Sarah Kinsley Breaks Down Every Track of Her New Cypress EP

We're not convinced that any artist can show the type of versatility and depth across five tracks the way New York singer-songwriter Sarah Kinsley does on her new Cypress EP.

From rousing calls to action to cozy pop ballads and soaring, orchestral anthems about embracing the unknowns of the future, Cypress really does it all, connected by Sarah's rich voice, stunning melodies and profoundly honest lyrics. The mostly self-produced collection of songs is often ethereal, yet always relatable, and we were honored to get the chance to have Sarah break down the EP and every one of its songs for us.

Cypress

Sarah Kinsley: When the idea of Cypress as a concept first arrived last July, I already knew it was going to be the name of my next body of work. Cypress is both an homage to a physical, grounded place and an intangible, ever-growing meaning. I wrote the foundation of this EP during two weeks spent across California. I fell madly in love with cypress trees. I think I say that the meaning is intangible and ever-growing because it has never been exact or constant for me. In some ways, choosing Cypress represents this fear and hiding behind the glorious tree—I was enamored with the idea of hiding myself behind my artistry, behind my music. I wanted to save a piece of myself from the world. But in other lights, Cypress is also a defiant stretch up to the sky: it is an immortal and everlasting beacon of my right to grow, my right to change, and the deep necessity of it all. This past year, I felt I finally shed the lingering holds the past held on me. I let go of people, of ideas, of old skin. It was the year of really truly accepting this fate that we are neither here nor there, always drifting, rooting ourselves further into the ground and propelling even faster into the sky. I chose this name because I became it, and the idea and musicality of it completely took over me.

Sometimes I find it hard to distinguish the complexity of a record's themes into words, but with this EP I find it actually incredibly easy. Cypress is searching. A displacement of time. Anger, frustration. Resentment. Bitterness. Bitter sweetness. Tenderness. Loving. Chasing, holding back. I often feel when I listen back to the songs of Cypress that I am running. I'm not sure what from, or towards just yet. And I like this inability to place the origin, to perceive the future. It's very freeing. I hope listeners feel this sense of possibility as they travel with me. I feel very close to people who listen to my music—in any shape or form. And I wonder if they also feel free to save themselves, to love and cry, to chase and hold back. I imagine we experience these themes through some form of growing together. Maybe it sounds too cultish, who knows.

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'Hills Of Fire'

SK: I actually wrote a few versions playing with the lyrical ideas of "Hills of Fire." I think I had an older version that was very groovy, very Solar Power-ish, bright and warm, twangy guitars. But I got the idea for this version in the shower. These serendipitous moments actually happen a lot for me in the shower, it's a wonderful place to think.

I love this line in the second verse, "The world was never yours to untie." It is a deep, deep admission to release—I don't know if I even know what the line really means. But I imagine myself as a child, untying the world like a shoelace, its contents just spilling out, pouring with no end, piling around me. That's all I feel when I say it.

 

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'What Was Mine'

SK: This song is a pure, golden ray of light for me. I had gone through a very silly experience of unrequited love (barely love, whatever else we can call it). But I felt so heartbroken and led on, as if something I had possessed was ruined, that this love was owed to me, I deserved it. I remember when I wrote the chorus to this song, just really yelling over and over in my room, "My babe, my babe, my baby isn't mine," and feeling this release, this sudden, incredible rush. The thing I believed to belong to me was never mine to begin with, and this was the most freeing thing of all.

 

'Green'

Green took me so so effing long to finish—and I'm not surprised why—but it was honestly a year and a half of picking up the song, the words of which I had written in February of 2021, and then just constantly trying a new iteration and then throwing it out. The experience I was writing about was pretty horrible as well, which I think really contributed to this indecisive back and forth and back again feeling that I had with the track. It was as if my relationship to this song was somehow representative of my relationship to this past person—someone I had very much been romantically obsessed with, someone whom I had idealized and been disillusioned with. I didn't want anything to do with the person by the end of it—or the song anymore—and so I just kept picking it up and putting it back down. I eventually stumbled across this marvelous element in the song when I was recording one day in my apartment studio (to call it a studio might even be slandering the word). This feedback kept ringing from my mic. I ended up slicing up the samples of the feedback (very much inspired by the work of Daphne Oram I'd been studying in school) and pitching them and shifting their timing. I ended up using the feedback as an instrument, and it was the most divine representation of my anger. The music screamed for me.

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'Cypress'

SK: I always find I write my favorite lines into the second verses of my songs. I just love, "You think you know your words and you think we get what we deserve." I was really just shouting this to my past self—and maybe in a way to my future self as well—as a moment of expressing that we really never know what it is we want. So many times I'd seemed to attempt to formulate my own future existence, to map out this destiny for myself—but we always think we know these words, think we can predetermine what it is we deserve. I was looking in the mirror and just shattering it, trying to really shout through time that all of these expectations, beliefs, desires—they are all bound to change, as I will too.

 

'Lucky Drive'

SK: This song is really the most vulnerable of the entire EP in a lot of ways. The outro of this song is just my voice and a vocoder, as I repeat over and over, these lines about unraveling:

"Unraveling your decisions
Unlearning what loving isn't
Unraveling your tendencies
Unloving masochist in me"

It's a pondering into whether or not this unraveling for me, pouring myself out to the world, out to another individual, will last. If I can unravel and unlearn the things that stand before me, if I can love without hurt, without harm. "Lucky Drive" is the act of unraveling, of giving myself up to the endless sky.

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For new great new music out today, click HERE to read our interview with Justus Bennetts on his new track, "Girls."