by Curtis Gaines III
Starting a musical career from the ground up may seem impossible for any recording artist. Some of the challenges can be finding a unique style to separate you from other artists, writer's block that gets in the way of delivering the message, or nervousness before recording. The work leading into a song's release is often overlooked.
For Ciilez DaCosta, goes by Ciilez, finding her footing as a solo artist is a never-ending adventure. Releasing her first EP, Letters from Indigo, on her 20th birthday, April 14, 2021, the 6-track EP was a celebration to the hard work and relationships that she has made through music.
The general theme of Letters From Indigo is a compilation of feelings toward personal growth from relationships that DaCosta endured. The songs are filled with personable lyrics and a dreamy but somber tone, which resemble a love letter or diary entries. Combining that theme with the nickname that she received from her mom, Indigo, made the EP title a natural fit.
“My mom started calling me that after Indigo Child in high school, which is someone with intuition,” DaCosta explained.
“She told me, "You are so much better than you know, and you’re wasting potential on other people threatened by it. Always remember to be at your higher self and not to feed into negativity.”
With that in mind, DaCosta knew the next step for her as an artist was to release her solo project. With the help of friend and mentor Jose 'Papi' Johnson, he was able to put the tools around her to allow her to make the most of her opportunities. It can be connecting with other artists for features or teaching her the recording process, DaCosta made the most of her options.
DaCosta expressed that her first time in the booth had her full of nerves. “I almost peed myself from being nervous”, DaCosta explained.
"Jose made me comfortable by highlighting parts of the song to make the process easier... There aren't many people that genuinely want to help other artists.”
For her, picking and choosing collaborators has been no easy feat. From other artists having ulterior motives to turning down features, DaCosta learned quickly about the hurdles behind the scenes of making a song.
“I dealt with other artists wanting to collaborate but sliding in my DMs saying, 'hey you look good.' Then, I’m like yep you’re not getting that feature because it ruins the tone.”
“It sucks because there are talented people that I would love to work with and now I feel uncomfortable. It seems like your intentions are beyond the music. It’s not cool.”
To combat those hardships, DaCosta figured out that the best way to find chemistry before recording is a casual hangout with mutual friends prior to writing. After the initial meeting or sparking an idea for her song comes the fun part, the recording session.
To prepare for a studio session, DaCosta usually has voice memos and lyrics written before getting there. Usually bringing her engineer, Andrew Sanchez, DaCosta sends him the instrumental prior so he can premix it instead of constantly tweaking the beats after recording.
“I can’t freestyle for shit,” DaCosta says with a giggle. “I like first to record verse by verse, then harmonies, then hooks, then layering.”
After the writing and recording process, which could take any time between a few hours and a few years, comes the distribution. Releasing on all streaming sites through TuneCore, DaCosta had to submit the cover art and all the songs and credits about a month before release.
Featuring Polaroid shots of DaCosta and her notebook and a rose on fire, DaCosta captured the theme of the album by taking them in a grocery store parking lot after hours.
Overall, the experience of releasing her EP was possible through the support of her friends and collaborators. From telling them stories about relationship hardships to channeling them into art is the biggest reward for DaCosta. Although a lot of work and vulnerability in the process of her EP have not been easy, DaCosta's optimism and "no pressure" attitude is enough to sustain a healthy career.
"I’m never going to force a track, so I like to take a step back, experience life, then come back to it when I'm ready," DaCosta explained. "The best songs from artists come from the worst moments. We are human and need to live and experience life too… It’ll come when it’s ready.
As the anticipation for her next project grows, check out Letters from Indigo on all streaming services.
You can follow Ciilez DaCosta on Instagram @ciilez.x