Musician and D.C. native Cecily has been hard at work during lockdown, in both a personal and professional sense. She released a vinyl version of her most recent album, had a music video premiere on BET.com, and is slated to return to Strathmore, where she was once an Artist in Residence (AIR), as part of their Live from the Mansion series this Wednesday. On Instagram, Cecily frequently posts guided meditations, something she’s been exploring within her work since her AIR days that’s tightly woven into the fabric of her music. Before returning to Strathmore, we spoke with Cecily about her time there, her mindfulness and meditation work and more.
District Fray: Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself and your music?
Cecily: I’m from D.C. and still based in the D.C. area, and I’m a soul music artist. My music is really influenced by 70s soul, 90s R&B, and also jazz and music as well. It’s kind of a blend of all those things. I’ve released three albums, the most recent of which is called “Awakening Pt. 1” which came out last July. It explores the themes of unconditional love, both of self and also of loved ones.
You recently released “Awakening Pt. 1” on pink vinyl and had a virtual release party for it. What was that experience like?
It was interesting. I knew I wanted to release the vinyl. I had been saving to get it manufactured and had been thinking about doing a virtual concert to celebrate. And I thought about not doing it for a little while because I just felt like, there’s so many virtual concerts and make people might be tired of them. But a friend of mine encouraged me. She said, “No, no, you should do it, you should do it.” So I announced it the day before, and I just let people know to come hang with me live in my living room, I want to sing some songs, we’re gonna talk, it’s gonna be great. And it was actually a lot of fun.
Have you found yourself to be more or less creative in this quarantine time?
I’ve actually been a little less creative, at least musically. Simply because my musical juices kind of flow more in collaboration with other people. So that’s really difficult to facilitate virtually. The lockdown period has been actually very peaceful. It’s been a great time to try new things and start growing in different ways that I wasn’t making the time to try beforehand, because I was just busy running around and going to the next show and doing the next thing.
When you have so much uncertainty about the future, it kind of forces you to just focus on the now. And also just trying to do new things, like I’ve been doing with these guided meditations on Instagram. I started that back in May. And interestingly enough, when I lead meditations I am trying to create meditative and healing spaces for people, which I also do through my music. But the first time I did that outside of simply performing was really during my Strathmore residency workshop, which was called singing for healing. Singing for me is very healing, just because you’re focusing on breath and sound vibration. Letting letting those sound vibrations move through your body is very healing. And so I wanted to kind of facilitate a workshop where I could help other people explore that in their own bodies in a safe place.
I’ve been able to offer that workshop a few other times since then both in person and actually I’ve done it once, virtually, in the last few months as well. I thought it was a really good time to start doing those guided meditations. And so that’s been a really beautiful process. It’s been really nice for me to try something new, that’s an opportunity for growth as well.
Do you find your fans are connecting with you in this meditation space too? What do these virtual connections you’ve been making look like?
Yes. It’s been really interesting because a lot of my music deals with themes of self love in particular, and also growth and acceptance, self understanding and love. And most of my meditations also revolve around the same themes. So I have noticed that people who were already fans of my music, who found my meditations have really enjoyed them and found them very nourishing. And I’ve also found that people who recently got to know me through the meditations, when they go listen to my music, they find the music very affirming and nourishing as well. So it’s been a it’s good to know that what I’m doing that my intentions of everything I’m doing are obvious to people.
You mentioned your workshop facilitated when you were an artist in residence at Strathmore. Can you tell me more about that experience?
I was an artist in residence class of 2018. I really enjoyed my fellow artists in residence, or as we called them, AIRs. It was really cool to be able to connect, and [Strathmore] fosters this atmosphere of collaboration. Each person has a month where they do three shows and a workshop and you have to incorporate someone else from your class in your performance as well. So it led to a lot of great collaborations that I’ve maintained, even now, a few years later.
I think that’s my biggest takeaway. That it’s really great to work with people who have lots of different influences and different genres and who are coming from different places. And I also really love that the workshops that you do. The professional workshops are really focused on things that you would not learn in a music school – like the business oriented things and the practical things – that you don’t learn when you’re just studying like composition or whatever it is. I really enjoyed that I just got to sit down in a small group conversation with each of these people that they bring in to kind of teach you about different topics. You really get to have like more in depth conversations and really ask those specific questions or the harder questions that you can’t just get from reading a book or looking it up online.
Are you looking forward to returning to Strathmore to perform later this week?
Yes. It’s a really beautiful venue. We’re actually doing ours outside in the backyard area, which is nice. And I know that Strathmore brought on a really great camera team as well who I have actually worked with on some different things in the past. So I’m looking forward to just seeing it all come together.
Cecily performs as part of Strathmore’s Live at the Mansion series on Wednesday, August 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tune into Strathmore’s Facebook page to catch the performance, hosted by Christylez Bacon. Follow Cecily for music and guided meditations on Instagram @cecilyalexa, and visit her website www.cecilymusic.com for even more. Watch the premiere of her music video for the single “Clumsy” here.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content and to get a monthly print edition delivered to your door. Support local journalism and start your membership today.Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content and to get a monthly print edition delivered to your door. Support local journalism and start your membership today.