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Get to Know Cyra Krizna

cyra krizna interview
Cyra Krizna is a singer-songwriter based in Manila. Get to know more about her journey as an artist and how she found her voice.

Please tell us about your music journey and how you got to where you are today.

I’m going to divide my story into three parts, so it’s gonna be like reading the summary of every book in a trilogy.

 

Part 1

This would be about my grade school to high school years. I only started singing because I loved imitating my big sister. If you see our childhood photos, we have matching outfits like 70% of the time. I was her copycat: from her hairstyle down to the things she liked to do then (i.e. singing and dancing).

My mom would always bring me to my sister’s school events and I remember wondering what it felt like to be on stage just like her. My singing debut was back in 3rd grade when I was 7 years old and my teacher (also one of my greatest mentors) convinced me to join the school program. I was such a shy kid, so I bet it wasn’t easy to convince me, but she did. I honestly don’t remember how, but she probably bribed me with food hahaha. My parents started sending me to voice lessons every summer since then.

At that time I resented my parents so much because every 7-year-old kid would rather play than spend time stuck in a room for an hour singing Dancing Queen over and over again. But thank God they pushed me to do it. I took those lessons until high school and joined a couple of singing competitions here and there. Back then, I only knew how to sing Whitney, Beyonce, Mariah and you know, the usual songs for belting. That was the music I was exposed to, mainly because that’s what I was taught to sing in my voice lessons. I guess it did my vocal range some good.

Part 2

My reason for choosing my course in college is extremely silly. But thinking back, I think it actually reflects an integral part of my personality. I told my parents I wanted to be able to help people in the future. At that time, I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to help, but I just didn’t want to be someone who lived for herself. That was the only thing I was sure of.

I took people’s advice to be a CPA because they said that it would be the quickest way for me to earn a lot of money and give back to the community. I ended up taking Business Administration and Accountancy in UP, which is no piece of cake. Being in a completely new environment, studying stuff I didn’t particularly care about eventually took its toll on me, so I had to find something meaningful to me.

I joined this socio-civic organization called ICTUS (In-Christ Thrust for University Students). There I found my home in the university. We had weekly activities like play therapy with cancer patients in Philippine Children’s Medical Center, tutorials for grade school students in our partner barangay and so on. Most of the activities focused on kids and education, both of which are very dear to me. That was also the time I realized that there’s a way to use this talent and passion for music to help people. For some reason, most members of the organization could sing too, so we formed a choir and raised funds for our activities.

During that time I also met my best friend, Aimee, in an introductory accounting class. I remember we’d listen to Sara Bareilles before class. We had recording and songwriting sessions at her house and later on played gigs for food. We both felt so out of place in our college, so we’d often daydream of making records, playing shows, touring the world.

I also started listening to more singer-songwriter stuff and developed the habit of writing about everything I’m feeling even if they’re random verses. My notebooks were filled with scribbles of lyrics. I even wrote some on my exam papers (oops), but I’m thankful for all those crazy 9-hour exams, case studies and presentations that our professors made us go through because that’s how I ended up finding comfort in making music.
Thanks to that, I felt sure that I didn’t want a career that has anything do with accountancy. Not because it was hard or I wasn’t good at it, but because it did not mean anything to me. I started to understand the power of music because music was the thing that kept me together through all those difficult times. That dream that I kept denying, naturally resurfaced. And I realized that I didn’t want to acknowledge that dream because I always thought I wasn’t good enough to even try reaching for it.

 

 

Part 3

 

After graduating and passing the board exam, I joined an audit firm like I promised my parents. I planned to stay for one year to make sure that I got to try it and confirm that it’s not something I see myself doing in the future (you know, instead of having that big what-if later on). It was a really rocky start because a few weeks after I started working, my aunt and grandmother passed away just a week apart.

I entered the workforce with no enthusiasm whatsoever. My colleagues probably noticed it because I isolated myself. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, so I’d work in a corner with my headphones on. That went on for like five months.

I only started opening up to people when they encouraged me to join SGV’s Got Talent (it’s a yearly competition inspired by the TV show Pilipinas Got Talent). Because of their support, I decided to set my fears aside and join the competition. That experience is one of the reasons I don’t regret joining the firm. That was also a pretty strong reminder of how good it felt to be on stage.

I am constantly filled with doubt and anxiety but for some reason, everything falls into place when I sing. And then after that I’m back to my overly anxious self. It’s safe to say that SGV gave me some remarkable memories (aside from all those sleepless nights), and lots of precious people including my former bosses who continue to root for me until now. That’s something I’m extremely grateful for.

I quit after a year in the firm like I planned to, not just to pursue a career in music, but also to give myself a break. That year has been the toughest for me for a lot of reasons, and the repercussions were very significant. I was mentally and physically unhealthy. Despite saying that I quit my job to work on my health, I ended up facing a bigger struggle. I beat myself up harder than before, and I had bigger fears, doubts, and no self-esteem at all. I felt so hopeless and alone. Every night I’d cry myself to sleep thinking it’d be best for everyone if I didn’t wake up in the morning. And I’d beat myself up for thinking that way.

It was months of nothing but self-deprecation. Then I came across The Purposeful Creative podcast hosted by Arriane Serafico. That became like a lifeline for me. She talked about finding purpose in your passion and featured interviews with people who’ve done it.

From there, I learned that she has a program called Braver Goals where she teaches a lot of useful systems to help creatives be more organized – having more specific and focused goals and working towards them effectively. I took the class and started conquering my fears of not being good enough to share my work, or being judged for trying so hard.

At that time, I started finding my voice again and wrote my fight song called Braver. In keeping with my theme of being braver, I pushed myself to share that original song on my Youtube channel in case it can speak to somebody who has been in the same situation before. I wanted to share my story and encourage others to share theirs too.

I can’t explain how good if felt to receive feedback from people saying that the message of the song really resonated with them. That simple thing gave me a bit of hope. I decided to share my struggles and my ugly truths despite the prevalent obsession on creating a picture-perfect life on social media. And I decided that I want to show vulnerability in my songs.

Every song I write now is extremely personal, and always with a purpose. I want my songs to really speak to someone even if it means it’s not something that everyone would want to listen to. And I really hope that someday I’d be able to use my music to support advocacies which are close to my heart.

Cyra Krizna
Photo by Janssen Cabrera

What instrument/s do you play and how did you get into it?

I can play very basic piano and guitar. I learned to play the piano when my younger brother started taking piano lessons. That time I was starting to get bored with the whole “look at me I can sing high notes” act, so I thought I should learn to play instruments, too. It was also crucial in songwriting. That’s probably why I decided to pick up the guitar and learn. My dad bought a really cheap guitar for my sister, which she used to write a song for her ex-boyfriend. After she got over the heartbreak, she got over the guitar, too. It was just there for a while until I decided to pick it up and teach myself some chords.

If you could be a song, what would that song be and why?

If I could be a song, I’d want to be Gravity by John Mayer. I’m allowed to be ambitious, right? Hahaha. I’ve never actually seen him play it live, but I’ve watched tons of videos of him playing it in various shows, at different points in time, and it is continuously evolving. It’s the same song, but every time he plays it, it’s a different experience entirely. And the intensity of emotions does not ever waver. There was never a time that it failed to speak to me. That’s how I want to be as a person. I want to be someone who constantly evolves, hopefully becoming better and better through time. And I want to always be able to connect with someone the way that song connects with me.
Art by Aimee Garcia

Is music your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

I’m really pushing for it to be my full-time job but unfortunately when you’re starting out you really don’t get paid much and it’s hard to get a lot of gigs so I do some side hustles to keep me alive. I have a part-time job as a research assistant at a consulting firm. I’m very lucky that they let me work remotely, so I do have a lot of flexibility.

Who are your favorite musicians (both local and international)?

I’d say that John Mayer and Beyonce are the top two international musicians who have influenced and inspired me big time. I always say that I’d be ready to die after I see them perform live. That’s how much they mean to me haha. I’m also listing down artists who are always in my playlist. I’m sure there’s a lot of great artists I won’t be able to include in this list though. There’s Sara Bareilles, Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Matt Corby, Gabrielle Aplin, Allen Stone, Adele, Jack Garratt, Lianne La Havas, Emily King, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Stevie Wonder, The 1975, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Hozier and LANY.

 

In the local scene, I consider Bullet Dumas and Up Dharma Down as living legends of OPM. Their music (particularly when you see them play live) is phenomenal. Some of of the local artists I’ve been following and listening to these days are Reese Lansangan, The Ransom Collective, Tom’s Story, BP Valenzuela, Rizza Cabrera, Ben&Ben and Keiko Necesario.

 

If you could describe your sound using Filipino food, what would it be and why?

Adobo!!! Because it tastes like home probably because my mom cooks the best adobo haha. I want my music to really embody the feeling of home, where you can be most vulnerable.

For those about to listen your music for the first time, which track/cover do you suggest they listen to first?

Since it’s the only original song on my Youtube channel so far, I’d love it if you could give Braver a listen. If you’re interested in my covers my cover of Up Dharma Down’s Oo gained the most positive response.

What do you have in store for the rest of 2017?

Nothing big, really, but I am set to share 4 more original songs on my Youtube channel this year. I hope everyone can look forward to that. Those are tracks I really really poured my soul into. I’m planning bigger things for 2018 though. And definitely pushing myself even more since I am very determined to launch an EP next year. I’m not yet sure how I’m gonna make it happen. But I’m focusing on writing songs for that EP this year.

How can we find out about your upcoming gigs?

You can find out about what I’m up to on my Facebook page and Instagram.

Follow Cyra on social media:

 

Featured photo by Kyna Jureidini

 


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