Being Cygne

Here's a recent interview from The Mercury News on changing my name and letting it breathe: 

PUBLISHED: November 16, 2016 at 6:27 pm | UPDATED: November 16, 2016 at 6:29 pm 

When an artist has released 10 well-received albums, toured the world and built up a following, the one thing you don’t expect is a name change. But that’s exactly the move that Laura Meyer made three years ago. She’s now Cygne (she pronounces it “Seen”). 

Cygne means “swan” in French. And this singer-songwriter’s music has, like a swan, evolved, becoming ever more striking and beautiful. And using the pronunciation “seen” suggests becoming more visible. 

“I tried on a few names a few winters ago. I was recording an album and it just felt like, creatively, I had to step away from this identity that solidified over almost 30 years, just for artistic freedom and expression. So I lived and recorded for about three months without a name, which was a really cool experience,” Cygne says, laughing. “To be meeting people and have them ask you, ‘What’s your name?’ And not really know. 

“And then I knew I wanted to choose a bird. I do love the swan. It’s transformative, a creature that exists between worlds, both in the water and in the air. I went through Google Translate, looking at different languages. And as soon as saw ‘Cygne,’ I knew that was mine.” 

There was trepidation about losing the hard-earned recognition she had garnered as Laura Meyer. She wrote to her fans. 

“I explained that I wasn’t becoming a diva or losing my mind. I just needed to have some sort of separation that would free up my creative, spiritual side. That was the intention and people have respected it and have totally embraced the new name.” 

A shift in her outlook can be heard, from the Meyer recordings to those of Cygne. “There was a lot of personal struggle in those earlier songs. With Cygne, because there is this slight separation from my personal identity, I feel like my songs are more universal, thematically. There’s always going to be struggle in the music. What makes us sit down to write is some sort of angst and need. But with Cygne, it’s much more ‘we.’ And where there’s a struggle, it’s much more ‘Ah, this is where the light is. This is where the path is.’ So lyrically, it’s holding a higher vibration.” 

Spending so much time on the road, there’s a level of exhaustion, which Cygne says clouds the head. “Every year, I need to allow, in my calendar, a gap to rediscover the role of music, the passion and the power, and not just look at it as something that I need to do to pay the bills. It’s always a struggle for people who are using their art to make a living, keeping that creative spirit joyful and vital. That’s the primary job. And we have to protect that.” 

She is now completing “Let It Breathe,” her third album under the name Cygne, following “Rise Up” and “Passenger.” 

With a successful Kickstarter campaign, Cygne is able to fully realize her vision for the new album. It comes in the wake of her experiences in Paris, during the 2015 terrorist attack. 

“It devastated me, naturally. I still am processing my whole world view. Being on the road, I’ve always both looked for and expected the good in people. With the attacks in Paris, it felt like the world was collapsing. 

“It’s a strange time on Earth. I was feeling disconnected from the necessity of music, not on a personal level — it’s always my joy and my therapy — but I thought, ‘I should be volunteering at a refugee camp. I should be doing something to create a better world.’ And then the realization came that doing what I love, if I make my intention creating a better world, is the best way that I can serve. After this round of questioning myself, I feel a strong renewed sense of purpose in my music.” 

Born in New Jersey, she studied classical violin for 10 years. But she wanted to be Tom Petty. She picked up a guitar, experimented with recordings and played open mics as a folk-blues-rock artist. “I was pretty eager to get my voice out there, before I had something to say,” Cygne says, laughing. 

After graduating from high school, she recorded her first album in 2004. Cygne transferred four times in college, but found a home at NYU’s Gallatin School for Individualized Study. 

“It was while I was taking a meditation class there that I first heard a voice telling me I had to change my name. It took me seven years of mulling it over and not feeling ready to do something that radical. But it got to the point, when an emcee would introduce me as Laura Meyer, I felt this shaking in me, because Laura Meyer was the perfect student and the good girl and shy. Growing up, I was really shy and quiet. So that would be conjured. And now, when someone says ‘Cygne,’ I feel like I can stand a little taller. It reminds me of what I’ve chosen to do and what I want to do. It’s definitely shifting my way of being in the world.” 

Cygne returns to Europe to perform the “Let It Breathe” songs in the spring. She is currently based in Santa Cruz. 

While in the Bay Area, she has been performing regularly at Off the Grid locations, including Mountain View, Belmont and Cupertino. She plays the Palo Alto Off the Grid on Monday, Nov. 21.  (That location is in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which, under a different name, is where The Beatles stayed for their last concert at Candlestick Park in 1966.) 

“While I’m local for a while, it’s nice to see the same friendly faces every week. It’s a relaxed, family atmosphere, great people. And I love that it’s outside. It’s such a stark contrast to a lot of the rock ’n’ roll settings that I’m in, these dark caves, late at night,” she says, laughing. “This is really wholesome.” 

A new attitude is developing with her new name. Fully produced with drums and lots of guitars supporting Cygne’s expressive vocals, moving melodies and poetic lyrics, the new album promises to be uplifting. 

“The content is very much about transformation and finding the light in the dark. It’s about letting go and not being afraid of letting go. Even with these huge shifts that are happening — environmentally, politically, globally — we’re OK. This is just life on Earth and it’s always been chaotic. But we can still be happy, throughout all of it.” 

And through her songs, Cygne helps to make audiences happy. “I can see that music does touch people. I might not ever be famous. I might never be rich from this. But I feel I must do it. And in taking that leap of faith, it also inspires people to do that themselves, to live their truth.”