Musician Catey Shaw on how her sexuality helps her songwriting

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Catey Shaw might not be a household name quite yet, but left to her own devices she’ll certainly find a way to get there. A boisterous pop songstress from Brooklyn via Virginia Beach, she’s poised to be Brooklyn’s answer to Katy Perry with her blend of bubblegum pop playing it cool. She’s had quite the year with the release of her Brooklyn EP and several videos with views that keep on rolling up and up.

On the heels of her most recent video for “Night Go Slow,” the cinematic story of two girls falling in love, I caught up with her about what’s going on in her world, the freckles on her feet and the power of a subway connection.

AfterEllen.com: Tell us a little about your relationship with music and how you came to be where you are.

Catey Shaw: My family has always really appreciated music, it was a thing. But I grew up as a painter and as a visual artist. Always working through self-portraiture. Music was always something that I did, and enjoyed, but I didn’t really know how to express myself through anything but the visual until I moved to New York and started busking. [Then I] met my manager Jay and everything lined up pretty easily. I think because I worked so exclusively through self portraiture song writing was kind of a soft leap.

AE: How would you describe your sound?

CS: I would describe my sound very carefully. I like to mix a lot of different things. We call it pop music because we want it to be listenable for everyone, so you don’t have to be “cool” to get it or dig through layers of metaphors to understand what I’m trying to say. But at the same time taking influences from hip hop and disco and jazz and reggae and combining it in this kind of digestible format where I think people can connect on a really simple level.

AE: Clearly as is evidenced by your single “Brooklyn Girls” you’re quite a fan of the Big Apple and it’s Kingly borough. How has living in New York affected the music you make?

CS: When I first got here, it got me making music at all, feeling inspired and feeling the confidence to create things and want to put stuff out into the world. I think being in New York there are just so many people and it’s such a petri dish of humanity. It’s just constant inspiration and everything is just put in your face. I know being in Virginia I was so isolated, you know when I was there I was just all about my little life and what I was doing every day, what I cared about, my friends, my family, my thoughts, mine, mine, mine and being in New York and seeing all the people everyday even on a simple human level I think opened me up a lot more to trying to make connections and speaking freely. And I know it sounds corny, but expressing myself.

AE: I read that you got your start by busking, how would you describe that experience and the intensity of playing music on a subway platform?

CS: I have a lot of feelings about it, it was a really cool time for me, but it was one of the hardest times of my life. It was the way I was completely supporting myself and eating from the change that I made. I felt so lucky for that, that it was like an ATMI would go down and sing and then I could eat, and I felt so lucky that I could even do that. But when it became less of a utilitarian thing and something that I could really get into I was really taken by how much it means when you catch someones attention down there. Because everyone is in the middle of something else, they’re in the middle of a commute. They’re going somewhere, they just left somewhere, whatever, and they’re not there for a concert. So when you stop someone and they really care and they listen it really creates this bond, that’s really different than playing shows in venues where people expect to be entertained. Not that I have anything against live shows, because I love it. But there’s this intimate realness with someone stopping their commute to listen to you.

AE: What’s exciting you in the New York music scene right now?

CS: There’s a lot of little bands that I really love. I love what XNY is doing, and RÉN just put something out and Tei Shi and HANAH and all of these kids that I’m friends with are putting out this incredible music and have been playing these shows. I think it’s just a really cool time I think that everyone is coming into it as new industry people who don’t know the old model and don’t think of it as a means to make money and jewels. These are kids that really just love music and want to make it. So I think that that community, the whole music community of young people right now, has something really awesome to bring to the table

AE: The recent release of your video for “Night Go Slow: The Ballad of Dylann and Jenny, Pt. 1” is a pretty visually bold declaration of sexuality and freedom. How does your sexuality influence the music that you’re making and portraying?

CS: I think, actually, my sexuality does a lot of good for my writing. I’ve had relationships with men in the past and with women, and I think knowing that, and knowing that any relationship I’ve been in there’s always the same problems; the same things you have to work through. Ultimately it all comes down to what’s internal, how you feel and your own confidence and the love that you’re willing to receive across the board. I think that coming from that perspective it becomes a little easier to make things universal and having the understanding that human relationships are as they are across the board.

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AE: What does it mean to you to have a queer audience?

CS: In this time, with the way that activism is happening and the way equality is happening, is this new generation of people that are being born and are becoming adults and are becoming the humans that are running the world. They have an understanding of human beings and on the simplest level of equality, understanding that every person has a heart beating and they’re different. You know I think that having a queer or LGBT audience my music has the chance to reach further and really make people who feel ostracized feel like they’re part of the global community and part of something that people understand. I mean, yeah, gay people can understand heartbreak just like straight people. We are just the same.

AE: What comes next for you?

CS: We just finished filming Part 2 of “Night Go Slow,” which is going to be a whole new song. So I’m working on getting that together with Bryan West, we have a lot of editing to do on that part. And I have a new Christmas song that came out on Thanksgiving. Then it’s just coming up with what the next release is going to be and figuring out what makes sense with us and they way that we want to spread the music. Whether that’s an EP, an album or a series of singles I’m really not quite sure yet. I really want to find the most effective way to release new music taking into account all of the amazing crap that’s happened to me this year.

AE: What’s one thing through rigorous internet research could we not find out about you?

CS: I feel like everything is on the internet, like you could probably find my social security number and how many freckles I have on my foot

AE: I didn’t find either of those things. I looked and I didn’t find them.

CS: I don’t like Doritos which most people find kind of weird and I burp better than anyone I know, I’ll take a challenge from anyone.

Find out more about Catey on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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