Chris Mountford spoke to singer CAT REA who's broken through with the "Freedom Reign" radio hit
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Chris: You have a new single out called "Fire" and a new album called 'Redemption'.
Cat: "Fire" is the last song for the album. As I listened to the album I thought it's missing a song. It was the middle of lockdown so I guess the whole country was feeling lethargic and rundown and I felt done with the whole situation. So I started writing "Fire". Talking to my producer I said imagine we've just had a battle and there are spoils everywhere and we're really tired, we need some rest, we need some fire. He started to create the track and then I wrote the lyrics. It was like 'now what?' All this hit and God breathes his fire on us again to ignite flames in our lives. It could be dreams and circumstances that have died. We need the fire of God to reignite us. Towards the end I wanted to make it quite explosive so I jumped the octave in my voice for the end bit. I wanted that sense of a flame igniting us again. It was fun recording that song.
Chris: When did you record the 'Redemption' album?
Cat: I recorded "Freedom Reign" back in December 2019 and it came out January 2020. Then I had a whole year to record and write songs. I had a few songs already but one of the things I like to do is experience something and then write a song about it. Or look at somebody else's situation and write a song about that. So through 2020 I wrote a song called "Soldier Of War". It was about lockdown, the battlefield of your mind and what you go through, different circumstances. I'd write a song, take it to a producer, and produce it and sing it. Then at the beginning of this year we picked them for the album, short-listed 12 tracks and said this is the album 'Redemption'. That was the process.
Chris: Was it challenging recording it, producing it, putting it all together in the midst of all the restrictions?
Cat: Yes. At the beginning of 2020 I was so grateful to be able to use a studio where I could record. I could invite producers, have them mess around with some tracks and then lockdown hit and we had to do it all remotely. I found it really challenging on zoom calls to get my ideas across to these producers. Some of them I'd never even met; some of them I didn't even know. For me, everything comes out of a friendship or a relationship. When you collaborate with people and write with people there's that catch-up first and get to know each other then you feel comfortable to write. But it was very difficult through lockdown because obviously we couldn't meet up. I had to learn a new skill speaking to people and articulating what I really wanted, which was difficult for me because I'm very much of a feeler; I like to be in the room with somebody. It's new skills. I also learnt to record as well on the programmes that I was using. So instead of engineers recording me I learnt the whole programme myself. I would record vocals and send them off. It had its challenges but out of it I've learnt a lot and looking back it's been a very productive year in that sense. And now I appreciate so much more when we can meet up and chat about stuff.
I like to think of it as a journey back to all those times in my life where I felt like there was no redemption, I felt hopeless. With my faith in God, he's taken me back to those times and redeemed them. I've always known I was going to record something. He's redeemed all of the times where I tried to and for some reason or another it didn't work out. In "Freedom Reign" he's redeemed all of those times when I felt lost and couldn't face the world. It's a journey back to all those times. The album title came right at the end. I had all the songs on a sheet of paper and was thinking what really sums up everything. It's redemption; God's redeeming power and love in your life. Every song has some kind of redemption in it so I thought it was a good title for the whole album.
Chris: You talked earlier on about having a deal with EMI several years ago. What happened with that?
Cat: It was very difficult because at the time I didn't know myself; I didn't know what I wanted in music. I knew I loved singing and I loved writing. The deal that I signed gave me no creative control over what I write or what I sing. I got with a writer and it was all to do with what the industry at that time wanted. It was very sexual, talking about relationships and all the values I didn't really stand for but I got sucked in to doing it. I ended up feeling very controlled and manipulated in the deal I was in. I signed a three-year deal with a manager and I found myself feeling very anxious all the time. I suffered from panic attacks, I was depressed and didn't want to face anything. It wasn't a very good journey for me. I ended up hating music; I didn't want to write, didn't want to sing. I actually lost my voice for a time because of the addictions. I was drinking a lot and taking prescription medication, which really dries your throat out. My range wasn't as good as before. It got me feeling like I didn't want to do music anymore, like it was too much effort. So now, six years later I've got a deal with a Christian label. They're people of faith who love Jesus. I feel like everything that I faced six or seven years ago has been redeemed and more in this deal that I've got and the music that I'm doing now. It's amazing.
Chris: Tell me about "Lost In Soho" .
Cat: I wrote this song before I got a record deal. I wrote it in 2017 when I first moved to London. Obviously, being from the North East in a very small town, we didn't have the Underground. When I moved to London I would get on the tube every day just to go into London and experience the whole thing. I took the Central Line everyday into London and it passed the station Bank, which is a business centre so all the people wore suits. I'd look at the guys and think is that really what you want to do? The lifestyle of long hours, working a lot? The Bible talks about being a slave to the world. I began to write about what I saw in London. For me, identity is a massive thing so in my journey what freed me up was knowing my true identity instead of what the world gave me or said I was. It's a song about identity, about stepping into the right identity, the identity that was put on you before time began and not falling into the traps the world sets up: how much money you have to earn, the deal you have to get and stuff like that all to get seen. It's something that is close to my heart so I wrote a song about it. "Lost In Soho" is about people who move to the city and go after success. But what the world says is successful sometimes is not. Success is knowing who you are and knowing whose you are. That song is probably one of my favourites on the album.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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