INTERVIEW: Behind the “melancholy” of cehryl’s songs

Ahead of her EP launch in April, we asked cehryl to tell us more about the organza-like feeling of the colours and textures in her music.

Following her debut album ‘Slow Motion’ last year, singer-songwriter and producer cehryl has spent 2020 working on her new EP time machine, out April 9th, 2021.

Her recent single “philadelphia” follows “angels (emily)”, which was released last December.

The nostalgia piano-driven song looks back on relationships cehryl considered herself lucky to “keep in my pocket”. She relives these connections by looking back at her time spent in Philadelphia – a metaphor for all her experiences in that period, immortalised into song.

In essence, the song almost feels like a painting of vivid memories and moments, feelings and emotions that are calming as much as they pulled at our heartstrings.

There is a transcendent and almost tranquil mood in the melody. You get pulled into the sonically shimmering vortex, without being too overwhelmed.

The Hong Kong-based multi-hyphenate creative has been described as having a voice that is as dulce and mellifluous as the songs she produces and writes to. Stories that explore the complexity of human emotion fill her dreamy, genre-fusing tracks, where her lyrical flair and classical training are on full display.

Indeed, it feels like floating on a cloud – one that floats high o’er vales and hills…

And if “philadelphia” is merely the start of this journey in her “time machine”, we can hardly wait for more!

AL365: Hi cehryl, Vanessa here from AsiaLive365. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Congrats on the new single “philadelphia”. I love the colours and layers – sonically, it’s so calming and it paints such vivid pictures of your memories. What do you miss most about Philadelphia?

cehryl: Hey Vanessa! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, haha. I miss nothing about Philadelphia, I’ve actually only stepped foot in Philly twice in my life, and in the song Philadelphia is just a blanket word to describe all the places and people and eras in my life that I missed. One of my best friends in college went to uni in Philadelphia, and when I wrote the song we didn’t talk much anymore. That was the starting point.

AL365: Your upcoming EP time machine comes out in April – is there anything that you can share with us about that? Why the name “time machine”?

cehryl: The EP has six songs, all songs that I’m really proud of. I could’ve named any of my previous projects Time Machine — they’re all capsules of eras in my life. 

AL365: We heard that you listened to Avril Lavigne when you were younger and were inspired to pick up a guitar and be a rockstar like her. Tell us more about that pivotal moment and how your music journey started? What pushed you to explore it further?

cehryl: When I was young, my brother and his friends played guitar and listened to Sum 41 and Green Day and Simple Plan, and I loved all of that but it wasn’t until I discovered Avril that I felt…represented or validated. Watching her on MTV for the first time changed my life hahaha. It was honestly kind of stupid looking back. I’d play air guitar in the shower thinking I had just dumped my shitty boyfriend and walked out of his shitty apartment and into the rain under a bridge. Wearing a tie and baggy pants and a lot of eyeliner. Don’t remember which MV that was but that was all I wanted to be haha. My music journey started before that though. I had classical piano lessons but was always too lazy to practice and would compose songs or play what I heard on the TV instead. That was when I knew I wanted to compose music.

AL365: From that time, how do you feel that you’ve grown as a musician?

cehryl: I mean that was…when I was 6 or 7, so I’ve grown as a person as well… I don’t really know how to answer that question. My music’s gotten better since I was 6 though, that’s for sure.

AL365: Besides Avril, which other artist(s) do you feel inspired you back then, and do you feel their influences shaping your musicality and the sounds you produce?

cehryl: Growing up it was a lot of Alicia Keys. James Morrison. Jay Chou. In middle school/high school it was John Mayer. The xx. Chet Baker. Bill Evans.  A lot of folk singer-songwritery stuff too. 

AL365: There is a lyrical and atmospheric filigree to your songs that feels almost like an organza of sounds touching our skins. How would you (in your own words) describe your music and what are your aspirations for it to resonate with your listeners?

cehryl: I’d describe my music as melancholy. I have no aspirations, I don’t really like the idea of aiming for my music to make someone feel a certain way. It’s always nice when someone tells me how they feel, and that’s always been diverse. Some people tell me my music is really chill, which is chill but honestly kind of boring (but I appreciate it). I like it when someone tells me my music’s helped them through a difficult time. Or when my music makes them cry. Love that.

AL365: You sing, write, play the instruments, mix and produce your own music – entirely on your own. What hurdles do you face (if any) in the production and recording process and would you do it any other way?

cehryl: I’m not very confident with my mixing…so I get my friend Anna Malee to help. Best mixing engineer ever.

AL365: Besides music, what other artistic talents do you have? We noticed a Photography Instagram account in your Instagram bio. Do you dabble in photography as well?

cehryl: Yep, I love taking photos. I like drawing and writing as well.

AL365: Speaking of photography, I understand that your music videos for “Satellite” and “Moon Eyes” are heavily inspired by celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai. What aspects of cinematography and film stills do you like about this director and what is your favourite film by him?

cehryl: His work is always lonely, and always mourns time. I think of my life as just a series of days in which you mourn time passing, and every song I write or photo I take is essentially a rescue mission. To archive the moments. My favourite film by him is… either (can’t choose) Happy Together or In The Mood For Love.

AL365: What are your plans for 2021?

cehryl: Just getting through it. Making more music and writing more.

AL365: Is there anything you like to say to your fans out there?

cehryl: Bear with me

AL365: Thanks again cehryl! Can’t wait to hear the new EP!

Listen to more of cehryl below.

Cover photo: Jonny Ho





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