In conversation with storytelling songstress Cecil, she tells us more about her brand of ‘off pop’ music, reveals what she’d be doing if not for music and tells the story of her still broken nose.
What would you say is the inspiration behind ‘Black Maria’?
My inspiration is from a film called ‘Blanche Fury’. So I’ve named myself after my great uncle Cecil McGivern and he was one of the screenplay writers for that film and I gained a lot of inspiration from because when I watched it, I loved the plot. I thought it was a great film, but there were a few things I’d have done differently if I wrote the screenplay. I would have changed the plot twist and the era of the film. So that’s where the inspiration came from.
Is this storytelling aspect something new or has it always been part of your music?
I feel like my music has transitioned. I always used to write about my own experiences. This is the first time I’ve ever watched a film and gone ‘I have to write about this and maybe change a few things’. That’s the first time I’ve done that.
You describe your sound as “off pop”. What is that and how has it evolved?
When I say off pop, its alternative or indie pop, that’s what I’m getting at. But I just like the word off pop a bit better! As for how it’s evolved, I think as the years go by, my writing is maturing, and I’m always trying to better myself.
Who would you say your major music influences, both professionally and personally?
I absolutely love Lana Del Rey. I think she’s very underrated. I think she’s amazing. And I love Coldplay. I’ve always loved Coldplay; I grew up listening to them. With Lana Del Rey, I think I take professional inspiration, both lyrically and sound-wise, from her for sure. I don’t think my music is anything like Coldplay, so it’s definitely more on a personal level.
If listeners could take away one message from your music, what would you want that to be?
I like that question, you’re going to make me think now! I think the words I’d use are powerful and mysterious. I’d want them to take away a message that was both powerful and mysterious at the same time.
What’s been a really memorable moment in your career so far?
So basically I did Pub in the Park in Marlow and shared the main stage with Mel C and Texas, which was a very big point in my career. It might sound very silly to other people, but sharing a stage with Sporty Spice, was huge for me, because I remember watching Mel C as a Spice Girl on TV as a child and I just thought, “here I am now, face-to-face to with you, talking to you and sharing a stage with you”. It was very surreal to think that from the five-year-old kid who was watching her on TV to the 25-year-old me, who’s talking to you, face-to-face.
I was reading through your press release, and you’re described as a storytelling songstress. So I’m curious if you weren’t doing music, what do you think you’d be doing?
That’s a good question as well! When I was at university, I studied Commercial Music Performance. So I studied what I do now. But I was always writing stories and scripts, so I was really following in the footsteps of my great uncle. I’ve always been interested in writing and coming up with film ideas. When I write a song I’ll always think about what the music video would look like, before I actually finish the song. I see and create the story first, before the music. I see the music video as a short film.
But if we’re talking completely opposite to the creative/music industry, I’ve always actually been interested in crime investigation. I’ve got a family of detectives and police officers, so it’s in my blood. I just find it really interesting!
Has it always been music video first and then the song, or is that just with your recent music?
It hasn’t always been that way for me. In my earlier years of writing, I wrote about my own experiences. But as my writing has matured, I’m pushing the boundaries with my writing and I’m thinking more outside the box. I’m thinking more about the story. I’m thinking I’ve never had this experience before, but I want to write about it because maybe someone out there in the world has experienced it. But it’s still quite a mixture. Some of my songs are completely about my own experiences, but in other songs, I’m just telling a story.
What’s one question no one has asked you in an interview, you wish you were asked?
I’ve never had any of these questions! This one is really hard! You know what, no one has ever asked me if I’ve broken any bones or hurt myself in any way. No one’s ever asked me that, and I’ve got some good stories.
I’ve got a good story about my breaking my leg as well! I’m really curious about yours, tell me!
My stories are just going to show you how clumsy I am. I’ve really hurt myself only two times. The first time I was five and I was in Italy. I was in a really nice hotel, but my bed was pretty high, and the floor was marble. What must have happened was that I turned really badly during the night and I fell face first on the marble floor. I completely split my lip open. Still to this day, I can still feel that the inside of my lip doesn’t feel normal. But the hospital in Italy did a great job and my lips are probably better for it. So there we go, plastic surgery at the age of five!
And the second one was when I was seven years old, and it’s really embarrassing. We were at a family wedding. My cousins and I were playing the game “It”. I was running really fast to get away from my cousins. It was quite dark outside and I remember my cousin Laura was screaming behind me, ‘Sophie, look out!’. I ran into a stone post and completely smashed my nose. The interesting part of this story is that my nose is still technically broken because when I went to the hospital they wanted the swelling to go down before they could reconstruct it. But I was so small and they left it too long, the nose just stuck the way it was. My mum still says to this day, I can get my nose fixed, but it’s part of me and my story. It’s also interesting to say “actually my nose is still broken”.
Those are some really interesting stories! Finally, what’s next for you?
I’ve got some amazing festivals coming up this summer. I’m going to be doing my last Pub in the Park, which I’m really sad about because they are absolutely amazing! And I’m going to be in the studio, constantly recording and writing. I’m also going to be releasing my album, hopefully soon.
Listen to ‘Black Maria’ below: