Auckland based singer-songwriter Cecily sticks a middle finger in the air to the modern trappings of ‘who she should be,’ embracing her nature and representing those who aren’t the bubbly Britneys of the world. A self-proclaimed introvert, Cecily represents the introverts who find themselves alone on New Year’s Eve.
Having come up playing bars in and around the City of Sails, Cecily signed to Warner Music and released her breakout single, “Thinking Bout Me”, in 2019. Since then, she has gone on to release a string of successful tracks, including the newly released “I,” and is currently working on her highly anticipated debut EP.
We caught up with her to discuss her new single, her upcoming EP, and the creative process.
Congratulations on the release of your new single, It’s fantastic! Can you tell me about the writing process was behind it?
“I wrote ‘I’ in 2016 and at the time the song felt more like a stream of consciousness rather than a well thought out ballad. I wasn’t entirely sure the meaning behind it other than just how I was feeling at the time. In retrospect, as a few years have passed, I believe the song to be about the ‘middle’ of a journey. Often media plots focus solely on the beginning or ending of a story. Like how two people meet or a villain’s downfall but the middle is often glossed over. The middle is the part where the healing and growing happens but it is often a painful and confusing time. I was in a frustrating period of my life when I wrote ‘I’ since I had recently left school and gotten dumped and I felt like I had no idea where my life was going. I can look back at the lyrics and reminisce about how confusing life is when you’re a teenager but those feelings still resonate with me now and the song is very close to my heart.”
I really enjoyed your cover of Santa Baby that you put out late last year, what was the inspiration behind covering that song?
“I once covered the song ‘Santa Baby’ while I was performing around Auckland before getting signed. It is one of my favourite Christmas songs and I love the dichotomy between the provocative lyrics and cutesy tune. My producer, Will, and I shifted the song up a couple of semitones because my voice isn’t as rich as Eartha Kitt’s and we layered in a bunch of guitars and 808 drums. I love how the instrumental sounded like something I could have potentially written myself but the harmonies and vocal layers and bells conform to its festive roots.”
You’re working on your debut album at the moment?
“My EP drops soon, but some of the songs on there I wrote when I was 18 so it has been a few years in the making.”
How long have you been working on it for?
“Most of the songs have been sitting in a Dropbox folder since 2018 so I am ecstatic to finally release them to the world.”
How has working with Abigal Knudson been?
“Getting to work with a female producer after getting signed was equivalent to my music getting a warm hug. We are both young girls and it allowed us the freedom to play around with production styles until I found my own ‘sound.’ Often, young artists are paired with producers with many more years’ experience and this creates an unequal power balance and so everything you say is taken as a suggestion rather than a statement. I am currently working with a different producer who is just as lovely so I feel like I have been very blessed in that area.”
You started out playing bars around Auckland has your sound changed much since those early days?
“My songwriting style is much similar to what I’ve always had. I write my songs on the piano before laying down chords and melody + lyrics on the computer. Sometimes I come up with a melody in my head and then I lay chords down underneath it, sometimes I play around with chord progressions and then work on a melody. I have also written songs while I’m asleep -I’m a lucid dreamer, and I wake up and record them on my phone (I have so many voice memos). The thing that has changed since performing around Auckland bars is that I have access to production facilities etc and I can move from just singer-songwriter style music into the pop genre.”
I’m quite interested in your call to arms to the introverts. Usually, we think of Pop artists and musicians as being extroverts, what made you want to be an artist who celebrates being an introvert more than an extrovert?
“I think that I don’t really celebrate being an introvert, I just sort of accept it. I love performing and having attention on my music and my stage persona but in real life, I am kinda shy. I think that most people are terrified of scrutiny and judgement and artists aren’t immune to those either, so accepting that people may not like your music while acknowledging that this isn’t a personal attack is highly important to stay sane. To achieve this, I think most artists consider their artist persona as an entirely separate part of their existence. I consider myself an extroverted and passionate performer but a reserved and subdued person.”
In terms of the emotional depth to your lyrics, is it hard to be that open with your audience or does it come naturally?
“Through the years I think I have mastered the art of saying everything while simultaneously revealing nothing about myself. All of my lyrics relate to my own life but they could also relate to anyone else’s. The key is to be vulnerable enough so that your honesty is apparent in your lyrics while also being general enough that the words could potentially bring comfort to anyone listening. I like to think that my emotional maturity has increased over time so songs that I have written post-high school are more introspective and general than songs I wrote when I was younger that were for my own satisfaction rather than public consumption.”
With 2020 being such an odd year with the musical landscape changing did you have to adapt how you go about being an artist or overcome any new challenges that you wouldn’t have had in 2019?
“2020 was so difficult for every single person in the music industry as it completely demolished the hope of overseas expansion or gigs or travel. I was definitely affected but I know how lucky I am to be in a country with such a wise Prime Minister and to still have my health, so I would feel too guilty to complain about my own personal career struggles. I just hope the rest of the world follows Jacinda’s lead and that this year brings more joy than the last one.”
What’s next for you in 2021?
“I have my EP dropping soon as well as a music video for an unreleased song. I write a new song every week so I look forward to releasing more music and hopefully doing some shows. Let’s hope we all stay safe and healthy this year.”
You can stream “I” here: