Music Was a Given

From her early years playing in her family’s “band” to playing almost every stringed instrument imaginable, music has been an ever-present part of Cat Greenfield’s life. We sat down with the strummin’ songstress to talk about what it’s like to be a cast member of Guitar Girls, her personal connections to the music, and more.

Guitar Girls is now playing in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret now through April 7. For tickets and more information, click here.

From Dolly Parton’s soft and warm “Coat of Many Colors” to Janis Joplin’s raspy “Me and Bobby McGee,” you bring a wide range of styles to the Goldstein Cabaret stage. What’s it like to switch between the very different styles of these legendary Guitar Girls?

I’m so thankful to be trusted with such diverse material, jumping between styles is one of my favorite things in the world to do. For me, it’s also a bit of a shift in personality. These women were (and are) very different people, and the way that they carry themselves, relate to the world, and their approach to songwriting and the act of singing itself, are very different. I want to carry that through each individual piece, while still being honest and true to who I am – because I never want to be a caricature, but instead to imbue each song with a sense of the songwriter’s intention, while maintaining my own personal connection to each song and what they mean to me as an individual. From Dolly’s warmth to Janis’ grit, I hope that my own connection to the songs comes across, and that I am doing the originators justice.

Do you have a personal connection to the music featured in Guitar Girls? If so, what songs speak to you?

I have a personal connection to “Bobby McGee,” as it’s one of my mom’s favorites, and I always want to do her – and Janis – proud. I can hear them both singing it in my head when I sing!

I relate to “Coat of Many Colors” on a personal level, due to some similar childhood experiences– it’s such an honor to sing it.

And I always have to keep a firm grip on myself during “Jolene,” to make sure I don’t accidentally go “too far” emotionally. But it’s extremely cathartic, so I love singing that one as well.

Who am I kidding, I love them all!

Audiences may be surprised to know that you’re a puppeteer as well as an actor and musician. How did you get into puppetry? Can you share with us a bit about your puppetry work? What do you love most about it?

I started puppeteering in grade school as a way to  present projects in front of classrooms full of strangers. I was the new kid ten times before graduating high school, and it can be scary to meet new people when you’re shy! I immediately loved how much freedom I felt from behind a puppet. People don’t mind puppets saying or doing whatever they like, and their personalities are larger than life!

One of my favorite aspects of puppetry is that special moment when you bring an inanimate object to life, and suddenly folks (even grownups) talk to the puppet instead of to the performer. That’s such a beautiful moment to me. Instruments are similar– they are just sitting there until you touch them and bring them to life! Then suddenly, everyone is having a good time!

You’re also a singer-songwriter, yourself. How would you characterize your own music? Which artists have influenced you as a performer? Any of the Guitar Girls featured in the show?

I would say I’m somewhere in the folk realm. I was highly influenced by women like Tracy Chapman, Jewel, Bonnie Raitt, Alanis Morissette, Janis Joplin, and Dolly Parton.

In fact, one of the first songs I ever learned on the guitar was by Mary Chapin Carpenter, followed closely by Joni Mitchell, so it feels like things are coming full circle!

My momma and my Aunt Genny are also major influences on my playing, singing, and performing styles. I was also influenced by the first “Guitar Guy” in my life, my dad, and other members of our big family band. It seemed as natural as breathing to follow them, and my musical heroes, into playing guitar and other instruments. Writing music and performing music just seemed like what the people did, so why shouldn’t I?

Has there been a special moment (unscripted surprise or moment with the audience) while you’ve been here?

Every performance has been special to me. Every night, I see the face of someone in the audience who is truly enjoying themselves, and it’s always special! Live theatre is ephemeral– you can’t record it and watch it later, or hit rewind if you get distracted and miss something. You can’t find it On Demand online. You either saw it or you didn’t, within the span of the run, and each show throughout that run (though scripted) is its own beautiful pocket of time, its own intimate and individual experience with the audience. The show only truly occurs that one time, and the next performance is an altogether different experience. It makes you care so much about your audience, because you know that you’re sharing something special and unique with them each show performance. So each performance is special, and I’m truly thankful for each one!

Guitar Girls is held over thru April 7 due to popular demand in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret. For tickets and more information, click here.