I sat down with one of Toronto’s emerging indie musicians, Cat Montgomery–of Cat and the Queen–to learn more about her music, her inspirations, and her take on being a young female artist in the city.
Shannon Currie: What’s the story behind the name ‘Cat and the Queen’?
Cat Montgomery: It started a couple years ago; I was playing open mics and just going by my name. But then I bought this sweet Nord Stage 2 piano. I was calling him Red. A friend misheard me and said, “Reg?” I looked up what the name meant and it was Reginald as in ‘Queen.’ So I thought, “Ya okay, Reg.” That’s how Cat and the Queen came about. Now it’s a bit weird because I’ve added a drummer and a bassist so it’s just become the encompassing band name.
SC: How would you describe your music?
CM: Well I have a background in theatre and stand-up so it’s a blend of cabaret, vaudeville, social commentary, and–hopefully–fun. But also there’s a mix of songs that are a bit moodier. I was once described by someone as ‘a psychedelic Kurt Weill.’
SC: What has your music evolved from?
CM: I’ve always been able to truly express myself through the piano. I’ve been writing songs since I was twelve and I sometimes now even play those early songs. When I was at theatre school, Studio 58 in Vancouver, they’d have performance labs at lunch where people could just get up and perform and one time I played a song on the piano. I’d get notes from teachers, “Why can’t you act the way you play the piano?” It was disturbing to me at the time, but I do believe there’s something there. I have a voice and a freedom that is unique to my relationship with the piano.
I was away from music for a while, but when I came back to Toronto I ended up being dragged to an open mic with a friend. At first I was like, “Ugh, no way,” but it ended up that the vibe was so good. It was really positive, like a community. It felt like New York. And from there it grew into my saving up to buy Reg! And it’s history from there.
SC: Can you describe your process of song writing?
CM: Sometimes when a song evolves, it’s been floating around in my brain for months. The freedom comes when I just ease up and there’s no pressure that a song is to be created or not. I had a voice teacher who said, “Sometimes there ain’t no fish.”
SC: Why no covers?
CM: I just always wanted to play my own stuff. I’m only just now attempting covers. I have this version of “Benny and the Jets” but I admit I changed the lyrics. For the new EP, I’m working on a version of Banarama’s “Venus” and Queen’s “Under Pressure”–but I still might change the lyrics.
SC: Who are your influences?
CM: Bette Midler, 1979. She’s so irreverent and comedic–a real blend of voice and heart. But also my parents’ music: Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt, Rolling Stones, Elton John, Rod Stewart–and of course, Tori Amos, because of the piano connection.
SC: Talk to me about being female in the local music scene?
CM: There’s a good amount of ego but look, I’m not Rihanna or even in that pop world. I know that it’s a marathon, not a race, to some kind of fame. That said, I am most confident, connected and at peace when I’m performing. Sometimes I really don’t want to do it but then when I get into the venue and on the stage it just feels right. I’ve got to just trust in how all the dots connect.
SC: For your audience, what is the experience of seeing Cat and the Queen?
Cat: The three words that come to mind are “fun,” “raw,” and “heart.”
SC: What is the first piece of music you ever owned?
CM: Blind Melon and Soul Asylum were the first two CDs I ever bought in grade eight. And Culture Club on a tape from my older brother.
SC: If you could develop an extraordinary talent overnight, what would it be?
CM: A pool shark. Every time I go into one of those bars, I just want to whip out that kind of skill. That’s so ego!
SC: What is in the future?
CM: The next gig is March 14 at Rancho Relaxo. I’ve also got the EP launch set for April. But I’m really excited by my latest writing project in the works–a musical.
Cat and the Queen is a mix of rock, vaudeville and cabaret sounds. You can catch them on March 14 at the Rancho Relaxo and 10:25 p.m. Find out more at www.catandthequeen.com