Welcome to Spotlight Series, a monthly feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba. Come back for regular new interviews!
By Naaman Sturrup
Cec Lopez may be an emerging artist, but the songwriter has seasoned words describing what music means to them.
“Music is a conversation with any and everything greater than yourself,” they say.
This sentiment is echoed on their recently released EP Canola. The EP addresses the struggles of loneliness and estrangement and emphasizes the importance of connection and self-growth.
The vocalist, who has lived in Canada, the US, and is now currently based in Spain, says that each country has influenced their music differently.
In Winnipeg, Lopez discovered their love of music through their parents, listening to their 1970s funk, soul, and classic rock, and it was in high school where they started playing guitar.
The self-made producer notes that their time in the US at Dartmouth College influenced a core vocal element in their music.
Although they went to university to play hockey, Lopez notes, “I ended up quitting the hockey team in my second year, and I had a loss of identity with that, having been an athlete for so long. After quitting the hockey team, I joined the gospel choir, because some of my friends were in the choir, and that is where I met one of my biggest mentors, [choir director] Walt Cunningham Jr.”
Although Lopez does not describe themself as religious, they say that their time in the choir has helped them discover a clearer path of self-expression, and the sound of a choir is now integral to their music.
“I have always struggled with my faith, being queer, and with the church, and I had a lot of internal conflict with that,” they say. “I had to come to terms with how my faith and spirituality are expressed through music in general rather than through a specific religion.”
Lopez asked some of their friends to help with the choir not only because of their talent, but because they like involving their community in music and who don’t pursue it as a career themselves.
“I think it brings a sort of honesty and connection with every listener,” Lopez says. “In Spain, I planned a whole day to record ‘Sunlight.’ I went to my friend’s apartment, and a lot of them were very shy about singing out loud as none of them had been recorded before. (However), after I ran us through some warmups and we sang together, it was a really vulnerable experience that brought us so much closer together. When the EP was released, I played it for them, saying ‘you're on this!’ and ‘listen to yourself!’ That was just the best feeling, sharing that with other people.”
With a greater sense of spiritual clarity and a dependable community, Lopez also notes that familiarity with their surroundings is important to them. Although they have now established roots in Spain, the songwriter still holds true to the cliche, ‘there is no place like home’.
“[Canola] is me being able to have a conversation back home not just with my family, but with the earth back home, and how it is very different from the earth I am getting to know here,” they say.
“I could tell someone directly I miss home, or I could make an EP with a bunch of different songs, in different languages, and ask friends and family for help, and the listeners can feel that they themselves miss home.”
Lopez is currently experimenting with different genres and musical elements for their upcoming music. They don't intend to make a drastic leap and confuse their listeners, but they want to create without limiting themself.
Lopez has also recently been chosen for the First Up with RBCxMusic program (along with fellow local artist Stun), a program dedicated to showcasing and elevating emerging Canadian artists, and is excited about what it means for the development of their career.
“Being chosen for the First Up with RBCxMusic program is a career milestone,” says Lopez. “As an emerging artist, it’s so easy to fall into self-doubt over whether you’re moving in the right direction, if anyone is listening, or if you’re any good at what you do. I’m excited to work with industry professionals such as PR and marketing teams, financial advisors, and other musicians.”
Lopez plans to release a pair of singles and a pre-recorded performance during their time in the program, as well as a return to the live stage. You can press play Lopez’s music on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, and YouTube, and follow them on Instagram for updates.
Naaman Sturrup is a growing writer and content creator based in Winnipeg.