Cece June deeply searches for a sense of closure.
The Barcelona, Spain indie-pop singer-songwriter and guitarist thoughtfully addresses unanswered questions, lingering uncertainties and changing relationships on her latest contemplative single, “Over.”
“It just happened, and it wasn’t really autobiographical because I wasn’t dating anyone at that point,” said June, who’s currently an art history and political science senior at the University of Michigan.
“It’s interesting, with so many of my songs, they just kind of happen, and the ability to write ‘Over’ without having felt it personally … I genuinely don’t know where that came from.”
Throughout “Over,” a tranquil symphony of pensive electric guitar, hopeful cello, crashing cymbals and thunderous drums infuses June with newfound strength and confidence.
She sings, “I can’t help but to let you know/That this is more than intended/I never meant to let you go/I said I loved you and I meant it/It isn’t over just cause you say it is/I’d like to tell you where my ending begins.”
“With the guitar pattern, I knew that I wanted a message, and I wanted it to be really restated. The verses are structurally the same, but obviously lyrically different,” June said.
“The choruses are different, and as that desperation nears the end, that’s when the music starts building up, and the cello gets stronger, and the drums come in. The drums are almost cacophonic, and I wanted them to be loud … like something’s breaking, and it’s not in your control to mend it.”
To create “Over’s” emotive sound, June collaborated with a talented cast of U-M musicians and students, including producer Ethan Matt, guitarist Matt Stawinski, drummer Casey Cheatham, cellist Micah Huisman and mixer Samuel Uribe-Botero.
“Ethan pushed me to try new things. In the first session, he was giving me auto-tune vocoders that sounded like T-Pain, and I was like, ‘What is this? This is awesome!’ It was such an awesome experience to see it evolve with the mindset of someone who’s really different,” said June, who recorded the track at Ethan Matt’s home studio in mid-February.
“It’s really just a close-knit community of people who are always willing to help. It’s so incredible because you can be like, ‘Oh, I need a trombone,’ and you have like 70 people available.”
“I discovered him last year at an exhibition in Barcelona, and I wrote about him for The Michigan Daily. I wrote this piece called ‘The Rebirth of Still Life,’ and he Facebook messaged me. He was like, ‘I really like this piece, it’s amazing, and thank you for writing it,’” June said.
“In February, I had the chance to perform at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, where he has a piece. I never go on Facebook and saw his message like eight months later. I responded and said, ‘It was a coincidence that I just sang in front of ‘Smoke Rings,’ and we started corresponding.”
That correspondence led June to inquire about featuring Sultan’s piece, “Silvers, Dec. 2, 2020,” as the single artwork for “Over.”
“When I was writing ‘Over,’ I always saw blue hues in my mind. When I’m not sure what the single artwork will be, I go through rosters of artists and shoot for the sky. Then, I came across ‘Silvers, Dec. 2, 2020,’ and was like, ‘This is it.’”
The Road to Ann Arbor
June’s musical journey started while growing up in Barcelona. Raised by gallerist parents, she developed a deep appreciation for world-renowned artists and their timeless pieces. She also absorbed her father’s love of David Bowie and The Smiths as well as Spanish traditional music and classical music.
“A lot of Spanish traditional music has not so much inspired the music that I make, but the way that I want to make it or how or why,” June said. “I like making music, but I also want to bring art along and appreciate things that are well done.”
To fuel her creative endeavors, June learned English from ages 11 to 13 in Dublin. At the time, she taught herself guitar and started using her voice as an instrument.
“I’ve always been musically inclined … I never really practiced or pursued it in any way, so it became a thing to kill time,” said June, who also taught herself piano. “And with time, I found solace in songwriting and expressing whatever I was feeling into words and melodies.”
By age 15, June started writing songs and honed her craft over the next two years. During her senior year of high school, she penned the five tracks that would comprise her 2021 debut EP, Pieces.
“They’re songs that I wrote from December 2018 to May 2019 … and I released that EP two years after I recorded it,” June said. “I was able to see them as candid snapshots of a part of my life that had been (in the past). It was almost like coughing them up, like things needed to get out.
Coincidentally, June met her producer during a music production seminar at her high school. He offered to produce and record June after hearing her perform a song in Spanish.
“We got together, but never actually released that song. Instead, we recorded the other five, and it was an awesome experience to do it at 18,” said June, who’s inspired by Bon Iver, Radiohead and Hailaker.
“We did the demos and everything in his home studio and later went to a commercial studio. It was a five-month process … I just gave him ideas of what I wanted it to sound like, and he made them true.”
While June’s producer finalized the tracks for Pieces, she received a scholarship to play field hockey for U-M. In August 2019, she relocated to the U.S. and arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“I never considered staying in Spain. When I was starting the recruiting process, I was very high-achieving, and I came in with a list of five (schools),” June said. “Michigan was in there because they had just won the Big 10, and it was such an appealing school academically and athletically.”
Pieces and Beyond
By her sophomore year of college, June released her vulnerable, haunting debut single, “Fragile,” which blends airy synths and solemn piano with brooding electric guitar and twinkling percussion into a bold anthem of independence.
She sings, “The darkness in me is getting brighter/The feeling of hope is finally here/But I don’t know how I can feel so much/But just watch me get older, get sane/Don’t give up/It’s the fears in my heart, they can’t be tamed/Oh, I’m ashamed.”
“My songs are things that I feel deeply, and I think I show that vulnerability in ‘Fragile.’ It’s me (responding) to people in my surroundings that hadn’t really seen me for who I was,” said June, who released the single in 2020.
“In the same way that I found solace on paper, I had to become my own best friend while still knowing that I’m fragile. Doing it all by yourself isn’t going to be fun, and it’s OK to not be OK.”
June also brings “Fragile” to life visually through a beautiful video directed by Jaume Fernández and Alex Nuñez. It features dancers Marta Otano and Coke López de Lamadrid gracefully moving alongside June while she sings inside an immersive Monet exhibition at La Ideal Barcelona.
“What has been so awesome about my journey thus far is that everything I have accomplished has been with the help of people who are very dear to me,” she said.
“I have been able to do it really low stakes and have everything turn out well. Alex and Jaume are two of my friends from high school, and they were in their first year studying cinema.”
June also brings a cinematic sound to the tender, cathartic 2021 ballad, “Mine,” as aspirational piano, glistening electric guitar, serene bass, rolling drums and shimmery cymbals provide courage and hope.
She sings, “We were fine/And we couldn’t stop our minds/Yeah without secret one-on-ones/Can we do them in the night?”
“It’s a roller coaster of anticipation at some point. For me, that is one of my favorites, and ‘Mine’ has been one of the greatest songs for me. I hope to make more of that upbeat type of thing in the future,” June said.
“The storyline of ‘Mine’ came about as me just wanting to express myself … I’m queer, but I don’t try to make it my entire personality. It’s just a subtle way of putting it out there, and people can interpret it as they want.”
Like “Fragile,” June collaborated with directors Fernández, Nuñez, Marine Auclair and Uma Ferrer to record and release a compelling, scenic video for “Mine.” Filmed in Spain’s Catalan Mountains during the fall, it spotlights June’s emotive journey through a close relationship.
“The scene in the garage, where we’re dancing, that was cold … and we were there for hours,” said June, who acts in the video with longtime friend Maria Parcet. “It was such a small group of people doing a very ambitious video, but it turned out so well. To this day, I’m still in love with that video.”
Those initial singles provided a welcome introduction to Pieces, which dropped in 2021. The introspective EP beautifully captures the changing emotions and experiences of an emerging artist coming of age.
“I think it’s kind of an innocent EP in a sense. I was literally a teen when I wrote those songs. Some people used to ask me, ‘Why are you so sad?’” said June, who features artist Jane Hammond’s “White Things” on the EP’s cover. “And I’m like, ‘I’m really not a sad person,’ but I write songs when I’m sad … no one writes when they’re happy. They’re busy being happy.”
Today, June relishes growing her musical catalog with new material, including an upcoming album with producer Uribe-Botero. She’s also eager to play live shows this fall with Tyler Thenstend (bass), Cheatham (drums) and Uribe-Botero (keys) of Cece and The Crawlers.
“It’s hard to believe this is happening to me … no one would have told me that I would be recording an album my junior year that’s set to release in my senior year,” June said. “It’s kind of a really exciting journey, and I’m happy to be doing it.”