premiere: katy perry signee cyn on her darker dance-pop sound
'Alright' is one of CYN's only songs that's not about love. As i-D premieres the new track, the Detroit-born artist tells us how she went from playing piano in Katy Perry's living room to touring with Sigrid.
Photography Lauren Naylor
You might not be too familiar with electro-pop singer CYN yet, but she’s teetering on the edge of fame. Last summer CYN — a.k.a. Cynthia Nabozny — released her debut single “Together” and was introduced to the world with a very special Instagram post from Katy Perry lauding her for her talents. It was then that we learned Perry had signed CYN to her label Unsub Records. The two artists had met during Perry’s California Dreams Tour in 2011, but it was the connection with Perry’s opening DJ (DJ Skeet Skeet) that helped bring them back together. CYN found herself sending him demos for years and finally met him in 2016. It was then that she was reunited with Perry too, and the rest is history.
Now, the 24-year-old singer is releasing her third single on Unsub. “Alright,” premiering below, is a departure from her most recent jangly pop singles — it’s a dark, dance-floor ready track that’s an ode to self-acceptance. “I wrote ‘Alright’ thinking about the comments teachers would make about me on report cards or notes home to my parents, [like] ‘Can't hold her tongue still,’ ‘Attitude adjustment needed,’ ‘Would be an ideal contribution to the class if only she would focus,’” CYN says of the track. Ultimately, she realized and accepted that she turned out just fine the way she is.
i-D spoke to CYN about the advice Perry gave her, how she got her big break, and touring with Sigrid.
When did you start making music? Was there a moment that made you want to be a musician?
I've been singing and making up my own songs since I was a toddler. My parents divorced when I was very young and music was a medium for me to understand the devastation I was feeling. I realized I wanted to be a singer when I was about four years old, listening to Jewel's Pieces of You record. I've been keeping a journal since I could read and write, which assists in shaping my lyrics and concepts for songs. At the age of 12, I started taking classical piano lessons, and was pairing vocals with my piano by the age of 15. It was at that time that I also started experimenting with recording myself through some simple Sony software. I was classically trained in voice but I always felt myself rebelling against whatever was expected of my performance.
You grew up near Detroit. How did the Detroit music scene influence you?
My family are big Motown fans — a lot of the music I grew up listening to has heavy jazz, blues, and funk tendencies. I definitely feel that kind of music shapes my musical and creative decisions.
What prompted you to go by CYN as opposed to your full name?
I started going by the name CYN because I never really felt much like a Cyndi and I never really felt much like a Cynthia. I think CYN carries the essence of a personality I believe my music embodies: confidence, honesty, and cheekiness.
Which artists have influenced your sound?
Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, Jewel, and 90s pop [like] Sixpence None The Richer and The Cardigans — to name a small handful.
How did you meet Katy Perry?
After attending the California Dreams Tour in 2011, I connected with Katy Perry's opening DJ on Twitter, and after years of sending him demos, I came to L.A. in 2016 to talk seriously about songwriting. It was then I met Lauren Glucksman, Katy's A&R, who introduced me to Katy. A couple months later, I found myself in Katy's living room playing her my original songs on a very colorful piano — literally, the piano was baby pink and blue. The rest is pop history!
What's the story behind "Alright"?
I very much felt like outsider in most of my classes and I very much felt like my teachers were always trying to smooth me out. The pressure to be poised and soft spoken was so heavy, but I think I did a good job at pushing back and anyway, I turned out alright!
How does "Alright" fit in with the other music you put out?
I think "Alright" is a different than my other releases because it isn't about love… which is very rare for me! I find that usually my writing revolves around love, and in this song, the topic and message is different. "Alright" makes sense as my next release because it's another take on the funky yet eclectic sound that I don't think I'll be straying from anytime soon.
What were you listening to when you made "Alright"?
When I wrote "Alright" I was so geeked on "Attention" by Charlie Puth.
Will you be releasing an EP or full-length this year?
Right now, I'm focused on single releases paired with tasty video content.
Is there any advice Katy gave you that's stuck with you along the way?
Katy encourages me to be myself and that always helps me stand my ground when I feel someone is trying to smooth out my personality or style.
Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
I would love to collaborate with Daft Punk, Charlie Puth, or Pharrell.
Have you and Katy talked about collaborating? Would you collaborate?
Katy and I have talked about writing together. I think it will happen one day in the future after I'm a little further out the gate.
Tell me about your tour with Sigrid. How did that happen? I feel like you two are a good fit.
Sigrid heard some of my music and asked me to be a part of her American tour. I couldn't be more excited as I'm a huge fan of hers and have never played shows in these kinds of venues with this many fans watching. I cannot wait!