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Cassidy King’s fantastic new EP, Not so Picture Perfect, is officially out today; it’s a sonic encapsulation of feelings inspired by a turbulent first love, and (even more importantly) it’s a proud ownership over queer identity. We got caught up over the phone yesterday to talk about how she’s been faring in her native Ohio during quarantine, how her creative process has benefited from being publicly out, what she’s been working on lately and more. Give the EP a listen, grab a copy if you like what you hear, and internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below:

So how has it been to be more or less stuck in one place for pandemic reasons? I haven’t left New York in over eight months now, which, I guess there are worse places to be, but so much of what’s great about living here is just kind of off limits at the moment.

Yeah, I think it’s hard for everyone. Everyone’s just doing their best to make the best of it, because that’s really all there is to do. I think we’re learning how to adjust, but there’s no way to fully adjust to this, you know? It’s weird. You spend so much time alone. When you’re stuck in a place by yourself you learn a lot, though. 

I just finished up an EP, so that’s the thing I did the most during quarantine, and I tried to make the best out of that. Hopefully everybody can be safe and move past this eventually. I don’t know if there’s any good way to deal with it, though. It’s hard.

Yeah, it’s a constant roller coaster. I’ll get into very good grooves of being productive, and then other days are just a waste.

Right?! And it’s gonna be so weird, because you kind of normalize it, right? You normalize what you’ve been going through and how you live your life, and I’m sure it’ll never fully go back to normal, but how do we go back? How do we move our way back into how it was before?

Exactly. Now, how will you be celebrating your EP release? Obviously people would normally have an IRL show or be embarking on a little tour, but are you doing a live stream or anything like that? How do you even feel about live streamed shows in the first place?

Well, there’s not really much to do. I mean, I’d probably normally have a little EP release party with some of my friends, but I don’t have any big plans. As far as live streams, there are a couple of things I’m looking into, but nothing really planned. I’ve actually started working on an album, so I’ll probably just spend my time doing that, and just keep working on music.

It’s funny, a friend of mine just had a sort of “secret” socially distanced release show here in Brooklyn at a bar with an outdoor space and he invited me out, so I went. It was cool to see live music for the first time in like, eight months, but I thought I was socially awkward before Covid, and this was just like, next level. Like even just talking to him after the set, I was like, “I don’t know how to act in public anymore!”

I feel like every interaction now is just so much more awkward and uncomfortable because it’s like, “Do I hug you? Are you okay with me hugging you?” [Laughs] You have to ask them to see what they’re comfortable with.

Yeah, it’s like consent on steroids! It’s insane. But yeah, so with this EP, you’ve obviously got a lot of personal songs happening. What was the earliest song from the track list that you wrote, and also, when did you come out publicly, or even just to a person? (Full disclosure, I’m also queer; I don’t know if that makes a difference or not, but usually I find it a little easier to talk about stuff like this when I know the person already has a baseline knowledge of what’s up, so.) 

100%, that makes it feel like I’m talking to someone who’s that much closer to being able to relate to it. That’s always good to feel. So the first song…I mean, “Polaroid” is on there, and we did that one in September of 2019. I wasn’t sure if that song was going to go on the EP or not, because the track list changed completely as I was making new music and the message and experience of the project kind of changed, just because of how I was writing and how the songs and stories were coming about. I’d say the first song that we were really confident in having go on the EP was probably “Safe Places”; with that song I was like, “This is the story really want to tell with this project, because it’s so personal to me, and people need to hear this story.” I don’t think it’s told a lot. There just isn’t enough queer music, and I don’t think there ever will be. I think there are so many experiences that queer people go through, just emotionally in relationships, that haven’t necessarily been spoken upon. I knew that that story needed to be told, yes for me, but also for other people, because there’s not always those stories being told. 

So in terms of coming out with regards to my music, October 2019 was when I shot the video for “Professional Smiler”. I came out to my friends in…I’m trying to go back in this timeline…it’s crazy, because I never thought I’d be comfortable talking about this. I was so scared. Everybody’s experience is so different, and I love it when it’s been really comfortable and easy for people, but for me it didn’t come easy. There are so many people it doesn’t come easy to, just because of how they grow up and the things they’re taught. For me, I had a really hard time, and I wasn’t comfortable with it for a very long time. I didn’t get to know myself in that sense of myself, because I pushed it away for so long. But I came out to my friends because I was talking to a girl for the very first time in September of 2017, and I was scared shitless. I convinced myself that all of the horrible things were going to happen, and I thought I just wasn’t going to be loved, because that’s what I was taught from a young age; I grew up in a town where being different wasn’t embraced. So I never really got to see that there were people who felt the way I did, and I felt completely isolated, you know? I thought nobody was like me, and I thought it was wrong because that’s what I was taught with religious views and all of that. So I was scared for a really long time, and I had a lot of internalized battles that I didn’t fight until it kind of all came at once, which was when I was talking to that girl for the first time at nineteen. 

It was a slow process. I came out to my close people in 2017, but I didn’t come out publicly until October of 2019. By the time I’d come out publicly, I’d already had so much baggage with women that I was ready to talk about it. It feels really great because I’m finally getting to that place where I can really talk about these stories that I didn’t show through my music for a really long time; I was making music when I wasn’t out, so I was trying to hide a piece of myself, and that was a really hard thing to deal with. I think I just had to learn who I was before I loved who I was. I was running away from it. I’m just really excited that I can finally talk about things I’ve been waiting to talk about for so long because I was just not comfortable.

Yeah, isn’t that crazy? I remember for myself, it was one of those things where I decided, “Okay, we’re not ever going to talk about this, we’re gonna bury this real hard.” So I’m thirty-two now, but I didn’t come out to my family until I was twenty-five or twenty-six. (I’d come out to a few people before that but not a ton.) I think the only reason I came out mega-publicly was after the Pulse shooting, because it felt like the only way I could take ownership over the grief. But once you do start talking about it, it’s like something just unlocks. Do you feel that your creative process has been affected since coming out?

Well, first of all, that’s amazing, and I’m happy for you. I’m sure you grew a lot in yourself when that happened, so that’s amazing. It’s not necessarily cool when you’re going through it, but you learn to appreciate the journey you went through to get there. But yeah, I definitely think my music is a lot more honest, and that’s what I’d wanted for a really long time; I felt like when I wasn’t comfortable, I felt like my music showed that. I obviously wasn’t lying, but I wasn’t telling the full truth or being as honest as I could. I remember I was so scared to use a girl in my music video, and thinking back on it now, I just can’t believe I wasn’t comfortable.

I remember when “Professional Smiler” dropped, the first video where I used a girl, I was just scared shitless. I did not want to drop that video because I was so scared. It ended up doing very well, but I struggled with it. I used guys in my videos for the first year of my music career, and it was completely disingenuous; I wasn’t comfortable having a man as my love interest in my videos, but I also wasn’t comfortable with a woman playing the love interest, so it was just like, “I’m just not making music videos. I’m done.” [Laughs] Just taking time and being patient with myself, figuring out who I was, I’ve been able to…you know, now I’m like, “Yeah, I use women as the love interest because that’s genuine to my story.” I think it’s definitely more honest in that sense, because all of my songs were written about a woman, and I could never really tell that. It’s just crazy to think about, that I wasn’t comfortable. The music is just more genuine all around.

Which must just feel like a huge weight lifted off your shoulders, and that’s amazing. But putting out any song that’s honest (regardless of how you identify) can feel nerve-wracking. For example the song “Abigail”. Did anything come from that? Putting out this open call for someone to maybe call you back?

Are you asking if I got a call back? [Laughs]

Or any indication of, “I heard this song and I know it’s about me…”?

[Laughs] Yeah, I got a call back. I knew somebody was gonna ask me that question, and I’m glad I get to answer it. But I wrote that song in January of 2020, and music is very emotional. I think a lot of songs for different people carry baggage, and when you write certain songs that are super personal to you…you know, this song didn’t come out until October, and when I wrote that song in January I was like, “Okay, it’s packed up, it’s done!” and then when it’s time for the release, I’m like, “Oh, here comes all of that same stuff I already went through!” So I had to re-cope.

But I wrote that song about missing someone at 3am, and I tried calling, and I was blocked. I couldn’t necessarily describe that feeling right then and there, I just wrote a song in that moment. It was a very toxic relationship, and I don’t know if you’ve experienced something similar, but there’s just a point where you’re like, “Okay, we’re not healthy for each other, we need to end all communication, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to figure this out for ourselves.” It’s like an agreement, right? And there’s a point where you make that decision, and we’d made that decision, and we ended all communication, and you know how that always goes. I just remember I was lonely, I unblocked her number, tried to call, and I was blocked. When you want to talk to someone so bad and you can’t, it’s like screaming into oblivion. That’s what the whole song is about. But she called me back. Yeah. [Laughs]

You got some level of closure at least.

Yeah. Songs are emotional, you know? 

Totally. And they’re kind of like ghosts, right? Figurative ghosts that live in your head, that live on through your music. Basically, it’s October, and this is me shoehorning ghosts into our conversation. [Laughs] During quarantine a lot of people had to face their own metaphorical ghosts in isolation, so are there figurative ghosts (or even literal ghosts, I don’t know if you believe in ghosts) that you’ve had to grapple with?

I haven’t had a ghost story, but I’ve definitely been ghosted during quarantine. [Laughs] When you’re alone, you just have so much unpacking to do. When you’re running around, it’s easy to forget about things, and I think isolation has helped me cope. But yeah, I guess the main ghost I’ve been dealing with is being ghosted. [Laughs]

It’s funny…this didn’t happen to me during quarantine, but I went out with this girl who lived above a funeral home here in NYC, and I felt that the only fitting thing would be to be ghosted by that person, which did end up happening. [Laughs] I have bumped into her since, she’s like asked to bum a cigarette, and I’m just like, “Sure, but can this be the last time we have an IRL encounter? Thankssss.” [Laughs]

That’s the worst! Being ghosted is the worst feeling ever. I definitely feel that. Is that all that happened? Is there a time you miss her a little bit?

It’s weird because I don’t think we’ve ever had any hostility towards one another, I think it just naturally fizzled out in terms of interest. Like we still follow each other on Instagram and have messaged each other on there a few times, like I have a projector at my house and a while ago she was like, “Hey, maybe we should watch the projector again!” But I think the ghosting was like a good concrete bookend on that. [Laughs] We can be buds, just not buds who bone.

I’d be the same way. It’s so confusing. GIRLS ARE CONFUSING, you know what I mean?!

100%. Now, speaking of queer women, let’s talk about your fan base, because they seem so great! I genuinely feel that queer women are the best fans to have, because they’re just like, so loyal and positive. How’s that been?

It’s so amazing. I feel like I’ve finally found a niche. You are what you attract, you know? I remember when I first started making music that I just wanted a fan base that felt like they knew me and I knew them, and honestly, they’re everything at once; they’re funny, but they also comment the most heartfelt things. They’re everything great at one time. The comments I get on TikTok make me laugh, but they also make me really emo, because they’re so nice and have such kind words to say. It feels good, it feels like I have so many people, and it feels like what I went through was so worth it, because I get to be around all these amazing people and hear their stories. And it helps them, too, but they help me so much. The responses I get mean so much to me, and it has meant so much to me, especially when I was becoming queer in my music, because I was so afraid of having people not respond to it. I was able to see people really appreciate it, and it was really important to me. They mean as much to me as I mean to them, and it feels really great. It’s an amazing feeling, and I feel really close to them. It feels genuine.

That’s amazing! Alright, and lastly, I wanted to ask you a bit about the album you’re working on that you mentioned earlier. Can you tell us anything about that just yet? What stage would you say you’re in?

Yeah, so it’s going to be quite the process. I’m going to be shooting a few videos for it here in the next month, and I’m looking to release sometime in 2021. It’s in demo phase now so it’s really rough. It’s another honest thing that’s going to require a lot of unpacking when I talk about it, but you know, when you go through a not so picture perfect relationship…the EP was about one relationship that was tough, and when you get out of that kind of situation, you struggle with your next relationships. And you end up hurting people because you’re hurt. So I guess the next album is going to be about going through some tough situations; this album is just for the people I was trying to heal within, rather than healing within myself first. It’s a whole different story, and I’m excited to tell it.


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Featured image by Adam Victor Martin