The last two years could have seemed like a blur to Cynthia Nabozny, who went from writing songs in a notebook to performing in front of pop star Katy Perry in her home, but for the Michigander, time seemed to drag as the itch to release her music has intensified.
Nabozny, who records as CYN, grew up in an average home in suburban Detroit, turning to writing and then to music following her parents’ divorce when she was 5. The now 24-year-old attended a Katy Perry concert in 2011 and would later befriend Perry’s DJ, Trevor McFedries (DJ Skeet Skeet) on Twitter.
CYN began sending him demos and in 2015 he invited her to some recording sessions in L.A. Soon after that, Perry’s friend, A&R scout Lauren Glucksman, invited her to perform for Perry in her home. Last summer Perry signed her to her fledgling record company, Unsub Records.
“In hindsight, things moved pretty fast. Within a year [of meeting Perry] I moved out to L.A.,” CYN recalled. “But … when you’re just really trying to figure out who you wanna be toward your fans, it feels like it drags a little bit. So, even though it’s gone by relatively fast, I’m so eager and ready to be on tour and release music, that time doesn’t feel like it’s going by too fast. I’m like, ‘Can things hurry up here? I wanna be on tour. I wanna have a full EP out.’ I’m eager but just trying to enjoy the climb.”
CYN grew up participating in various arts, from piano and singing lessons, to drama and dance. After her parents’ divorce, she turned to music to find a reference, and kept a journal of her thoughts, feelings and stories. The latter are still a part of her life, she said. When she was 14, a friend let her borrow a laptop to record songs, which she was writing by that point.
At first, she would only record covers and post those online. Last fall, on a brief tour opening for Børns, she broke out a slow, brooding take on No Doubt’s “Just a Girl,” which got RIFF’s attention. She said she was a fan of the song in particular and Gwen Stefani in general, as a role model for women and girls. But where other singers or musicians find success through social media sites like YouTube, CYN came up empty.
“I didn’t really gain any traction with it, and it wasn’t until I really started harnessing my ability to write original things that people started noticing me,” she said.
CYN applied for DePaul University’s music program but was turned down. Rather than trying for another school, she decided to stick it out at the Chicago school, instead studying management information systems. The classes instruct on the management and organization of data. She had discovered the track through an internship with a law firm that was filing class action lawsuits against firms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which were accused of abusing consumer information. She saw how data could be used for financial gain, and wanted to make money, too.
As a fledgling professional musician, CYN still uses what she’s learned with her degree and previous experience. She pays attention to her streaming numbers when considering where she will play her shows.
“And, also, when it comes down to collecting my money—I need to know what system are you guys using to keep track of who’s watching my music on YouTube,” she said. … I’m just letting people know, ‘I know what’s going on. I’m not just this small little pop star girl. I have an idea, so let’s make sure everything’s organized.’
“I think that data and information is the forefront of industry, right now. It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry, so it’s very important to understand that information. I mean, look at how it’s affected our elections. So I pay attention to it.”
After developing a friendship with DJ Skeet Skeet and coming to L.A. to work with him, he and others eventually introduced her to Perry, who was also taken with CYN’s sound, which is heavy on traditional pop but with flourishes of R&B and dance, and lyrical call-backs to music with which her parents raised her, like big band and jazz. Take one of her recent releases, “Together.” “Like the moon in the night/ Can’t have one without the other/ Like a bird and it’s flight/ They just make more sense together,” she sings, following that lines soon after with a reference to friends Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
In an earlier form, that song referenced John Lennon and Paul McCartney. But that lyric used the line “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” which was copyrighted by the Beatles.
“I thought the next best thing was something specific for a time period that I really love,” CYN said. “I really love Big Band, …jazz, and those old movies. I grew up on Doris Day. So I thought it would be really cute to put it in and I think that it brings an overall sense of friendship to the song.
CYN has since moved to L.A. and has been busy writing and recording her debut EP, which is nearly done and should be released early this year. She’s released several other songs during this time, including “Only With You” in September. On that one, she worked with producer Felix Snow (Kiiara, Selena Gomez) and the two wrote the poppy track in three hours.
She’s also had a chance to finally start playing some shows, including the recent jaunt with fellow Michigander Børns. Following the release of the EP, CYN will be figuring out her next moves, and her goals for her career; whether it’s artistic acclaim or mainstream attention. Katy Perry’s label is sure to provide some unique positioning. But for CYN, success will be determined not by the height of achievement, but by her own happiness.
“I really just want to perform and put songs out to a lot of people, and it doesn’t have to be the entire planet Earth,” she said.