/ Music

TEXT BY MOLLY SIMMS. PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFAEL PULIDO. STYLING BY SEAN KNIGHT. HAIR BY TERRI WALKER. MAKEUP BY SANDY GANZER. 07/02/2018

CYN

For many kids, their parents’ divorce can be a destructive force. But for singer CYN—signed last summer to Katy Perry’s Unsub Records—that painful experience led her down a necessary creative path. “When my parents got divorced, I knew every detail, which was no one’s fault,” she says. “But as a kid, to hear one of the most important people in your life say ‘Your mom doesn’t love me anymore . . .’ It was really hard on me—even now, I’m getting teary-eyed. My therapist told me to start writing down how I felt, and I fell in love with it. That and singing made me feel like I was doing something productive with my feelings.”

After taking music classes in her suburban Detroit school, CYN (aka Cynthia Nabozny) joined her church choir and was taking piano lessons at 13. By 15, she’d started recording in her living room. Later in her teens, she auditioned for a prestigious Chicago music school but didn’t get in, then tried out for American Idol but didn’t make it. The one-two punch of those events nearly discouraged her permanently. “I just felt like this world might not be realistic for me,” she says, “like there was no way I could ever make it.” Thankfully, a supportive friend intervened, and with some encouragement, CYN continued writing and recording. Now she sees those early rejections as favors, since they pushed her to develop her unique voice. “For American Idol and that music school,” she says, “it was never about self-expression. It was more about how well you could perform a piece that had already been written.”

SoundCloud provided an escape route to another world. “There, I found all these instrumental tracks from producers,” she says. “I could handpick tracks to write full songs over. And after uploading some stuff, things started to grow organically.”

Meanwhile, as a backup plan, she got a degree in management information systems. What exactly are management information systems? “When you have a database,” she explains, “you have to make the database queryable and organize it in a way that produces reports on operations for levels of management. So let’s just think of me as a singer, because I do not want to work in that field.”

CYN connected with a West Coast DJ on Twitter, and the two began chatting online and sending demos back and forth. He put her music into the hands of Lauren Glucksman, who handles Katy Perry’s A&R. “Before I knew it I was playing music in Katy’s living room and talking about where I wanted to be as an artist,” says CYN. “I signed with her at the beginning of 2016, moved to L.A., and now I’m in the studio all the time.”

Given her storied career, Perry’s been able to give CYN heaps of sage advice. “We were talking about living in L.A.,” she says, “and she told me ‘Don’t get too caught up in this world—don’t forget your friends in the Midwest who you’re writing songs for.’ It’s so great getting advice from her, because I’m very much a random girl, and I’m not from a famous family. Having Katy behind me definitely helps.”

She also got a taste for the peripatetic life after opening for BØRNS on his sold-out fall 2017 tour. “The first time I performed with him was in NYC. It was actually my first-ever show in NYC, and I was so happy to be able to share that moment with him, the only other musician I know from MI. His music is unapologetically him. It embraces a one-of-a-kind, signature sound which has definitely influenced my own writing.”

Though even a few years ago CYN couldn’t have fathomed where she’d be right now, a part of her always mentally prepped for the moment she might be standing in this spot. “I imagined that if I had the opportunity to talk to somebody like Katy, I would do it the right way and never hold myself back,” she says. “But getting in the room with someone like her seemed impossible. The internet made it possible, through relationships and networking with good intentions. I definitely had no idea that I’d meet the right people, but I knew that if I did, I would kill it.”

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