With fierce vocals, unrelenting drive, and definitive talent, Cat Strickland is one to watch.
If you have found yourself at a cafe, restaurant, bar, or outdoor venue in Summerville in the last few years, it is likely you have discovered one of Summerville’s best kept secrets: the unyielding talent that is Cat Strickland. With her youthful charm and her colorful locks, Strickland is immediately striking, but it is when the songstress begins singing that she becomes unforgettable. Often, people come up to Strickland to tell her how naturally talented she is, and while that is true, her talents are a result of relentless work that began when the singer was just a young child.
Cat Strickland moved to the Charleston area from Columbia when she was five years old. At the time, she was known among her family members for her performances; standing proudly on her grandmother’s fireplace, she would command the attention of all as she sang Disney songs—and for those who weren’t paying attention, she’d make sure to remind them. It wasn’t long before her parents noticed an innate skill, and enrolled her in voice lessons with a Park Circle vocalist named Mary Gould. She thrived in the classes, and soon began learning musical instruments. With her interest in performing came a keen interest in being an actress, so her parents secured an agent in Atlanta and Strickland began attending auditions in Atlanta and Charlotte. Strickland was homeschooled throughout her childhood, and credits her parents, Lynne and Billy Strickland, with enabling her to pursue anything that interested her—and abandon anything that didn’t.
“My parents made sure that I tried everything I wanted to try,” Strickland says. “They didn’t push me to do anything I didn’t like. I tried sports and didn’t like them at all and they said ‘ok, you don’t have to do them.’ I tried theater and fell in love with it, and they said, ‘ok, if you’re serious about this, let’s get you an agent.’ They’ve been so supportive and helped me get the resources I needed to succeed.”
When Strickland was twelve years old, she attended a rock camp and loved the aspect of being in a band. She began playing with friends regularly and going to open mic nights around Summerville, North Charleston, and Charleston. As fellow musicians began to recognize her talent, offers rolled in to open for them or play between sets. At fourteen, Strickland played one of her friend Bubba LeMack’s breaks at the King Street Grille in North Charleston, and when she was done, she was offered her first paid gig by the manager. From there, her bookings snowballed. She started playing at Coastal Coffee Roasters, Off the Chain Sandwich Shop, the Knightsville Porch Jam, Top Dawg Tavern, The Icehouse, Wild Wing Cafe, and restaurants and bars across the Lowcountry. While still in her teens, she was booked three days a week.
Now nineteen, Strickland recently began attending Charleston Southern University, majoring in Choral Education. She hopes to teach private voice lessons or public school choir classes, and is intent on sharing everything she has learned with rising musical artists. Today, she plays guitar, ukulele, and piano, and her voice reflects the investment of years of training. She is in a band called “The Nine Lives,” which includes Robert Alvarez, Tanner Dieppe, Anthony Barasso, Sandip Roy, and occasionally KC Hazelwood, and “plays everything from classic rock to punk to pop.” She also writes her own music, and recently began playing her first self-composed song, “Beautiful Liar,” written with insight from local musician Joshua Jarman. Working with other musicians has become a passion of Strickland’s, and she can regularly be found jamming with other artists around town.
When she’s not playing music or working on her degree, Strickland can be found at the beach or playing with her dog, Mia. A fierce animal lover, Strickland has been vegetarian since 2016 and vegan for over a year and a half, a part of her lifestyle she connects with on an emotional level.
Up on the stage, Cat Strickland simply rocks. She’s charismatic, eclectic, magnetic, and unwaveringly charming. For Strickland, the experience is as rewarding for her as it is for the audience.
“When I play a song and I’m really into it and people are listening and vibing with it, it’s a nice connection,” says Strickland. “We aren’t talking, but we are connecting with one another. Sometimes people will tell me that the music I play takes them back to a particular time or experience, or that it made them feel better. That healing, that connection, and that interaction—it makes it all worth it.” AM
by Jana Riley