Kat Cunning embodies the term triple threat. A successful dancing career allowed them to fall into singing and acting almost by accident, but you’d never guess that from the amount of purpose they channel into their work. An upcoming film with J Lo, a broadway career and supporting LP on tour are just a few of the outcomes of their level of drive. They have also recently released a new track which has since been streamed over 1 million times called ‘Supernova (Tigers Blud)’, an explosive anthem which debuted in Netflix series Trinkets which Kat also stars in. A refreshing and surprising artist, we caught up with Kat to discuss what makes ‘Supernova’ stand out, their different modes of expression and what they offer and what would be their role of a lifetime.
Hey Kat! How are you? What’s a typical day like for you at the moment?
Hey! Apocalypse considered, I’m doing swell. My days are fairly busy with a balance of auditions, writing, recording/working on the EP and having dance parties alone to stay sane. I really enjoy the little things like: chilled tequila, bike rides, and slutty car sing-alongs in this fairly tumultuous time.
How’s lockdown been for you? For a lot of musicians it’s been a time for introspective writing, has this been the case for you?
I ultimately think it has been a gift of introspection, restoration and necessary social upheaval, but it is starting to weigh on me that I haven’t played loudly to a real room of people in months. I had a huge survivalist reserve of energy for this crisis, but now that things are finding their ‘new normal,’ I am starting to mourn sweaty dance floors, crowded shows and casually swapping spit.
Your track Supernova has recently come out! What makes this song stand out from the rest of your music?
I think it’s ballsier. I wrote it after touring with LP with a huge audience in mind. I wanted it to start with the intimacy of a late night set at the bar, and end in a stadium, lighters up. I am excited by that in live performance; playing with the dial on the aperture of intimacy. Can’t wait to tour this song when the world comes back.
You’ve said of Supernova that: “The lyrics are an expression of the bravado and masculinity I embody when I am falling for a girl.” Can you expand on this idea?
To puff up your chest and pursue someone is traditionally a masculine narrative, and it resonates with me. Imagine the boy in every rom com or tragedy you’ve ever seen. John Cusak with the boombox. Romeo at the base of the balcony. Richard Gere with the money. I’m not saying there’s not a Pretty Woman inside me, too. I’m just saying I’m in awe of women, and I’m not afraid to play the fool in support of Julia Roberts.
So you became a professional dancer first before you moved into acting and singing. How different are these worlds? What lessons from each do you take into the other?
Drastically different worlds, but the crafts are the same at the heart.
Dance is at the heart of it all for me. It taught me that my body is an instrument which gives me confidence as an actor and singer since the instrument is the same. Everything I do comes from a clear sense of movement.
I had a teacher stop me in class once and have me do the combination for everyone. Afterwards he said, “(They) are a mess, but (they) are dancing.” I apply that to all three crafts. It really is about putting your heart in what you do, that cuts through to people. I’m not interested in a display of talent. I am interested in courageous acts of expression.
Refinery 29 have said: “Kat Cunning is part of a new breed of musicians that don’t fall strictly under the category of ‘musician’.” Why do you think more people are abandoning the single career path and becoming multi-disciplinary like yourself?
People have always been multifaceted and multi-talented. I think the shift has more to do with the sudden capability to promote it all from your phone yourself instead of waiting for some rich old guy to champion you.
You’ve said that you “spend so much of your time trying to fit into the dance world” and that acting and singing instead provides an opportunity for individuality. Can you expand on this?
I was raised in the ballet, where (unless you were a prodigy) you had to dance in the corps de ballet before you became a principal. That meant you had to fit in. Not only did I literally, physically, not fit in, (because I was much larger than the girls around me) but I also heard music differently and wanted to be expressive with that. I wanted to take the men’s class and focus on jumps and turns that were different from the girls. My favorite dancer was Anna Pavlova from the 1400’s who was more of an actress or burlesque dancer than today’s ballerina. She was hardly athletic and her performances were dramatic and sexual. Balanchine kind of marks the official departure from that, because he homogenized the ballet stage with thinness. He made some great work, but for me, he’s a poster-child for misogyny, anorexia and masochism in the industry. When I really saw it for what it was, I had to choose whether to dedicate my life to changing the industry or paving my own way. I’m so glad I took the risk. I had no idea what a riot I had inside me.
I really appreciate the idea that acting offers you space while music offers you expression. However, if you did have to choose one profession, which would you go for?
Don’t make me pick my favorite child! I guess it’s different every day but on the spot, I want to say acting. I’ve hardly touched the iceberg of what I can do and I am excited to grow into more powerful roles. I want to hit my Sarah Paulson/ Cate Blanchette stride.
I understand that you used to do spoken word, however started to feel like you were exploiting your own experiences. This idea really resonates with me and I can imagine how distressing it must be to keep revisiting past trauma. How would you advise other creatives who are also feeling this but are also plagued by the idea of responsibility?
Your only responsibility is to yourself. If you can, examine your rawness before you put it up on the internet.
So you’re signed to Lava Records alongside Lorde and Jessie J. What was this process like? Have you met some of the other artists on the label?
I wonder if it weren’t a pandemic, whether Lorde and Jessie J and Greta Van Fleet would all be drinking cheap champagne on my floor right now and watching Ratched? This is a formal invite.
I know that your signing was a big ‘made it’ moment for you. What was another pivotal point for your music career?
My latest music video was like a coming out party. I feel like so much of what I’ve been trying to articulate was so clearly received by directors and stylists and co actors alike and it was a really powerful feeling to know I could delegate and defer to them on set. It is super important to me that I touch and sign off on every aspect of my work, but it was really nice to feel I didn’t have to choke it so tightly. It was a sign of my business growing from really strong roots and it allowed me to show up and perform in a way that I’m really proud of.
Macy Gray also told me I had what it takes over Spaghetti.
So you’ve appeared in both Deuce and Trinkets and are set to feature in an upcoming film alongside Jennifer Lopez. What is the ideal role for you? Is there an iconic character that you’d love to play?
Queen Elizabeth. Romeo. Offred. Cat Woman. Jo March.
What songs have been on replay this summer?
Ama Lou Tried up, 070 Shake-Morrow, THEY- Count me in, koffee- toast
What song sums up how you’re feeling right now?
Drake ‘Pop Star’ – that song made me really jealous that I am not Justin Bieber, for the first time.
What’s the rest of 2020 got in store for you?
Marry Me with JLO coming in February, EP coming in the new year, and a couple of surprises to deck the halls with. Slide in the DMs and say hey or buy one of my new shirts so I can identify you at the end of the world.