RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW CHICAGO ARTIST CEYEO
Grab a brew and take a seat mate.
I’m having a Manhattan, does that count? Beer is good, no doubt, but I started drinking Manhattans a year or so ago and haven’t looked back.
Superb 🍸 What made you decide to become a soloist?
I think it’s a fantastic type of therapy. The things you can talk about in a song, I mean really get shit off your chest, that you could never do in regular conversation – you’d get locked up. And while I am not going to get too political, I do have some things to say, and songs are a perfect platform to do that.
Introduce us to you and your musical history?
Oh, it’s just me. I write the songs, write the lyrics and record most of the instruments. Since my music blends a lot of genres (rock, hip hop, R&B, pop) once a song is ready, depending on what type of song it is, I will do the vocals or I will send it over to someone who can. The closest thing I have to a bandmate right now is Max Honsinger who does the mix, master, and performs all of the guitars for me, because I suck at guitar and he’s freaking amazing. It’s funny because I’m in Chicago and he’s in London, but it works.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
Because of the way I blend styles, the “who do you sound like” question is very hard for me. For one, it really depends on the song you’re asking about. I have songs that could be best classified as hip hop, post punk, rock, R&B – so “who I sound like” is going to depend.
Early on I made a choice to follow the song wherever it takes me, regardless of genre. So I’ve got songs where I think I’m channeling The Pixies, I’ve got songs that remind me somewhat of MF Doom.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
No, no no, Not really a conspiracy theory person. I don’t have time for it and conspiracy theories all seem to be kinda hollywood-ish in that there is some evil genius puppet master or cabal that is in the shadows pulling the strings. I don’t think it really works that way. People aren’t nearly smart enough for one thing.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
Not really, the one difference for me over pandemic is I started walking my dog a lot more than usual – like 3 times a day. Which I think we both enjoyed. She’s getting older now so we do it a little less.
What useless party trick do you have?
I taught myself how to multiply large numbers quickly in my head. There’s a trick to it (google it) and it’s really easier to do than you’d think.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
In college, I played a gig in the middle of farmland in Indiana where the audience was about 60 kids aged 10 – 13. The kids didn’t know a single song we played but they seemed to love it and their spirit was infectious. At one point I heard a parent say to a kid “I can’t understand the words” and a kid replied back “well, that’s rock and roll!”
What was the worst experience on stage?
I’m not exactly your grizzled veteran when it comes to performing live. Like a lot of people, I get anxiety before a performance, which sucks but once you’re on stage and settled in I really start enjoying myself.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about?
I think people generally don’t generally think of songwriters as introverted and private but we are out there.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
I mean, do they even have ears? That is a really hard question. I guess I’d say that, at the end of the day, Ms. Extraterrestrial, I’m trying to do three things with my music: invoke emotion, promote conversation around causes such as social justice and LGBTQ+, and blend multiple musical genres into an entertaining mix.
What makes you stand out as a artist?
I hope the music comes across as creative and something different. Not just from blending the genres but I also try to make things interesting for the listener thru composition and instrumentation. For example, u can’t hide is a rock infused hip hop song in 3/4 time. And it uses Bassoons and Clarinets.
I also spend a lot of time trying to make lyrics that are meaningful and hopefully impactful in a positive way.
Right now, what’s pissing you off the most?
I mean, the list is pretty long but I always try to remember that things are not as dire as they sometimes appear. Here’s a few things on my mind right now.
The situation in the Ukraine pisses me off. On Broken and several other songs I work with Liliia Kysil from the Ukraine. I feel horrible for her and her entire country. It’s absolute madness.
I’m also very ready for all people to be able to express themselves as the gender or sexuality they identify with.
To put it mildly, the education system in the US is in need of repair. In the US, the quality of your primary education varies greatly based on your wealth. This is upside down. Education is a right and it is of vital importance that everyone is educated for society as a whole to prosper.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
I’ve got about 60 minutes of music recorded and ready to release, and I’m really looking forward to sharing them because many of them are high energy songs that will go over really well at a concert. But so far I’ve only got two songs released, so of those, I’d have to say Broken, since it has the high energy and push that you want for a concert and it’s one that I do the vocals on. If I could pick another artists song, I would pick “Not” by Big Thief because it’s such a cool song.
I hear you have a new single, what can you tell us about it?
The single is called Broken. In the lyrics, I think this line sums up the song nicely:
“in every journey passengers change and waves that carried now may crash”
The song is about relationships of all types (professional, personal, family, etc.). And how many relationships may starting off positive but can become a negative force over time. And when that happens, the best path on your journey may well be to move forward, respectfully, and remove the negative element in your life.
It’s part of an LP called Machine Learning that is coming out this summer. Since this is my first album, the plan is to release a few singles first to generate some buzz before the LP. So I’ll be releasing a song a month until August, when the album will fully be released.
Talk me through the thought process of the single?
In the title Machine Learning, the machines are humans and learning refers to the process of collective growth. The songs all deal with learning and growing in some way. It can be heavy at times, but the album is also hopeful, balanced, and has some really positive energy.
What was the recording process like?
I work primarily at home. The digital stuff is done using a Mac and Logic X and the analog recordings are made in a tiny booth I’ve made with a Rode NT1 microphone. So it’s a pretty simple setup.
The way it works is I’ll record the drums, synths, vocals and sax (for the couple songs that use sax) tracks at home in Chicago and then I start sending the music around the world for the parts that I can’t do myself. I’ll send to Liliia Kysil in the Ukraine for background vocals, to Max Honsinger in the UK for guitars, Maya Miko in London if I need a rapper, etc. So, basically, after I’ve done my thing, the song just kind of bounces around the world until it’s got everything it needs. That process has worked pretty well.
Of course a lot of this album was recorded during pandemic. I may go into the studio, at least a little, for the follow-up album. There are advantages to working from home but obviously face to face communication is much more expedient.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single?
Honestly, it’s probably social media. As a musician, it turns out, you can’t just sit around and write and record all day, though that would be lovely. You also have to learn the ins and outs of Tik-Tok, Insta, Twitter and end up spending more time than you ever expected on those platforms. Videos are more important than I thought they would be. YouTube is important.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
You can endlessly tinker with songs. That’s one trap that I’ve chosen not to fall into. If there is something about a song that bugs me each time I listen to it, then I will certainly go back and change it. I’ve already done that on several of the songs on this record so, at this point, I’m very happy with this record.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
For me, 2022 is a year of writing and recording. I want to quickly follow the first album with a second album so I’m working on those songs now. Promotion is also important, so I’m doing anything I can to get people to hear the songs. Once the second album is out, maybe the focus shifts to touring.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Yes, a ton. Listen to my album and you’ll learn very quickly that I have opinions. But, for now, I’d say simply to treat people nicely. Being kind doesn’t cost you a cent and you will feel better because of it.