Marshall and her sister receive more structure when they're sent to stay with their grandmother, with whom they spend large chunks of time throughout their youth. These visits will stay tucked inside Marshall's subconscious and eventually help inform her music as Cat Power.
"My earliest roots are in soul music," Chan tells Interview magazine in 2012. "My grandmother would take me to church ― because that's what you do in Georgia ― and when you go to Baptist church, the fun part is that you sing. Those hymns are all so meditative to me ― 'I'm gonna lay my burdens down...' It's all about giving. Not giving up, necessarily, but surrendering. It's so rewarding, that kind of soul music, because it's so... good. It's just good."
Though she isn't allowed to buy any records herself, she listens to her stepfather's collection: Otis Redding, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones. Her biological father, Charlie, is also a rock musician who plays with, among others, Greg Allman. Despite having little interaction with him throughout her childhood, Marshall tells Chickfactor in 1996 how Charlie's influences may be imprinted on her DNA. "He was influenced by gospel, cause he's from Alabama. and his mother, her name's Lena, she still lives in Alabama. He used to go to people's houses and tap-dance and sing for however much money they'd give him, like a nickel or a penny or whatever, when he was like six or seven. He has a picture that I really want of him doing that. He used to wear this little white suit that was too short for him. so he used to go with the kids from the neighbourhood to the neighbourhood black church. And he always said he felt really shy at first going into the church, so he'd listen to them outside the church first, which I think is really sweet. but then he started going in, and he said they were really nice to him. So his influences were blues and gospel. but then when he was 17 he started doing drugs and getting into all that kind of stuff, that whole realm of music that was out then. That's kind of the stuff that he played till after my mom met him; he met my mom when he was 20, my mom was 17, she dropped out of high school, they got married, had two kids."
At 16 years old, Marshall and Myra Lee's relationship dissolves, and Marshall bolts for Atlanta to live with Charlie, showing up on his door, according to a 2001 interview with Spin, with a garbage bag full of clothes. The two don't get along, as she tells the New York magazine in 2006: "When I moved in, he got a baby grand. I wasn't allowed to touch it." She switches to a stern, exaggerated man's voice. "'Chan! The piano is not a toy.' Like I'm a child. I'm fuckin' 16 years old. It would make me so sad, because I loved it. So, he'd leave and I'd beat the shit out of it. Imagine if he'd let me play and taught me? Imagine."
The new living arrangements don't last long. Charlie kicks her out after flunking 10th grade, she tells Spin. "I was kind of shocked, but I was like, 'Who gives a fuck? I'm not gonna be anybody anyway.'" She drops out of high school during her senior year, and cuts off contact with her father, allegedly to this day. She won't speak to Myra Lee again until she's 24.
1989 to 1995
Marshall spends three years working in Fellini's Pizza in Atlanta, where she meets Glen Thrasher (musician, DJ, zine publisher). In her downtime, she's teaching herself guitar and easing into experimental music. Marshall forms a collective with Thrasher on drums and friends Fletcher Liegerot, Damon Moore and Mark Moore. They jam and gain a bit of word-of-mouth hype. In 1991, when a friend's band asks the group to open for them, the first incarnation of Cat Power is borne, after Marshall spots a man walking into Fellini's wearing a Cat Diesel Power cap.
Marshall and Thrasher relocate to New York City's East Village in 1992. She tells New York magazine in 2008 that it was an attempt to outrun Atlanta's burgeoning drug scene where "everyone started doin' heroin and becoming a junkie." Marshall and Thrasher play with a variety of people as part of New York's experimental scene. She tells comedian Fred Armisen in Pitchfork in 2006 about their introduction to the Big Apple and trying to overcome her stage fright. "[Thrasher] started taking me to all these free jazz shows ― Anthony Braxton, different stuff, real experimental improvisational stuff. And that gave me the confidence to actually physically be on stage. I saw that, dude, those people weren't judging. That gave me the courage to be up there and turn my back to the audience, because it wasn't about rock'n'roll projection, so I felt comfortable. Our first show was at this warehouse in Brooklyn, and my second show was with this dude playing saxophone and this naked Japanese girl screaming."
Gerard Cosloy, Matador label co-founder, is at one of these loft parties. In New York magazine, he remembers Marshall as "very tentative about the audience, but she had a presence that said, 'This is a serious thing.'"
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