An old school sensualness, akin to that of soulstress Erykah Badu, oozes from Melbourne-based newcomer CD. It’s a resemblance that’s purposeful, yet organic, especially in regards to her latest release ‘Mr. M.I.A’, a reworked tribute to Badu’s ‘Tyrone’. Though quite new to the Melbourne scene, the CD is no stranger to it, having sung alongside artist and partner Agung Mango at both Golden Plains and Laneway. However, her ability as a solo artist translates across to her own discography, having had music as a focal point from an early age.
Her first two tracks, ‘Thank God for Frank Ocean’ and ‘Me Too’ reveal her tranquil artistry through cooing vocals and emotive lyricism. Yet ‘Mr. M.I.A.’ takes CD’s talents a notch above. Teaming up with producer Michael Cooper, the track slow-steps under a fluttering flute melody, the softly layered percussion making way for CD’s iridescent vocals, ‘you better call Tyrone and hope he pick up the phone’, she sings. We sat down with CD to hear more about her latest Badu inspired single, as well as how she’s navigating the Melbourne music world.
Hey CD! First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into music?
I’m a second-generation Egyptian (Coptic Orthodox) and I grew up in Melbourne’s West. Since I can remember, my parents and older cousins were always bumping RnB, Soul, Hip Hop and Rap, so I was exposed to music from a very young age and always singing and dancing along with everyone. When I was around six years old, I started both singing and dancing lessons but I was pretty on and off for a while. I got to an age a few years later when I became sure that I wanted to really pursue singing and dancing, so I asked my parents to let me start lessons again and I didn’t stop. I was doing different styles of dance for a few years, then eventually settled on Hip Hop, where I joined crews and had the opportunity to compete interstate and internationally. Along the way, I started piano and guitar lessons which I’m still doing now.
It wasn’t until I left high school that I started writing my own songs, because prior to that I had a completely different idea of how I was going to make it in music (but I did find a very cute song that I wrote in Grade 6). During the first couple of years of making my own music, I struggled a bit with self-confidence so I wasn’t doing too much, but I met some people who exposed me to the scene and began to push me into writing and recording more. Once I became really invested in my own music, I had to sacrifice the time I spent dancing for more time on music. So now, it’s music full time for me, but I am planning on getting back into dancing once the lockdown is over, as that’s something I’ve always wanted to incorporate in my music too.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest single ‘Mr. M.I.A.’?
For the last couple of years I’ve loved covering ‘Tyrone’ by Erykah Badu at gigs here and there, so when I got into the studio with Mikki (Michael Cooper) who produced the track, knowing what he was capable of, my first instinct was to finally create my own version of ‘Tyrone’. I wanted the song to be sassy, sexy, soulful and catchy. I came up with the concept of having a ‘Mr. M.I.A.’ present in my life and wrote about being fed up with him to portray a similar story as ‘Tyrone’. I wanted my own song that I could perform live and bring the same attitude to it as Erykah did. Mikki really helped me bring my vision to life, and also got his brother Harry Cooper on board to play flute, as well as Joshua Albert on the drums, both were the cherry on top!
How do artists like Sade and Erykah Badu inspire you? I know that you referenced a line from one of Erykah’s songs in ‘Mr. M.I.A.’, “better call Tyrone, and hope he picks up the phone”.
Everything from the production, to their lyrics and their melodies are all hugely inspiring to me. They’ve created such timeless music, which is ultimately my goal when I create music. I want to make songs that I can bump in 30 years and will still hit as hard as they would now. As well as that, they’re artists who are completely themselves, and now that I feel a lot more confident than I did when I started out, I want to fully embrace and show myself through my music too.
As I mentioned before, ‘Mr. M.I.A.’ was created to be my own version of ‘Tyrone’, so when I started writing it I knew I wanted a reference in there, but more so an ode to Erykah Badu and that song. The production was heavily inspired by the sounds of Sade. Another reason why Mikki is amazing, he really executed the production perfectly and I feel like it reflected the inspirations really well.
What other artists have inspired you growing up?
Beyoncé was definitely my biggest inspiration growing up. Even though I don’t resonate as much with her now, I can honestly say she’s the reason I started singing and dancing lessons. Artists like Michael Jackson, Usher, Rihanna and The Black Eyed Peas had a similar effect on me growing up because they were not only singers/rappers, but they were performers and really put on a great show.
Other artists that I can’t leave without mentioning who’ve really inspired me and my sound are Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Solange, D’Angelo, Alicia Keys, SZA, Lauryn Hill, Gwen Bunn, SiR and the list goes on.
You were met with such a positive reception for ‘Mr. M.I.A.’, how does it feel to get such reviews, especially from established presenters on Triple J unearthed?
I’ve never felt so rewarded in my life. This whole release was a massive learning experience for me. Being independent and self-managing, I was almost clueless when releasing my first two singles. I was just going based on what people around me were doing, what I felt was right and what I was seeing. But having artists close to me who have management or who are even signed, I started to notice a difference in the opportunities they were getting and what I was getting, regardless of how much music they had out. So I made it my mission to find out how to do what a manager does and then do it myself. I did heaps of research and also got some advice from people who knew better than I did, and I learnt so much about the industry and how to navigate my way around it.
The reception was amazing, and it really did come from hard work and manifestation. For a couple of weeks after the release, it was win after win every day, including this, and I’m so proud and grateful. I’m also thankful to everyone who gave me the time of day when I reached out, including the Triple J presenters who not only wrote beautiful reviews but also premiered the track for me. I believe that the standard of ‘Mr. M.I.A.’ is much higher than my last two releases, and it reflected a lot of growth, but I don’t think I would’ve received these opportunities had I not gone out and got them myself.
You’ve sung alongside fellow artist Agung Mango at big festivals such as Golden Plains and Laneway. What was that experience like for you? Does it drive you to get up on the big stages solo?
I feel truly blessed to have experienced playing big festivals at such an early stage in my career, and I feel even more blessed that I was able to experience them alongside my partner. Not many people get to do that, and to have someone like him around me every day is extremely motivating. Of course, every time I’m up there, I start visualising what my own solo set would look and feel like, but we have the most amazing little family and it’s such a high being up there with them, so I’ll take every opportunity I get. I have no doubt that I’ll eventually get there because I’m surrounded by amazing people doing amazing things, and I feel like that’s the key to growth, improving as an individual and getting where you want to be. Opportunities like that don’t happen overnight, and there have been times where I’ve had to remind myself, but I know I’m steady on my path.
How has growing up in the Melbourne scene inspired you?
I love the Melbourne scene so much. The versatility is next level and I feel like there’s definitely a “Melbourne sound” arising even though we’re all in our own lane. Everyone is so connected to their roots, which makes you want to feel connected to your roots too, and there’s no better feeling. Also, to have artists like Kaiit, REMI and Sampa The Great achieving what they are, I think it’s really inspiring and reassuring to the rest of us that we have the ability to get there too. The Melbourne scene is on the rise and I can’t wait until the rest of the world hears us.
Who are some other local Melbourne artists you’re into right now?
There’s so much talent coming from everywhere around Melbourne and I absolutely love what everyone is doing. To name a few, there’s my girl ZK KING who both produces and sings, Mwanjé who I know is bound to come out with some heat, Tiana Khasi who is now Melbourne based so we can claim her, and of course Agung Mango because no one is ready for what’s to come from him.
What’s to come in the future? Working on anything new?
Lots of new music, in good timing. I want to produce good quality content that goes past music. With the lockdown it’s pretty hard to execute all my plans properly, but as soon as I get the chance to, I’ll be on my climb. With all my new knowledge, I feel a lot more confident to keep releasing. I’m always working on new music and experimenting with different sounds, so for a while you might expect each release to sound a little different from the last, and I’m pretty okay with that because it’s all growth and a journey that everyone gets to witness and be a part of.
BUT some things to look out for are my Soundcloud as I’ll be posting some little things I’ve been working on there, and a collaborative project with the collective ‘PiiMP.’ I can’t say too much about it, but it’s all really exciting and we can’t wait to share it.
Follow CD here for more and stream ‘Mr. M.I.A.’ below.