Catching a vibe with CeeCee
Interview by Charles Odugbesan
So a guy walks into a bar. This isn’t the start of some joke. Actually I happen to be that guy, who just so happens to walk into a bar – The Lodge Tavern in Ealing, West London. It’s a Monday and the time is around 12:30… A little too early for alcohol. “Just a water for me please, no ice!” I look around for a minute before taking up a seat in the corner by the window. It’s pretty bleak outside. People look miserable, rain is constantly streaming down and the midday traffic is shuffling along. But inside it’s cool. It’s warm at least and there’s some music to enjoy whilst I wait; a little Arctic Monkeys, a little Amy, a little Gabrielle, the usual. It’s cozier than I thought it would be!
After a while click, click go some heels and in walks Caroline. We embrace and duly berate her cab driver’s serious lack of professionalism. Nothing says absolute shambles like driving to the wrong destination completely!
Now all I knew of Caroline was that she was a singer that goes by the name CeeCee and that back in January she performed at 14HQ’s second edition of Mic Check. I went and did some homework after that night. I looked her up and found a music video for one of her songs. The song was called Tripping. After listening to her perform it on the night I thought to myself why not do a 14HQ feature on her. She has a unique look and the song had a bit of an Amy Winehouse vibe to it… could be interesting! Fast forward a month and here we were. She goes over to the bar, gets herself some herbal tea, comes and sits back down.
I scrapped all the interview style questions I had written down and kept just two: “What is music to you?” and “Tell me about the new project.” Everything else was a completely free styled 3 hour conversation we had based around those two questions. In that time I gained a really significant insight into CeeCee – who she was, where she came from, what she represents and what makes her tick and why.
When I asked what exactly music was to her, her reply was simple. “Music is my therapy… I’ve been singing since I was 10 and I listen to all types of music: Reggae, R&B, Pop, Modern Jazz (which I did for about 2 years)… my sound is influenced by all of these genres.” The more I found out about her the more I realised that she had a real taste for not just music, but for many forms of artistry and expression. “I love dancing too. I did ballet for about 8 years so I just love performing. And I remember when I was little I would be dancing around the front room and singing too!” And of course where there is singing and dancing, there is always the triple threat of acting. “So I’ve been working on my music since I was 19, but at one point between then and now I took a little break. I got signed to a TV show but it never quite made it. It was for a pilot show called A.L.M.O.S.T.” Talk about irony! On top of all this CeeCee dabbles in poetry too! No doubt this proves a useful skill when it comes to her songwriting. 4 years ago she was an entrant in the UK songwriters’ competition held in Camden and out of 10,000 she was ranked in the top 20. It goes without saying then that North West London singer has real ability.
In fact no, not the ‘North West London singer’. I could see the enthusiasm she spoke with as she detailed these episodes of her creative past and it made me understand and appreciate her stating, “I don’t just like to think of myself as a singer/songwriter. I’d call myself an artist… If you’re gonna do things why not express them in the most beautiful way.” The subject of expression was a tidy little segway into discussing her appearance; her range of tattoos including her most recent work in progress are all deliberate and carry sentiment; be it of a particular idea/mantra that she lives by, a loved one, or a passion of hers. I noticed she came wrapped in a big fur jacket too. That prompted conversation about her love for clothes, fashion and her experience recently at London Fashion Week, as well as the admiration she had for designers and their craft. “LFW opened my eyes majorly. I take pride in all my savvy sales purchases and vintage finds. But now I will also dabble a little in designer brands despite the price… 90% of fashion shows are inspired by moods, themes, colours and materials. And yes the pieces are expensive but that’s because so much time and love and emotion has gone into it.” Similarities can be drawn with musicians and what they produce. So on that note, it was time to talk about CeeCee’s main form of artistry, music.
As aforementioned, Tripping was the first song from CeeCee that I had listened to. That song led me right to her first EP Trash and Glitter which was released in 2016, 3 years after she decided to seriously pursue a career in music. “I was 19 when I decided that I really wanted to sing. I remember my housemate (who had never heard me sing before) walked in on me singing and wanted to record me. So we did it, I sang a cover of Paloma Faith – New York, we put it on YouTube and my producer Rich T found that video at the time.” CeeCee spoke of the makeup of the Trash and Glitter EP being both a musical experiment and an emotional rollercoaster. She grew up in a diverse area in Neasden and was subject to a range of musical genres as she explained. The EP was also “heavily influenced by my first relationship and the break up.” ‘Rainy Days’ and ‘Tears Are My Best’ are two songs which really define whole tone of the EP. A roller coaster of emotions endured throughout a very specific time in CeeCee’s life.
If all goes to plan, by early June CeeCee is due to follow up Trash and Glitter with a brand new project. She chose to name the title of the new EP, Seraphina. The title acknowledges her Catholic background – at 14 she had her confirmation and was named after Saint Seraphina in the eyes of the church. For those that do not know, Seraphina is the patron saint of the poor and physically challenged. This album title was not only a nod to her religious beliefs but to her mother as well; CeeCee opened up to me about her mother’s disability and the experiences she had dealing with this growing up. In hindsight, it was no surprise then that interests in her younger days might not have steered her into the musical path that she is currently on. “I actually studied public services at college and by 18 I wanted to join the Royal army as a medic. But then I got into my first relationship and that plan didn’t really work out!” She really could have been her own version of Saint Seraphina!
Through testing relationships, different locations, years in foster care, a heap of career and soul searches and (through the last 4 years) the challenge of motherhood, the woman sat opposite me seemed more emotionally and creatively assured than ever. And she is ready to use her music to highlight this. “All of my experiences have shaped who I am today and the EP Seraphina details the journey that I have been on in the last few years. There are many different sides to me that I have to explain through my music.” And that was it. Time had just flown by today and I thanked Caroline for her time and honesty. But before we parted ways there was one more thing she had said that resonated with me. Her personal experiences in years gone by have taught her the necessary lessons she needed to grow and mature with. And that growth and positivity is what will be reflected in her new project. “I just want those who come from similar backgrounds and experiences to know anything is possible! Never settle for what society says you should be. God’s purpose for me is to use my talent, my experiences and my lessons as material in the music I share.”
So guys and girls, go ahead and keep an eye out for CeeCee. New music and a brand new EP is on the horizon that I’m sure will not disappoint! And when it does arrive, here’s to a 2018 full of life!!