Sam Brooks interviews Cecily, the local singer behind surprise sleeper hit ‘Thinking ‘Bout Me’.
“Getting thinner, feeling fatter, laughing more, feeling sadder.”
That’s one of a few killer lines that adorn Cecily’s gem of a sadbanger ‘Thinking ‘Bout Me’, which wound up on the top of every pop music nerd’s favourite New Music Friday playlist, the one curated by Popjustice’s Peter Robinson.
It was a well-deserved placement – it’s a killer song, the kind that any popstar would kill for at any stage of their career, let alone right out of the gate. I was even more surprised to find out that it was by a local artist: Tāmaki Makaurau’s own Cecily.
The local artist, a recent Warner signee, followed it up with ‘awake’, a self-described ’80s-style EDM’ song, and it’s no less of a stormer than ‘Thinking ‘Bout Me’. Strong confident vocals – splitting the difference between an indie-esque croak and crystal clear high notes – and a killer bassline. Two singles, waiting for a third, and an eventual EP release next year.
I got the chance to talk to Cecily about the surprise success of her debut single, the inspiration behind it and her surprising side gig.
Can you tell me about how you wrote ‘Thinking Bout Me’?
I write all my songs from the piano, because I like to start with chord progressions and then come up with a melody. So I was just home alone one day and I’d had a pretty rough year and I was thinking: “oh you know I’m going to be spending New Year’s Eve alone again.”
I was at Auckland University and there’s 40,000 people there and I was doing a BA so I didn’t really know anyone. I was just feeling kind of sorry for myself and I realised that no one else is going to feel sorry for me! I have to do that all myself, you know. And I have to do all the little things that you do that no one else can really see but you need to do for yourself, like doing your washing on time or exercising or washing your hair and things like that.
So I thought instead of thinking about all the people who have let me down or all friends I don’t have, I may as well start thinking about myself a little bit more and so that’s where it came from. It was quite different from all the stuff I’d written previously.
It’s really easy as a songwriter to write about how other people make you feel. All the songs on the radio are all love or breakups or whatever and it’s super easy to do that because pain is quite a creative experience. But I was like fuck it, I’ll just write something that isn’t about too much emotion but’s more about getting shit done and my label really liked it. When we played it for them they were like, “this is the single”.
It has such a big sound. It has a sense of scale that I haven’t really heard in a while, especially from a local artist.
I decided it should be like a little anthem for people who are just alone in their bedroom.
The first time we did the production, because my producer is a girl called Abby (Abigail Knudsonn), she’s only a few years older than me and so we do most of our stuff together. Then Justyn Pilbrow (Elemeno P) did the second part of the mixing and production and played guitar on it. Then we had live drums, which was just me hitting a drum, I was terrible. I’m not a drummer, I was just in the room hitting it. It took a few days of everyone playing instruments and making stuff up and then once we got the final mix we were like, this sounds kind of what I wanted it to sound like.
It sounds like you could dance to it and it sounds like music, not just bits on a computer.
How’s the reception felt?
I think the first thing that really took me by surprise was that guy from Popjustice [noticed] because no one even told him. My label didn’t, no one told him about it, he just happened to find it. Then they were like “oh wow” because apparently he’s quite big in the UK.
That’s how I heard about it as well and I was like, “oh shit! She’s from here”.
It was so crazy. After I read that I was really proud of myself.
What’s coming up next for you?
So I just released ‘Awake, which has a very different production. It’s Abby and me and then we sent it to a guy in Australia who did the next step of production so it’s more… I’d say it’s 80s EDM, if that makes sense.
We’re not doing a video for that one but I have another single coming out that we’ll be doing a video for. Then the EP should be dropping early next year, which will be five or six songs depending on how I twist the hand.
Finally, what are you listening to at the moment?
I have all these Spotify playlists that I update all the time. I really liked the new 1975 album and the new Banks. Also, Zara Larson, who’s released a couple of new singles, ‘All the Time’ and ‘Ruin My Life’. I’ve been listening to them non stop. It’s very Daft Punk and she uses a lot of vocoder. I don’t know why it’s not more popular in New Zealand.
I also really like exercising and you need angry music for that. I have this massive 200 song playlist called ‘Sweat Out Your Tears’ for when I teach kickboxing at gyms on the North Shore.
You teach kickboxing! That’s not what I would have expected!
No one does. Literally everyone is like “but you’re a small blond girl”. I think my class think about that a lot as well when they come in, they’re like: “oh, you’re the instructor”. I get that quite a bit.
If you had to pick one song off of that playlist, what would it be?
It would have to be ‘Problem’ by Natalia Kills, that song just goes off.
She actually has a lot of awesome songs!
And then she came on the X-Factor!
And that shot it all down.
I was embarrassed for them. It was like… shit.
This piece, as well as Cecily’s video for ‘Thinking ‘Bout Me’, have been made with support from NZ on Air.
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