Big in Japan

 

Dublin singer-songwriter Cat Lundy told David Hennessy about her new summer track written in lockdown, being big in Japan while struggling to get her music played in Ireland and some of the dangers and pitfalls of the industry.

She has taken on Hollywood as a fledgling actress and had international chart success in territories as far away as Japan.

Now Dublin singer- songwriter Cat Lundy, who lived in London for nine months while studying, is looking to make a splash nearer to home with her latest release, The Margarita Song.

Cat has been described as a ‘first class storyteller’ and she has played venues in London as well as New York’s The Bitter End and L.A’s infamous House of Blues.

She has supported American Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito on tour.

Ring Master Review have said of Cat: “Cat controls each song from the start to finish. She is effortless and cool and knows how to lure her listeners in. You can hear a pin drop as she holds her audience spellbound.”

Known for raw lyrics and blending genres such as pop, blues and jazz,  the Margarita Song came to Cat during lockdown.

An upbeat and catchy summer track, her ambition with it was to spread positivity and optimism and the message that better days are yet to come.

Cat says that she finds it easier to write sad songs so it was ‘really weird’ that such a summer anthem should come to her at such a time.

Cat told The Irish World: “With that song, it was just really weird: It just came out.

“I was reminiscing about beach parties, being with your friends and being able to go clubbing, go to festivals and not worry.

“It’s so strange not to be able to hug or even shake someone’s hand.

“It was just a reminder that things will eventually get back to normal. We have to stay positive.

“When things are good, life is beautiful.

“And I was probably sipping on margaritas at the time,” she laughs.

Cat spent nine months in London, studying drama at RADA and had it not been for the pandemic, she would have relocated back to the UK last year.

“I lived in London for about nine months. I loved it. I have to say I loved it.

“I was living in Blackheath.

“I was studying acting in the Royal Academy and I did some gigs over there as well.”

Cat would return to Dublin and be classically trained as a singer at the Royal Academy of Music.

“The funny thing is when I came back from London when I would have a glass of wine, my friends would slag me off and be like, ‘Where are you from?’

“Because I had turned completely London and it would come out after a glass of wine: Posh London accent.

“I had planned to move to London. I was going in April (2020).

“When the Coronavirus really started, I wasn’t going anywhere.

“So instead of moving to London, I was with my parents again at home, in the family home.

“It was strange but it was good. It wouldn’t have been good for me to be in London and have to quarantine on my own or anything like that.

“That wouldn’t be good for anyone.

“The last year was hard but at the same time I did get some writing done and the Margarita Song came out of it.

“And I have a couple more that I wrote that are going to be upcoming releases as well.

“But at the same time, it really made me realize how important family is as well, and having support and friends and everything else.

“I’d much rather be around Mam and Dad making cups for them. My dad loved it because I was cooking for him every night.”

Cat’s debut song Triggerman made quite an impact when it came out in 2017. It amassed great airplay in Japan and led to her playing showcases in L.A.

However, Cat is quick to point out that it did nothing for her in Ireland and believes it’s success elsewhere is an example of the gender bias that has been prevalent in Irish radio play and preventing Irish voices from being heard.

“Not in Ireland funnily enough,” she says in response to the Irish World saying Triggerman was a song that did a lot for her.

“I found it impossible to get it played in Ireland but Japan loved it and the Americans loved it as well.

“But in Ireland, I struggled to get it played.

“I actually went into radio stations with boxes of doughnuts and the album to try to get them to consider playing it.

“They ate the donuts and they didn’t play my song.

“Some of the local stations were very good but it’s a very tight knit ‘who you know’ club, I think, in Ireland especially.

“It’s a boys club, 100% but it is also who you know.

“It just seems very unfair. How are you meant to get a break in your own country?

“Japan shouldn’t be embracing me and Ireland not. That’s frustrating.

“There is a gender preference thing there as well.

“And it is predominantly a boys’ club.

“And do I know the Irish seem to love the boy band thing and the male singer thing but it’s been done.

“Something different would be nice, and I think I’m that something.”

While some public industry figures profess to be supporting Irish music, Cat says this is sometimes ‘bullsh*t’.

She tells a harrowing story of how she was taken advantage of by one of these figures.

“I can’t give you this person’s name but I will tell you this because I think it’s important.

“This particular person was all for championing the females, commenting on how it’s so unfair there’s so much talent in Ireland and the females don’t get a look in.

“So I was working with this particular PR person who was all about this, this was what she supposedly stood for and paid her to promote my album.

“She told me a pack of lies.

“She said FM 104 were interested, the Late Late were interested, RTE were going to put it as their record of the month and everything else.

“So she got three grand out of me, all my savings pretty much and did nothing for me.

“And then when I actually wrote her a letter saying, ‘You know, I didn’t get anything from this. Could you give me anything back so I can approach another company who could maybe do something for me?’

“And I said, ‘Or do I need to get a lawyer?’ I did go there.

“And she sent me a scathing, threatening two-page email saying, ‘It’s not my fault if people don’t like you or don’t like your music or don’t want to play you’.

“She pretty much said that she would have a team of lawyers and I would have no chance so I had to leave it.

“All I could do was obviously tell my musician friends. I could warn other artists to avoid that PR firm but there’s nothing I can do.

“It’s horrible being treated like that.

“It’s unfair but you learn from these things.”

This is not her only tale of woe from the industry.

When the success of Triggerman had a big American management company interested in signing her, they wanted control of everything about her and not just musically.

“I was in LA two years ago.

“From Triggerman, a big American manager flew me over to LA and wanted to sign me.

“But he said I would have to sign with him for seven years.

“I would have no creative license, I would be pretty much owned.

“They would even have to approve even who I was dating.

“And I was like, ‘This is mad’. Absolute madness.”

They seriously said that they would have to approve of who you were dating?

“That’s what I was told.

“Over a business dinner meeting, I was told that.

“Would they do that to a male artist? No, I don’t believe they would.

“Things fell through.

“So I never get excited about anything now.

“Because each time you’re up you’re feeling like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m on top of the world’, you can’t keep bombing every few months.

“You have to stay somewhere in the middle. That’s what I try to do anyway.

“And my mam is very good for keeping me grounded, you know?”

Cat works with producer Ger McDonnell who has worked extensively with U2, Kasabian, The Cure and Martha Wainwright to name a few.

Ger says of her, ‘Cat’s voice is sublime. She can reach emotional depths and express what most of us can only dream of. We are blessed’.

Cat says: “He is brilliant.

“He’s very, very talented. He’s a gentleman as well.

“I went in not knowing who he was because I think sometimes that’s better because then you’re starting off on equal footing without putting someone up on a pedestal.

“And I sat down and I played for him for two hours.

“He wanted to hear everything and I only wanted to record one song with him.

“And he said to me at the end, ‘No, you should record everything you have there’.

“So then afterwards I found out who he was and it was a massive boost.

“It was like, ‘Oh, he really believes in me’.

“He produced Triggerman, and he said to me, ‘You’re just as good as Adele. You don’t know what’s around the corner’.”

A self-taught guitarist, Cat has been singing all her life with a particular Whitney Houston song inspiring her as a child.

“My mam has this really embarrassing story.

“She says that I was obsessed with the Bodyguard film.

“I would watch it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again and do everyone’s head in.

“If you were going anywhere with me in a car, I’d be belting out, I Will Always Love You.

“I think it started then. And then I was kind of obsessed.

“I was always making up little songs and stuff.

“And then one Christmas I was like, ‘I want a guitar’.

“The folks got me a guitar and then I started writing.

“And it just kind of progressed from there.

“And I couldn’t help myself. I had to do it.”

It’s worth pointing out in case any one is concerned that Cat’s parents were letting her watch an edited version of the Bodyguard that a child could watch.

There was a time when Cat was looking to star in movies herself.

It was in 2008 that Cat was one of ten ambitious Irish actors who were filmed for an RTE documentary as they tried to break Hollywood.

Entitled Hollywood Trials, other actors featured included Emmett J Scanlan, Boyzone’s Michael Graham, George McMahon who was known for playing Mondo in Fair City, Joe McKinney and Chris Newman.

The ten lived together as they received acting coaching and attended auditions.

“Oh no, I was hoping that was buried,” Cat laughs when we bring it up.

“It was an interesting time.

“You have this idea in your head that you’re going to be a massive star overnight. And it’s not that at all.

“It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of hard graft.

“Mostly, actually it’s a lot of luck. If someone takes a shine to you, you could do very well from it.

“Nobody really got anything out of it (Hollywood Trials).

“I know Emmett J Scanlan did really well years later.

“But no one else really.

“It was reality TV really.”

The experience did not kill her acting dream, she says, more that she knew then that it was music that she wanted to focus her attentions on.

She still gets to use her acting talents in her music videos that she generally comes up with the concepts for.

Could she see herself acting again?

Well actually she would love to use the London accent that she has perfected: “Have you seen The Gentleman with Hugh Grant? That is the type of movie I would love to do.

“I would love to play a cockney drug lord or something like that.

“Guy Ritchie movie, I would love it.

“You know the bad language? I love it.

“If you’re doing it in an accent, you can kind of get away with it,” she laughs.

The Margarita Song is out now.

For more information, click here.

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