Interview: CYN Talks ‘Mood Swing’ EP & Bringing Fun Back To Pop

CYN's 'Holy Roller' Video
One of the best pop songs of 2019 now has one of the coolest videos. Watch CYN's 'Holy Roller.'

CYN first made waves in 2017 with light and airy pop concoctions like “Only With You” and “Together.” Since then, her sound has become bigger and bolder, and noticeably more alt-leaning. That journey has led the 26-year-old to Mood Swing. CYN’s upbeat and eclectic debut EP arrived today (September 20) and contains the immaculate singles “I’ll Still Have Me” and “Holy Roller,” as well as a selection of equally intoxicating new songs. It immediately stands out as one of the year’s best Extended Plays.

I recently spoke with CYN about the seven-song set and she shared fascinating anecdotes about new tracks “Bubble Bath” (she describes it as a “personality piece”) and “Nobody’s Keeping Score” (an anthem inspired by a bout of public embarrassment). The budding pop star also talked about bringing fun back to pop and the importance of presenting an authentic version of herself to the world. Other topics of conversation include Katy Perry’s mentoring and an upcoming web series. Get to know her a little better in our Q&A below.

Was “Holy Roller” really inspired by cult documentaries?

Yes, it was inspired by watching cult documentaries. I just thought it’s crazy how people can become so devoted and I guess I wanted to compare that feeling to being in love.

It’s such a euphoric song. The whole EP is upbeat.

Thank you. These days, I think a lot of pop music is… this isn’t a bad thing, but there’s a lot of anxiety in pop and a lot of sadness. I’m really just not that kind of songwriter. I get depressed sometimes, but I’ve been raised to always be optimistic even if I’m going through a hard time. I never feel defeated in my music and I love that. Even “I’ll Still Have Me” is still optimistic, even though I wrote it during the most heartbreaking time in my life.

I think a song like “I Can’t Believe” is so fresh because people don’t really write songs about loving the path they’re on.

The lyrics really tell the truth about how I feel. There’s even a lyric about being from Michigan. I think it’s important for me to let everyone know that I wasn’t born and raised in Hollywood. The first time I came here was when I signed my deal. I still really can’t believe it. I come from the suburbs of Michigan. I’ve had to work so hard to get to this moment. I wrote the song after being on tour with Katy in Mexico last year. I just kept saying, “I can’t believe, I can’t believe it.”

It comes from a very genuine place. I wrote the song a while ago, but I listen to it now and I’m just so thankful that I wrote something that really captured that feeling. It’s not easy to caption a moment. I hope that the world agrees with me, but I think I did it. I think I captured really that ecstatic feeling, this really good feeling I have to just be in California writing music. It’s something I wanted since I was like five years old. I’m really happy to be doing this.

All the songs on the EP sound so different. “Bubble Bath” stands out, in particular, because of the sexy lyrics.

Some people are tweeting saying that “Bubble Bath” made them blush. I don’t know, but I don’t think of it as being sexy. I’m just thinking about being in a bubble bath. Every little element of the song makes me smile. That’s actually me yelling, “Hey,” in the background and even the little guitar tweaks and things. I was like, I don’t play guitar but I was just strumming to make that weird noise. When we were choosing songs for the EP, we thought, “Maybe this project doesn’t need this song.”

But it’s my personality piece. I think it shows my sense of humor. There are a lot of throwaway lyrics in that song and I love it for that reason. I think with a song like “Nobody’s Keeping Score,” there are some very timeless lyrics. Then with “Bubble Bath,” I was just having fun. We were just goofing around when we wrote it and I love that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I think if you really listen you can hear [Matias Mora’s] production skill. He went to school for music and it’s super technical.

You just mentioned “Nobody’s Keeping Score” and that’s my favorite song on the EP. Where did the idea come from?

I’m going to reveal more about that song. I’m planning on doing a little web series that will support the EP. In the series, I talk about that song. It’s really about going out in London with my friends. We were all drinking and just chilling and having a good time. At the time, there was a lot happening in the news about women’s issues. I sat at the table and was like, “You know what? You guys need to step up! You guys need to be activists,” and so on. I was just trying to get the table to care about was going on.

But maybe I was too aggressive in that moment. The next day, I just felt sad that I had lost control. I guess when you’re really passionate in front of people that don’t know you very well, it can feel embarrassing the next day. I don’t know, I was speaking my mind, but I regretted it for some reason. I felt maybe there was a more tactile way or maybe just a better way to explain the way that I felt instead of losing my temper at the table. Because I know everybody would have agreed with me if I could have just not sounded crazy. [Laughs].

So that’s what it’s about, just a general feeling of being embarrassed. But it also speaks to my belief about being alive in general. I don’t want to get too religious, but I believe in a forgiving higher power. I don’t believe there’s only one right way to live your life, and that’s how you get to heaven. I don’t believe that. That’s what “Nobody’s Keeping Score” says. Because there really is no one keeping score. Just say sorry if you need to say sorry and move on and learn from it.

Are you going to release another single or video from the EP?

Right now, I’m talking about doing a music video and the team is split between two songs. I think I’m just going to wait and see how people are reacting. You know, there are four new ones and I’ve never really been in a position where I’m releasing four new songs at the same time. It will be cool to see the natural gravitation of everyone and then from here we’ll be able to choose what the next best move is.

The EP has a slightly more alternative sound than songs like “Believer,” for example. Was that intentional?

I think that’s probably my way of trying to make up for the fact that I’m just not into anxiety pop. By giving the songs an alternative twist, I think it allows you to have balance. Also, the EP is a little alternative-leaning because I’m really loving the idea of having a live band and having those musicians shred on stage. It’s just so much better when you’re working like that instead of just having a DJ play your stuff. I definitely value the band experience.

I have to ask you about something you said in the press release. You described the EP as sounding more like a Parisian park than a Parisian burlesque club. Please explain!

Even with the cover art of the EP, it’s not overly stylized, there’s no theme. The theme is just me and there’s not a prop. I can imagine people wearing very dramatic makeup and really dramatic outfits in a Parisian burlesque club. Right now, I’m not saying I won’t change or there’s anything wrong with doing that, but for me personally I don’t want to dress myself up too much. I want the girl that’s posting a selfie on Instagram to be the same girl that’s putting the EP out. I don’t want her to look different. She’s definitely more suited to a Parisian park.

Is there an album in the works?

I haven’t been working on new music because I’ve been so busy doing promo, but I wrote a song a few months ago while the EP was being mastered. It’s a really special song to me. I don’t want to tell you what it’s about yet, but it’s definitely going to be released. I think every artist’s dream is to have a record, a real album. I think slow and steady wins the race. If I have to put out another EP to continue growing, I will. What difference does it make? It’s just a playlist online now.

How involved is Katy in music? Is she very hands on?

She’s definitely very involved, but sometimes I’ll go six months without sending her anything. Sometimes you need a little space and time to know that you have a body of work that makes sense to share. We have meetings and Katy comes and listens to all my songs. We talk about them, you know, piece by piece. Sometimes she’ll say I think the first verse could be better, but sometimes she doesn’t have any feedback. She’s a huge part of it. We’re like pop music sisters and she has always given the best advice.

What was New York Fashion Week like? The pictures you shared looked amazing.

I’m not sure that people really understand what it is. Really all it is… so designers have a show for their new line and they invite people to go. The shows can be like a half hour, not even. The models walk for two minutes. There’s just a bunch of press and you drink champagne and network a little bit, and then it’s on to the next. That’s basically what it is, except you have to look really, really cool. To make it a little more romantic-sounding, it is a celebration of fashion and freedom and the choices we get to make.

Congratulations on the EP. Thank you for your time.

Thank you!

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