THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO CAT BURNS words Amy MacKenzie - photography Omar Khaleel - fashion Jennifer Eleto
Cat Burns grew up in South London in a musical family, deeply influenced by gospel music. We caught up with her recently and learnt all about how she writes songs rooted in experiences - sometimes hers, sometimes friends of hers. This combination creates songs that are at the same time memorable and relatable. She says that the most important thing about her songs is that they are authentic and real - we think that is exactly what they are!
She has a maturity that belies her age and a natural enthusiasm for the industry. She is not shy of showing her admiration for artists from multiple genres. Her enthusiasm is infectious, as is her passion for music and storytelling.
Amy MacKenzie: How are you?
Cat Burns: I’m good, how are you?
A.M: Yeah good, thank you. So where are you from and what was life like growing up?
C.B: I’m from Streatham Hill in South London. What was it like growing up? It was alright. I went to a normal school, lived life, made friends, lost them, now I’m here! [Laughs]
A.M: [Laughs] Yeah, what were your family like?
C.B: Good, I have a really close relationship with my Mum and my sister, it was just us really.
A.M: Oh nice. So how did you first get into music?
C.B: My Mum is a singer also, she loves to sing and she was playing music all over the house all the time so I think I’ve always been singing but I didn’t realise I wanted to be a singer until I was about 11 and then I was like ‘ok no, this is what I really want to do’. Before then it was basketball but I was like ‘no, no, I want to do music now’.
A.M: Fair enough, and what kind of music did you listen to growing up? And how has it influenced you now?
C.B: A lot of gospel, a lot of R&B and hip hop obvs. Just generally pop as well, listening to the radio and just hearing what was on. But mainly gospel I’d say.
A.M: Yeah, any particular artists?
C.B: Ooh so, there’s an artist called Kim Burrell, another one called Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp, there were so many, so many we would listen to!
Cat wears jacket RAINS; trousers BILLABONG at URBAN OUTFITTERS; earring SKINNYDIP
A.M: So how would you describe your musical style and how has it changed over time?
C.B: Yeah, it has definitely evolved. I would say it’s just pop with a cooler edge to it because obviously I’m influenced by so many different things. At first, I wanted it to be...because I loved Ed Sheeran so much, I wanted it to be singer-songwriter-y and guitar-y and then as I found my own sound and what I wanted to make it was mainly just pop but I sing in my accent so it has that Britishness to it but I am just talking about relatable things and things that have happened to me or other people.
A.M: How does your creative process of coming up with songs work?
C.B: Usually just an idea that can literally come out of nowhere and I just have to make a voice note and put it down otherwise I’ll forget it and then it just goes from there. Either it’s someone else’s experience or it’s my own. Maybe it starts with a chorus, it’s literally so random, it can happen with a chorus, it can happen with a verse, the producer might come up with something and I’m like [clicks] ‘this works!’ so it really is completely random.
A.M: Oh cool, so you’ve just said you write from personal experience, can you give us a couple of stories that have developed into songs?
C.B: Tea! [Laughs] I wrote a song recently and it was basically this boy, we got along very well and he liked me, but I just wasn’t in a time in my life where I wanted to be in a relationship so I didn’t want to mess him about and that led into a song. What else? The usual, boys not texting me when they’re sober etc. It’s a lot of boy trouble. But my friend, his girlfriend was unfaithful which led to me making my song ‘Cheater’ out of it. I dramatised it obviously but yeah, that came from that.
A.M: A bit of creative license
A.M: So let’s talk a bit about your EP - ‘Naive’ - why did you choose the title?
C.B: For ages I really wanted all my projects to link in some way, so the first one I did was called ‘Adolescent’ and then I kinda wanted to do what Adele did but she’s taken that and done her age so I thought how do I do that and keep it in the same world so I thought Naive would be the best thing to do because it’s kinda like you’re growing up and starting to get used to new things and dealing with boys and naive is literally just my boy troubles in one place.
Cat wears full look ASOS
A.M: Yeah, so is that the inspiration behind all those songs?
C.B: Yeah, definitely
A.M: So what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your musical journey?
C.B: Umm. I guess it’s a challenge maybe I’ll continue to face. Just showing people who it is I am and why they would be coming to me. I always find there’s specific artists you go to for a specific reason - if I’m going to listen to Tori Kelly, I’m going to listen for relatability and to just cry! But for me, I want it to be that people can come to me when they’re feeling low about a certain thing and they realise that it’s not that deep and you don’t have to get so upset about it, try and find the light in everything. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge I’ll face is just people getting to know me and understanding what it is I’m trying to do because I feel like it is quite different.
A.M: What has helped you get through these challenges?
C.B: I think it is just that this is the kind of music I want to make and this is who I am. It’s not inauthentic, or I’m not being real, so I feel like that’s what gets me through it because I know what I want to do and I’m not faking it. I think the more I stay consistent and show people this is actually who I am and this is the music I want to me, hopefully they’ll get on board!
A.M: What’s the most memorable show you’ve played?
C.B: There’s a few but I will never forget, I put on my own headline show when I was 16 and that was really fun. It was in a venue called Off the Cuff in Herne Hill. All my friends came, all my family came, and people from my school who I didn’t know came. They were all singing the words to my songs and I was just like ‘oh my gosh this does not beat anything’ so I cannot wait until I can do that again with people who I don’t know singing the words back, that will be weird!
A.M: Yeah, that’ll be amazing! So what are your plans for the rest of the year?
C.B: Just working on new music and getting it perfect. Hopefully a support slot. More gigs!
Cat wears hoodie and jumpsuit WEEKDAY; trainers SUPERGA
A.M: Exciting! Who is your style icon?
C.B: That is such a good question!! Who is my style icon?! Tea! I like Zendaya a lot, I love Zendaya’s fashion sense, I think she’s got quite a similar body type to me, she’s quite tall and slim so I can kinda see what she puts on her body and be like ‘okaaay’. There’s also a model called Leomie Anderson, love what she wears. I would mainly say those two!
A.M: And then last question, what’s your favourite F Word?
C.B: What is my favourite f word? Hmm. My mum will hear! The main f word…
A.M: The one that everyone thinks of?
C.B: Yeah exactly.
A.M: Thanks so much Cat!
C.B: Thank you.
Cat wears full look URBAN OUTFITTERS; trainers ADIDAS
Cat wears t-shirt URBAN OUTFITTERS; jacket DRIES VAN NOTEN JACKET at BROWNS; trousers A COLD WALL at BROWNS
Cat wears jacket DAILY PAPER; skirt NIKE at BROWNS
Cat wears trench DAILY PAPER; trousers BERTHOLD; trainers SUPERGA