You know that moment you look out of the window to the sky, wherever you are, and there’s a gorgeous sunset or sunrise. Or wispy clouds and pockets of blue sky. A stunning rainbow. Or even a dark moody storm-filled vista.
No matter what is going in your life; at that moment; those few seconds, that epoch… nothing else comes to mind except just how wonderful Mother nature can be and how it is pretty good to be alive, soaking up all these snapshots of the mind.
No need for a gadget in your hand. No need to be posting that picture for all your “Friends” to click “Like”. Stick to shots of your dinner and dogs doing daft things! Because some of those visual natural works of art of art will stay with us in our memories forever.
Exactly the same as when we hear certain pieces of music and certain voices. “We may not always recall where we were or what we were doing, but we will always remember how it made us feel”. That last comment is a well-used quote, but I cannot remember who said it.
Very true though. I had one of those aural moments of magic a few days ago. It was about 6.15am. I got up early to crack on editing and publishing some content for this very magazine, by me and by other contributors.
It was a lovely still summer’s morning outside. The windows were open, I was wide awake, sipping my tea and checking emails. One caught my eye as it had arrived at about 3.10am. From the US? No. It’s from London.
From an artist and session singer called Cerian, asking if we could give her debut single a listen. I note that she has sung with an array of stars as a backing singer, including U2 and Radiohead. That grabs my attention.
So, intrigued; to the Soundcloud link. The song, “Wasteland”. Her very first offering as a solo artist in her own right and not singing behind another artist or band.
A duet with a chap called Robert Taira Wilson. It starts. The chilled music track complete with harp (which Cerian plays) and then her voice comes in. My pen goes down on the work station. Then the male voice comes in. There’s an eight-part choral backing too.
My tea goes cold. I am mesmerised. By her voice. I am also mightily impressed with the self-penned song. The contribution from this Robert bloke is excellent too. A timbre and tone not too far away from Chris Martin of Coldplay. There’s pure emotion wafting from the speakers from both of them.
It builds and gets a little intense. It sounds as honest and as real as it gets on a record. I can hear and feel every ounce of passion and pain and joy and hurt and love that has gone into this one song, into this one track.
Cerian’s voice is simply stunning. A real wow moment. A real find. Robert’s voice fits together with hers like a velvet glove; so much chemistry. Produced by Cerian. The first of a bunch of tracks she will release this year to make up an EP, “Caught In The Dark”, which will be ready to go in February 2019. All five songs will explore her nocturnal life as an insomniac.
She’s in possession of a pure, serene and Premier Division quality tenor vocal instrument. A three-and-a-half octave range. I thought of people like Annie Haslam of Renaissance, Judy Collins, Maddy Prior and Lisbee Stainton on second listen. While the track and her voice could perhaps be thought of in the folky area I suppose, there’s much more to it than that genre alone.
Completely knocked out by what I heard, and wanting to know more about Cerian, out goes the invite for her to complete our Artist Q&A for our “Undiscovered Zone”, as an introduction to her talent.
Music Republic Magazine tip Cerian for certain future success, now she has stepped out of the anonymous darkness as a session and background singer, and into the spotlight in her own right.
From this one offering, she will win hearts and minds galore, and deservedly so. A major label deal to launch the UK’s next folk-pop star is not beyond the realms of possibility, to my ears. Quite special.
By Simon Redley
- Your name?
Cerian. It’s Welsh (Pronounced Kerry-Anne)
My age? Let’s just say, “Forever 21!!!”
- Where you were born and where you are based now?
I was born just South West of London in Surrey, and now split my time between Surrey and South East London.
- Instruments you play?
Harp, piano, guitar, omnichord (can we count omnichord?! I’m going with it!), rudimentary recorder, flute and bass. And I’m in the midst of an uphill battle to gradually improve my shaker skills.
- Age when you started in music and what was your first public performance?
I’m not sure if I actually know the answer to this… music was just always part of my life, as my Dad is a pianist and my Mum a primary school music teacher. Eventually Dad started teaching me piano when I was eight, and everything grew from there.
- What song or artist lit the flame inside you to want to be a musician/artist.
This is a difficult question, because there have been so many inspiring artists for me. I should say having a Dad who is a pianist and composer was pretty inspiring, and normalised the idea of doing music as a career (although he begged me not to go into the music business! Sorry Dad).
I do remember a turning point for me was going to Glastonbury Festival as a teenager. I had been brought up with a lot of jazz and classical music and going to Glastonbury was the first time I had a taste of this whole other world.
I fell in love completely and decided then and there I wanted to be a bass player in a rock band. Still working on that one. But it’s why Glastonbury holds such a special place in my heart (that, and it’s obviously the best festival in the world.)
I’ve always had very varied tastes, and around the same time I was also obsessed with Billy Joel, Radiohead, the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Avril Lavigne… quite the combo!
- First song you wrote, at what age and what was it called, and what inspired it?
Again, I’m afraid I don’t know the answer… as a child I used to stand on a rope ladder in the garden and just make up songs about anything and everything. Creativity was curtailed when the neighbours once shouted: “Don’t stop the lovely singing!”, and it dawned on me with horror that other people could actually hear my freeform improvisations.
I returned to writing poetry as a teenager and the writing took a darker turn as I mused upon the futile nature of life and existence. I’d like to say things have changed…. Listeners may not agree….
- How many songs have you written (estimate) since you wrote your first one?
I’m not sure, hundreds of unfinished songs, not quite as many make it to the finished stage!
- Do you write alone or with co-writers? If co-writers, who?
So far, I’ve really only written alone. I’ve collaborated with other great artists for arrangements, recordings and live performances, such as with Robert Taira Wilson who sings and plays guitar on my debut single “Wasteland”, but I find the idea of co-writing quite scary!
However, I’ve just set up a collective for women in music (called HEARD) with my friend and colleague Daisy Chute, and we have quite a few exciting projects going on, for which we’ll be writing together very soon.
- Do you write lyrics and music? Which comes first?
Yes, I write both. I find it really varies. Sometimes I enjoy quoting poets and other writers, and in those cases sometimes I’ll read a line of poetry, and a song will just grow from one line and appear around i.
Other times I’ll have a song that’s nearly finished, and then find a bit of poetry that just fits where I need it to and completes the song. But I do also write without poetic plagiarism, and on the whole; I find words come to me more easily. This will be no surprise to anyone who knows me and can attest to my extreme verbosity!
- Bullet points of your music career/achievements to-date?
- Played Glastonbury Festival twice
- Headlined and sold out the National Portrait Gallery twice
- Played nationally on BBC radio
- Playing prestigious venues such as Village Underground, Bush Hall, Ronnie Scott’s
- Sang on 6 tracks of Radiohead’s latest album “A Moon Shaped Pool” (I’m the high soprano!)
- Sang vocals for Thom Yorke’s score for upcoming film “Suspiria”
- Sang backing vocals for U2 at Abbey Road Studios for the BBC TV special “U2 at Abbey Road”
- Have sung backing vocals for some amazing and inspiring artists both live and in recordings, including Imogen Heap, Tom Chaplin, Laura Mvula, Guy Sigsworth, Sam Smith, Charlotte Church and Amber Run – as a lead soprano in London Contemporary Voices
- Curator for the London Acoustic Guitar Project
- Recorded vocals for The Sims (singing in Simlish is harder than you’d think)
- What music has been released so far? And what format and dates?
My debut single “Wasteland” came out on 27th July, on all the usual download / streaming services (iTunes / Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud etc). There will be an official music video coming soon, which I made on a budget of £0 with my brother and filmmaker Ioan Holland!
This single is the first of five to come out this year, which will culminate in the EP release in February 2019, entitled “Caught in the Dark”. I am almost completely nocturnal and a lifelong insomniac, and all the songs on the record have been written in the dead of the night.
The EP will be available on CD, and I’d love to make it available on vinyl, but I’m not sure if there would be a demand for it!
- Name your three main influences?
This is an impossible question, so I’m just saying the first three artists that came into my head: Imogen Heap, Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac
- How do you describe your own music style to a stranger who asks: “what kind of music do you play/sing”?
My usual short and pithy response is “dark ethereal indie alt folk pop” (I know – quite the mouthful!) Others have said I sound like a contemporary fusion of Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and London Grammar, which I take to be a massive compliment!
- Who are you listening to right now; bands/artists?
I love a real variety, not sticking to any one genre. From classics like Billy Joel and Fleetwood Mac to London Grammar, Oh Wonder, Anomalie, Paradisia, Rae Morris, Lianne La Havas, The Civil Wars, Greta Isaac, Nick Mulvey. I do love a bit of Sia and Ariana Grande, and old-school Kanye.
I also have so many amazing unsigned friends who are putting out incredible music. There are too many to name here, but a few include Daisy Chute, Sasha, Barry Locke, Bad Honey, Anna Pancaldi, Sam Brookes and The Little Unsaid. I’m currently compiling a playlist of “My Talented Friends” to share, as there are just so many incredible musicians and writers!
- What is the most personal song you have written and its background?
To be honest, all of my songs are incredibly personal and pretty serious… topics covered include mortality, dementia, heartbreak, depression, death, love, fear and the passage of time… It’s on my to-do list to write more happy light-hearted songs!
It’s a pretty tough competition amongst my songs for the prize of “saddest song”, but I think the one that one wins is a song called “Am I”. I uploaded a live performance of this song onto my YouTube channel earlier this year, though I haven’t recorded it in the studio yet. I guess heartbreak always feels very personal, especially when it’s all the things you want to say, and just can’t.
I was very nervous about sharing it, because it feels terribly self-indulgent writing about your own pain. But then I realised that as humans we all feel the same emotions, we all connect with music and art that gives voice to those feelings; and sharing in that makes us feel less alone.
Or at least that’s how I feel when I listen to music that moves me. So, although a lot of my songs seemingly have a dark subject matter, I hope that ultimately there’s a redemptive quality. I am actually an idealistic optimist with a ‘Pollyanna’ outlook; that humans are fundamentally good, and the world is wonderful!
- Who would be your dream collaboration as a songwriter and as an artist; naming one living and one deceased person to write with and to record or to perform on stage with?
LIVING: I would have to say Coldplay. I love them. Their music just takes me away, so I would love to write with them, and I always have the absolute best time ever at their live gigs, so I think they’d be so much fun to play with.
DECEASED: Three of my favourite voices of all time are Karen Carpenter, Ella Fitzgerald and Eva Cassidy. I’m not sure if I’d want to sing with them as much as just listen to them!
- What do you want your music to say about you?
I’m not sure if I want it to say anything in particular, other than to be something that resonates with others, that they can share in and hopefully enjoy.
- Best compliment you have read or heard about you and your music so far?
“Voice of an angel”. I hope I can live up to it…
- What is the dream for your music?
I want to keep writing and creating music, and to keep improving and collaborating, and I hope people will want to hear it! The dream is that people would like to share in that journey and that I can continue to write, create and perform. My favourite thing is playing live, so ideally there will be people to actually play to…
- Who is your biggest fan?
Ummmm…. Answers on a postcard?
- Do you want to be famous?
Fame is not something I’ve coveted. I’d like to be able to make a living from my music, and to share musical experiences with as many people as would enjoy it, whatever form that may take.
- How many gigs have you done and where (countries or towns and cities if only UK).
I have no idea! A lot! I mainly gig around London, and recently made it to Brighton, which was the first step towards touring my music, but this year I’m expanding beyond England for the first time.
This Summer I’m off to Edinburgh and then Poland, and in the Autumn a tour in America, which I’m so excited about!
- Strangest gig you have done?
Mind blank. I’m sure there have been a few!
- Funniest or most dramatic thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was at Uni, I danced with Stephen Hawking. Looking back and explaining the story seems quite surreal, but at the time it felt quite normal! It was such a sad loss to lose him this year; he was amazing.
- Best moment in music so far?
Putting out my debut single “Wasteland” has felt like quite an achievement. I produced it myself and recorded a lot of the parts on it (piano, vocals and harp). I also created all the visuals and artwork to accompany the release.
I wrote this song when I was trying to gain the courage to share my music with the world for the first time, and the lyrics delve into that fear of what will happen if you could find the courage to jump off the precipice into the unknown.
I’m so glad I did find that courage, because once I started writing and performing my own music and pursuing this life as a singer-songwriter, I finally felt like I was home. It’s a really big moment to finally have my first release out there and people have been so lovely about it, which I’m so grateful for.
Those low moments working on the release when I thought I’d never be able to finish it. Sometimes I’ve felt like being a perfectionist is going to end me.
- A: X Factor?, B: The Voice? C: Britain’s Got Talent? D: Gouge your own eyes out with a rusty spoon?
Can I say none of the above?! If I had to choose one though, it would have to be D.
- Day jobs you have done…………………?
Backing vocals, session musician, teaching, bar work, waitressing, childcare.
- Your favourite musician joke (or any joke if not)?
Q: When is a dominant 7th not a dominant 7th? A: When it’s a German 6th.
This is a pretty intense music theory joke my music teacher taught me at school, and it’s the only music joke that’s stayed with me. I’m not great at remembering jokes. But take it from me, this one always goes down well at parties. The bangin’ music theory parties, that is!
- Pet hate?
Cucumber: The devil’s food.
- Guilty secret?
I secretly love “Made In Chelsea” and would be giddy if I ever got one of my tracks on there!
- What two recordings could you not live without if you were stuck on a desert island?
I mean, this is impossible, but some of the records I’ve worn out over the years are:
Coldplay: “A Rush of Blood to the Head”. Just so good from start to finish.
Beethoven: 7th Symphony, 2nd movement. It’s just so stirring.
- If you believed in reincarnation; who or what would you want to come back as?
A dog with a nice family. I’ve always thought it must be great to be a dog (I can already hear the “you’ve got that covered” responses.)
- Plans for rest of this year and next year?
Release the next four singles, one per month, culminating in the EP release in February next year. The next single will be “Seasons” in September. Also touring Poland and America this year!
My colleague Daisy Chute and I are launching our female collective HEARD this year, created to promote women in music. Watch out for our big launch concert date!
I am also the London curator of a worldwide song writing challenge called “The Acoustic Guitar Project.” This year’s project will be getting underway this Autumn.
I’m looking forward to inviting five songwriters from London to take their turn writing a song on the London guitar in one week, and hearing the results in the culmination concert, which I’ll be hosting and organising.
Full details will be updated on my website: http://www.cerianmusic.com/live/
10th & 11th Aug: Lublin, Poland
26th Aug: Spice of Life, Soho, London – with my collective of female musicians: HEARD
30th Aug: Sofar Sounds, London (secret location)
13th Sept: London songwriter’s circle
18th November: Brighton
23rd November: London
- Please provide a personal message to our readers, as to why they should listen to your music and go see you live.
My debut single “Wasteland” is out now – please do check it out: it’s been a real labour of love creating it, and I really hope it resonates with people.
My favourite thing is performing live, and I have a small harp which I carry around London gigging with. So, if you like harps, harmonies, a soprano voice and questionable attempts at onstage banter, then come along to a gig! Cerian xxx
YOUTUBE live performances (the official video for my debut single “Wasteland” will be out in a couple of weeks):
“Wasteland” acoustic live with Robert Taira Wilson
“Wasteland” acoustic live in 360 VR with harp (1st song in the video)
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