After breakups, breakdowns, stalkers and worse, Chan Marshall has rewritten her bleakest lyrics and recorded an album of highly personal covers. ‘We all need sweetness,’ she says

Chan Marshall is sitting cross-legged on a bed, crying. It’s a sniffly, unselfconscious kind of crying, tears smudging sooty eyeshadow. Thirty years into her often wayward career as the US singer-songwriter Cat Power, she is crying because in a few weeks’ time she is 50 and she can’t believe she made it, that life turned out OK, that she’s happy. At least, happier than she was when she turned 30, the day her then boyfriend “stood me up”. Or her 40th, when she felt controlled in the relationship she was in.

“He was involved with this church,” she explains. “I wasn’t allowed to have friends. Or a party. So … hmm. I’m so sorry.” She shakes her head, reaches across the bed and clutches my hand. “It’s heavy, dude.” She takes a bolstering tug on a cigarette. “The 20s were so fucking difficult, like: ‘Oh, now I gotta do this some more?’” she carries on. “Turning 40 was: ‘Uuuurgh, well I made it this far, but it’s got to get better.’”

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