CY is addressing the current challenges that society faces with his latest album Be Your Own Hero. Cy Najjar, the man behind the music, has years of experience that he has used to mould the carefully sculpted soundscape of the album. Mixing this with his interest in social justice, he has created a collection of tracks that speaks tot he heart of issues. We sat down with Cy Najjar to talk about the album, personal attachment to songs, creative processes and much more!
OSR: You have been involved in the music industry for many years, but was there a moment when you realized that this is what you wanted to do?
CY: I jumped into the world of live music with both feet from the very beginning at 15. I was performing my first gigs, but something in me was always cautious about working in the music industry. I had many options when I started, but one of the main issues that haunted me was the reality of it all; would I be able to make a living out of it?
For too long, I saw artists suffer and struggle to get out there and make a buck. After a few years, I had saved up a little from my work in technology, I promised myself that all the money I would make out of teaching I would reinvest into creating music.
Today, I look at the revenue we make from millions of streams and it doesn’t even cover minimum wage, it seems like music is still reserved for a happy few. I would love to be able to live from music but I’ve set that thought aside and keep it as a side passion of mine.
OSR: Having dipped into recording, composing, and producing music, what do you feel most comfortable doing?
CY: I feel at home in the studio and on stage. It’s a place where everything is possible, and creativity fuses and takes over the mind of the artists or the crowd. I also love writing. It’s true that, at times, it can be beautiful and free-flowing. But at other times, you really have to dig for a song; it’s a bit of a struggle with yourself. Ultimately when you complete a song, the reward is immense.
If I were to pick a favourite, it would definitely be recording, the studio is a safe place where errors are sought after, they are the ones that bring the unexpected.
OSR: Is there a backstory or theme to your latest album Be Your Own Hero?
CY: There’s this place I go to in the early morning, I like to get work done away from my teams before going to the office. One day, I met this man sitting out there and he told me his story:
He was a war veteran who fought for his country. After a few years of deployment and having received severe injuries from an IED, he came back to find his wife had moved on. He had lost everything he ever fought for. His savings weren’t nearly enough, and relationships around him had thinned. He found himself out on the street, stripped of his life against his will.
It’s hard for us to comprehend how difficult it can be to feel estranged in our own home, to lose everything that really matters. But some people pull through, and these are the real heroes, those that come from underprivileged backgrounds and work their hearts out to cross the finish line. These are the real heroes we should be celebrating.
OSR: The tracks on the album are quite personal and heartfelt, was it difficult to get what you wanted to say across in your music?
CY: Finding what you want to express can be a challenge, and some themes are perhaps too delicate to transpose in music and songwriting. But 2020 brought so many emotions to the surface and I found themes at every corner. ‘Broken’ speaks of the domestic violence many have endured like prisoners during the confinements. ‘Be Your Own Hero’ is a hymn to self-accomplishment regardless of the hardship, and ‘The Only One’ denounces the absurdities of the world we’ve come to create with social media, likes and vanity metrics.
OSR: What was your creative process? Did you start with concepts, lyrics, or melodies?
CY: The process of writing music is a bit of a mystery. Some days the melody is in your head, and it drives everything like a locomotive, and some other days, it’s a chord or a sentence.
What’s certain is that for me, it involves rewriting lyrics and melodies dozens of times. A bit like a sculptor sanding a stone. The lyrics have to fit while keeping the meaning they’re intended for. It’s a process I love and enjoy; it does, however, require a quiet mind.
OSR: What was the biggest challenge you faced while making the album?
CY: I never worked on music this way before. Confinement and the fact that we couldn’t travel around created a whole new set of rules for engaging with other musicians. That had its impact on recording and composing, perhaps a positive one. In addition, you would launch an album with a live event and concert. None of this was possible, it was all digital and virtual. Getting people to listen to music when they are stuck at home with kids and zoom calls can be quite the challenge!
OSR: Is there a track you found easier or harder to create than the others?
CY: ‘Be Your Own Hero’ certainly flowed by itself, it was also the last song I wrote on the album. It sort of dawned on me the same day and might be the only reason I felt confident enough to release the album.
This is not always the case, and at times writing and composing can be like digging and excavating something you have inside. Some of the songs felt like that, but in the end, they came through.
OSR: How do you feel this album compares to your past releases?
CY: It feels like the first release to me. Most of my previous work was done under the name of a band, while most of this album I wrote.
It always came down to the collective sound, and the songs often grew more complex and more intricate because when you’re in a band everyone has something to say.
For Be Your Own Hero, it was simpler, more to the point, and very focused. I did some back and forth with different musicians on the tracks but ultimately, and unlike my previous work, it was solely internal reflections and research and what could be considered as a clear message with every song.
OSR: If people could only remember one thing about your music, what would you like that to be?
CY: We often wonder what would happen should we go back in the future and change the timeline we’re in, but we often forget that our present affects our future just as much.
It’s hard to accept but projects and goals do come through, sometimes in unexpected ways, but it is essential to hold on to them. We all have it in us to create or build what we love, and if you give this a few minutes a day or an hour a week, while it might take years, in the end, it comes to fruition.
OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?
CY: Big things I hope! I’m currently a few songs into the second album, and things are looking great. The incredible feedback received, over a million streams in a couple of weeks and a number one hit on the worldwide charts of Reverbnation is a good indication that I’m doing something right.
Let’s hope this time we’ll launch the next album with a proper concert without all the challenges of 2020.