Katlyn Cowpland's latest solo project, Cheery, may be just a couple of years old (officially launched in the spring of 2021), but it is the culmination of more than a decade's worth of inspired songwriting and performing.
So far, Cheery has released two singles from their upcoming debut album, which is scheduled for release this summer. From shimmering synths and punchy rock guitars to playful percussion, the arrangements for these dreamy electro-pop tunes (recorded with Eric Davis of Hembree and Pala Zolo) take on a life of their own, and serve as much more than just supporting background for Cowpland's bouyant melodies and bittersweet lyrical confessions. Not one to be contained by the ethereal realm of music alone, Cheery's vibrant music videos are full of color and motion, and are not to be missed.
Although Cowpland will be relocating to the UK later this year, she hopes to bring Cheery back for frequent US tours. While she's away, be sure to subscribe and follow her to stay updated on all the latest news.
How did you begin creating and performing your music? How has your approach to your music evolved over the years?
I've been putting my poetry to music since I was 12, and singing consistently and for audiences since I was 5. Discovering artists that really inspired the type of songwriting that made sense to me is what really pushed me to create a voice and perspective all my own. Over the years I've gone from focusing mainly on lyrics and vocals; allowing the music to be more of a vehicle for those, to really exploring composing instrumentation fully as a initial part of the songwriting process. I think that's allowed me to create more fleshed out, epic songs that tell a story deeper than just the lyrical content.
What does a typical songwriting session look like?
It honestly just comes to me in the spur of the moment. I don't usually sit and try to write unless I'm extremely inspired. It mostly happens driving around thinking or having some random experience and a line will pop into my head. I have a voice recording app on my phone that I'll start rattling off lines into, then pausing, thinking, and another line, and so on and so forth. Once I have the general idea of the song I start brainstorming the instrumentation before recording a demo, which I do on something simple like garage band so I can get it out as quickly as possible before I lose it. Once I have the main bits down I can relax and start adding, adjusting, and take my time til I'm happy with it.
What other artists or styles inspire and influence you as an artist? How do you find that these show up in your work?
Conor Oberst has always been my biggest influence, especially lyrically. His use of language, level of detail and gritty self-deprecating sarcasm that turns into acceptance, resilience and hope is something that has absolutely rubbed off in all of my songwriting. Transparency is so important to me in songwriting as it can connect you to your listener in really intimate ways. Jason Lytle (of Grandaddy), Kate Bush, Daniel Johnston, and Jordan Geiger have also always been really huge influences.
You've taken your fans on quite a journey over the years through projects such as Cowboy Indian Bear, La Guerre, Dooms, and Cheery. What keeps you creating and what's next?
It's an impulse that I can guarantee you I'll never be able to let go of. It's my therapy. Singing those awkward, personal things in the way that I do to an empty room or a huge crowd helps me immensely to feel fulfilled and happy from moment to moment.
I really love creating with other musicians in bands like CIB and Dooms because it challenges me to let go of some control and learn from extremely talented people who have completely different thoughts and processes. Still, no matter what bands I've been in or will be in I will always have those solo projects like La Guerre (now Cheery) so that I can have a space that's all my own.
I am beyond excited for people to hear this first Cheery record that I made with the help of my longtime pal Eric Davis (of Hembree and Pala Zolo). It feels to me like a huge step forward from what I've made in the past.
What aspects of your upcoming debut album are you most proud of?
The range of vibes displayed. There's western-horror vibes, lo fi punk vibes, erratic dream pop vibes, symphonic funeral dirge vibes, etc. It just feels really lush and hopefully takes the listener a lot of different places emotionally.
What can a concertgoer expect from a live Cheery performance?
As of this moment, a lot of drum machines, samples and twinkly keys with my overly emotional voice dancing around with them.
Eventually, I'm hoping to have a fuller lineup to really give the entire cinematic effect the album will display. The dream would include timpanis, horns and a number of backing vocals.
Cheery's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
Sensor by Junji Ito
The People's Key by Bright Eyes
The Kick Inside by Kate Bush
Last Place by Grandaddy
Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast
The Monitor by Titus Andronicus
Antisocialites by Alvvays
Brighter Wounds by Son Lux
Fantasy Gateway by Cuco
Inside by Bo Burnham
For more, check out this Bibliocommons List.