In the middle of a nightmare pandemic, Cat Levan realized a dream by releasing an album of music.
The Surrey singer/songwriter’s name graces Double Life, a collection of adult contemporary/jazz songs she recorded in California with producer Steve Oliver prior to the onset of COVID-19.
Levan’s debut LP was a lifetime in the making.
“When I was 18 I did a gig, playing and singing,” recalled the Fraser Heights-area resident, “and apparently there was a record label person in the audience who wanted to have me do a demo for the label, because they were interested in signing me. I was pretty young and didn’t know what to do, kind of terrified, so I just ran away and just let it die. It’s always bothered me that I never gave it a try, you know, to throw my hat in the ring and see what happens. There’s a huge amount of regret there.”
Levan runs Kickstart Communications, a branding/marketing company nominated for Surrey Women in Business awards. She’s also been a professional fighter, restaurant owner, clothing designer, marketing director and illustrator.
Making music, it seems, became less of a priority for her as time marched on.
“Music has always been in my heart, and I can’t imagine a day without hearing it and playing it,” Levan said.
“But this, it was like jumping into the deep end of the pool without waterwings,” she added with a laugh.
Double Life began to take shape with the help of saxophonist Walle Larsson, who is married to Levan’s sister Jojo. Family connections led to a meeting with Oliver, a contemporary-jazz man who has some hits to his credit.
“He’s a great artist,” Levan said of Oliver, “and Jojo said to me, ‘You gotta come down and meet Steve, record with him.’ So I did that, I flew down to California to meet him and I figured right away that I wanted to record with him. That was a spark for all this. You only get so many chances in life, and that was a big one I didn’t want to pass up.”
The result is an 11-song set Levan is proud to call her own.
Before she flew south to record at Oliver’s studio, she drafted a list of songs she’d like to cover. When she presented the list to Oliver, he wasn’t overly impressed, and instead encouraged her to write and record new songs with him, there and then.
For Levan, the leap of faith was invigorating.
“He said, ‘Just trust me, it will work out.’ I pretty much leapt off a cliff and went for it,” recalled Levan, whose album includes a re-imagined version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel,” among other tracks.
“We wrote and recorded songs sometimes the same day, and we did 10 songs in seven days, that first trip.”
Throughout, Levan sings about love, loneliness, connection and uncertainty.
The key title track was written after a conversation she had with Oliver and Larsson, both of whom are touring musicians.
“I asked them how they liked having two separate lives,” she said. “They both said that it helped to have a faithful spouse then they could enjoy life and didn’t have to worry. It seemed like a double life, in a good way.”
The flip side is the song “Coming Home,” written from the wife’s perspective, “about the joy and pain of having a really connected relationship,” Levan explained. “Wherever they are in the world, that is home.”
Elsewhere, the song “December Road” is about handling loss. “In 2016 I lost six family members within as many months, and I had a hard time processing such a loss,” Levan noted. “This song, by Tara Shannon, really helped me get through that time.”
Then there’s “What’s Been Going Down,” recorded at a time when, as Levan says, nobody really knows what is going on and what is the truth. “It’s frustrating and we’re looking for some kind of direction. It was written just before COVID closed the borders. It is almost the anthem of what people are feeling nowadays. But the song is soothing, so it will help people start to feel a bit more comfortable with the uncertainty of what’s going on right now.”
The pandemic scuttled Levan’s plans to perform an album-release concert this spring, so she launched the collection with an online party May 29. The night included a live performance and Q&A session.
“I had band members I was going to fly in for the live event, all that, but it couldn’t happen, so we did it on Zoom and that was a bit challenging,” Levan reported. “It was actually a lot of fun and we had people from all over North America watching, which was cool. It was slightly overwhelming, but we had a great time.”
She’s looking forward to the day when she can sing again at a local concert venue.
“I’ve been invited to do a music festival this summer, in Vancouver, and hopefully that happens,” Levan said. “There are some gigs around here that we’re looking it, some touring, which is another thing I’d love to do, to go along with the album.”
The entire process of writing and recording an album has given Levan the confidence to do it all again, with some changes.
“I was sick the entire time (the album) was made, which was just awful,” she revealed. “I’d sing a line and hack up a lung, sing, then hack up a lung. One thing is for sure that my next album, and there will be a next album, next year, but I know it will be even better because I will definitely make sure I’m healthy for the recording of that.”
Levan’s pal Chris Thornley, also a singer and marketing professional, said he’s impressed by Levan’s musical efforts.
“The quality of production, arrangements and songwriting are all first-class,” said Thornley, who plans the annual Blues for the Bank benefit concert in Surrey. “What impresses me the most is the fact that (Levan) accomplished what a lot of us think about doing, talk about doing, always mean to do, yeah someday I’ll do that – and not only did she do it, it’s good!”
Levan’s website is catlevan.com, a portal for audio, video clips and more.