How have you found the last year producing and creating music through quarantine? How do you think it’s influenced your music?
Yeah, I honestly think I’ve been making the best music I’ve ever made during quarantine. And maybe it’s just because I have more time. And just am generally less stressed. I’m just in my creative space more often like Gideon, for example, was written about the political stuff that was happening last year. So that was directly influenced by just being 2020.
It was a really good year for me musically, I feel like I’ve been able to write so much more. And because of that, it’s just been getting so much better. Because when you do things more, it’s like a muscle, right? It just improves.
On that note, being a songwriter and co-producer as well as being the lead vocalist is incredibly impressive. Can you give me a window into what the process of creating a song from scratch in that environment with almost complete creative control?
Yeah, I mean, every song is a little different. But usually, I’ll start with a line. It’s like a single line, something will stem something in my brain – like for guillotine, it was the actual word. I woke up one night and was like, ‘Yes, you can be a really cool word to use in the song’. And usually, I end up sitting at my piano and just hitting some chords and trying to figure out the mood of the song and will start writing things out.
I have a journal that I write my lyrics. And usually, I’ll get at least like a verse and a chorus down. And then I’ll head over to my computer, and I’ll open up logic. And I’ll just start producing, start finding sounds, start finding the keyboard sounds or find the right sense and the right drums and all that, just to get the mood across. And usually, I’ll bounce out that version, have a version on my SoundCloud on private, and then I’ll probably listen to it for the next 24 hours, like the entire next workday.
All of those songs were sitting on my SoundCloud for a couple months and I was like, alright, let’s do something with them. Sent them over to Fez and he made them sound all pretty and really great, and just added those finishing touches.
I know that you have always been a pop music fanatic, who have been the biggest influencers of your music?
I grew up playing the piano – that’s what I started with, with my parents for me and that’s the whole reason why I felt, Oh, wait, piano can be cool, not just like Mozart and Beethoven. And some people are playing cool music and singing at the same time. That’s a cool thing, so I’m going to try that.
Justin Timberlake was a big one. I mean, his production and his cadence is just different. My dad loved Justin Timberlake, So I was listening to a lot of that. And I think that was when I started to get really aggressively in the pop. Growing up in my dad’s car, there was always Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Daft Punk, and Phil Collins.
And now I’d say my biggest influences, probably Christine and the Queens, I love her music. Yeah. Christine and the Queen’s, Conan Gray and Troye Sivan are probably my three tops in terms of like, sound. And they’re all also queer, which is also a plus.
Growing up did you always know you would be a musician? At what point do you think you decided that this was going to be the thing you devote your life to and what was that decision process like?
Yeah, totally. Um, so I’d say, I mean, it probably wasn’t until I was 12 years old that I realised I really liked music. But then they were very separate. I went to piano lessons and I listened to music separately, and it never occurred to me that they can be similar interests.
Then I started writing music on my own, and it kind of gave me an outlet to express my feelings. And I’m just not the most expressive person emotionally or in the way that I’m telling people all of my feelings all the time. So it’s a good way for me to get that out. And I just started enjoying it a lot.
My dad got me my first little MacBook, God bless him for thinking that 12 year old me deserved a MacBook. But he only did it because he wanted me to learn how to use GarageBand. So I could learn how to produce. He must have seen something in me and was like, ‘Oh, she’s liking this, let’s try to nurture that’. And I mean, I really haven’t stopped since then.
Going into this EP, what was it that you wanted to achieve and how has your past work influenced this project this time around?
Okay, in terms of what I want to achieve is really just putting together my first project. I’ve never done this before, I wanted it to be cohesive. And I wanted it to be a really good representation of myself. Sometimes I put out music where I’m like this, I like this song, but it doesn’t feel like me, necessarily. And I just wanted to really love each and every one of these songs. And I guess it’d be great if everyone else loves them.
And how has my past music influenced this project? That’s an interesting question.
I mean, I just think everything that I’ve made over time is… it’s all just building blocks. I feel like I’ve just learned a lot, I’ve learned how important it is to collaborate with people. I feel like I’ve been a lot of the time because of some situations that I’ve been put into when collaborating with people, I’ve been a little afraid to collaborate as much. But honestly, the best products come out when you do collaborate with people, you learn a lot more, and it can elevate it because different people are just good at certain things. And yeah, I think maybe it’s not super direct. But just necessary stepping stones to get to the place where I like, love my music as much as I do now.
“the best products come out when you do collaborate with people, you learn a lot more, and it can elevate it because different people are just good at certain things”
One of the key things you explore in this EP is the tumultuous nature of falling in love. Obviously this is a topic that can often feel oversaturated, especially in the pop landscape. Was this something you were conscious of and how did you overcome that and create a body of work that manages to be both that, and exciting?
Um, I think I mean, I know pop writers love writing about love. Like, it’s kind of what we do. I think that anyone can make something unique to themselves if you dig deep enough. It just takes some time. And I feel like that’s part of that, like the refinement process. But I don’t know, I just feel like when you’re intentional about it, you can make sure that the story you are telling is interesting and one that hasn’t been told before, in that specific way at least.
One thing I felt was inescapable, especially on Ultraviolet and Guillotine, is a strong 80s influence. I think the modern refined take on the production is so interesting. Was that something you knew you wanted for this track from the moment you concepted it?
When I originally produced it, there were definitely some 80s sounding drums with, you know, that snare with all the reverb that just like hits, and it feels so good!
I’m weak for 80s drums, I was talking about my influences, like my dad playing Phil Collins all the time. That’s definitely fully his fault. I feel like that sound was there right away. And I think my producer was very aware of that when I sent him like, I think I sent him a Spotify playlist of maybe 10 songs that were like, these are the general vibes that I’m going for in the EP, keep it within this realm of vibes.
And I think that when we find that one song, there’s a song, it’s called “bullying boys”. When I heard that song, it has this big 80s kind of drum break in the middle of the song and I told him, “This is our guiding light for the EP. This is what we’re following”. I was stuck on that song for like two months just listening to it on repeat.
That song influenced a lot of how I wanted to sound in this EP, because I just thought it was just so unique and pretty in such a good modern take on the 80s, kind of like what you were saying.
It is so rare and commendable from someone to embrace pop in such an unabashed way like you have on this record, especially songs like summer drug, are purely infectious. Is pop something you feel speaks to you and would you be open to exploring other genres in the future?
Yeah, totally. I mean, I think I’ve never purposely put myself in a specific genre. I think why I love pop so much is because it’s just like a mix of everything. You can bring in so many different parts of different genres. If you don’t know what to call something, and it’s a mix of many things, you’re like ‘I guess this is just Pop’.
I’ve been one of those people who are interested in loads of different types of music. I love Hip Hop & RnB, but then I also love electronic music. It’s really fun to listen to.
And my dad, he was playing Ellie Golding and Daft Punk, my mom loved gospel music and so I would always hear that. And I mean, I grew up playing classical music. So, I was listening to that stuff. I feel like I have all these random interests, I just think this music sounds good in so many different ways.
But yeah, I think that’s why I like pop. It’s a mix of everything. And it makes it more relatable and fun.
I think my final and most open ended question is, where do you see your career progressing over the next few years? What’s next for you?
I feel like I’m just getting to the point where I’m putting out my best stuff and I’m feeling so good about it. I found the right people to work with and all of that and I’m really finding my groove. So yeah, I just want to keep refining that honestly. And I want to just keep enjoying the process.
My big focus is kind of, you know, proving myself to other people and to me, and just showing, “Hey, this music is like good enough, you know, to make it somewhere.”
You can listen to the Side Effects EP on major streaming platforms and check in with Ci Majr on socials @cimajr