Interview with Ce'Cile
10/23/2014 by Justine Amadori Ketola
Ce’Cile discussed her new album Still Running (From Love) with Reggaeville while in Jamaica via Skype and outlined her motivations both with the album recording choices and working producer Jon FX while providing general commentary on her career life. Her maturity, positivity and honesty came through with shining light here as she discussed her past, working at a recording studio in Jamaica to her dance/EDM vocal contributions outside of traditional reggae. A confident female, she mentors numerous fans directly through her social media channels, many of these fans were inspired by her message of not stressing over men and self-care in a romantic landscape that can include treachery and despair. She wants people to know the other part of Ce’Cile and what she does, she hasn’t been showing people this side of herself, mostly dancehall, something she shies away from now the label as a “Dancehall” artist, preferring to be labeled a “Jamaican recording artist”.
With “On The Run” you have written a great chorus and have teamed up with Bryan Rucker, how did you determine that this was the song or the artist for the song or go about producing or writing such a song?
Most of my work, everything usually is dictated by the vibe that I am getting from a beat. Some of the songs like Do You Know we did that from scratch, there was no music beforehand. But with this one I was working with Jon FX and they were giving me a lot of non-reggae, non-dancehall beats and I was like, ‘Guys, you know I write better to anything that’s reggae.’ So Jon was like, ‘I’m gonna trick you, I am going to give you this reggae track and you can start writing.’ So it was actually just a track that wasn’t even finished that he had. And I just heard this and I heard, sings…’On the run, on the run, running running running every time it feels like…’ And I actually almost thoroughly free-styled that song, and then when I was done, he made the other beat to it. So he was like, ‘There you go, you made your reggae song and now I’m gonna change it to this ballad.’ I was like ‘Oh my god it’s so cool.’ So really the track that he played just spoke to me, he was vibing live in studio. To me I work so much better when people are playing live instruments, guitar and everything. It’s a different experience than the everyday thing. I don’t have my own band, when I am in Europe I use Soul Fire, but for me the best thing is when you have musicians there and you are vibing. It’s just a different feeling, it takes you to places in side of you….pre a riddim that was built by maybe five people before you are going to be the sixth person, honestly it does not take me.
It’s like back in the day for your rich culture of music, that was really how these killer songs have been created, the vibe was more of a visceral level. So what I wanted to know in particular about this song, you have a reggae version of this tune that closes out the set, will you be performing this song in this style or as a ballad or have you worked that out as yet?
I will be doing both, for the people that are used to me performing with my band, they know that I will be doing my reggae stuff, I will be doing my dancehall stuff, but in the middle of that I will give them a ballad. I will do something acoustic. I just never did really did any of that on a record. It is something that if you don’t get to come to band shows, see the songs performed live, you don’t get to see, so I will definitely be doing both.
You appear to be at this point in your career where you are making music that you know what you want to make, now with a “Duets” type of album. Not to say that people on this album are all big artists. How did you set out with these type of collabs,of course Flo Rida and Anthony B are big artists?
Specifically I wanted Anthony B on the album. So I called B, that was planned. We didn’t know what we were going to do but it was planned. I didn’t want something that was typical, like a typical reggae track. And I called B, the same thing I did with Kevin Lyttle, but that song didn’t end up on the album. The Flo Rida track was not done in the same way, SoBe (Entertainment) had that vocal, already at the studio and they were like, ‘We have this vocal anyway and we have the song and we wanted it to be reworked by you.’ It was actually like three attempts because I wasn’t really feeing the vibe of how the track was before. Now I love the track because to me it has dancehall elements and it has reggae elements and it has the EDM stuff that they were looking for. I love listening to people’s albums and hearing surprise collaborations that you are like, ‘Wow, they did a song with this person.’ How the voices mesh together and how the vibe of the two different artists that people never really know are friends or never really know parred. So that one with Anthony B, we toured Australia together and we were like, ‘Yo we tour, we need to have a song.’ So we did that, with Bryan Rucker, he was working by SoBe and they thought he would be great on the track an the moment I heard his voice I was like, ‘Oh my god I need to’…I wasn’t even thinking record, I was like, ‘I need to perform live with this guy.’
The production style on this album has a decidedly dance in terms of the trend for pop music globally. Are you reaching out globally where you have a strong fan base and this type of music is the mainstream style of choice or the peoples choice and you pursued this or is it part of your personal tastes and plans with production for this album with SoBe? You seem to be taking an EDM approach with this album?
My personal style, what I listen to definitely has something to do with it. But even for years I have always done different genres of music. Back in the day when I used to work with Greensleeves, I was doing music with Stanton Warriors, Shy FX. If you know the song Gold Dust that was originally done by Miss Dynamite, DJ Fresh featured Ce'Cile Golddust. A lot of people don’t know that song was me. So I have Doctor P Galaxies and Stars that I did, I have had songs that have charted. Gold Dust did UK top 20, people don’t realize that over the years I have always done these types of stuff. Even before the Major Lazer phase, there are lots of people who wanted not me alone, wanted this “ragga” feel. They call it “ragga” on those types of tracks. And we have always done them, I just have never done one for myself and put it on the album. I have done other stuff, I have done stuff with the Costa Rican artist Debbie Nova, I have done stuff with Gavin Rossdale, who seeked me out to do a song with him. So its like, Jamaica, we do everything, and people love our vibe and they just want us to bring our vibe on whatever genre. And even now I get a lot, a lot lot of offers, I just did another song for some producers in Belgium, Syndicate of Law featuring Greg B, Got It Like That. I am sure they have heard Gold Dust and want it. So it not it is not something that is new to me, its as you say something from my personal that I love, and something that I have been doing for years. Sometimes the name of the genre changes whether breakbeat or EDM, I have always done it.
In some instances you have been doing it under a different name, will you be doing that any more?
Sometimes a lot of the stuff that we do are names are not even on it, so I am like, ‘OK I need my name to be on it, cause I need the people to know that Ce’Cile is the person who did it’. But if we say Bad Gyal or Ce’Cile, everything now has to be my name. I think its a serious thing about branding and letting your fans know what you do. So they are not surprised, cause a lot of my fans know Gold Dust and they didn’t even know that I am the singer. So we have to make sure that everything that we do now is labeled appropriately.
For Do You Know in particular you address the concerns in standards for women’s beauty, how do you feel as if you you may be affected by this throughout your career? Speaking for black women in particular there are so many standards, can you comment on how you may have been affected throughout your career by this, what advice might you have for other women and girls?
That song for me is also more than the aesthetics, metaphorically speaking even though the nails, the makeup and everything is important to remind people. And in reminding people I remind myself cause I am just human, cause we all go through phases, everything that we cover, whether it be makeup that covers emotional scars, you have to take the time to look at yourself and realize that. ‘I am beautiful.’ A little cockiness, a little narcissism is good, you know like, ‘Oh my god I love me.’ I think more people need to do this because I get a lot of emails, especially on Facebook and people especially females, you would be surprised, I hear people say that, ‘I am brought up in a household where I am darker than my other sisters.’ I thought, ‘Really, in this day and age.’ Our kind of country where it shouldn’t matter where we know every color. It’s not like in America, it shouldn’t be, and then sexuality-wise, religious-wise, class-wise. It’s like a lot of stuff, boyfriend and girlfriend-wise, ‘Is it because I don’t look good why my boyfriend always cheats?’ Cause some people handle things differently I am like look here, ‘We all get cheated on.’ I normally just put myself out there because this is people that are hurting and somehow your songs have touched them, I remember one lady spoke of suicide and she was like ‘Nah stress over man’, never in my mind would I even think that song could have touched anybody, you know she specifically said, ‘Nah stress over man’ and I was like, ‘Wow’. I am very interactive with the fans, I seek out emails like that, and I just wanted people to know as my stuff touches fans apparently. I just want to say, ‘Look here, you’re beautiful no matter what, and let’s just do all the stuff that we do for going out and looking pretty but in here, (holds hand to heart) you just need to know that it don’t matter.’
And doing it for yourself, I really think that the Nah Stress Over Man moment was critical in the music when you did that, it really moved people. You have managed a studio, Celestial Studios in Jamaica, we have this tradition of Sonia Pottinger, someone as a female who also worked in the studio setting. What did that do for you as a career builder and as a women in the industry? You have faced the issues of producers treating you like a sex object, how do you get past that, you have pursued your own direction creatively, you present a mature attitude and work ethic, was that a hurdle to overcome?
For me that was the catalyst for me to launch my career. This kind of thing about males trying to sleep with you, I don’t think it is as bad now, but back in the day…The thing is, it was there, but I never really…I took it for this, I am a cute girl, you are a guy, you say you like me, my response is this, ‘I don’t like you, let’s get to business.’ I always stressed that, but if I like you that’s different that has nothing to do with business, but let’s get this business down. What I did to be able to say this is to learn production because quickly I realized that ‘OK there was not a lot of people that were going to record me.’ Remember that back then I was not even into dancehall, the first thing I ever deejayed on was Changez which I produced with Scatta (Cordell “Scatta” Burrell). I try to command some form of respect and I like to put out some form of business sense and that’s what I think I did. And I gained the respect of a lot of people who were probably planning to check me out, changed their mind or probably waited until years later to say something. A lot of my friends called me “robot”. Scatta and them friends were like, ‘You’re a robot you are not human you’re not real.’ I am like stop saying that because there are many woman that are like me, but I learned everything I needed to learn at that studio, I learned production, I learned harmonies, I learned how to write “Yard” style, because I wanted to be like Ace of Base. I thought I was going to be a pop star within like the first two years. I am not even one yet, how wrong was I? But as a woman you have to just go out there and to me its like any other job, any other career path, you have to be at the top of the game you have to study, you have to research, you have to retain and you know strategically do what you have to do. Who says that firing is wrong? Who says that a guy.. ‘Oh you’re not supposed to be telling me that I am pretty. Thank you and you are handsome yourself.’ It doesn’t have anything to do with the business at hand. You know what I am saying? That’s just how I looked at it. I think a lot more females just need to look at it like that. I know Alaine did some production as well and I think more females need to be like, ‘OK if it is that much of a problem…’ I don’t know if it is like ‘I am not going to work with you if you don’t sleep with me if it is that situation.’ If that happens you need to be able to get up and do it yourself.
I think it is common in the creative industries, even in the film industry, people are often in experimental situations together and often women seem to face this.
Actually men face it too, a lot of its like, it exists and it will exist but it doesn’t mean you cannot have a relationship with someone that likes you that you are working with, we are not knocking that either because that can happen. If you are going to be doing what you are doing, make sure that it works for you, then you don’t have to come and complain that you never got a record or something, you have to make it work for you. You have to also be smart, it is what it is. It’s not like everyone is going to be dating somebody, because of the music they slept together but I am just saying that I think we need to make that not be, as you said, you said the right thing, it happens in the film industry it happens in every industry, let it be that you are going to be the one that slept with a bunch of people and nothing happened. You need to know what you are doing as well.
You have had a relationship with Christopher Martin and you have a child together. What is it like to co-parent with another artist in the spotlight of this very prominent media in JA?
We are newly separated as well and new parents we are trying to just make it work. We had a great relationship while we were together minus the problems, he’s a great guy I have nothing to bash him about publicly for. He’s doing whatever needs to be done and he travels a lot as well as I do. He really tries his best to see my daughter whenever he can. You know us women we think differently from men, but sometimes you have remind them that ‘Maybe you not party so much today, and maybe you come and some extra thing.’ He is like ‘Oh you’re stressing…’ But its really nothing that anybody else doesn’t go through, he’s a good guy, he’s a great artist and I like to think that we are public figures and we can work out whatever problems we have now in a manner between two people having been together for four years. We’re working it out, and we will be really good because we had a really great friendship, so we’ll work things out, whatever we haven’t worked out will be worked out.
What is your daughter’s name?
Christiana we call her “Nana” actually she is a surprise on the album, because the physical copy of the album has her picture in there, a lot of people say, ‘Oh we didn’t see the baby and we don’t know what the baby looks like.’ The album is really dedicated to my daughter.
How do you see yourself now at this point in your career?
I don’t like to be labeled a dancehall artist, I don’t want dancehall not just females, but sometimes its just dancehall or reggae or dancehall or rasta and there’s nothing in between and there is so much in between and I would really like to showcase that.
You have commented that slack lyrics sell, that it helps to market the artist and creates rapid cash flow, you seem to have shifted from straight slack lyrics on this album, do you have a sense that the current trend towards extreme slack sexual lyrics in the dancehall may be going to far in terms of making this impression on the younger people in Jamaica?
Well I think in my lifetime of my career, say ten plus years I have never really done a very very slack song, except for a dub plate called, Me P Good that I made for some dancers in Montego Bay. I think I have done risqué stuff, I love slack songs as well, but everything there has to be a balance. I cannot be in the dance and hear all slack songs, the slackness now that we’re hearing is a totally different from Shabba Ranks’ slackness, from Yellowman kind of slackness, even from Lady Saw kind of slackness. I wouldn’t say it’s slack music any more, because to me you can hear Rihanna singing some slack stuff and to me she sings some crazy stuff in her songs, even Nikki Minaj. Is the whole song about that? Is every song about that? No. So I think there has to be a balance and of course slack sells, being broad but its so over the edge and so far gone. You know asking a woman to be this and not to bash anybody, ‘cause at the end of the day everybody is trying to feed their families, I don’t think there’s any new artist that comes up really and truly that wants to do slack. I honestly believe that. So I am going to say, when you reach a level that you have attained this type of status that you can maintain certain things then you should stop.
La Di Da Di is such a smooth groove and interesting storyline about what happens in the bedroom from the female perspective….how did you come up with this song and what went into the production on this album in terms of building tracks, did you start with a song idea and the rhythms were built or do you start with rhythms and go with that vibe?
The very first song that Jon FX and I did was La Di Da Di, I think we did this on Valentine’s Day and the reason we started with that song is his girlfriend had this idea that she had put down and he played it for me. He was like, ‘She wrote the song and she wants you to…’ and I am very funny with taking songs from people but she had the most wonderful melody, (sings)…La di da di, la di da di, I was like, ‘I like that, I love that.’ Then you know me, I go in and I twerk and I change and I finish writing it. That song was actually Yanique Sasha’s, she is actually an artist. Jon FX who is producing her, that is her husband, we vibed it and he already had the beat and it was like crazy and we just did that. I wasn’t exactly sure what she was writing, where she was coming from with it but the rhythm was already there. It was just a soca vibe and just do it. The whole album as I said was just vibes, I vibe much better when I’m out of Jamaica honestly. Because I feel pressured here, it’s always 50 riddims and they want you on this riddim and if you don’t like it you still go on it to try to be relevant and current. Sometimes I get anxiety attack, like ‘Oh my god I can’t do this.’ Ya I was writing everything in Miami with the big studio and the big speakers in my head and that felt so good. I didn’t tour this year because we concentrated on writing and the production of the album. There’s maybe only the first song, it was juggled if you can say that, and was a rhythm, everything else is brand new, no one else is on the beat, its strictly for the album, and that’s exactly how we wanted it to be.
Kingston Step has a traditional ska rhythm, you have said in interviews that it is important for you to get a true Jamaican sound and to work with producers that keep the standards high. This song has an Out of Many One People message, how did you set out wanting to do a ska groove?
On my last album, Jamaicanization there was a ska groove on there as well. It’s something that I always try to maintain, my roots and me and even though I say I don’t want to be referred to as a “Dancehall” artist, I would prefer to be referred to as a “Jamaican” recording artist because there is so much history there. I said to Jon ‘Well, I have a ska song on my last album and I would like another one.’ He was like, ‘Oh my god, I have it,’ and again his girl…these are the only two songs I collaborated with anybody with in terms of writing. We wanted a song that could be like a ‘Welcome to Jamaica’ commercial…’come to Jamaica and feel all right.’ We wanted that vibe and I think we have that vibe.
For “Eyes Pon Me” works the hips, its a groove, are you going to market this to the selectas? Do you feel like these type of songs have to be on a rhythm that other artists will pick up on to make them popular?
I do think so because it’s a culture that we have built up over a number of years, decades maybe, and its not going to stop. I did not want to put it out as a juggling, its better for us to release it from the album as a single and then maybe put some artist on the beat. You understand what I am saying? To have it out just as a juggling, wouldn’t make sense. Even for Turn It Up we are in the process of remixing it, I am not even going to say what and who is on it, one person on the beat, it’s a single, but we are going to have a remix version of it so we can get that street element in it. It’s like I want to lead a trend….well lots of artist have done it, Sean Paul and Shaggy for sure, Tarrus Riley does it, Jr. Gong does it, there are lots of people that have done it but not a lot of dancehall artists and I think somebody like Assassin who is so talented, should have his own album and tour. Somebody like Konshens, lot’s of us, I think that is the way to go and if somebody doesn’t start it and say, ‘OK let me cut down on the juggling’ we are always going to be two years behind or three years behind. Cause I think we were behind, the ’90’s was way ahead of us musically, I think we are still going behind, we are not moving forward. I thought by now we would have cut down on the juggling and I see riddims out there with 15 people, its 2014 and still people are doing that. And its not working, its not selling.
Yes as in the 90’s where you had a Mad Cobra or a Patra or a Shabba album.
Yes or a Spragga Benz or Diana King, we need this, we need to stop the juggling I firmly believe that is one of the things that is mashing up the music because, first of all, the easiest thing of this, obviously we are not doing music to giveaway because not lots of us are touring and selling out stadiums, so obviously we want to sell. How can we be asking people to buy so much music, who is buying it? If it is a minimum 20 rhythms per month and minimum ten people on a rhythm that’s too much, who is going to buy it? So obviously we have already lost, what are they going to do? Buy ten songs per beat? It’s times ten? It’s too much music, and since as it’s not selling and we are still not selling out big stadiums and big clubs, how are we gonna move forward? People, I think they think, you put your video on YouTube and you got a 100,000 views you are a star or something. That’s going to be good for the industry itself.
Putting a song out on a rhythm or making a video, to me its the relationship with the fan to the artist directly that sets the tone and makes the heart relate to the music and the vibe. It doesn’t turn into long term longevity. It used to be in reggae if you have a song you end up on the stage. Are you interested in dancing? Do you go out and get your groove on? With songs like Wine & Roll you are talking about dancing, but in the veiled sexual terms, you suggest that the subject come and get an up close, what do you think about dancehall culture not giving couples that up close vibe as in Jamaica’s rich past in the dance.
I do go out but not all the time, I don’t like to be common and seen as common in Jamaica, you know girls night out. There is something that happened to me in French Guyana, I went out to the club after I performed, and everybody was playing dancehall and the girls were standing up in front of the guys and bending down and you know this back it up situation and then when Zouk came on, that set of people came off the dancehall. This new set of people came on and they were doing this most seductive, sexy dance, I felt so bad because that was not happening during our music, that is kind of missing and I hope we get it back.
Did you grow up immersed in the music post independence in Mandeville? How did music play a part in your life as a young person in Jamaica?
So funny cause it didn’t I didn’t do music in school, nobody knew I could sing it was just in my typewriting class, not computers, I used to write poetry. I was a literature and language A student, so I live my life when you were supposed to do lit comprehension, I would totally write a book, a story, teachers were like amazed. That’s really how I did it, in poetry, I started to just transition to putting melodies to my poems. I did not have a place in music growing up except at home they knew I wanted to sing.
Did you have support from your family to pursue a career in music? What has that been like for you?
Well I have always have the kind of family, whatever anybody wanted to do you got the support. But music was pretty strange for them especially on my Dad’s side where my grandfather was the Mayor. Music had a…dancehall had a bad rap. They were not even distinguishing between dancehall and reggae it just had a bad rap, but my aunt who was in music and used to do the Reggae and Soca Awards over in Florida, Lady C, she kind of like understood what I was doing and she understood I had to do certain things to get where I wanted. Having been in the music she was able to be the buffer for me so I had to prove to them and I guess over a period of time I did.
What is your health regime for staying healthy and ready for the world?
I try to eat properly and not eat a lot of junk, sometimes I fall off that wagon. I have a trainer and she has been training me for a long time. She’s an Olympian, Juliet Couthbert-Flynn she kicks my butt when she’s ready, she’s 50 and she looks amazing. I’m like, ‘I have to live up to that standard and I will be OK.’ I know I look much bigger than I am on TV but I am actually a very tiny person. I think it is as you say keeping fit, drinking a lot of juices, drinking a lot of water, I don’t really drink sodas and stuff like that, every now and then I will fall for ice cream and stuff like that. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink.
What are your plans for promoting this album?
The video for Turn It Up is going to be shot, we are working on that right now. I am actually going to have to start out fresh like a young artist to get this album out, I am very proud of it. I am thankful to SoBe for giving me the opportunity and for investing, especially now when the music is not selling. I am so thankful for the production on this album because the production on this album is crazy, and we are gonna go everywhere to get the word out, to get the style out to show the fans that we love them everybody can come to show and have fun. My kind of style is everybody have fun no hangups no nothing, get the music out there. I feel like I not only represent myself, I represent a whole country and a whole movement with me and I like to shine that light in the most positive way and have fun and letting people feel good and now we have one or two songs that can touch people in more profound ways. So along with the wining up, we have emotional themes and I am always a ‘girl power’ girl letting the ladies know let’s do our thing and its just a good vibes.