ECHO EXCLUSIVE: Kat Cunning Bares Their Soul on “Heart of Gold”

“If you can be anything, be kind” – Unknown

Kat Cunning has taken this quote to heart on their poignant new single “Heart of Gold,” co-written with Tracy Le and Ryan Hughes.  

In a career that spans Broadway, music,TV, and Film, Cunning has seen and experienced their share of stories. Often those accounts are a reflection of the times, which can be divisive, violent, and contentious.

Realizing the potential of the “imperfect” human heart, Cunning was inspired to look for the stories and the moments that provide glimmers of “hope, forgiveness and self-preservation in us all.” 

We chatted with Cunning about the perspective-altering track, touring with G FLIP, and their upcoming role in the film “On Swift Horses” with Jacob Elordi and Daisy Edgar Jones. 

What inspired your new single “Heart of Gold”?   

It was a song I had to write. Some songs you write thinking of other people. Some songs you vomit out like a sickness. 

Like so many people around the pandemic, I experienced dismantling loss and upheaval, without taking the time to process it. Unknowingly, I looked to love to replace the pillars of security that were crumbling around me. As you can imagine, that ended horribly. The song is my first mantra for myself in the aftermath of that love story, riddled with mismatched attachment styles, projection, gaslighting and an overall ugly portrait of everyone involved. 

In the lyrics, I grapple with whether or not I can trust the person I was attached to. In the end, it didn’t matter- it was bringing out the worst in me, so I had to walk. The song is a selfie, like the most unfiltered selfie, of a really sad moment that I’m proud to say I’ve moved on from, now. 

How did you get connected with Trace and Ryan Hughes, and what was it like working with them on this song?     

I also want to shout out the killer live drums by Anna Crane, recorded by Ariel Loh. I met so many incredible people through Ariel’s efforts to create safe spaces for queer and BIPOC come together to share music in LA. 

Trace was one of my first friends in LA. We were both playing the Troubadour the day we met which made for an awesome foundation of mutual respect, and being that we’re both very lyrically personal, we got to know each other super quickly. Trace was one of the few people who saw behind the curtain of what I was going through and helped me get the courage to get back in the studio, eventually with her coveted collaborator, Ryan. We wrote Heart of Gold in our first session and I still have a voice memo of the moment we jammed and accidentally wrote the whole song, 

How have you made peace with your own “imperfect heart”? 

It’s a work in progress.

As a member of the queer community, how do you find balance between patience and forgiveness and protecting your own heart from a society that’s not often kind?   

Every decision we make as humans goes through a pin-ball machine of trauma, and I have endless compassion for how that informs our worst behaviors. That being said, I will not compromise joy, safety or respect for myself or the people I love. 

At the heart of our anger is disappointment. At the heart of their violence is fear.

All these things are true at once. 

If you could set fans up in the perfect environment to listen to “Heart of Gold,” what do you imagine it looking like?   

Ideally, they’d sit in an empty garage at dusk, door closed with a sliver of light coming through the window, with dust dancin’ in the beams. (echem, watch the video).


Live on tour with G Flip this May. 

What can fans expect from your your performances on tour?   

First of all, I AM SO EXCITED to be joining the anthemic nonbinary heartthrob stage of the YEAR! I can’t think of a better match than G Flip for me at this point. “Heart of Gold” really marks the end of this expression of sorrow and the new music I’ll be testing out on stage is so fun I can hardly contain myself writing about it, now. I’m finally making my debut ep and I cannot wait to see which songs the audience throws their panties and binders at. 

Having previously embarked on nationwide tours with LP and Verite, how are you prepping for the tour?  

Keeping my chops up! I have the honor of calling the Faena Hotel and Art District in Miami a second home where I’ll be playing a couple of weeks this March with a phenomenal 7 piece band and returning home straight into rehearsals for tour. 

You also appear in the upcoming film “On Swift Horses,” is there anything you can tease about that project?   

Yes! It’s based on the phenomenal novel by the same name. I experience the script as a queer period piece that intimately honors the nuances of sexuality, and the complexity of love. Jacob Elordi and Daisy Edgar Jones star in the film, and while I can’t give away my role, I will say it is an absolute honor to play her. 

What else are you looking forward to this year?   

Vacation. Seeing my cat on vacation. Playing my moms 70th bday as my first hometown headlining show.  All my movies coming out and FINALLY GIVING YOU this EP.

What is one quote that you have heard or that you go by that you want to ECHO out to the world?

“Con- fi- dence” = “move with faith”

Featured Photo Credit: McCall Olsen (photographer), Baylie Olsen (creative assist)