Robyn Hitchcock talks cats and travel

With song titles such as “Detective Mindhorn,” “Virginia Woolf” and his first country tune “I Pray When I’m Drunk” on his 2017 self-titled 21st album (recorded in Nashville), it’s clear Robyn Hitchcock is one of rock’s most lovably eccentric artists. So it makes sense when he breathlessly delays a phone interview by three hours with the excuse of having a “kitten emergency.” He had just acquired two young felines from the same litter, but one developed conjunctivitis. “So I had to race them down to the vet to be inoculated — all part of practical kitten life,” he explains.

You’re holding a fluffy Persian on your new album cover. So you’re a cat person?

Yes, And she’s my late cat, unfortunately, Tiny. Tiny Montgomery, and she only lived six months. She had a rare feline stomach disorder, and they couldn’t save her. And it was horrible — it’s the death that has affected me most in my life. I was more upset by Tiny dying than my father passing. And I only found out about Tiny going as I was coming back from South Africa, where I had been serenading tourists who wanted to look at South African wildlife and listen to late-‘80s indie rock played acoustically around the campfire.

Wait. What?

There’s an Australian tour organization that finds people who are prepared to pay quite a lot of money to travel around South Africa for two weeks, looking for cheetahs and lions and water buffalo. And as part of the package, five or six couples would be serenaded daily by me and my partner Emma Swift, who lives with me in Nashville. I remember serenading them on a boat going up the Zambezi, and there were hippos and crocodiles breaking the surface of the water everywhere. If you’d fallen overboard, you would not have made it back to the boat. Or to shore.

Did you bump into any really scary animals?

A few. We were tooling along in the Jeep, and we found a couple of leopards who had just killed something and were eating it. And I said, “Uh, we’re getting very close. Do we have any guns to protect us?” And they said, “No, no, no, but we should be fine. When they’ve just killed something, they’re concentrating on that.” It was a fantastic combination of the idyllic and the terrifying.

You survived that, but how about Nashville?

I live in East Nashville, and it’s actually terrific. It’s a musician’s hive. You walk down to the local coffee shop, and you see musicians. I don’t drive, but everything there is walkable. And I’ve never lived in an actual neighborhood before — it’s great!

IF YOU GO

The Psychedelic Furs, Robyn Hitchcock
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. July 25
Tickets: $40
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.ticketmaster.com

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