The south London singer is quickly gaining traction for her music which captures our collective feelings of angst
From busking on the streets of London to becoming one of the first British TikTokers signed by a record label, just seven months after downloading the app, south London singer Cat Burns has been hard at work. The day we speak, the 22-year-old artist has just ticked something huge off her bucket list: performing on The Late Late Show for the first time with her friend and collaborator, Sam Smith. “I didn’t think I’d do that this year,” says Burns. “Sam was so lovely and helpful and helped me get used to everything.”
It’s no surprise to her growing fandom: Burns’ track “go” has remained a staple online, slowly climbing the charts since its release. The sombre breakup anthem even made its way onto this year’s Love Island, soundtracking the moment when Dami and Summer awkwardly decided to call it quits. Plus, the song has been used over half a million times on TikTok along with an endless flow of covers, with singers belting out the chorus: “so don’t call this number anymore / ‘cause I won’t be there for you like I was before”. These covers are approved by Burns herself: “They’re really, really good. They’re so strong,” she says.
The track’s popularity led to a stripped-back rendition featuring Sam Smith who has since become a friend and a voice of guidance for Burns. “It was very random really but since then, we’ve just got on really well, and it’s been fun to be able to promote the song with them,” she says. “They have told me to make sure I have boundaries in place, that it’s OK to say no, and not to burn myself out. They obviously learned the hard way when they had to not sing for a couple of months because of it. So they’re always checking in and making sure that I’m not burning out too quickly.”
Burns’s EP emotionally unavailable has solidified her position as a rising artist who can effortlessly capture our collective, generational struggles with loneliness and finding community. The six-track project grapples with the feelings of living in the modern world, including “anxiety”, “we’re not kids anymore” (which reminisces over the end of a friendship) and “ghosting”. “All the things on emotionally unavailable are taken from personal stories, I’ve definitely felt lonely and anxious,” she says.
Vulnerability is at the heart of everything Burns does. Last year, she released one of her most personal tracks to date “Free”. “There’s no way you can tell me who I’m supposed to be / See now I’m free”, she sings triumphantly on the track which recalls her experience when coming out to her family. She hopes her supporters can benefit from connecting with each other, in the same way connection has helped her. “[Having a chosen family] means a lot. Just having people who chose to be in your life is important and they help you feel less alone, especially if you’re feeling the same kind of things they are.”
Burns wants her legacy to be one that unites people and reconnects people in a time when most of us are disconnected. “There’s lots of pressure that young people have on them,” says Burns, “which makes sense with the society we live in. I think [rates of] depression and anxiety are the highest they’ve ever been and it’s our job as musicians to just help people feel something. Music is therapy. So having a song, or a couple of songs that are out there that make you feel like it's been written for you, is always good. I want people to feel heard and listened to whenever they hear my music. I just want them to feel less alone.”
It’s been a busy year for Burns with a Late Late Show performance under her belt, an upcoming headline show at London’s KOKO and for the summer, Burns is travelling across Europe supporting Ed Sheeran on tour, performing to the largest audiences in her career so far. It’s a far cry from busking and TikTok and Burns is ready for it. “It will be my first time in pretty much all of these places and it feels good. These are the things I’ve wanted to do and I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” she says. “When I started posting on TikTok, it was genuinely for fun and out of boredom – I wasn’t expecting anything from it. All of this is a bonus... ”