If the very notion of growing up and becoming was a massive dark hole, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Sarah Cicero would find a way to see out of it. Whether a bleak perspective or a cynical way of thinking, there would still be a tinge of hope that underlies all of it, just as it does in Cicero’s music. All this is evident on her brand new debut EP, Cold Immaculate Opposite.
A songwriter originally from Los Angeles, Cicero taps into life’s desolate moments, love’s precious escapes, and what it means to embrace it all in the face of solitude, aloneness, and acceptance on her latest release. Described as “an exercise in both personal healing and community building in action,” Cold Immaculate Opposite proves Cicero’s lyrical genius – thoughts pulled from a young girl’s diary mixed with the sonic confusion of a young woman growing up. I don’t know of any female twenty-somethings who wouldn’t be able to relate.
From quietness and reverb to indie-pop sounds, Cicero’s EP showcases a special kind of reflection. Her single, “Letter to the Editor” catches men who make those around them feel small in their guilt through pop-driven melodies and captivating guitar. In contrast, her latest single, “At Arm’s Length” takes a delicate step back to look at experiencing moments of love when young versus what they feel like when you’re older.
The talented singer-songwriter, on the day of her EP’s release, opened up to The See Through to discuss her songwriting process and how her artistry has shaped her. As for the stories behind the songs, you’re going to have to listen to Cold Immaculate Opposite and draw conclusions for yourself. Just as Cicero says in her hinting, abstract, artistic allure that eloquently matches her EP’s sound, “What does it mean to you?”
How does it feel, after songwriting for so many years, to finally have released your debut EP?
So cathartic. It’s a relief, to be honest. I spent so much time working on it and thinking about it and wondering how it might be received that it started to feel pretty loaded. Now knowing that it’s out there and out of my hands has freed up a lot of mental space to focus on the future.
What does the title, “Cold Immaculate Opposite,” mean to you?
I get asked this a lot and I feel bad to not have a satisfying response but it’s a riddle! So maybe the question should be what does it mean to you?
Why was it important for you to capture “feeling young and feeling lonely,” on your EP?
Because I was feeling young and feeling lonely. And, at the time, this feeling of isolation and being out of my depth was so predominant in my life. I can only write what feels true to me, and when I wrote these songs those were the truest emotions I had.
In the EP’s opening song, “Atticus,” you sing “Did I scare you off with my morbid talk?” Was this line in reference to yourself and the way that most of your songs reflect a darkness in the world? Fascinatingly, I find that your listeners or any fan of your music wouldn’t be scared of you singing about morbid things but would rather find comfort in your showcasing of letting listeners know they’re not alone, no matter the problem. Am I reading too much into this lyric or could you draw a connection between this line and the topic of your songs?
This is such a thoughtful question. You are absolutely not reading too much into this lyric, it’s all very intentional, and yes! It is a reference to myself. It wasn’t necessarily a reference to my music, but if my music is an extension of the way I’m conducting myself in the world, then you can get a picture of what was on my mind when I wrote this EP. Specifically, to overshare, I was coming out of a really intense period and didn’t know how to process everything that had happened, and so I would try to go to a party and have fun and instead end up in the corner talking to some random person about my feelings. It was not a good look. Atticus would probably answer my question with a resounding yes. A few years later, I’m hoping listeners can find some solace in my music, but if you were at one of those parties, maybe not.
The EP is mellow but very raw and acoustic. Who are some artists that have influenced this record’s sound?
I have such a hard time answering this question because it really feels like a question for my producer, Sahil Ansari, who is much more adept at weaving musical influences into arrangements, I mostly sit and plunk out chords and sing. I will say that I listen to a lot of Sharon van Etten and Fiona Apple and Perfume Genius. Even more so while we were making this EP.
What do you think is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an artist so far?
Take myself less seriously!!! The amount of “what if’s” I churned out during the writing, recording, and release process of Cold Immaculate Opposite was such a waste of time and energy. It goes how it goes. The only thing I can control is whether or not I’ve made something I’m proud of.
What’s the story behind “Indifferent?”
My story is not the story because I’ve had people tell me that they thought of exes while listening to it or their parents or anyone who’s dismissed them. I’m going to do the same frustrating thing I did with the question about the title and ask you for your answer! What’s the story?
I read that “At Arm’s Length” was written about your first time experiencing “grown-up love.” Why did you feel the need to capture those feelings and how did you distinguish them from, perhaps, “young love” or a relationship when you were younger? Are they two different things to you?
I’m cautious to give a blanket differentiation between “young love” and “grown-up love” because it’s so different for every individual and I actually don’t believe that one is inherently more anything than the other. What I meant when I said it was my first time experiencing “grown-up love” had nothing to do with my age, and everything to do with the fact that when I fell in love with this person it made me realize that, for me, this was a new feeling. Because I’d experienced love before, but the way I was experiencing love when I wrote “At Arm’s Length” was at an intensity that I had previously genuinely believed everyone was exaggerating about. It was just different. So it’s not that I grew up, it’s that my capacity to give and experience love grew up.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give aspiring songwriters?
Let go of this idea that every song you write has to be better than the one before it, or that it has to be a hit, or that it has to be even releasable. Whatever your goals are, don’t let them corrupt the joy of creating for the sake of creation. Or whatever it is about music that brings you joy — let that be the driving factor. Trust that people will want to hear what you have to say.
What do you hope audiences take away from Cold Immaculate Opposite?
I hope it makes them feel something. I hope it makes you feel something! I hope that if anyone is feeling any of the ways I describe in this record, they know I was once crying over a piano, feeling that way too.
Cold Immaculate Opposite is available for streaming TODAY on all music platforms. Keep up Sarah Cicero on her Instagram for upcoming music news and more of her latest releases!
Photography by Sara Laufer