Cyndi Washburn – Artist Interview
Written by Matt Zin on September 13, 2020
BTD Radio would like to welcome award-winning, folk singer/songwriter Cyndi Washburn from New York. There is so much that I would like to talk about, so I am going to just dive right in and get started.
I have to say, it’s been such an honor to have aired your music on our station, I love your style. I enjoy reading all about the artists I interview. In your bio it states “Her music is honest and beautiful, peppered with heartbreak and even a little humor.” I know artists tend to write with their heart on their sleeve, do you feel that is you? Which song of yours do you really feel you bare your heart and soul? If a listener was looking for an uplifting, humorous song of yours which would you recommend?
First of all, thank you for airing my music on your station and for the kind words. I am definitely an artist who wears her heart on her sleeve! No matter what I am going through, good or bad, you are going to hear about it in my music. One song that really is an example of a song that bares my heart and soul is “Don’t.” It is a song about being in love with someone who really has the opportunity to hurt you, that you are virtually powerless to them and you are in the ultimate vulnerable position, so you are basically begging them to stay away for fear of being hurt. If you want to hear a humorous song, I have a song called, “Zima!” which was inspired when I was living in Nashville and nearly every song I heard by other performers referenced whiskey at some point. I don’t like whiskey, so as a playful jab at that, I wrote “Zima.”
I think there’s a lot of people that can relate to your song, “L.O.S.T.” Can you dig deeper into this song and tell our listeners what this song is all about? I would also be interested to know why you spelled lost with periods in between.
Thank you for noticing about the periods! Each line of the chorus section begins with a letter that spells out the word “Lost.” That is the reason for the periods. When I wrote “L.O.S.T.”, I had just been laid off from work, was homesick for the Northeast (I was living in Nashville at the time), and was just really feeling at odds with my life in all aspects. Writing and singing that song really helped me get through that time. Tori Amos once referred to one of her songs as one of her best friends of all the songs. I feel that way about “L.O.S.T.”
I love all your songs but “Living Forward” I would have to say is my most favorite of your songs. I think we played the heck out of that song as well. Which song is the most favorite of yours and why?
Thank for your the kind words about “Living Forward!” That is one I always enjoy playing especially. I don’t think I can pick ONE favorite; they are like your children! But seriously, I love “L.O.S.T.” mostly because it got me through such a difficult time in my life and hopefully it can do the same for others when they hear it. I also have a dance remix of “L.O.S.T” out there that was produced by OkGo’s Dan Konopka which is really fun, in case you need to dance it out!
How long have you been writing music? How long have you been playing the guitar? Do you play other instruments as well?
I have been writing music for more than 20 years and probably playing guitar for nearly that long. I actually went to college for music so I have a history of playing many different instruments including saxophone, piano, and of course, guitar.
Who are your influences that are music-related and non-music related?
I am most inspired by female singer songwriters. Jewel is probably greatest singer songwriting hero. I love her writing style, her voice, and her approach to life, She is a constant inspiration. I also really love Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, and the Indigo Girls. I also love Shania Twain and Taylor Swift. I am a full fledged Swifty!
What’s a typical day like in the studio when you are laying out a song?
Well, it depends on the situation. If I am recording with a full band then the day is more about getting the band familiar with the song and then cutting the instrumental before laying down vocals. If it is a more acoustic session, then the process is a bit more low key. But I love recording and all aspects of the process.
You have numerous awards and nominations which is incredibly amazing! What was it like the first time you found out you were nominated for an award?
Thank you! It is sort of a surreal honor. Basically I just do my music by writing songs that help me deal with something in my life and sing it to the best of my ability. For that to be recognized by people I don’t even know, is amazing.
I know you compose folk music but is that also the type of music you listen to in your home or car? Do you listen to your own music in the car or at home?
I listen to all types of music. On my iPod, you could hear anything from country to classical to hip hop to pop to Broadway showtimes. It’s all there! I never listen to my own music; too much great music out there to just listen to what lives in my head, right?
I have a scenario for you, how would you handle this? So let’s say you are at a park, a family is having a picnic. You hear your music being played on their PA system. Do you get all giggly and keep it to yourself? Do you get all giggly and go over to meet the family and offer more of your music? Or do you do something else?
That would be amazing! I would probably go over, introduce myself, and thank them for listening. I would certainly offer more of my music or even to play for them on the spot if they wanted. They are the fans, so whatever they want!
When playing out, how long are your typical sets? Are the sets all your music? Which songs do you find that your audience responds to the most?
A typical set is probably about an hour and I almost never do covers. If I am doing a three hour show, I might do two covers, max. As for one that the audience responds the most to is probably called “All About You” which is about a boss I had when I was diagnosed with cancer who basically bullied and then fired me after I was diagnosed. It was a crazy experience and people are always receptive to the story surrounding that song.
A lot of folk artists like to talk through their sets, tell stories, is that you? Do you have a story about one of your gig events that you can share with us?
I am a constant storyteller! A few years ago, I was performing at the WomeninCharg3 Awards in Atlanta, GA. And honestly, I was feeling insecure and out of place as I stood up there singing my songs. And I was thinking that everyone was wondering what I was doing there. And then later in the evening, I WON the award for Best Folk Artist. I realized that my insecurities were all in my head. Aren’t they always?
I see you are compared to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. Which is awesome but what set’s you apart from them?
I think I offer a more modern twist on that style. I also have some crossover characteristics with country and pop music that is evident in a lot of my music. So while I consider myself a folk singer, I definitely have elements of country and even pop in my music which sets me apart, I think.
Do you have any new music, shows, or projects coming up that you can tell our listeners about?
I always have new music coming up so watch for that. I am increasing my presence on Spotify and Pandora with new playlists, so check that out! I have many shows coming up, so just check my website for details. I mostly play in New York, but do have shows in other areas, and have played all over the country. Next month, I am doing a festival in Pennsylvania.
It’s been a pleasure interviewing you but we are coming to a close, is there anything we left out that you would like to discuss? Any shout-outs?
This has been a great experience and I am so grateful, thank you! I would just shout-out to my husband, Dave. He is so supportive of me pursuing my music and I am sure it can’t always be easy for him.
One last thing, where can our listeners buy your music?
Listeners can buy my music on iTunes or Amazon, or they can go to my website to order a hard-copy of my latest EP. Or come to a show! I always have CDs available. Thank you!!