Since I’ve known of her, cehryl has dropped scattered singles on her SoundCloud, as well as collaborated with producers that challenge her boundaries. But this isn’t what the Boston artist is best at. She’s an adept producer of whole-bodied projects and she released her latest on Friday called Delusions.
Her talents are best showcased in “bursts,” as she says, as opposed to dropping singles sporadically on SoundCloud. I spoke to her last week on the phone about her project and artistic process and she told me, “I’m a very obsessive and impatient person, so when I was actually writing the EP, I was super excited. And now it’s been like a month and I’m just going to get it out there.” She’s already working on another project with fellow Boston natives BLANDA and Kwame, as well as collaborations with artists she has met on SoundCloud. It only took her a month and a half to create Delusions and that can be attributed to her arsenal of musical talents: guitar, piano, singing and drum production on Logic.
She lived in Hong Kong a majority of her life, only just moving to Boston two years ago to attend Berklee College of Music. She picked up the piano at the age of 8 or 9, but she played classical music and hated it. Her true connection with music didn’t begin until she learned to play guitar (which she credits her itch to learn to Avril Lavigne because she wanted to be a “fucking rockstar). “The moment that I picked up guitar, was the moment I started realizing it was really easy to write songs.”
cehryl does not want to be boxed as a singer-songwriter on Delusions. She wanted to veer away from negative stereotypes and expectations. The song structures and the overall flow on the EP are unique and unpredictable. She knows when to leave space and allow the listener to enjoy the atmospheric reverb of her guitar or when her lyrics and message are strongest and repetition hits the hardest.
“For singer-songwriters, you always expect an intro, verse, maybe a pre-chorus, a chorus, a verse. I intentionally wanted to create more beat-oriented music or like even just no chorus. Just straight up verses like on “Don’t Wake Me.”
Her writing is the most refined of her crafts. cehryl paints vivid pictures of personal experiences with her music and this connection led her to become a vocalist and portray her message with her own voice. “I didn’t see myself as a vocalist until I realized I didn’t feel right to write really personal songs and have someone else sing them. I think of myself as a writer. Everything else I do supports that responsibility.” Her lyrics are poetic and the story she tells happens in between the lines. She carefully molds her songs line-by-line and is often kind enough to give us the lyrics lined out to encourage dissection.
“I want people to dissect my lyrics. I think it’d be a waste if all the lyric geeks didn’t dig through my lyrics.”
The lyrics throughout Delusions are cinematic. Take “Sway” as an example where the lyrics read off like a romance poem.
“I wanted to narrate it from the female character if it were a movie. I’m imagining like you’re dancing with someone. When you’re dancing with someone, it’s kind of euphoric and you don’t really think about anything. You don’t think about the situation. “Sway” is about being deluded — like my EP title — like everything is fine. It’s about getting intoxicated on the delusion that everything is fine. It’s kind of negative, but has this dreamy quality to it.”
She strives to make music original and true to herself and has successfully showcased that with Delusions. She says no artist directly influenced her EP, but she cites a few that molded her as an artist over the years. D’Angelo and Tom Misch helped her grow as an instrumentalist and producer, while Frank Ocean and Bon Iver influenced her songwriting, which is visual and atmospheric.