Rahman was kind enough to have me as a guest on the inaugural episode of his new podcast 8th and B Side.
We discussed my hometown’s music scene, my journey from classical singing to R&B, and my current album Songs of Love and Freedom. Listen below!
Last Monday night, I had the pleasure of performing at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club for the first time. I can honestly say I’ve never had that much fun on stage! And all the thanks is due to my incredible brother-in-song Kenny Wesley, the band (Dante Pope, Zachary Cutler, Eliot Seppa, and Colin Chambers), and of course the audience, who really showed out for a cold Monday night! Also, I have to thank all the staff at BB&J for having me and being so helpful and professional!
It was such a fun evening. I’m also thankful to my favorite blog Soulbounce, which wrote a review of show and has lots of fabulous photos on their website! Check it out: http://www.soulbounce.com/2018/02/soulbounce-live-cecily-kenny-wesley-bethesda-blues-jazz-supper-club-2-5-18/
Photo by Keith Estep
This time last year I had just returned from spending two weeks in London. It was the first and only time I have ever traveled by myself. London was a city I had always wanted to get to know, so when I saw a really cheap flight (shoutout to The Flight Deal!), I just bought the ticket. I got on that plane without the intention of meeting anyone in particular. I had no friends in London, just a few folks who were friends of friends. The prospect of traveling solo seemed freeing and centering, but after a week I found myself feeling just horribly lonely. I felt disappointed by this onset of loneliness. I wanted to be ok by myself and feel content with my own company, but I was simply longing for someone to talk to and laugh with.
On the the 10th day of my trip I was at a real low point. After going to the Victoria & Albert Museum, I was wandering around the neighborhood and entered a bookshop. I knew part of my loneliness was due to the lack of a good book, a necessary traveling companion. I picked up 3 books that day, one of which was “Letters to A Young Poet” by Ranier Maria Rilke. I sat in a coffee shop and began to read.
The next day, as I read more & more, I realized that on the day I felt most alone, the universe had led me to a piece of literature all about the importance of solitude. How it brings one closer to oneself. How love is impossible without knowledge of self, which can only come through solitude. How critical solitude is to an artist and her art.
The last 2 days of my trip, I began to savor my solitude, truly cherishing it as I knew it would soon be coming to an end. I felt blessed to get such a crucial insight and reminder as to how I can view my life and understand it, and how I can direct my energy and emotions. My last day in London I sat in Hyde Park in the sun, watching the swans float by and the people walking and interacting, and I felt the beauty of that moment and the power of my own spirit. I sat there, in solitude, and wrote a song that will be on my new album.
Here are some of the quotes that have truly stuck with me:
“The necessary thing is after all but this; solitude, great inner solitude. Going into oneself for hours meeting no one – this one must be able to attain.”
“But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”
“Keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.”
“Progress must come from deep within and cannot be forced or accelerated. Everything must be carried to term before it is born. To let every impression and the germ of every feeling come to completion inside, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, in what is unattainable to one’s own intellect, and to wait with deep humility and patience for the hour when a new clarity is delivered: that alone is to live as an artist, in the understanding and in one’s creative work.”
“And your doubts can become a good quality if you school them. They must grow to be knowledgeable, they must learn to be critical. As soon as they begin to spoil something for you ask them why a thing is ugly, demand hard evidence, test them, and you will perhaps find them at a loss and short of answer, or perhaps mutinous. But do not give in, request arguments, and act with this kind of attentiveness and consistency every single time, and the day will come when instead of being demolishers they will be among your best workers – perhaps the canniest of all those at work on the building of your life.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, “
I journal pretty much everyday. Somedays, without thinking, I start writing to myself as if I am someone else. My subconscious knows when I need that space, to get outside of my head and see myself for who I truly am and nurture myself the way I would a loved one. I wrote this in my journal a few days ago, and thought I would share…
Your happiness is your own Cecily. Your peace is your own Cecily. Look at how much you have grown! Finding happiness in little things has always been one of your magically innate skills – one no one could make you unlearn. And that’s why I believe in you so fiercely, so lovingly, because you have been yourself your whole life. It’s like your Godmother said, “Only the loving find Love, and they never have to search for it.” You’ve always been loving, never had to search for it. But now you have clearer eyes to see and appreciate the blessing that is you. You have a clearer mind and can recognize and distinguish between a controlling action disguised as Love, or a fearful action disguised as Love, from a freeing, truly loving action. You can see it in everyone and have empathy, but most importantly, you can see it in yourself. You can see yourself without pretense more often now and that is a blessing. You recognize the masks you wear for what they are and can shed them more often. Thank God for that! Thank God for the Universe, and your ancestors, and all the signs and omens. Thank God for this moment. Everything becomes reconciled as you step towards yourself unafraid. Thank God for that!
Every musician uses musical references to guide certain aspects of their creative process. While I am in the midst of conceptualizing, writing, producing, and recording my album, I’ve been listening to many of my favorite artists for inspiration, specifically soul music from the mid to late 1970’s. I want to share some of these songs with you, so you can reside in this soundscape with me. I titled this post Auditory Album Inspirations, because so many other things outside of music influence my work, particularly nature, certain colors, and visual art. I’ll share more in the coming weeks. For now, here’s some of what is currently curating my thought patterns.
“Almost Lost Detroit” – Gil Scott-Heron
“Voyage To Atlantis” – The Isley Brothers
“You Are My Starship” – Norman Connors feat. Michael Henderson
“Every Time He Comes Around” – Minnie Riperton
“Sign of the Judgement” – MacIntosh County Shouters
I was truly honored to be invited by the US Embassy in Colombia to perform at the VI Mompox Jazz Festival. I’d never been to South America before, so I was truly excited, however, it was such a new experience that I was a little nervous. I do not speak any Spanish and my music is not Latin influenced, so I was not sure how the crowd would receive my band and I. All my hang-ups turned out to completely unfounded. Performing at the Mompox Jazz Festival was one of the most amazing times I’ve ever experienced on a stage.
All the festival staff were warm people and great professionals. Despite it being a rainy evening, the audience was in the thousands and all obviously enjoying themselves. After hours in planes, taxis, and buses traveling, laughing, and sharing stories with each other, the band and I were in sync and vibing. When this perfect combination of feeling supported professionally and spiritually occurs, it is freeing.
That freedom is what every musician is seeking in a live performance. I tried things vocally I would usually be scared to attempt without rehearsing them. I didn’t worry about remembering lyrics, because I knew they would come. I followed wherever the energy was taking me.
The main stage was situated in a square in front of a large church of Spanish architecture, overlooking the river Magdelena. As I walked up on stage it was raining, a consistent drizzle, but I was later told that as soon as we started playing the rain stopped. For our last song, we decided to give them a little bit of DC. We started with Duke Ellington’s classic “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” opening with a drum solo by Tyler Leak. We played through the form a couple of times, swinging, with trumpet solos and scatting; then we broke it down into Chuck Brown’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing.” The Colombian audience was feeling the GoGo, and so was I. I started dancing and got the audience to sing along, “Do wah do wah do wah do wah do wah.” Joe and I traded solos. He was blazing. I was hitting some Ella-esque sounds and lines. After we left the stage we went down into the audience, took Tequila shots, and danced Merengue in the rain while Dominican artist Sergio Vargas performed. Magic.
I’m so thankful to have had this experience. Special thank you to Leyla Moreno and Pedro Moreno, Sergio Andres, and Maria LaTorre for treating us so kindly and being amazing traveling companions. Thank you to the rest of the band for being incredible people & musicians, Zachary Cutler, Eliot Seppa, Joe Herrera, and Tyler Leak!
Performing at the Mompox Jazz Festival
Doing a Jazz History workshop for students at UniColombo
Leading a Vocal Masterclass for the Mompox Chorus
I wholeheartedly believe in the power of affirmations and positive speech. Showing ourselves kindness, patience, and compassion is the foundation of all else we are able to do.
The following phrases have changed my whole state of being:
All will be well
I am more than enough
I radiate love
I love myself
I believe in myself
I am supported
I am loved
I have all the time I need
Feel free to add to my list with the words or phrases that center & uplift your spirit.
I’ve realized this year, I do not need a reason to be happy.
Any little thing is enough. Any big thing is enough. The sun. A nice cleansing breath. A good nap. My loved ones. The color of my nails. Someone else’s laugh. I don’t have to feel how I’m expected to feel.
I don’t have to feel how I usually feel or how I used to feel. Happiness doesn’t have to be a smile, although it often is. It can be a quiet, knowing peace with what is right now.
We must follow our intuition. We saw our paths before we were even born & know it better than any other person. But we must be cautious of our fears and our ego, they are not intuition. Intuition is the voice that existed before we existed, the voice of ancestors and angels, the voice of God.
You have convinced yourself that your journey is too trivial for destiny. But you cannot deny the electricity that runs down your spine when you take one half step towards what feels like Purpose. That is the only proof you need. The alignment of your intention and your purpose is destiny at work. Go for it!