Cecily: Soulful Music With Ambient Affirmations
Cecily: Soulful Music With Ambient Affirmations
Nov 9, 2023
Cecily’s music is insightful and pleasing to the ear, a breath of fresh air with the motivation to spread her positivity through her art.
If you’ve ever needed the perfect soundtrack to accompany the moments your eyes are gently closed and all you see is the warm glow of your eyelids as the sunlit breeze kisses your face, look no further than the melodic musings of vocalist and songwriter Cecily. With a family who infused influences from artists such as John Coltrane, Motown, Smokey Robinson, and R&B from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, her vocal artistry brings prismatic color and warmth to the soul as the purity of her message washes over the listener and leaves an indelible mark. Cecily’s soprano octaves provide a surprising duality with her ethereal yet earthy delivery, and, as we chatted for our interview, her soothing personality left me just as spellbound as her music did.
Originating from Washington, D.C., with a background in Political Science and Black Studies, Cecily's journey as an artist began as a powerful call to bring purpose and empowerment to her community. After ten years of nurturing her musical talents as a passionate hobby, she took the leap to turn her passion into a full-fledged career. Supported by an exceptional team of hand-picked musicians, dedicated management, and her husband, Cecily has achieved numerous accolades and awards, solidifying her presence as a force to be reckoned with in music world.
Just as her newest release “I Am Love” delivers a simple and positive message coinciding with depth and dimension, the same can be said for Cecily herself. It came as no surprise to discover her passion for healing, meditation, and affirmations, as all of those things are revealed within her music. Cecily is simply a breath of fresh air with the motivation to spread her positivity through her art.
Prepare yourself to feel connectivity as you read along with our chat.
MaM: Cecily, for those just discovering your music, could you describe your unique sound and the musical influences that have shaped your style?
C: I describe my music as soul music with a lot of influences of jazz, 90’s R&B, with a little bit of folk mixed in as well. I like to work with live instrumentation and real musicians in a space creating together, because I think that's how you capture the best energy. In terms of who people liken my music to, I really love 1970’s soul and R&B. Generally, you'll find a lot of sounds from that era in my music. I've had comparisons to Minnie Riperton, for example, in terms of my vocal stylings and some of my arrangement choices. People have also compared me to Amel Larrieux, who is more of a 90’s or early 2000’s R&B singer. Some of my favorite current artists who I think my music kind of likens to are Cleo Sol and Lianne La Haves, who are both from the UK.
MaM: Your parents' record collection had a significant impact on your music. Can you share how their love for artists like Miles Davis and Smokey Robinson influenced your artistic journey?
C: I actually inherited my parents’ record collection. My dad passed away a couple years ago. My mom said she didn't listen to records anymore, so I could have them. Now I have a pretty large record collection. Thanks to them for that.
What's interesting is that my parents are nine years apart in age, and that gave them different tastes in music. When [my mom] was a little girl, Motown was huge, and she loved Motown. Smokey Robinson is her forever crush. I grew up on a lot of Motown. My dad, he really loved jazz. He kind of came of age during the Bebop era. He loved Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Ahmad Jamal … A lot of jazz artists from the 50s and 60s. So, I have disparate influences.
I had Motown with its classic soul sound, but also formulaic. You can kind of hear that in the way they approached things, and it works. Then, if you go to Miles Davis or John Coltrane, they were experimenting. There was thought and intention, but I definitely don't think a formula was the approach to things. It was very different kinds of things to grow up listening to. What my parents had in common is they both loved 70’s soul music.
I also grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Gil Scott-Heron, and those type of things. All stuck with me. I'm also the youngest of four, and all of my siblings are much older than me. They had their own music tastes. I grew up listening to hip hop and R&B of the 80ss and 90s. My brother listens to house music. I was introduced to a lot of different kinds of black musical forms, and it was a great way to grow up.
MaM: Your debut album "Songs of Love and Freedom" received critical acclaim and won a Wammie Award. How does this album reflect your musical vision, and what was it like to receive such recognition for your work?
C: That album was a big turning point for me creatively, professionally, and spiritually, because I put out an EP prior. That [EP] was my first project. I still like it, but it was me figuring out what I wanted to do and working with people that were recommended to me by my managers at the time. I didn't always feel seen in that process. I felt like we made the music, but I wasn't necessarily sure if it was me.
When I came back around to do the process again, I was doing it all on my own in choosing all of my co writers, letting it happen organically, finding different producers, choosing my band members, and doing a lot of sonic research. It really taught me a lot about myself and was an empowering journey. I still feel really good about that album. So, it's one of my things I am most proud of.
MaM: This brings me right to “Awakening Pt. 1”. It, too, was well-received and earned you several nominations and awards. Can you tell us more about the themes and inspiration behind this project?
C: That project was inspired by some books that I read leading up to when I got married. We all think we know so much about love, but maybe I should actually study it like people do everything else. So, I just picked up this one book, just off chance in a bookstore, called ‘How To Love’ by a Buddhist master who passed away last year, named Thich Naht Hanh. I just read this book back to front a few times, and it was really impactful for me. The next book I read was called ‘The Mastery of Love’ by Don Miguel Ruiz. It had so many lessons and was a good way to reflect on life and what I've been taught about love. It was good to reflect on places in my thinking that needed to be revised on what love is and what love can be. Later, when reading ‘All About Love’ by Bell Hooks, I decided I want to create a project pulling from these concepts and ideas. That was kind of the inspiration for both ‘The Awakening Pt. 1’ and ‘The Awakening Pt. 2.’
MaM: You're not only a talented artist but also a healer who offers meditations, workshops, and sound healing sessions. Tell us more about how these practices are connected to your mission as an artist and a healer?
C: In 2020, when things were locked down, I couldn't connect with people in terms of live performances. I also I felt like I couldn't create music in the way I was used to in being separated from my usual writing partners and bandmates. It started out when I had written some affirmations for myself in a time that was very fear-inducing. I called them ‘Affirmations for a Pandemic’. I decided, these are good, let me share these with people. So, my husband recorded me with video and audio. I put it on YouTube, Instagram, and this meditation app called Insight Timer. I was surprised by the reaction. People were saying, ‘Wow, this is so helpful. Thank you so much for this.’
Insight Timer chose the recording of it for their editorial pick and put it on the main page. I got a lot of engagement there and realized life is telling me this is something I need to dig into a little bit more. So, I started doing guided meditations live on Instagram. I love writing, I love words, I like using my voice. I started doing these guided meditations as another way to use my voice and my words.
MaM: Your new single "I am Love" is generating attention. How has this song been received, and what message or emotions do you hope it conveys to your audience?
C: I'm really happy with people’s response to the single. I love this song. I sometimes tend to be a little wordy and overly complicated in my writing. With this song, I wanted to write something that was simple. It definitely has depth to it. It started off as a poem, so it still has its poetic aspects. I wanted to write something that made you feel at peace and happy—just something that feels like a nice like warm summer day. You know, like where you're with someone you love or just yourself out in nature, eating good food. That was the energy of the song.
… The message was really simple. As I said, affirmations are a big part of my life. I wanted to write a song that was an affirmation. The album ‘The Awakening Pt. 2’ is all about exploring unconditional love. Specifically, the kind written about in Bell Hook's book, ‘All About Love’. I had a poem where I had written, ‘I am love,’ and I thought, ‘This could be a song.’ I thought [it] would be a good way to bring forth my message of the power of love, acceptance, affirmations, and also Bell Hook's idea about simple living. She says living simply makes loving simple. I thought that was really beautiful.
I'm kind of combining the two concepts of exploring the simplest pleasures in life with knowing that I am love. It’s about the belief in God, the source, the universe, or just this idea we all are connected to a genuine love, a deep, complete, and divine love. Stating plainly, ‘I am love’ can be very powerful. Even though it's a simple song and I wanted it to have … a singalong part or even something you can even two-step to; I also wanted to have some depth in there that people feel. I think the song has the combination of both. I love it for that reason.
MaM: Are there any new announcements, news, or projects on the horizon that you'd like to share with your fans and our readers?
C: ‘I Am Love’ is out now!
There's a music video for it dropping very soon, and there will be some new merchandise soon to accompany the new release. The second single is coming out in January, and the new album is coming out in March.
And there you have it—your breath of fresh air for the day! In a world filled with hyperbole and scattered focuses, Cecily recenters us with the ambient peace she exudes. Take a moment and explore her prismatic vocals by visiting the below-listed links.
Erica Machen is a beast when it comes to consuming, writing about, and reviewing music. Got something for her? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.