With her gigantic new single, ‘Girlfriend’, CATE‘s ready to join the Big Pop party. Check out the latest cover story for our New Music Friday playlist edit The Cut.
Words: Abigail Firth.
Photos: Em Marcovecchio.
“Rat, rat, frog. I think you could be a hybrid?” Cate is letting everyone in the Dork studio know if they’re a rat or a frog. “Oh, I’m a frog,” she assures.
She’s just gotten off tour with her bestie and housemate, Maisie Peters, where the pair of them have been given knitted rats as gifts. It’s a bit that started in their friend group a few years ago that fans have latched on to: everyone is either a rat or a frog.
“It’s not bad; it’s just what you are!” says Cate. “So we have all of these rats, and we have like ten of them now. Some of them are really amazing. Maisie got these ones that are actually the size of my head, and I was given some really cute rats from girlies coming to the shows [who are] knitting them, crocheting rats.”
Unfortunately, none of the rats have made it with her to the studio today, which is our tiny setup in Brighton amidst The Great Escape. Cate’s making a quick stop in the city to play the festival for the first time before jetting off to Nashville the following week. Annoyingly for Cate, her set clashes with Maisie’s.
“Illegal,” she remarks. “It’s actually so wrong. I did see her set every day. For 14 days. I don’t need any more, but I think we’re gonna try and see, like, half an hour of it.”
Touring the UK with Maisie has already warped Cate’s idea of the average tour – it was a bestie fest with the pair’s bands already very familiar with one another; she says it felt like a big school sleepover – but it wasn’t her first time at the rodeo.
“I’m used to dive bars in Canada. I used to tour in a country band when I was there, so I did a lot of touring when I was younger, but then for this project, because I put out most of the music in lockdown, I haven’t. The first show that I did for this project was like last year in April. I feel like I’ve been doing gigs my whole life, but not with this music.”
“I love living in a house with songwriters”Cate
Born in Canada, Cate grew up in a farm town outside of Vancouver and spent her teen years playing in a country band and literally playing rodeos at 15 (her yeehaw tendencies remain, she shows up today in a jumper with a horse motif and her blonde hair in two braided pigtails). She moved to the UK just before the pandemic hit, initially to write for other people, but when COVID came around, she found herself releasing her own music.
“I wanted to do my own project once I stopped doing country music in Canada, but I didn’t think I would do it right away,” she explains. “I was writing for other people, and I thought I would do that for maybe a year or two, then start releasing my own stuff, but because of COVID, I was living with another songwriter and a producer, so it kind of worked out that we wrote a whole bunch of stuff together, and then I put it out. I’m glad that we did because it’s a very wholesome way to put out music.”
Although currently living with Maisie and another friend who’s studying for her master’s degree (and ten knitted rodents), she moved in with fellow Canadian and one-half of Tommy Lefroy, Tessa Mouzourakis, when she first got here.
“I love living in a house with songwriters. But I find it funny because everyone’s always like, ‘Are you writing together constantly?’ And it’s like, no, but we do write together now, and me and Tessa still write together. But it’s nice to have a balance. I feel like if it’s just like three musicians, then you just end up talking about music all the time.”
Her household throughout her childhood was less musically focused, though. She describes her parents as tone deaf, and most of her talent came from her grandad – who could pick up any instrument and play it – and Disney Channel.
“I wanted to do my own project once I stopped doing country music in Canada”Cate
“He would always put on Dolly Parton songs, and he’d get the instrument that day and play it and then make me learn, which was really nice. So he was always making music. Yeah, that and I watched a lot of Hannah Montana.
“When I grew up, it was literally just Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton. I did musical theatre when I was a kid, and choir, you know, all the cringe things that I could do. And then when I fell in love with Taylor Swift and stuff, I started picking up the guitar.”
Those influences have carried over way into her adulthood. Cate still covers ‘Rock Star’ by Hannah Montana on tour (and dons a blonde fringed haircut similar to Miley’s wig herself) and says she and Maisie have a Taylor Swift prayer candle at their gaff.
Releasing her debut EP ‘Love, The Madness’ in 2020, which was made up of DIY tracks she’d recorded in lockdown, her music evolved into something much richer by the time this year’s ‘Tell Me Things You Won’t Take Back’ came around in February. It pulls heavily from the breezy country pop of early Taylor Swift and current girl-powered country of Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini; her biggest track ‘Groupie’ is surprisingly comparable to ‘If We Were A Movie’ from the Hannah Montana soundtrack.
“I wrote that first EP so quickly, and then I didn’t really know what I was gonna release. But then I put out ‘Groupie’ and all those singles, and I met [Ed Sheeran and Maisie Peters’ producer] Joe Rubel, and we started working together and accidentally made this EP.”
“We have all of these rats; we have like ten of them now”Cate
She hung onto that EP for a year before releasing it, but now she’s chasing something more spontaneous. ‘Get Better’ came out in April and is, in her words, much happier than her previous work. Written with Ines Dunn (also a hitmaker for Maisie Peters and Mimi Webb), ‘Get Better’ and new single ‘Girlfriend’ are big bops.
“‘Get Better’ was kind of a cracky day. We ended up writing verses to it that were, like, so ridiculous. I love that song; it’s kind of funny. It’s just a bit more exciting than all the sad songs I was putting out last year.”
Foraying drastically into sadbanger territory on ‘Girlfriend’, it’s the kind of 80s pop that’d do Carly Rae Jepsen proud; her ‘High Horse’ in the middle of ‘Golden Hour’ moment.
“With ‘Girlfriend’, I had that line, I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s like he really wants a girlfriend, but he doesn’t’, and then we wrote it in like 20 minutes, and it’s just a lot of trauma, it’s such a dance song, but it’s just like the saddest thing. I love ‘Stayaway’ by Muna; that’s one of my favourite songs ever, so I just really wanted something like that.
“I feel like the last EP, I had the songs for so long, they felt so old by the time they came out, and I got a new love for them when they were out. But I only wrote ‘Girlfriend’ in January, so it’s nice to be able to have it out now and feel like it’s relevant to my life.”
It’s one of the songs she’s most looking forward to playing on her upcoming October tour (“Not to knock Canada, but it’s just so different than over here, like, UK audiences are not shy,” she says) because she’s now got a good chanty song for the British crowds.
For now, she’s going with the flow, and we can expect more singles from Cate as the year goes on. Right now, she’s on her way to the Mecca of country music, Nashville, Tennessee, hoping to tick off another childhood goal of visiting Dollywood. Saddle up, pop world; there’s a new sheriff in town. ■
Cate’s new single ‘Girlfriend’ is out now. Follow Dork’s The Cut Spotify playlist here.