Every time when I take a gamble to interview an artist who just released the very first song and there is very little information about them online, I end up being pleasantly surprised. Talking to James Vettese who decided to introduce himself as Cyrano (if you want to know why keep on reading) was so refreshing. Even though we haven’t met in person, but reading through his answers helped me get a glimpse of his journey. And he has definitely been on one.
We named his debut single ‘White Wine’ as one of the best songs of March 2021 discovered via Musosoup, featured it on a New Sound playlist and it ended up smashing the top spot on our Weekly Music Chart.
I’ve been looking for the moment when we will be able to share a conversation with Cyrano.
Congratulations on your debut release! Tell us about the journey until the moment ‘White Wine’ saw the light of day!
The original demo was born out of my frustration from not being able to play ‘Spit It Out’ by The Maccabees on piano. I chopped up a drum break onto my MPC, sent it through some delays and reverb to give it that swing and just started jamming along in my bedroom.
Once I took it to my studio, I started throwing down some vocal lines while thinking back to my time in LA and what it means to be a consequential stranger; the lack of expectation either of you has of one another is part of what I think makes those friendships so special.
I knew at the time I wanted something with a late-night drive feel and spent endless drives home recording voice notes trying to capture the “air” of the moment.CYRANO
What I was left with was a lot of very noisy and rather boring recordings that didn’t make it in the final version, for the benefit of everyone.
One of the breakthrough moments writing the track was when I was on a flight back from New York. I really wrestled with the structure, wanting to avoid any predictability while still making it flow, and started playing around with the arrangement on my laptop. I began talking to the girl next to me who was curious to hear what I was working on; I think with the hope that I was someone more impressive.
I’m sure most musicians can relate to that feeling of showing a demo to someone who is expecting a finished, mixed track, who is inevitably underwhelmed by the missing vocals, looped up drums and out of tune guitars. Thankfully she was really encouraging and contacted me after the flight just to tell me to keep going. To me, these are the consequential strangers that you take so much from, and what I wanted to reflect in White Wine.
When I began recording the track properly, I thought it would be cool to multi-track everything and pan one take in each ear, so that if you listened to the track entirely out of one speaker you’d essentially be listening to a different performance of the same song.
I took the New York demo to Oli Barton-Wood, after being blown away by his production on Nilüfer Yanya’s ‘Miss Universe’ back in 2019, especially on tracks like ‘Melt’ and ‘Tears’. That’s when we got Jazzi Bobbi involved, who also plays in Nilüfer Yanya’s live band and makes great music of her own. The addition of her sax and backing vocals really took ‘White Wine’ to the next level.
After my sessions with Oli, I shared the track with Sam Johnston from Leif Erikson, who added some Nelly inspired acoustic guitar and we honed in on the lyrics and structure one final time. I did my post-production tinkering and added the “Dad Chord” – taken from a voice note of a chord my Dad came up with when I first showed him the track and my favourite moment in ‘White Wine.’
The final step was to hand it over to Jamie Ward, who applied his magic to the mix to make everything really cohesive before Felix Davis mastered it at Metropolis Studios in London.
I’m curious how did you come across Cyrano de Bergerac and what was the moment that you knew ‘this is my stage name’?
I’ve always wanted this project to have a name with meaning, which complimented my sound and would feel timeless. Last year I went to see the play Cyrano de Bergerac, which is centred around the lead character Cyrano’s love for a girl. Despite his talents as a writer and poet, he is overcome by his own insecurities and writes to her through the alias of another man.
It was in that moment, sitting in the theatre and watching the events unfold that I began drawing the parallels between Cyrano and my relationship with music.CYRANO
I loved the idea of personifying Cyrano and my method for sharing the music and words that for years have been only for myself.
What does ‘White Wine’ mean to you?
‘White Wine’ started as a total reflection on my time in Los Angeles back in 2017. I’d come across Tim Ferris’s podcast with Jamie Foxx, discussing his career and how to think outside the box. He talks about artists like Kayne West and Ed Sheeran when they first arrived in Hollywood and it just really got me thinking about being fearless and having a total openness to new experiences. I went there with no expectations, only the mentality that I’d just go with the flow and see what happens.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more present than during that summer. It really was like living in a dreamland, full of coincidences and excitement. I met so many amazing people for minutes and the months I was there, and they all played a huge part in my experience of the city and the summer. For me, ‘White Wine’ is really an ode to these fleeting moments and consequential strangers that change your worldview in one late night conversation.
You started your music career in 2021 with the release of ‘White Wine’. Was that always planned or was it the outcome of the lockdown?
Like many of my friends, I think lockdown gave me the time I needed to get my music into a place where I feel comfortable and excited to share it with everyone. I’ve spent many years up to this point getting my music ready and it often felt like I was wandering around a swimming pool trying to find where to jump in. It feels amazing to have started releasing my music and I’m so excited for these next releases, as well as the live shows to come.
Debut single is the one that will always be remembered by your true fans as the song that started it all. How did you know that ‘White Wine’ is the one?
‘White Wine’ felt like the perfect place for me to finally share my music, as it’s a track for sharing. I think it’s an easy going, laid back track and a nice introduction to my music. I decided March would make the best time to share it with everyone, as it always feels like an optimistic time of the year and hopefully it makes people excited for summer and being able to see everyone again. I hope the people who’ve heard White Wine so far will associate it with a more promising time and listen back with fond memories of their own.
Tell us more about your creative process? How do songs come to you?
In a way, I’m always trying to write the songs I wish already existed.CYRANO
Outside the studio, I tend to build a playlist of tracks, old and new, that I love for their vibe, production or lyrical concept. While thinking about what kind of track I want to write next, I often start playing around on keys or by making a beat on my MPC but I think it’s important to mix up your starting point. Time of day, the atmosphere of the room and what music I’ve had on repeat definitely affects how I write too. I hate trying to write if the studio is untidy so before anything I tend to give it a tidy up too!
With lyrics, I tend to look to film or literature for the initial inspiration, but often reflect on my life and how I’m feeling. I find starting a new book or watching a film can spark something too, and then it’s about wrestling with the concept to deliver a story within the lyrics.
Congrats on making into HypeM charts. That must have been an exciting boost?
Thanks, Dov! I was so happy. I’ve always used Hype Machine to find the best new tracks and blogs and it feels like a privilege to see my name on there – it feels like I’ve finally jumped in the pool!
Music to me is my excuse for a night out and a night in.CYRANO
You are planning to launch a very special type of merch. A bottle of White Wine. I absolutely love the idea. What was the inspiration behind this concept and what can people expect?
I really wanted to try to do something special to mark my debut release, as it feels like such a big moment for me personally. The meaning behind White Wine is really about those fleeting moments with people throughout each day, and the unexpected friendships that are made in the process.
I like the idea of bringing people closer through my music and the concept behind the wine collaboration is that you can order a bottle to send a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while to say hello again.
It was really important to me to collaborate with a company that is thinking about our futures, and that’s why I chose to reach out to Garçon Wines about the idea. They have taken such an innovative approach to producing wine by making the bottle flat and from recycled plastic rather than glass. More bottles can fit in a crate and being made out of plastic makes them far lighter too, resulting in a large reduction in their carbon impact.
You mentioned that ‘White Wine’ is an ode to fleeting moments with strangers who can shift your world view. What conversation comes to your mind that had a major impact on your life?
The conversation that always comes first to my mind was at 6 am on Santa Monica beach on a night that started as a drink after work with a new friend. I loved the fact that I had arrived on the other side of the world by myself, and now found myself in deep conversation with someone new, finding our philosophies aligned. Moments like these filled my time in Los Angeles and I wanted to celebrate them in White Wine.
What can we expect from your upcoming EP sound wise?
My debut EP is definitely a bit deeper and heavier lyrically, as well as sonically more atmospheric and diverse than ‘White Wine’. It’s a concept EP, inspired by Alain de Botton’s book The Consolations of Philosophy, and written over several years. It took me a long time to find the right words for the tracks which mean a lot to me, but I’m really proud to have finished it and it feels like a real step up in the production, writing and style.
I think there’s something for everyone on it and I hope it makes you feel something.
Do you have a song that when you hear, you’d be ‘Damn I wish I’d written that’.
‘Spanish Sahara’ by Foals is always the first that comes to mind, but ‘Where Is My Mind’ and ‘All Along The Watchtower’ are definitely up there too.
Close your eyes. Imagine its 20th of January 2022. How would you summarize 2021?
2021 was the year I finally beat my boulder problem and shared my music with the world. I hope it has included a lot of music, friendships and good health as well as the year things got a bit better for everyone.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
I’m a Scottish born, London grown songwriter and producer, and I make music for the late night overthinkers. I hope you feel lifted when you listen to my music and don’t be afraid to say hello.
Make sure to connect with Cyrano
Introducing » Artists We Interviewed
This coverage was created in collaboration with Musosoup as part of the #SustainableCurator movement.