Since graduation this May, Cecily Bumbray ’12 has energetically pursued a career as a singer-songwriter. And while she’s only been gone for a little more than three months, last Thursday Bumbray returned to Swarthmore—not to visit old friends and professors, reminisce, or casually revel in the vibrant late summer arboretum colors, but instead to film part of the music video for her first single, “Too Much,” on LPAC’s main stage.
Though her official major was in Political Science with a minor in Black Studies, Bumbray knew relatively early into her time at Swarthmore that she wanted to pursue a career in music. “The moment I decided that I wanted to be a singer and a performer instead of a diplomat was actually the summer after my freshman year at Swarthmore,” she says. “I went to Italy with my family to a music festival.… It was such an amazing week.… I was watching someone perform and I was just like, ‘You know, I want to do that.’ That moment is when I kind of got serious about it.” Over her four years here, Bumbray was involved in a range of musical groups on campus, including Mixed Company for one year, Essence of Soul for two, Swarthmore Chorus, and Gospel Choir. She also took private voice lessons once a week.
Bumbray likes to describe her sound as “acoustic pop soul,” and lists as three of her primary influences Anita Baker, Jill Scott, and Adele, who she credits with having “paved the way for the type of music that I love to do.”
Why this style in particular? “When I think of pop soul it’s basically just soul music that everyone can feel but that has a crossover appeal to it,” she explains, “I definitely try to stick with an acoustic sound because I think it fits my personality well, it fits my songwriting and it really shows off my voice.”
Although Bumbray admits to having little formal background in music theory or the more pragmatic aspects of making a career in music, she plans to begin classes in music theory and the music business this fall. Meanwhile, she’s busy working on her first EP, which she hopes to release in April 2013. “As I work up to that,” she says, “I’m going to do, maybe not my own live shows as often, but kind of do gigs where I can, definitely go to open mics, really have a grassroots approach in terms of networking and building a fan base in anticipation for my EP.”
The music video for “Too Much” was filmed and produced by Tayarisha Poe ’12, a friend of Bumbray’s from their time together at Swarthmore. According to Poe, “The idea behind the video itself is showing the progress of a relationship in a staggered format.”
Poe graduated last year with a special major in film and English. “Cecily liked my style, I guess, and she reached out to me, late this summer, when she knew she wanted to have a video done for her single coming out in September, and I said definitely,” she recounts. “She’s got a beautiful voice, so I jumped at the opportunity.”
The portion of the video filmed at LPAC features Bumbray singing alone in a spotlight on the otherwise dark stage. The song itself fits easily into Bumbray’s “acoustic pop soul” ideal. Later, Bumbray and Poe headed down to the dressing rooms, where they shot some takes of Bumbray alternately staring and singing into the mirrors, make-up containers strewn around her. For Poe, the choice to use LPAC for the video was simple: “We’ve already got a relationship with the school, and there’s something about LPAC that just stands out to me as being so extra-theatrical. As soon as she said she wanted some sort of stage scene I just said, ‘Well, let’s do LPAC.’” On Friday, the pair continued filming at Poe’s home in West Philly.
Bumbray aims to release the “Too Much” single and video by October 15th on independent label Harmonious Grits. It will be available on iTunes and Google Play, in addition to other mp3 distribution websites. As she looks forward to a promising career in music, Bumbray reflects on her time at Swarthmore: “In my last two years at Swarthmore, especially, I had a lot of opportunities to perform at various events and it really gave me the amazing opportunity to get more comfortable on stage in a supportive environment. Being a student at Swarthmore made it difficult for me to have time to write music and to rehearse often, but it did give me a taste of real life experience: putting together a performance in a very limited amount of time with limited resources. Overall, I think Swarthmore taught me to think outside of the box and to be conceptual, and these are teachings I constantly apply to my music.”
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