What do you think your writing says about you?
I think it says I'm an emotional, sensitive human.
Catching Cairo is an artist incredibly comfortable with vulnerability. The five tracks on her latest EP When it’s Over are an amalgamation of many feelings from multiple perspectives. “It could be a song I've written from first person, but it's not from my perspective, it could be from the perspective of someone that I'm talking to, or thinking of.”
Whether she’s “being the main character, or the villain” is a mystery to the listener but it is nonetheless an immersive listen, sonically cohesive in production with each track telling its own individual story. The themes of love, longing and the self-reflection of life in lockdown (when the EP was written) make for a relatable and immersive listen. Below is more of our conversation about the release and its journey to fruition.
What are some of the main themes within the project?
Surface is self love. Token is about thinking about someone. ‘Are you thinking about me? Do you like me?’ I'm in that feeling right now. Juice is a song that features my producer who is also an artist. And that's a song about the absence of someone, asking them to savour that thing, because I think as well it was written in covid, no one likes FOMO. The times when I'm most sad about missing out on an event or something, it's not the place, it's the people who I know are gonna be there. And I'm like ‘can you just save some of that vibe for me?’ Common ground is a bouncy, reggae tune for me. It just is. Maybe reggae conisseuseurs will tell me otherwise. My parents are Jamaican and the way that I feel when I listen, it’s reggae. It's about finding common ground with your significant other. ‘Can’t we just meet in the middle?’ And When It's Over is about, lightly influenced by my friend because he put me onto Smino, and the first verse of that song is about when we’ll meet up.
What does that phrase, ‘When it’s Over’, mean to you?
Ironically even though it's called ‘When it's Over’, it's me just getting started. The song itself is about specifically when this lockdown and pandemic, when all this restriction is over, all the stuff i will be able to do, the way I’ll be able to be. ‘When it's over I can be with you. I can’t be myself right now, I know you've been waiting for me to find some space and time but I just don’t have it’. And that's what it's about, that song, among other things. The title of the track which resonated was just that anticipation element. Cuz I’d got to that point where i'd make a body of work, and that waiting and hesitation and self doubt and inner constant criticising and just picking it apart all the time, when that’s over I can just get my shit going.
When did you coin catching Cairo as a name? Where does that come from?
Well I really like ancient history and at the time on facebook I had my actual name, but I made up an alias name because my mum’s friends kept getting me in trouble, seeing what I posted like, ‘oh she’s got her boobs out, she’s doing this, doing that’, so i deleted people and then I changed my name to an Egyptian name that I created. It’s still that now. So I wanted to call myself something that was an extension of that, but I thought it was too many words, and then I was like ‘Cairo!’ I really wanna go there because I’m really fascinated by Egypt, but there was someone else called Cairo, and I have this tag line which is ‘falling fast’, and then I literally had a notebook and for time I was writing words and my name and drawing stuff, I got to maybe three words combinations and I didn’t know I was looking for that and then I kept saying them and ‘Catching Cairo’ was eureka, that felt like me catching myself.
Do you feel more safe making music under a pseudonym? Do you feel like it allows you to express yourself a bit more?
I feel in a way yes, it’s kind of the same for me, most recently I feel more comfortable being Catching Cairo, because of the way social media is, and when I meet people, so it’s not so much a pseudonym, it’s more just a persona that i can step into and i feel comfortable in that. I love performing as myself, but my artist persona helps me step into that, from what I'm wearing, what I’m drinking, how I wanna hold myself, what mood I'm in for the night, it's not dependent on my name, it’s dependent on my mood but I feel like once I step into that character I'm in that performance mode a bit more, so I guess it does help.
Do you start with a notebook or do you start with a melody?
Every song’s the same. It used to be, I used to be so fixated on writing my songs from the start knowing what I was writing about in chronological order, but for the EP I just threw all that shit out the window, I was like I’m gonna start freestyling or singing stuff. I would have the project up, I would adlib the melody, or adlib lyrics or just sing whatever came into my head and record it, and I would go through it like that and tell my story.
Has it helped?
I just care too much sometimes, I think so much and previously it’s really held me back.
I’m usually working on like, eight or nine songs at once.
Did it set the tone for the rest of the EP?
Production wise yes, but as a whole when I listen to the project I don’t think that it has a genre, even when I try and narrow it down, ‘What is this?’ I feel like all of the songs are really different even though they’re produced by the same people and have the same sounds and instrumentations, and some correlation.
I think they're different… I think it did set the tone but not so much musically as it did mentally, I felt like.
How did you cope with lockdown writing your EP?
I wrote the whole time, I finished the EP before lockdown had ended.
Happened over like six weeks altogether, and once I got into the flow, and ‘cause of covid, like i remember in the beginning, I was like you know what I don’t want this shit to be over and me to be in the exact same position as the beginning, I just don’t like being idle I wanna actually change my life. I think a lot of people agree that even though it was peak. We were less distracted. I’d lock myself in my office and just write and no one was really allowed in my room when I was writing.
When did you know that when it's over would be the title?
That EP has been called EP 1 for like a year. I didn't really know what I wanted to call it, I had a concept before, but after listening to it a few times, When It's Over just stood out the most.
She manages to test the limits of her vocal range on this release, “If anything surface on my project is probably the most experimental track I did, in terms of using my voice, my range, I sing quite low, I talk, I yell, I sing really high, I layer it a lot and the actual verses overlap.”
Personally, When It’s Over is the standout., the perfect closer for the EP. The production itself is melancholy with a slow tempo. But the lyrics are eternally optimistic.
Chasin’, I was chasin’ / No more rules or moderation / Watching the clouds go fast / and sirens wailing through / all the flowers are fragrant / layin’ on the grass / and the open is the you that i've chosen / to be the only one i’ll be good lovin’ too
She describes this ethereal track best herself.
“It wraps up the whole mood of the EP. It’s dreamy walking music. It transports us from being in solitary confinement, and you can just glitch out of the daydream for a moment and then come back.”
When It’s Over is available to stream now.
images provided by @cicelygrace