Pretty much the whole world can relate to the words of NYC-based singer-songwriter Cindy Latin when the chorus of “I Am Looking” hits: “I am looking for something to help me forget/looking for a way to make the pain less/looking for a way to pass the time/looking for a way to make life bright.” And sadly, just like her, many of us have found candy, Disney movies, baths, and other remedies she tries in the song to be inadequate distractions against the state of the world and our own minds right now.
Latin actually wrote “I Am Looking” about a year ago, before the pandemic, as a general account of those times when you don’t want to sit with your emotions but realize there’s no way around them. “There maybe are ways you can distract yourself from it, especially socializing with other people,” Latin says. Now, though, the song has taken on a different meaning in the necessary solitude brought on by current events. “Having more time to yourself exacerbates that – when you don’t have other people around and you can’t think about anything else, those feelings are more dominant.”
Latin enlisted an 18-person band to help her tell this story – including a horn section along with guitar and piano players – which gives “I Am Looking” a decidedly jazzy feel, while the drum beat and vocals also draw from R&B influences. And despite the somewhat traditional nature of the band, the song also incorporates produced elements; when Latin sings “I get stuck with my thoughts/my least favorite sound,” you hear a deep voice echo her words, illustrating how loud our thoughts can be.
The duo Brasstracks, which uses brass and horns along with R&B and hip-hop production, was an inspiration for her, along with several funk tunes. “I just love when people combine genres in fresh ways,” she says.
“I Am Looking” is the third in a series of four songs recorded with a big band. The first two, the soulful “Running Out of Love” and the theatrical “We Don’t Get Along,” were released in 2020, and the another, “I Don’t Know What’s Worse,” is coming out within the next few months. So far, Latin has released a video spotlighting the band for each song in the series.
“It’s cool when you write something down, black ink on a piece of paper, and it becomes this huge sound,” she says. “The first time, I was nervous — it was a lot to lead — but the musicians are so wonderful and talented, and they all made me feel comfortable and were all patient with me. They were very quick to read what I wrote, and if something wasn’t clear, they let me know. We had a good relationship.”
Latin graduated from the Berklee College of Music just a year ago, but released her first album, With You, back in 2017, followed by more than a dozen additional singles since. Like her latest single, most of her music incorporates jazz as well as more modern R&B and pop influences, along with her signature singing, which gives off the impression of someone reflecting and daydreaming out loud. Though she plays guitar and keys and is beginning to learn saxophone, she often calls on a talented community of musicians she knows and went to school with – not only for recording dense instrumental arrangements (like in “I Am Looking”), but also for live performances.
In order to acquire and entertain fans, Latin makes use of social media. Her Instagram is full of little clips of her singing works in progress, with candid lyrics about things like being touch-deprived during quarantine, feeling stuck in her career, and dealing with the ending of a non-relationship. She posts the same clips on TikTok, along with clips of songs she’s already released, which she says has helped her get followers and Spotify streams.
“What I do is write in the morning, and whatever song I write that’s decent, I record it the next day and then I post that one, so it becomes a cycle of write, record, and post,” she says. “The more you do it, the more they help you out to get people to view your stuff.” She’s written many other songs that she hasn’t put out yet, so she plans to spend this year recording and producing her favorites.
It’s evident from Latin’s videos as well as her social media clips that she has a background in musical theater. The personality she infuses into her performances through her facial expressions, body language, and outfits makes them engaging and gives viewers an intimate glimpse into her life and thought process. Even if she can’t find “a way to make the pain less” right now, she can share it with her audience and help them feel less alone, and in the age of social distancing, that’s worth just as much.
Follow Cindy Latin on Instagram for ongoing updates.