kat Cunning tells tmrw. An artist who writes as earnestly as they sing, Kat creates with confidence and belief, and it shows. After making waves over lockdown with their unique and vibrant sound, Kat Cunning established themself as a force to be reckoned with, and Kat’s music makes you feel that way too.
And new track ‘Confident’ is no exception: a single that was able to get a rouse out of us even in the depths of lockdown 3.0, it comes with an empowering video to boot which shows off Kat’s captivating dance moves. “I wrote ‘Confident’ in a day while in Los Angeles when I was really feeling uncertain about my relationships and needed to ask the people around me to step up”, Kat explains “I hope it makes people feel sexy and strong, and encourages them either to empower the people they love to evolve with them or say “AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR DIS, SIS” and walk out of the room wearing nothing but a leather trench and Docs.”
We caught up with the trailblazing talent to find out how they found their confidence, and to learn all about Kat’s polymathic world of acting, music and activism.
How have you found creativity over the past year? Have you struggled to get inspired?
No actually. If I’m honest, I was so overworked before the pandemic. I do a lot of different things as an artist- I act and sing and am very involved in all aspects of my business as an artist. A regular day for me before involved 4 or 5 stops at different meetings, auditions, gigs, studio sessions, rehearsals and 4 changes of clothes and shoes running through the city. The pandemic really gave me a chance to take a breath and process some of what I’ve experienced for the past 10 years, and that chance to reflect helped me write the music I wanted to write. It’s a luxury to have time in your life, and while this pandemic has brought undeniable and unequivocal pain to a lot of the world, it brought me perspective on how valuable time is, and how much more support and care artists and marginalized people require to make great work. I was on unemployment for a while making about the same as I did as an artist, and I was happier knowing I had that security. Even a nominal amount of support from the government really allowed me to thrive as an artist. What a concept! I hope we come out of this Pandemic with a value on art and a desire to support storytelling as a part of essential work. Representation and storytelling can skyrocket the growth of a society.
Where do you seek inspiration from?
Life. Everything I write is true in a way. Even when I act I find a real truth inside me of something I have lived and tell the story from that truth. That’s why it’s so important to turn your shit off, or cut back on bullshit meetings, protect your energy and live real moments. It’s my job as an artist to explore pain, pleasure, fear, the banal, and the whole gamut of things. I really value the handful of people who are very close to me who make it possible for me to have grounded experiences.
Do you remember the moment you fell in love with music?
Oh god. Must have been in the womb. My mom tells me she worked out to the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack on the trampoline in the house when she was pregnant with me and that really checks out. I didn’t dream of being a singer until I was an adult, but I just started taking lessons recently and I have been singing the Diva hits, which reminded me that I used to set up my CD rack with a karaoke mic on top and sing Mariah Carey’s ‘Butterfly’ to myself in the mirror. A moment in adulthood was the Beyoncé visual album. I knew I wanted to do this when I saw that.
How do you balance the worlds of acting and music? How do they blend for you?
Acting and music are both justified by storytelling for me. I never want to do something to be good at it. I sing and act to connect with people. That being said, they both have their moments of doing that more than the other. When I’m singing a ballad to a live audience and I can hear a pin drop, I feel so intimate with 100 people in the room. But there’s also something to just existing in front of a camera with no extra pop magic that makes me feel an entirely different kind of intimacy and freedom. As a career artist, I love that they balance each other out. I want to be your dreams of who you are in the worlds that I create with my music, and I want to be someone you’ve met, or reflect you back to yourself in film.
How do you like to express your identity in what you create?
I write very earnestly about my life. I don’t hide my queerness and I don’t pull from fantasy much. Nothing is more cringey than an artist putting it on. Even Bowie and Janelle Monae in their various characters are rooted in something real for them. Write what you know, even if it’s your fantasies that you know best.
Tell me a little about your work with The Ally Coalition?
I love TAC and all the work they’ve done. I’m excited that Republic Records and TAC and I are collaborating to create a safe space (around PRIDE and the release of my upcoming pride banger ‘BOYS’) where people can share messages of support and love with a spotlight on Trans and Nonbinary folks. It will also welcome messages of support for all kinds of people and offer resources such as hotlines for further support. We’ll also be fundraising alongside the effort by auctioning off Kat Cunning treats to help put the money where our love notes are.
What do you hope people take away from your new track ‘Confident’?
It’s an ultimatum record. I wrote ‘CONFIDENT’ on a day in LA when I was feeling the uncertainty of my relationships and needed to ask the people around me to step up. It’s an important sentiment for any kind of relationship. Sometimes you need to check in and either grow or go home. I hope it makes people feel sexy and strong, and encourages them either to empower the people they love to evolve with them or say “AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR DIS, SIS” and walk out of the room wearing nothing but a leather trench and Docs. It doesn’t have to be a love relationship either. I get a lot of pushback about my pronouns from people that have been close to me for a long time and I’ve had to get real with them. “This is me and I’m gonna skyrocket by being me- you coming with or nah?”
How do you gain confidence when you need to be empowered?
I dance. I ask for validation from the people close to me shamelessly. Selfies are also an actual part of my self care. I take them when I feel like shit and when I feel amazing. I have some hilarious selfies of me trying to pull up when I had covid. But for real, women were painted by men for thousands of years. It’s an empowering act to frame yourself just how you like it.
Do you find making music to be a therapeutic process?
Absolutely. Writing and singing are sacred spaces for purging life. Especially when you have a strong collaborator who gets where you’re going. It’s literally magic to make something out of thin air.
What is your desert island album? One that you could listen to forever…
Justified by JT. The world did Britney and Janet Dirty around him, and his apology was too late but that album is actually in my bones top to bottom.
What can we expect next from you in 2021?
My EP is finally coming! I’ll also be starring in a horror film, hosting a show called TRYST at Miami’s coveted Faena Theater (which heavily features my original music and is open now), and making a principal appearance in the upcoming JLO movie, Marry Me (also staring Sarah Silverman and Owen Wilson).
Press play on ‘Confident’ below now.