Picture this… it’s Thursday evening after a long day at work and your daughter is running around the living room singing the entire Little Mermaid soundtrack from start to finish. Nobody wants to tell her to stop, but there is certainly no demand for an encore.
Although a lot of parents have the experience of a theatrical child with a taste for Disney, few have the ability to watch their daughters flourish into talented musicians and songwriters. Cece Coakley is one of the few gems that have grown up and evolved into a more sophisticated artist, and yet has never lost her tonality of magic.
Through hectic schedules and many issues with technology, I had the chance to ask another young artist about her influences, past, and future. With only two singles and two features, Coakley has a limited discography to dive into and analyze. Instead, I was more interested in her spirit and drive to create, especially so early on.
When asked about her familial relationships and if music had any impact on her taste and style, Coakley revealed that her surrounding support has little musical inclination. This inspiration for creation came from none other than One Direction.
Shamelessly detailing her obsession with the group from prepubescence, Coakley states, “Without my love for their cheesy romantic pop songs I don’t think I would have such an underlying love from straight up love songs. This shows in my writing style because I tend to focus on one single subject in most of my songs, mainly along the lines of love and heartbreak.”
From Taylor Swift to Halsey, love songs seem to get a equal the amount of praise as criticism, especially female performers. No one really takes down Ed Sheeran for his multiple albums of romantic ballads, but god forbid Swift produce another song about one of her exes. Coakley sets herself apart from the over-saturated pop attitude with her ‘folky’ tastes in Brandi Carlile, Maggie Rogers, and Lake Street Drive. Her down to earth approach to both life and art sets her on a solid path to creating lasting music that isn’t hot for fifteen minutes.
Performing in Knoxville, Tennessee, at local venues and opportunities for artists, Coakley fosters the same fondness for her home city as both Briston Maroney and Connor Kelly, other Knoxville residents and Rocka featured, drool about. The influx of young talent in the southern city creates an array of opportunities for the artists to take hold of.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter where Coakley performs, whether it’s in Bijou Theatre, one of East Tennessee’s most prominent and historical venues, or in the living room of her home. It is a yin and yang situation, one composed of her greatest fears and her favorite thing.
“I have a real hard time composing myself to public speak and things like that, so being able to showcase what I love to do for others, without having to really explain myself is super insane… as soon as I’m up there, I’m right where I belong, in my zone.”
Coakley further describes her performances and how the feeling is indescribable. It represents a culmination of hard work and effort, all funneled into a few minutes of softly strummed guitar chords and beautifully written lyrics. Her vibrance and desire to tell her story is something that audiences and tired parents alike can enjoy.
So what is the drive for a teenager to not only balance her social life, academics, future prospects, and extracurriculars, but also try to create a name for herself in the music scene? It is the want to bring light into the world, carefully packaged in acoustic “happy-melancholy” tunes. Coakley shares the mindset that most artists of all media possess: if one person is influenced, the job is done. What sets her apart from every other person who says that is her spirit. Her determination, grit, and simplicity is what grants her music a beauty that is so cathartic. Once in a while, you just need a good love song, and you don’t have to have seven Harry Styles posters on your wall to agree with that.
“Don’t Let Me Go” is Cece Coakley’s most recent release, drawing a line between her past releases and features and proving to her audience that she’s here to stay. Her smooth vocals tie the melody and lyrics perfectly together as a gift for every listening ear. Characterizing the natural ebb and flow of relationships, “Don’t Let Me Go” tells the familiar story of loving someone and constantly feeling a push and pull with them. Coakley’s vocals perfectly hold the desperation of wanting to understand and love somebody, but feeling like everything is falling apart. Coakley masters the hybrid of creating a song that is open enough for everyone to relate, but also deeply personal.
“I’ll say I love you even though I know I don’t.”
With the resolution of finally letting the lover go, the song ends with the heartbreaking triumph of leaving the person behind. “Don’t Let Me Go” is Coakley’s most important release thus far; it shows her growth from a lovesick teenager into a young adult who has channeled her pain into an art form for so many people to relate.
Intimacy receives a whole new meaning when listening to Cece Coakley’s music, one characterized by a mind reading girl behind a guitar with lyrics that cut through like ice. Nothing about my conversation with her was shocking, because Coakley is who she presents herself to be. Nothing else. She is consistent in both her passions and practices that make listening to her music feel like a conversation. The music industry is riddled with impostors who run around in costumes, singing songs they most often didn’t write, bowing down to the altar of fame. Cece Coakley is a breath of fresh air.
Leaving for college in the fall, Coakley hopes to finish writing and recording her debut EP and cement her name into the Knoxville music scene. Cece Coakley is a shockingly authentic artist in every musical and spiritual aspect, and I have no doubt great success will come to her in all of her endeavors. Her story is short one thus far, but even the shortest of stories posses the greatest meaning.
Watch out for Cece Coakley in the future, Rocka readers. She’s sure to blow you away, with or without the Little Mermaid soundtrack.