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Interview with Patti Cathcart
Patti Cathcart is one half of the amazing duo Tuck and Patti. I have lost count of how many times I have had the good fortune to see them. There is that moment a few minutes into the show when you fully understand that Tuck and Patti are simply one voice and one guitar. There is no play list. There is no verbal communication between them. They are improvising! It is also then that you understand that this will be a special evening. So it was for me a thrill to be able to talk with Patti about the music and what she and Tuck have been doing for more than twenty years. I spoke to her by phone just as they were headed out on a short tour to Italy and the Canary Islands. They were in the midst of revamping their home studio and getting ready for upcoming recording projects. We talked about their most recent recording A Gift of Love, how that came about, and how they came to know that 'love' had to be the foundation of all that they do. Here are excerpts of our conversation.
Do you think that your relationship with your audience is unique?
For us the whole thing is about love and an expression of love in all its many forms, and so, because that is the foundation, I think that comes across for people. We are touching and moving people, changing their hearts and lives and opening them
How did you come to that—it was there straight out with the first record, wasn't it?
Yes, that was our decision when we first met. We really talked about it when we got together and decided we were going to be this duo thing. What is it that we want to do? We just thought, what a great thing to think about, because in all the bands that we had been in, most people don't get to that discussion about exactly what it is they are trying to have happen in the music. So, we really went for how do we want people to feel and what is it we want to project. What do we want to say? We decided, well, love: That is the most important thing. I mean what's the most important thing to you in the universe? Well, the power of love. What is love? God is love. What does that mean then? Music—then music and love and action …. We just kept having that kind of conversation about it. And for us it became that we wanted people to feel uplifted and hopeful. And a sense of joy and the possibility that love does exist and it's possible for people to have that and share that, be that, live it. Not that we always agree but it's possible to try.
I would imagine that having put those ideas in place makes all the difference in what happens over the course of a career.
I think it makes all the difference. It makes a complete difference in your life. We were doing that in the beginning with no idea of what it would mean ultimately, how that would grow or what it would manifest. As artists or musicians all of us know the power that it has for people. You get feedback. It's one of the amazing things that we get—people tell us that their lives were changed or their hearts were touched. Some path they were getting ready to go down would have been a big mistake, and they decided not to because of the way a lyric struck them. So I think that is sort of the icing on the cake that we all get that keeps us headed in the right direction.
There are so many ways to approach a career, whether it's music or art, but to have some principles in place right from the start seems so smart. (laughs)
Well you've got to have a solid foundation, no matter what it is. It serves you well, and in that sense you want to be really careful what you choose to make the foundation, because you better believe in it. You know.
I don't know if it was you or Tuck that said in a sense you have been meditating on love for a really long time—to have stayed with that, that focus. What do you think that's given you?
Well, you know at the end of our lives, with our last breath, it will all become clear (laughs), but I can tell you it's been enormously challenging to be married to and work with the person you love the most, while doing the thing that you love doing the most. It has been so rewarding, just beyond belief, unspeakably joyful and at the same time incredibly and unbelievably challenging. But its biggest benefit has been this unending, unbelievable joy that as time goes on becomes a sense of gratefulness and thankfulness. That is in spite of all the other stuff of life, because we deal with all that, too. Again it's having that foundation; the rock of our life is built on that; it's...
It's the way to go. (laughing)
It's amazing; I highly recommend it. (laughing) I really do.
It's so easy for you to talk about 'love!' Why do you think there is such an unwillingness for people to do that?
I think it's that people are shy about being positive, because it's in many ways such an un-positive situation that we all find ourselves in. For some reason the idea of love has been equated with being weak or insincere. I think it's because we use the word a lot, but I think we should use the word even more! There seems to be some idea that it's used too much or it's used lightly, and we shouldn't use it, and we should be careful how we use it. Nobody is freaking out like that about the word "hate' or "anger" or "I don't like," you know! Nobody says gee, we ought to be careful about how we use "I don't like." There just isn't that emphasis on it, but for love, for some reason, for something that's positive or uplifting, people feel the need to make a disclaimer or to distance themselves from it. And what makes it more strange is that everyone is dying inside for it. And everyone is longing for it, longing to be understood and longing to be heard, longing to be cherished and longing to be able to cherish. The things that people long for are also sometimes the things that they really have a hard time giving or doing. And so we all long for these things, and somehow we got to this group idea that says we are supposed to be ashamed about it or we should keep it to ourselves.
Do you find that just in the United States or elsewhere?
I think worldwide it happens that way, I think also we (Tuck and I) have the amazing luxury in that we come to play music for people who come to hear it. Usually when someone goes to a theater to see a play or to witness a dance or they go to a museum to look at paintings—you go because you want to be uplifted. People don't go to a Tuck and Patti concert so they can boo. (laughing) So we are around people who are coming and who are willing, and, because we have made the commitment to want it to be uplifting, we say OK, you are here, the lights are down, we are all together—do you want to open your heart? And would you do that for me? As soon as you say that to people in a room, they instantly go yesss! And they do it and we get to do that every night. It's unbelievable that we get that experience all over the world and in many different languages.
Have you seen a change since September 11?
I think people are more willing to open their hearts since then. Rather than being closed down, I think they have opened up more, but I see that the fear is more and more intense, and also the natural reality that people are feeling more and more afraid and unsettled and nervous, because the earth is talking loudly to us. And we see that the people who are refusing to listen to that—it appears that they are starting to go mad, and the way their madness is manifesting is that they are killing each other on the street and drugging each other up and beating their children and beating each other, and so people are kind of being driven mad by ignoring this loud alarm that's going off in the DNA of every human on the planet. And so we can't continue to ignore that alarm that is ringing. If nothing else, it's built in all of us as humans to want to survive. We have threatened our survival.
Do you mean in...
In our earth, its heating up, everything! We've threatened that, and there is a loud—it's not a gentle ring anymore—it's a loud, continuous, non-stop alarm that is ringing in the hearts and minds and spirits and souls of all living beings. Humans are going at breakneck speed to try and turn that off and not to hear it. So when we get to concerts, people are coming and they are coming for relief from that. They are coming to acknowledge that yes, that fear exists, but there is an answer and there is an antidote and there is possibility and there is still hope; that is what we see. People come for that hope.
That's quite a task you guys have (laughing)
We all have, it's a huge task that every one of us has, and it's a task that every artist certainly has. It's not just a task, it's a responsibility. It's the price that we are obliged to pay because of the incredible gift that we have been given.
There was one other thing that you said in an interview that I have to ask you about: You said you always leave room for spirit!
You have to, because that is what it's all about. If you script every second, fill every moment, there is no space. And really, a lot of the time, the longer you play music especially, it's what is not there that is the music; it's the silence. The music is in the silence.
Judith Perry is an Artist and Writer, living on the coast of Maine. Her paintings reflect an interest in the idea of relationship and connection. While the writing explores how we create our lives as artists. To see some of her paintings go to www.judithperry.com.