cimone on Sufi Music, Dallas, and “Pink Clouding” – Interview

Pop/R&B artist cimone traverses the past to unearth her musical inspiration and reveals the caveats of her glittery world.

Amanda Maceda, station manager at RadioUTD, had the chance to sit down with cimone, who spent the last year working alongside UTD students at a studio internship in Dallas. They discuss what led cimone to pursue music as a passion, her experience with the DFW music scene, the creation of her newest single “pink clouding,” and what we should expect from her upcoming EP after the rain.

(Interview has been edited for clarity)

Amanda Maceda (she/her): We have been lucky enough to have gotten in communication and have been able to interview cimone today. Very very new to the station, we haven’t done a Pseudo Stereo with her in the past, but she’s producing some really cool stuff right now and we wanna be able to talk about some of her latest releases and such. Could you give us some background on what started you on this trajectory of becoming a musician? Like was it a very strong part of your childhood growing up or did it become a later-in-life interest?

cimone (she/her): Definitely something I grew up around. My dad was a Pakistani and a Sufi artist (Sufi music is Islamic devotional music), so I grew up watching him perform, and he used to have all these concerts when I was a kid. And it really…like music was the first thing I heard when I was…when I came out the womb, I guess. And I was so just fascinated by my dad and he would like every night practice upstairs. He was a musician and an engineer, so after work…like especially on weekends, he would just go to a music room and practice. And I would always come and interrupt and try to sing with him. And when we’d come back from his concerts, I would…we have this staircase where you go up and then there’s a platform and you turn and you go all the way up. That platform was my stage, and I’d make everyone watch me perform. So my dad saw that passion in me and the same passion that he had, so he would bring me up on stage with him and I’d get to perform with him and [he] put me in music classes and piano classes and all these art classes and would scout for performances for me to participate in and just opportunities to really nurture this passion. So I grew up doing a lot of talent shows and community performances. So it…it was…music was always there. On top of that, my parents were just huge lovers of music, so it wasn’t just one type of music playing in my house. My dad loved Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Carpenters and [The] Jackson Five. My mom loved Whitney Houston and Abba…so we had a very diverse selection of music playing in our house. On top of, you know, semi-classical Indian music and Pakistani music music and Sufi music. It was a huge part of my childhood and young adulthood. So I always knew that I wanted to become an artist.

AM: Currently, you’re based in Canada, but when we first started communicating online, you mentioned spending the last year working alongside UTD students at a studio internship in Dallas. Can you tell us about that?

c: Yeah, it was a…I got to meet some really cool people. I just interned there

for a couple of months and then I started writing songs with my friend, Paniz, at the studio Drive35 Studios. That’s where we would just do a bunch of songwriting sessions and co-write sessions and pitch songs to other artists. So that’s where I started sort of…started playing around with other artists in Dallas. So my plan wasn’t actually to move to Dallas until I was close to graduating from Berklee [College of Music in Boston]. And I have family there, so I decided to move back there to spend time recording my EP to save some money and then move to LA, so yeah, I was interning and I…at the same time was recording pink clouding and all these other songs for my EP.

AM: I just love, love the imagery. How did you come up with the term “pink clouding?”

c: I actually found the term on Urban Dictionary. I was in an office hour with my songwriting teacher, and we were just looking for some song seeds, and she suggested that I check Urban Dictionary and that was the first term that I saw. And it was so…it was something that I never heard of, so I checked it out. It was defined as “pretending everything is okay to everyone when it really isn’t.” And that’s something that spoke to me so deeply, especially at that time. It’s something that I won’t claim…you know…is mine. I think that that’s a trend that literally the whole world and especially our generation follows…or I think that it’s something I just followed generation by generation: people just…aren’t honest with what they’re feelings, and I think that’s a direct reflection of the social-media era that we live in. It’s so taboo to be a mess. You need to have everything put together all the time and if you’re struggling, you’re labeled “a mess.” I think that it’s unfair because we as humans are meant to have these really messy emotions. We’re meant to feel those; that’s what makes us human, and I think that’s something that’s so something so beautiful. Yeah, it’s just at the time, I related to it so much. The term “pink clouding” is driven from…it originally was a term that’s related to addiction, so it’s the…“pink clouding” is the euphoric phase that addicts experience once…or those weaning off an addiction, they experience this euphoric phase before the withdrawal effects kick in. So I tried to play on that a little bit with almost being addicted to pretending and knowing that you’re about to slip but you choose to relish in that euphoria as long as you can because it’s scary having to face those emotions. “Fake it til you make it” is literally the motto of our societies–

AM: of industries

c: and industries, yeah. It’s so just unhealthy.

AM: like a constant state of fear in the back of your head that at any point, something can go wrong and you can lose everything.

c: Right. And also at the same time, you know it’s also just you these emotions are scary. They are scary, but it’s so much better when you allow yourself to feel them.

AM: Yeah, for sure. And there’s a comment on the YouTube video for the audio for “pink clouding.” They mentioned–they said it “deserves to be an animatic.” If the song was ever in like an animatic, what show maybe would you want to connect it to?

c: Hmm…whew. I’m not sure which show…Oh man, that’s a lot of pressure. Ooh, can I come back to that?

AM: You can come back to that for sure.

c: Good.

AM: It’s [a] very very personal, creative question.

c: Yeah, I’m gonna come back to that question.

AM: Okay. Yeah, we can let that ruminate. And then there’s an addition to that question saying like “if ‘pink clouding’ was like an animated music video, what would you envision as the narrative or the imagery for that?

c: So, I’m actually…I am actually working on a music video for that. It’s not animated, but it’s definitely…I describe it as this sort of euphoric dystopia where everything is so glitter and glamour but so much of it that it looks like it’s chaotic. It definitely, I think, if it’s animated, a bunch of pink clouds. There was also a lot of inspiration taken from…Euphoria! Euphoria! That’s the show! That’s the show that I would want my song on. But there was a lot of inspiration taken from Euphoria, visually, even the cover. We definitely played with that a little bit, the crying glitter look. It’s just like lots of glitter, lots of chaos. I like to make sure that everything I do with my art has a purpose, so it’s definitely not just the kind of music video where it’s just me singing at the camera and…I, you know, tried to create that narrative where in the beginning, it’s like you’re in this really weird, hazy, glittery world, and you’re just…you know…living there and you’re surviving there. And as the music video, or as the song progresses, you kind of realize that this is really eating at me at how unreal all this is and how superficial it is.

AM: I was trying to, like, come up with a term…I’m blanking right now, but almost like a burning stardust kind of melancholic vibes.

c: Absolutely, yeah. And lots of like muted pinks and pastels and mixed with like blacks and blues and yeah. [laughs]

AM: Thank you for going on that little creative journey with me.

c: Absolutely.

AM: Later this year, you’re planning to release your first EP, after the rain. Can you tell us what we should look forward to in that EP? Will it be songs similar to pink clouding? Will you be experimenting with different emotions or genres? And also, is that sparkling cider song gonna show up?

c: You know what “sparkling cider…” okay, yeah “sparkling cider”  is a song that I wrote a while ago and I posted a little clip of it on my Instagram. I’ve had that question…I’ve had a lot of people ask me to release that. Unfortunately, it’s not on the EP, but I definitely plan to release that as a single sometime after that. But yeah, as far as after the rain goes, definitely very honest. It’s a collection of five songs, and I really tried to tell a story with that EP. I think a lot of albums…while I think things are changing a little bit now, in terms of how honest people are being, a lot of times, albums have tended to be just a collection of songs. Not to say that that’s bad, but the albums that I always gravitated towards told a story. Like, my favorite albums are After the Internet by Childish Gambino and Bad by Michael Jackson and Songversation by India.Arie, and they all kind of…they tell a narrative and especially the Gambino album. So, I tried to do something similar with that. After the rain, the reason why I called it that is because it’s what happens after the rain falls, what happens after these…after you kind of hit the ground and the journey of finding yourself afterwards.

AM: Yeah, no, we love narrative albums here, even if it’s an obvious narrative or more like stitching together a common theme or feeling so the listener can take it to their own extent….When you were in Dallas, what stuck out to you most about the Dallas music scene?

c: I grew up in an oil province and in an oil city, so there wasn’t much opportunity for music, especially as an R&B artist, a Pop/R&B artist. When I got there, I used to…my friend who lives there, he had taken me to this…I forget what area it was, but it was somewhere in downtown. And there were just a bunch of, like, late-night restaurants and at the same time, they were all playing jazz concerts and it was just so cool to see that. It was really cool to be around that really encouraging. And there was just so much passion…we went to this restaurant that had…oh, I don’t remember the name, but I remember we had fried chicken there. There was this jazz band playing, and they were amazing. When I spoke to them afterward, they were just so passionate. And even the UTD students that I met that are pursuing music and pursuing audio engineering…yeah, I loved the passion that I saw.

AM: Proud of the DFW music scene. It’s a good time.

c: Mmhmm.

AM: 2021! Let’s…we can’t wait for live concerts and just…

c: Yes!

AM:…and meet artists like you in person.

c: Oh, I miss it so much. I also…I miss the food in Dallas as well.

AM: Understandable.

c: Oh my goodness!

AM: Planning, you know, with restrictions loosening, are you planning any maybe potential visits to the DFW area anytime soon? Also, just what’s the best way for listeners [and] viewers to, you know, keep in contact with your updates as an artist?

c: Yes, so my Instagram’s the best place. I usually post everything on there, and I’ll be launching my website as soon as the music video is released in a few weeks. I’ll be making the announcement soon. And as far as trips to DFW, I will be making a trip in August…to visit my family, but I’m trying to plan some, like, virtual concerts and stuff, although it is, yeah, difficult with COVID. Yeah, just writing a lot of music still, which is bizarre because I haven’t even released my EP yet, but definitely lots of music to come. Follow me on Instagram, [and] you’ll be able to get all the updates on when everything’s dropping.

AM: Thank you again so much for talking with us today.

c: Thank you!

AM: Very excited to listen to that EP in the future.

c: [laughs] Me too! Yeah, I am off-the-rails about this EP, so I’m also very excited. Thank you so much for your time, and it was really fun speaking to you.

[Post-interview, cimone wanted to mention that while she was living in Dallas, she started working as a voice and songwriting instructor at Pogue Entertainment Group. In addition, she wanted to mention that her single “pink clouding” was produced by Cristobal “Finesé” Cruz-Garcia, who was also a producer on her upcoming EP!

(Interview Transcribed by Alana King)

Check out cimone’s new single pink clouding, out now on streaming services!

Watch the video recording of cimone’s interview on RadioUTD’s Youtube page!