Chan Marshall doesn’t like to walk and really, neither do I, so we hop a cab to go eight blocks and tip the driver heavily. The Deuce bar has the AC on high—it’s cold and dimly lit and belies the hot, humid, white light of the Miami afternoon outside. Marshall thoughtfully points out that this must have been some sort of strip club because the bar winds around the place like a snake in a maze, perfect for dancing and collecting dollar bills. Our bartender is slight with dark hair, and she keeps saying to me, “Johnny Depp! Johnny Depp!” She tells him this too, and I’m pretty sure her third vodka & Red Bull was on him. A nice guy with a blue construction hat sits down next to us and tries to start a conversation—we end up telling him that the bartender is my brother and that we’re both really proud of his new job. Marshall checks out of our conversation to text message someone she thinks she has a crush on. The guy with the construction hat continues to talk, Marshall continues to text. Fifteen minutes later, I ask her what’s happened, what the crush is texting and she says, “Oh, I haven’t sent him anything yet—I don’t know what to write.” She looks down, erases her latest draft and begins to write another one. The guy with the construction hat gets up and leaves.
The mythmaking of Chan Marshall begins with Cat Power, as she is known on records and in five-line reviews and profiles of indeterminate length, someone prone to breakdowns and stage fright, profound insecurity and layers of emotional scar tissue so deep that they might run down to the bone; if you tried to excise them, there would be nothing left but the smoke and whisper of the voice that has made her famous. In every one of her last five albums Myra Lee, What Would The Community Think, Moon Pix, The Covers Album and You Are Free, Marshall sings with a hollow-eyed sadness that is pure, unflinching and brilliant in its despondency. Very often, it’s too hard to even listen.