Interview: Cinnamon Girl
Danish born artist Camilla Roholm isn’t just a pretty face.
Performing under the pseudonym Cinnamon Girl, in the past month she’s found herself the recipient of rave support following the release of lead demo “Friends”. Now living in London, the self-confessed superhero geek has self-produced and financed a snappy, infectious ode to a relationship wronged that mixes the rainbow punk of Cyndi Lauper with the propeller yelp of Grace Jones. But you can forget Marvel – after one listen it’s painfully obvious we’re dealing with a modern day music saviour, no crayons attached.
To celebrate the dawning of a new era and to find out more about its relatively undiscovered pioneer, Tiffany Danielsspoke to Roholm about growing up with artistic parents, the implications of her name and just how awesome she really is
How, when and why did you start making music?
Both my parents were musicians, although I only met my father a few years ago. Their romance was short lived. His band was touring Scandinavia. It resulted in the Danish, Jamaican mix that is me. I’m basically a groupie baby.
I can’t remember a time that I haven’t made music. I was pretty much born singing. I got a ukulele when I was three and used to strum it and make up songs. I knew all the words to every single song on the radio. I used to make up harmonies and sing along. I was seven the first time I wrote my own song lyrics down. I started teaching myself to play the guitar age 12, as my mother’s guitar was lying around anyway.
Have you performed under another pseudonym or with other bands in the past?
I’ve been in tonnes of horrifyingly bad bands since I was a teenager. Luckily no material remains. They were all valuable experiences. It takes time and hard work to get good.
What inspired you to follow a career in pop over any other genre?
I have always been drawn to genre’s that have strong female personalities. As a teenager I got really into old punk and new wave for that reason, as well as female fronted 90s grunge bands. But I also loved all the iconic female 80s pop stars (plus a few pretty feminine men). And I’m a sucker for a synth. I think my music has elements of all of those things.
What made you move to London from Denmark and do you think that’s affected the music you now listen to?
I came to learn and to make music and find like minded people to make it with. It’s a terrible cliché, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it actually worked out pretty well. I was already obsessed with British music before I moved here, so no change there.
How has the Danish music scene influenced you?
It hasn’t. At least not consciously, although something is bound to have seeped into my subconscious. If I start wearing rubber costumes, singing about plastic dolls or have carefully choreographed dance moves accompany my songs, I give you permission to personally shoot me in the head.
There’s actually a bit of a music scene starting to build over there. They seem to be funding it now so things are happening. Fingers crossed. Sweden historically kicks the Danes asses when it comes to music though, so we have a lot of catching up to do.
How important is image to you and your project?
It’s important in the way that I think I have a very strong sense of my own image and what I want and do not want to project. It is an excellent tool to portray your personality. I’d like it to be bright, bold, strong and playful. Being outrageous can become tedious, I’d just like it to reflect myself and the music. I can’t imagine I’ll be getting my arse out and shaking it around in any of my videos.
According to Neil Young, his song ‘Cinnamon Girl’ is about a “city girl of colour”. Are you influenced by the track?
Neil Young’s great and the lyrics to Cinnamon Girl are beautiful. I also like the Prince song of the same title, but neither were a big influence.
It’s certainly a tongue in cheek reference to the colour of my skin, but honestly I just wanted a name that sounded a bit like a super hero. I’m such a secret geek, I love comic book heroes, fantasy and magic realism novels. Cinnamon Girl would be a pretty shit hero though, not sure what she’d do other than bake you to death. Oh sweet Jesus. I’ve just realised that essentially makes me a spice girl. I’m genuinely completely and utterly horrified.
Do you think racial issues have affected your career, or is the reference more personal?
As a mixed race or black person, racial issues affect your whole life whether you want it to or not. For me, I grew up in an entirely white country with a white family, resulting in pretty conflicting ideas of what my identity was. I was completely Danish on the inside, having grown up in that culture with no knowledge of my Jamaican roots. But I didn’t look like everybody else. Moving to the UK helped with the knowledge part, but as a mixed race person you can sort of feel like you’re in no man’s land in terms of belonging at times. Most of the negative things I experienced as a kid were more likely caused by lack of knowledge and unfamiliarity with anything different on their part than out right racism though. However, one can breed the other.
People genuinely thought it was ok to put sunglasses on me and make me pretend to be Stevie Wonder as a party piece! Ha ha ha, so wrong on so many levels!! It was also generally assumed by most of people that I was, for instance, probably quite good at moonwalking. It’s hilarious now, but quite tragic really.
Your song “Friends” sounds like a modern-day Cyndi Lauper. Has the New Yorker influenced you, and what else inspired the song?
Thank you. That’s a very nice compliment. I do love her voice –the punk edged belting coupled with the bittersweet synth pop definitely appeals to me, but it’s just one influence in many. I think having sung in rock bands and stuff has just shaped my voice that way. I’m a bit of a shouter!
I think the song is very sad. I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s about how giving in to loving someone completely, is bizarrely the most terrifying thing in the world. Especially as this particular person always seem to be on the verge of being ripped away by superficial, nasty outside influences. It also mourns the loss of your own personal freedom as the love takes hold and you begin to need the other person, rather than celebrating love itself as something positive. Pretty bleak, ha ha!
How can you be a brother to someone’s sister?
He’s the brother to her sister, meaning her family, her soul mate.
You write and produce all your own material, which is exactly how Drunken Werewolf likes its female pop stars. What are the pros and cons of being self-reliant in the music industry?
I’m not sure yet. It’s still very early days but I think that will all become more apparent as I’m dragged further into the belly of the music industry beast. So far it has been great. It has given me immense creative freedom and time to make something that is entirely mine and that I can be proud of. I’m a ridiculously hard worker and I get really immersed in my music. I had become sick of wasting time by having to always wait around for other people. Whether it was lazy band members never on time for practice, or getting enough money for studio time. So I decided that in order to do things properly, I’d have to do it myself. I worked like crazy doing awful jobs I hated to buy the equipment I needed, then got to work. This project is my baby and I will fight for it like a lioness with a cub.
What does 2012 hold for Cinnamon Girl (more please!)?
Fingers crossed it’s about to get very exciting….Watch this space….No really. Keep watching please. Thank you!