“Honestly, I have really been enjoying myself,” Cat Harris-White says of her 2016 mainstream breakthrough. “It’s been 20 years in the making and it feels good to be recognized and acknowledged.” Cat, otherwise known to most as SassyBlack, has recently been featured in platforms as big as Huffington Post after her most recent album release, No More Weak Dates, was released to critical praise and commercial success. Watching her career take off over the last twelve months has been a dream come true for the psychedelic artist, who’s been playing a slew of events since the first of the year. “The most exciting thing about this year is performing my music as I see fit. It comes to me and I piece it together from feelings, spirits, and knowledge. It’s a pleasure to share my thoughts in the ways I have always dreamt.”
In the last year, SassyBlack has performed at venues as local as Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party to events like SXSW in Austin, Texas. While her career has grown exponentially beyond the boundaries of Seattle and its incredibly eclectic music scene, establishing a sound of her own hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park.
“I did feel a little lost in the scene as a youth and young adult,” she mentions of the Seattle music landscape, “but attending a lot of open mics helped me through that confusion.” Pursuing a music career in a city that prides its foundation in being expansive enough for everyone to develop their own musical tastes seems like a daunting task for any artist. For SassyBlack, studying her own influences helped guide her towards establishing her own musical identity in the music industry.
“Learning the history of Seattle’s rich music history, as well as the history of my favorite musicians (Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Brandy, etc.), helped to encourage me to continue to develop and appreciate my sound.”
Before her own individual sound began taking shape, though, Harris-White was a part of THEESatisfaction, a queer hip-hop duo signed to Seattle’s very own Sub Pop Records. “THEESatisfaction was like a graduate program of massive proportions; insightful, difficult, surprising, challenging, and an overall labor of love. It definitely helped me to get to where I am today.”
And where she’s at today is, quite frankly, somewhere anyone with a beating heart and a passion for entertainment would probably love to be. “I didn’t think I was going to meet Martin Scorsese, let alone be directed by him.” Just to reiterate, that was Martin Scorsese, the legendary, Academy Award-winning film and television director, producer, and entertainment extraordinaire. SassyBlack was recently featured in his co-executive produced project (along with Mick Jagger, another name that might ring a bell for some of you), HBO’s original series VINYL, making her acting debut. “It was a very surreal experience,” she described. “It was an honor because acting is something very near and dear to my heart.”
Music, though, seems to be a primary passion of the songstress. In creating her own identity as an artist, she’s called upon her taste for psychedelic, galactic imagery and entertainment—most notably, “Star Trek.” “Sometimes I’m watching an episode of Star Trek and I’m inspired by something Kira and Odo are discussing. Other times, it’s a melody I hear in my mind that I need to get out so I step to my synthesizer and work to translate it.” Anyone who’s heard her music is aware of the space-like elements she incorporates into her music, almost acting as quirks that set her apart from the rest of her peers. “All in all, I really love a funky, freaky synth sound.” And her favorite emoji? “The ‘live long and prosper’ sign from Start Trek.”
While SassyBlack continues her trek towards expanding her career even more than she already has in 2016, she’s still being attentive to the important goals she’s always set for herself and her work. “[I have to] love what I do and never stop learning.”
For most artists, along with striving for continuous artistic progression comes an individualized creative process. For SassyBlack, this process has lately been helping her produce a minimum of five song demos a day. “Right now I am just stepping into my studio space (my bedroom) and creating whatever comes to mind,” she explains. “After [either] the words or the music come, [the other follows]. Seriously, it’s just like it. I try to work that idea for all it’s worth or until I’m tired of it and become distracted. Then I move on to something else and return to it another day, if I can remember, ha!”
As for offering advice to students who want to be in the same position as her in terms of career success, SassyBlack heavily emphasizes “[figuring] out what you love to do and what brings you the most opportunities. From there, focus on strengthening this passion and creating it into a career. It’s never too late, and the possibilities are endless.”
SassyBlack is currently working on two EPs and her next album, which she hopes to release in 2017.
You can catch her at the KXSU Lounge for an exclusive in-studio performance at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 14. KXSU’s very own Jason McCue will be opening.
CRAIG JAFFE | To reiterate: MARTIN SCORSESE! | Editor