Editor’s Note: This Friday, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sarah Cicero will be releasing her EP entitled “Cold Immaculate Opposite” on all digital streaming platforms. Sarah recently released her single for “At Arm’s Length to rave reviews from Under The Radar Magazine. Sarah combined a plethora of Brooklyn DIY scene members to help with the writing and creating process of this EP. In this mental health conversation with Madness To Creation, Sarah Cicero discusses her educational upbringing, coping with her mental health and “Cold Immaculate Opposite.” Fans can find Sarah Cicero on Instagram and Bandcamp.
Category One: Education (I’m a special needs teacher by day)
Madness To Creation: How has music education impacted you as an artist? What were some amazing things that you learned?
Sarah Cicero: I told my mom I wanted to be a singer when I was really young, and she said if I wanted to do that I had to also take really formal classical piano lessons because I’d need those skills. And I didn’t really understand what she meant so she kind of had to force me into it, but looking back on it I’m so grateful to have this ability and to have had the training that I did. Especially since learning guitar as an adult has been a billion times more difficult.
Madness To Creation: Tell me a teacher that inspired you to be the person that you are today, how did they inspire you?
Sarah Cicero: My third grade teacher was just this magical woman. She had long white hair and a soft Southern accent and the warmest energy. She was really into poetry, and would have us write poems for a lot of our assignments, which I just loved. I loved it so much that she let me write poems for other subjects too, just as long as I could make it relate. It was so radical for me to have a teacher nurture my creative pursuits in such a comprehensive way so young. I still talk to her on the phone at least once a month. She gives the best advice.
Madness To Creation: Most difficult and easiest subject for you in school and why?
Sarah Cicero: I always say the most difficult subject for me is math! But I actually don’t remember it being difficult, I think I just didn’t like it as much as History and English, which were my favorites. I think the easiest subjects for us seem “easy” because we care enough about them to go the extra mile and put in the work.
Category Two: Mental Health (I’m a major mental health advocate and plus these questions will be featured in a book I’m working on)
Madness To Creation: What is the soundtrack to your life? Meaning who is your go-to artist/band and what song/album gets you through the most?
Sarah Cicero: This question is so hard for me to answer! I tend to get really into one artist/song/album and just obsessively listen over and over and then move on to the next one. So I’d say my go-to artist is Fleetwood Mac or Leonard Cohen because I go back to them the most, but my most played song last year was “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes. The lyrics are so on the nose it almost hurts to listen to.
Madness To Creation: Tell me about a time that was difficult for you and you rose to the occasion and realized everything was going to be okay?
Sarah Cicero: My mom passed away when I was 17. It was really difficult and the grief was suffocating. It took a while, and it still comes in waves, but first time healed me and then eventually I felt ready to take charge of my healing, too. I also realized everything was going to be okay when I learned to stop defining “okay” as “great.” If it’s not terrible, then everything is okay. And life is hard and then it gets easier and then it gets hard again and then it gets easy again. That’s okay, too.
Madness To Creation: What are some routines or regiments you do to keep your mental health in check?
Sarah Cicero: I am generally a very routine-oriented person, but when I’m having a hard time it really becomes a tool for helping me get back to the basics (eating well, sleeping well, hydrating, moving my body, etc). Establishing a schedule whenever I start to feel out of control is how I re-ground. And sleep is my #1. I struggle with pretty intense anxiety, and I’ve found that I always feel worse when I’m not prioritizing sleep, even if all of my other bases are covered. It gets harder to think clearly or calmly, so my mind ends up in overdrive. Waking up early and going to bed early is like a form of self-care for me. I also practice yoga and meditation daily (am currently in training to become a yoga teacher!) and take that really seriously.
Madness To Creation: Advice you have for the reader that is struggling.
Sarah Cicero: Reach out. Put yourself out there and be vulnerable about what you’re experiencing, whether to a friend or family member or therapist or on even on social media. It is so scary and also every single time I’ve done it I have felt so much less alone. When you’re struggling it can be really easy to feel like you’re the only one, or like everyone else is happier/healthier/more successful/generally doing better than you—especially when our online presences can be so deceptive. But there are always people feeling the exact same way and it’s important to connect.
Madness To Creation: Biggest thing you learned about yourself through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sarah Cicero: I live alone in a small studio apartment, and that’s where I spent the pandemic—alone in my small studio apartment. Those first few months were the most physically isolated I’d ever been and I quickly had to figure out how to adapt and take care of myself. I turned to the basics; I woke up early, I meditated, I practiced yoga, I learned new songs on the piano and guitar, I ate mostly plant-based, I exercised, I read, I slept early. Which on paper sounds very healthy and put together, but I was also crying constantly, feeling scared and alone and anxious. My routine wasn’t about wellness—it was about survival. I learned so much about myself tucked away in my little space, but the biggest thing was that I can feel these huge intense feelings and let them happen. I can feel sad and acknowledge that it’s there and also not try to “fix it” or make it go away. All emotions are important and holding space for the good and the bad is a great way to get to really know yourself and your mind.
Category Three: The Music of Sarah Cicero
Madness To Creation: I love the somber feeling in “At Arm’s Length”, was this a difficult song for you to write, if it was, how was it difficult and what is your mindset like when the lyrics and melodies just flow in your songwriting?
Sarah Cicero: Thank you so much! Writing “At Arm’s Length” was actually a really cathartic experience; I was feeling something very deeply that I had to release. Some lyrics were harder to write because I was trying to capture a very specific image and needed to find the right words, but overall it was one of those songs that was just kind of ready to be written, which is very special when it happens. When it does happen, I feel like my mindset is just along for the ride. It’s sort of like, okay, I have something to say and it’s ready to be said.
Sarah Cicero: When I’m spending the day in the studio, my bag is like Mary Poppins’ bag. I bring water, snacks, lunch, a notebook, tissues, a book, and if I’m recording vocals I bring a bottle of honey to squeeze into my mouth between takes like a gross Winnie-the-Pooh.
Madness To Creation: The EP “Cold Immaculate Opposite” is coming out on April 9th, what can fans expect from the release and are you planning on any livestreams or live performances to coincide with the release?
Sarah Cicero: The last song on the EP is the most personal, vulnerable, raw piece of work I’ve created. I didn’t want to release it as a single because I didn’t want to spotlight it, and it’s still wild for me to think about the fact that in a couple weeks it will be out in the world, but I just wanted it to be there, for the version of myself that wrote it and for anyone who might be moved by it in some way. As of now I have no livestreams or live performances planned in April, but if I do schedule something I’ll share it on Instagram!
Madness To Creation: Favorite thing about yourself as a musician and one thing you feel that you can work on?
Sarah Cicero: My favorite thing about myself as a musician is my vulnerability, even when it is hard and embarrassing, and I really feel like I could work on my guitar playing!
Sarah Cicero: I can’t remember the moment! I always knew 🙂
And there you have it! Check out “Cold Immaculate Opposite” by Sarah Cicero this Friday! In the meantime, check out “Letter To The Editor” below!