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Interview with Cece Coakley

After a busy month, playing at Bonnaroo and releasing her EP “Tender”, we got the chance to catch up with singer-songwriter Cece Coakley via Zoom. We talk loving Indigo De Souza, the pop star vibes of a not yet released track, and lots of pizza.

How’s everything going right now?
Pretty good! Tired but can’t complain.

What classic album cover would be your current mood?
I would probably say Tapestry by Carole King, just like very cozy chilling with the cat is kind of where my mood has been for the past few weeks, just taking everything very slow. That’s more like the goal vibe that I’m reaching for.

So you got to perform at your first Bonnaroo, which I think it must have been fun, how was that?
It was very surreal because I like was having to process that it was happening, while we’re just like going going going and like going from point A to Point B but it was just like so much fun I don’t know, it was very hot, which was not ideal, but I don’t know it was a really cool like growing up in Tennessee very cool experience to like not go as a fan, this time, you know what I mean.

How did your Friday set compare to the Thursday one you did in the campsite?
I felt a little more confident about the Friday set since like Thursday was kind of like ‘okay we’re playing a festival, like we have no idea what we’re doing’ but it was still a lot of fun. I think Thursday was also a lot hotter so I was like ‘I feel like i’m about to pass out’, but the Friday set definitely cooled down a little bit and it was over, like covering, so it was like a little more bearable to sit there and watch, which is really nice. But I definitely feel like the Friday set I was a little more dialed in like ‘okay, I’ve already done this so I know I can do it’ you know what I mean?

Since you got to run around the festival between your sets, did you have someone that was your favorite to go watch perform?
No yeah, I think one of my favorite people to watch was Indigo De Souza, if you’ve heard of her, like her performance, I’d never seen her live, and it was just fully… like I stood there with my jaw dropped, because it had been a minute since I was that enthralled and fully invested in a concert. She was just so enamoring so that was definitely one of my all time favorites from Bonnaroo. Seeing Ashe perform was really cool because i’d never seen her live, and it was just like very good, high energy and a lot of fun.

Do you have any more festivals you’re planning to either play or just attend?
I have no plans to play any, just taking a little bit of a break but I think I really want to go to ACL fest in Austin [TX.] My sister just moved to Austin so I was like ‘I have a place to stay, and a lot of incredible people are playing.’ That’s in late August, so i really want to go, but we’ll see.

Your album “Tender” came out recently, how’s that been going and how has it been received?
Yeah everyone’s been super super kind about it, which I don’t know it’s very anxiety inducing to share like a whole piece of yourself with the world. It’s been out for, it’ll be a month this weekend, so it’s been super crazy just kind of like I worked on that for over a year of my life and just like writing songs over the past few years. It was a very freeing experience to be like ‘okay, and now they’re out and this is not my problem like either you’re gonna like it or you’re not, but that’s fine because it’s there.’

Do you have a favorite track off the album?
I think my favorite track is called ‘Anything’ on that project. It’s one of the ones that’s more personal and I wrote it about a very real experience in my life, about this guy not liking me back and being madly in love with him, and then we started dating and he’s my boyfriend right now. So I think it’s just been a very cool song to watch grow into like what’s happening in my current life to what is now a memory that we can laugh about.

Do you have a favorite song to perform?
Oh that’s a great question. I just wrote this new song and we played it at Bonnaroo, it’s called ‘My Time’ and I think it’s one of my favorites to play live because there’s just a lot of energy. I don’t play guitar on it so I just kind of walk around with the microphone. It’s definitely a little scary but it’s fun to kind of live my pop star moment of just walking around.

If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
Geez Oh! I’m gonna go with my gut instinct. I think it would be Faye Webster’s “Atlanta Millionaire’s Club”. I love her so much like her songwriting, especially on the album, is so crazy. Her music is really fun to listen to too so I felt like it would be a good mix of ‘the lyrics are really important but also chill, I’m listening to this my whole life so I kind of have to like it.’

Who has inspired your music style? Was [Faye Webster] a part of it?
Yeah I think the way she writes lyrics is really inspiring because a lot of her lyrics are very plain statements but that mean a lot more than just the blanket statement that she’s saying about something normal and I think I’ve really started to take some inspiration from that writing style. I’m also super inspired by Phoebe Bridgers and the people in that world and definitely Julia Jacklin, who is just like this amazing songwriter and her production on her songs is also amazing. I think very female-driven indie to indie-rock and all those things are very inspiring to me.

How did you get involved in music and what made you want to pursue it yourself?
I’ve always loved music and loved to sing, I was not always very good at singing, I would sing when I was younger and it was just atrocious, but I always wanted to do something with music I knew that much. Once I graduated high school, I was like ‘I don’t know what to do with my life,’ so i ended up going to music business school. I think that was a good footing to kind of learn a little more about the background so I could better be an artist, i guess, and kind of apply the things I’ve learned to my own career, which is really cool.

How was this process of building your music career affected by the recent COVID-19 pandemic?
So pre-pandemic, I really was like ‘oh i love to write, i like to play’ I didn’t play around the time but it was something I was like ‘i love to do this’ but I didn’t know how to get from point A to point B. I think during the pandemic I started to take myself a bit more seriously as a songwriter and just having that unadulterated free time to just write every single day made me feel more confident about my writing abilities. I was writing for up to an hour, two hours a day and then at the end of like heavy lockdown I started posting on TikTok. I was one of those people that’s like ‘I’m not posting on here. This is dumb, I’m going to get addicted’ but then I ended up making an account in August 2020 so I was like ‘okay fine, it’s worth a shot’. I just continued posting almost every single day, trying to just get my ideas out there to see if anybody listened or cared. I think consistent posting really helped me gain more confidence and like ‘Oh, some people care a little bit and that makes me feel a little more like I could do this’.

Looking to the future, is there someone that you would love to collaborate on a project with?
I would love to work with Julia Jacklin! I don’t know how to reach her but I just love like everything that she’s doing and that would be really cool just to even talk and be like ‘How do you come up with this stuff?’ I would also love to collaborate with Phoebe Bridgers so fingers crossed one day.

Photo credit: Caity Krone

What is the story behind your Instagram username (@cecespizzabuffet)?
Yes, okay so it’s a very pointed joke towards only the southeast of America because its like this really terrible pizza chain called Cici’s pizza and it’s a pizza buffet where they serve all sorts of types of pizza and it’s super cheap. They have like dessert pizza, like every type of cheese, onion always like crazy things and you pay one price and you can have much as you want. That’s where I would go in elementary school and middle school after my basketball games with our whole team.
It’s spelled Cici and I’m Cece so i thought it would be really funny to make that my username but then I’ve come into the problem of a lot of people having no idea what I’m talking about. It’s like trying to explain it isn’t as helpful so it’s just more of an ‘if you know you know’.

We saw on your Instagram recently that you’re donating a portion of the proceeds from your tote bag merch to the Healthy & Free Tennessee organization. What made you decide to take that step further of donating money rather than just using your platform to promote the organization and help educate your followers?
For me personally, it was really hard to just kind of sit there and be like ‘man this sucks’ and just share an infographic and be like ‘do better guys’. We ended up donating $230 which is amazing. It’s just like I didn’t really need that that bad and there are people who need it a lot more than me. It was nice to be able to use my platform just posting and being like ‘this is what I’m doing, this is why I’m doing it’. It was just the most fulfilling way to try to help out while also making a statement of ‘this is what I support and if you do not, I don’t think you should be following my life,’ just like weeding out the people who don’t have the same ideals and values and I’m totally fine if they don’t listen to my music anymore. I’m really proud that we were able to raise that money and bring awareness to obviously a very important thing happening in America right now.

So back to pizza. What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Ooh this is gonna sound kind of gross but it exists, I know I’m not making up something disgusting, but I would do a pizza that had hummus on it.
Hummus?
Yes, it sounds bad but it’s actually like, you know how people do dollops of ricotta? In place of ricotta it would be a little hummus because it tastes really good, just take my word for it. I’m vegan so I don’t really do cheese but I would do like a vegan cheese situation with some hummus and then I would probably do, like I love mushrooms on pizza so probably be that and then basil. I think that sounds kind of disgusting but I feel like it would be good
So does this amazing dish have a name?
Probably Cece’s Pizza Buffet, something along the username, gotta tie it back in.

What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I’m still working on more music, hopefully coming out closer to the fall, and just kind of getting everything ready for that and writing. I feel like I’ve been writing a ton this summer and trying to just work on that for the fall. Then doing a little bit of touring, which is not announced yet, but I’m going on tour in October November which I’m really excited about. And my friend Briston is hosting a festival in Nashville and I’m playing one on the nights like November 4th. I’m so excited because I’m playing the same night as Indigo De Souza and I was like ‘I have to meet you to tell you I love you’ so I’m super stoked for that and it’s going to be a great time!

Feature image photo credit: Caity Krone

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