Love and Brooklyn : The Catey Shaw Interview

Catey Shaw Catey Shaw. Photo Kim Edwards

Catey Shaw hits Montreal for the first time this weekend in support of her Brooklyn Girls EP and she’s excited. I had a chance to chat with her about her creative process, dating, YouTube critics and poutine (of course!)


Celina Flores (CF): Welcome, in advance, to Montreal. Will it be your first time here?
Catey Shaw (CS): Yeah, I can’t wait to get there. I’m so excited, everyone’s been saying such good things!

CF: I’ve never been to Brooklyn myself but I’ve heard a lot of people make comparisons between Brooklyn and Montreal, so I guess that might be something you notice while you’re here…

CS: Well, good. Then I’ll be right at home! [laughs]

CF: Yes! So, I read that you’ve been singing since you were a child. Who were some of your inspirations growing up?

CS: Well, I think growing up is always just kind of a fun thing for me. My grandpa was always in musicals and he had a radio station in upstate New York, and was always just sitting around the piano. So it was kind of like a family thing, we’d just listen to music and enjoy it. 

But I mean, I was also more of a visual artist and a painter. In high school I did musicals and open mic nights and I just really enjoyed singing for the fun of it, but I got my emotion and artistry out through my visual side. When I moved to New York I had to play music in the subway to feed myself. I started really taking writing seriously when I met Jay [co-writer and manager] and sort of became more comfortable speaking about my feelings. It’s a hard transition because words are so concrete in a way that imagery isn’t but since I figured out how to do that it’s kind of all become one thing.

CF: Yeah I also read that you created all of the artwork for your latest EP, is that right?

CS: Yeah, I created a painting for each song on the EP… and the cover!

CF: They’re really beautiful. Speaking of songwriting, on the song Brooklyn Girls you speak about appreciation of self-expression and in Human Contact you describe what I consider a creative way to end a “lovers spat.” Is it easy for you to draw inspiration from sort of ordinary life events?

CS: That’s definitely where it all comes from. I mean, when we wrote Brooklyn Girls we were thinking about The Girl From Ipanema and we were in L.A., and hating L.A. [laughs], and talking about how much we liked the girls in Brooklyn more. 

And then Human Contact was inspired by a fight that I had with an ex two years ago. We were fighting and bickering, and it was an unimportant fight, and then a Stevie Wonder song comes and we just forgot what we were fighting about and just started dancing and the fight was just… over. I think that happens to everyone, you know? You’re sitting in the car and you’re trying to make your angry face but then Man, I Feel Like a Woman comes on the radio and you can’t help but smile [laughs]

CF: Yeah, for sure! I actually write a dating column and when I heard that song I thought, this might just be the only relevant piece of dating advice ever. It’s a simple concept but I think if we all put that into practice, the world would be a much different place.

CS: Definitely. Well, it comes up a lot for me because my girlfriend is also in the music industry so we’ll go out for drinks and start talking about something business related and we’ll start arguing about it as if it’s about our relationship, when it definitely isn’t. Sometimes we just have to tell each other to shut up or, like, “This isn’t important! Why are we fighting right now?!” [laughs]

CF: I understand. Alright, so I have to ask: with the success of your Brooklyn Girls video also came some sort of, I don’t want to say controversy but maybe, like, internet backlash. I was wondering what you thought about that and about the role the internet plays in music nowadays, specifically people using it as a medium to insult people’s art.

CS: What made it kind of easy for me to process when all of that was happening, because it could have very easily shattered me, was knowing how often that happens. Any YouTube video that you go to, no matter what it’s about, if it has more than 50,000 views then there are tons of mean comments. Like, people will spend a whole day just going around on the internet trying to make people angry for fun. It’s wonderful that people have access to it and it’s great that people feel like they are passionate enough to express their opinion. They still viewed my video so it ended up working out for me! [laugh] I find solace in that I still believe in my song, I still believe in my music and I know why I wrote it and I know what it means to me.

CF: That’s a good way to look at it. Is there anything you can tell us about any new material or projects you’re working on?

CS: Right now I’m working on the next music video. I co-directed the Human Contact video with my friend Bryan Russell Smith from FDA and that went really well, and we loved working together, so now we’re in the process of casting and doing treatments and stuff for the next video. So, I’m trying to get all that going. And I’m excited to head up to Canada!

CF: We’re excited to have you!

CS: I’ve just never done a road trip with a van! We have a 15 passenger van and a bunch of Slim Jims and we’re really excited.

CF: I think we went over our time but I have one last thing to add. Montreal is kind of known for a dish called poutine. Not sure if you’ve heard that by now, but you should definitely try it while you’re here!

CS: Is that the gravy french fries?

CF: Exactly! And cheese curds!

CS: I’m definitely gonna try it but, small suggestion, the word “curd” is really throwing me. I think it would be better if you guys called it “cheese lumps” or “cheese balls”, something else. We gotta work on that language! [laughs]

Not included in this interview is a part where we fan girled over Hall & Oates. In Catey’s words they, “Kill pop!” Two seconds later, an ambulance drove by. We laughed. I love this girl.

You can catch Catey killing pop in her own way during POP Montreal at Cabaret Playhouse (5656 Du Parc) on September 20 at 9 p.m. (Catey takes the stage at 11 p.m.). $10.

About Celina Flores

Celina is a born-and-raised Montrealer who is on the never ending pursuit of happiness. She is a pop culture enthusiast, generator of lame puns and a big believer in love. More Posts