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Cat Clyde Is On The Move

The nomadic songwriter teams up with celebrated producer Tony Berg to pass through difficult portals.

by Laura Stanley

Photos by Strummer Jasson

Cat Clyde is a rover. Since her 2015 debut LP Ivory Castanets, Clyde’s jazz and blues infused roots music has mirrored her transient nature. Like a train barrelling down the tracks, Clyde’s songs rattle and move hypnotically as they pass new places and faces. Her timeless sound — which is more polished than ever on her third solo record, Down Rounder — makes her songs feel like they could be just as easily heard around campfires during the gold rush or blaring out of Bluetooth speakers at a modern day campsite.

When Clyde’s not on the road, she has lived in Southwestern Ontario and rural Quebec. She speaks to RANGE the day before embarking on a UK tour supporting Lissie. At the moment, Clyde doesn’t have a permanent home base and describes herself as “floating.”

As Clyde explains, the title of her new record also reflects her wandering ways. “I’ve always liked the word ‘rounder’ as an expression. I feel like it captures travellers, gold miners, and adventurers. Somebody who is moving through natural landscapes, looking for answers to make sense of it all,” Clyde says. “Through the process of making [Down Rounder], I went through a lot of periods of feeling very lost and low. I came to the title Down Rounder because I was down, but I’m still a rounder.”

The feeling that Clyde returns to when she describes the release of Down Rounder is “relief.” “I don’t feel any weight on my shoulders and I’m excited to let it fly,” she says.

This exhale comes after a circuitous journey to get the record made. In early 2020, Clyde had finished making Blue Blue Blue, a collaborative bluesy roots record with Jeremie Albino, and was starting to write and record new songs at her home studio in rural Quebec that she shared with her partner. When the pandemic hit, the seclusion gave Clyde the opportunity to dive deeper into her songwriting. But then a serious mould issue in their home derailed her progress, forcing the couple to move out and have it torn down. 

Clyde was adrift until her manager put her in touch with his friend, prominent producer Tony Berg (Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney). Berg and Clyde had a series of Zoom calls where they reviewed Clyde’s songs, but at that time Berg wasn’t available to work with her in-studio. Clyde started to reach out to other producers, but then she heard back from Berg.

“I got a message from Tony and he was like, ‘I have six days free in a week from now. Are you down to come [to LA]?’ And I was like ‘Hell yeah, I want to get this fucking record done!’ It was haunting me for years. So I went there and we cut the whole record in six days. It was freaking crazy and it was such a great experience. I loved working with Tony,” Clyde explains.

At Sound City Studios, Berg, and the session musicians he brought on board, helped bring Clyde’s vision for the album to life. A lot of the songs were recorded live off the floor in those whirlwind six days, capturing the affable and playful energy of strangers who have an immediate connection. Despite the rocky road to get Down Rounder made, Clyde stuck the landing. In her own words, “Everything lined up really lovely and perfectly.” 

Down Rounder is a mix of the songs Clyde recorded in LA, plus a couple that were captured in her Quebec home studio. The record moves from psych roots-rock to waltzing country to stripped-down folk and touches on topics such as love and personal growth, a topic she examines on the song “Eternity.”

“I went through a lot of changes during the pandemic. It was a great opportunity for me to turn inwards and look inside at what was going on,” says Clyde when reflecting on “Eternity.” “Through that, I ended up passing through some portals of being and releasing a lot of old ideas, beliefs, and parts of myself. But I think that passing through those portals can be very painful. When you pass through that time of releasing a lot of the old and you come out of the other side, it’s very raw and confusing.”

Despite all the changes, Clyde always finds connection with, and inspiration in, nature. On “I Feel It,” a home-recorded track centred on a ghostly sounding piano, Clyde is deeply attuned to the Moon and Sun, and wants to run naked through the rain. Elsewhere on the record, it feels like Clyde is staring up at the sky in awe. The world spins on, and Clyde is happy to go along for the ride. “This record definitely feels the most ‘me’ out of everything that I’ve ever made,” she says. “I feel really good. I’m always ready to keep evolving, changing, and moving with the moving times.”