Singer songwriter CYN may not even have her debut EP out just yet, but with a handful of her first singles each reaching over 1 Million Spotify streams and a slot supporting Years & Years on their North American tour, she’s already got a lot of eager listeners and supporters hanging on for her next release of new music. Not to mention, among those supporters stands pop superstar Katy Perry, who signed CYN to her label Unsub Records. When you listen to CYN’s ethereal vocals and her catchy melodies, it’s easy to understand exactly why she’s garnered so much positive buzz early on.
Now based in LA, CYN grew up in Michigan before moving to Chicago to attend DePaul University, so when I met up with her ahead a sold out show at The Vic Theatre with Years & Years, she was getting ready to perform to a room that held some of her best friends and family members. During our chat, CYN talks about her full circle moment performing at The Vic, what she reads while on tour, what kind of direction she’s taking on her new music, and more. Tune in below!
What was your first musical memory?
I remember listening to Jewel on the radio. I was so young...I think her first album came out in 1995 and I was born in ‘93. So I must have been tiny, who knows! But I just remember singing [sings] Dreams last for so long… “You Were Meant For Me.” Sometimes I just have to sing it to remember the name of the song. And when I heard that, my parents were going through a divorce at the time so for whatever reason I always thought I was feeling emotions or going through something emotionally that was too much as a child, just because you know, not everyone handles those types of things in the most mature way. I think that I was kind of in some situations with certain adults, I was in situations that were too emotionally stimulating for a baby, I think. So I was basically feeling the heartbreak of my parents as a child.
Oh wow so you just had that sensitivity back then?
Exactly, but then back to the music, it was almost like Jewel was speaking about this heartbreak that I didn’t have the the words to speak about. So just listening to her, I just understood my feelings and my heartbreak over my parents’ divorce because she did it perfectly. And because I was better able to understand my own personal experience through music, I always from that point forward used it as a point of therapy and used it as way of getting through things.
Yeah and it’s cool how you can take a song and pinpoint it to a certain time in your life when you look back at it.
Exactly! I also think that people can aspire to be like songs. Like whereas we’re using songs in the present you can also think like...For example, Alicia Keys “If I Ain’t Got You.” That song I’m like oh my, oh my god, I want to have a love that incredible!
Like vision boarding but with a song?
Yeah! To me, that song is the epitome of knowing that you love someone. So I think you can like strive to be like songs too.
So you’re a Midwestern girl, growing up in Michigan and then you went to DePaul right?
So this is sort of like a homecoming show in a way!
Yeah, it is.
What are some of your favorite spots in Chicago then, like to see live music, to buy music, to shop, to eat, etc…?
It’s been some time since I’ve been here and I had all of my go to spots--
Oh yeah I’m sure there’s so many new places now.
Yeah a lot has changed! I’ve been gone for 2 years. I used to love to go to Wicker Park...what is that one venue there?
SubT. Yeah! That was awesome. I loved that venue. I just loved hanging out in Wicker Park in general. When I first came here from Michigan, I was really intrigued by like Lincoln Park and Lakeview, all of the basic girl stuff. Then you’re like ooh, I’m cool in Logan Square, like I know where I can get some local beer. But yeah Wicker Park, Logan Square. I was such a huge Chicago advocate when I first came to LA. I was like what am I doing here? It was not easy to adjust.
Anything special you’re planning for the show or is it mostly that you’ll just have your friends and some family here?
It’s more so just a feeling. I don’t have anything special planned for only Chicago. I will talk about how I came here [The Vic] as a fan and I saw Sam Smith and Kiesza.
Oh no way I was here!
You saw that show? I was here too! I was just like damn, I can do that.
That’s so cool you came here when Sam Smith was playing and now you’ll be on the stage yourself!
Yeah I was really like, I thought I could be like Kiesza. And now I’m at the point where I’m touring with Years & Years and I’m like I can be like them. I don’t always have to be the opener. I have a few hurdles to overcome first though.
So I really love the newest single “I’ll Still Have Me.” I love how it’s different from your usual dancey, bass heavy kind of sound. Is that kind of a sneak peek at what your debut is going to be or how are you approaching that EP?
So the producer who I wrote “I’ll Still Have Me” with, he is executive producing that whole EP. So just the emotion and the character in that song...even though I’m sad in “I’ll Still Have Me” it doesn’t really make an appearance in the EP because I’m in a happier place at the moment. It’s definitely like that richness in character and when you listen to it you can feel what I was feeling. There are moments on the EP where you can feel what I was feeling, in another light. But it’s all guitar driven. More alternative but still very pop.
Very true to your roots?
Yeah. Still “consumable”. Even though that’s not the most sexy word to use when you’re talking about your own music.
Yeah but you still gotta consider that and take care of the business side.
Exactly. It’s really a struggle finding that balance. And being aware of it. But I’m so excited about the EP. I feel like my truest version of myself so far, and I’m not paying too much attention to trends.
Nice, you’re doing you!
Yeah, I’m not like, this is what all the pop girls are doing. When we’re like putting a snap, I’m like maybe we shouldn’t. There’s so many out there! I’m really just trying to pave my own individual path
Ah well I think you already are! So the video for that song [‘I’ll Still Have Me”], how did that come together? Were you involved in the process of choosing it or did the director come to you with a story line?
Basically, to give you the most honest version of how that went...It started with me. We wrote a couple of treatments, which is when we write down all of the lyrics, we write down what we imagine happening during certain lyrics. I wrote one--actually I wrote a couple. My manager wrote one. We reached out to a few directors. We had a few come in...but we ended up going with my A&R’s idea for the video. She came up with interviewing elderly people.
Yeah they were all so cute!
It was really special because it was their version-- we didn’t script it. They came in, did their thing. They’re literally wearing the clothes they walked in wearing. We didn’t put any make up on them. It was a very authentic thing to match what I think is a very authentic song. Then one of my best friend’s mom said “Oh I really love this song, I listen to it all the time. I feel like the woman dancing alone is me.” Cause her husband recently passed away.
Oh no! But it’s kind of comforting in a way for her to have this song then, right?
Exactly! And that’s the most you can hope for with your music. Like what I said in the beginning, like going through an emotional experience and then understanding it more through someone else’s art. Like that’s all you can hope for.
Right, like you’ve done your part as an artist. So switching gears a little bit...like we talked about your music before this new EP is very dance driven. So what are some of your favorite songs that you like to put on and dance to? What’s on your dance soundtrack?
I recently have been getting back into Elvis. I went to the Rock‘n’Roll hall of fame yesterday and I was listening and just thinking I love how bluesy it is. You know?
Yeah it’s just got that groove to it.
Yeah that’s something that I’m gonna let influence me as I keep going forward. I really love soulful things. So Elvis...I like Stevie Wonder. I love Carol King. I love a lot of 90s, sweet girly pop. I love “Kiss Me” and “Love Fool” and like [sings] There She Goes… Basically, if it’s in an Amanda Bynes movie. Every time I get on a plane, I’m like there I go again [sings again]
Anything else that you’ve been listening to on this tour? Are you podcast people?
I’m not, but today I read the whole Wikipedia page of Ted Bundy. So there’s one thing I did while on tour. I don’t know why! People who lack empathy are fascinating to me. I’m like how can you not give a fuck about somebody else? That is the weirdest thing to me! It’s so crazy! So I was reading that.
Have you heard of the podcast And That’s Why We Drink? Probably not if you’re not a podcast person, but there’s two hosts, and one of them does ghost stories and the other one does true crime. And their episode with Ted Bundy creeped me out! I just moved into a garden apartment, and he used to always break into basement/garden apartments, and I was so scared after hearing that one.
Yeah, it’s absolutely terrifying! So terrifying.
But yeah I would recommend that podcast if you are ever looking to get into them!
I can’t, I can only read those things. If I hear someone say them or watch it on a movie or TV, I can’t sleep at night. But then I’ve also been really into Rosalía. She’s a Spanish singer, she’s incredible.
Awesome! So wrapping up, anything else that you’re looking forward to this year? After this tour or anything else on this tour?
This show! And I just love meeting everyone but obviously this is like a full circle moment. I told you about coming here for that show. I’m just so excited to release another single. I’ve got another lined up like nearly right away. The art direction is insane!