- 28 Jan 22
Cynthia Catania is back with brand new single 'Only Time Will Tell'. The American singer-songwriter, formerly of indie-pop band Saucy Monky, cut her teeth singing in the clubs and pubs around New Jersey and NYC. Since then, major festivals and collaborations followed for the charming outfit, but solo music and voiceover work is now her bread and butter.
Cynthia Catania is a woman of many talents, which is most likely how she's survived the rollercoaster music industry in Ireland and her US home for close to two decades. A beloved indie darling, many Irish fans will remember the rise of Saucy Monky, formed by Catania alongside Dublin native Annmarie Cullen.
The collaborative dream team was formed when herself and co-writer Cullen landed a Wendy’s campaign in Los Angeles in the early 2000s. The talented pair later wrote songs for Nickelodeon, CBS, the WB, NBC, and even a theme song for ABC daytime. Whether they penned jingles, television theme tracks or radio hits, Cynthia knew how to keep fighting to have her music heard.
Later playing shows and co-writing with the likes of Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles, Gaby Moreno, Meiko, Macy Gray, Fits and The Tantrums, and Joe 90; Catania then gained production experience mixing live sound for well-known artists including PJ Harvey, Imogen Heap, Tears for Fears, John Frusciante of the Red Chili Peppers and Linda Perry (Four Non-Blondes). She even nabbed a gig as the personal engineer for Eurythmics’ guitarist Dave Stewart - all the while managing shows for her indie label.
With the release of her first 2022 single 'Only Time Will Tell', Hot Press chatted to Catania (a former sex columnist for this very publication) to pick her brain on everything from the current versus past music business, learning to produce in a male-dominated sector and her favourite memories of Saucy Monky's prime.
"I still have the fondest memories of our band's heyday," Cynthia tells me from her home in the States. Her charisma emanates through her enthusiasm - it's clear she hasn't lost her adoration for writing tunes and performing on stage. "Festivals and photoshoots and magazine spreads, it was amazing. That kinetic feeling of universal flow and extreme excitement around touring and creating beautiful music with my friends, I'll never forget it."
"I remember performing in the Czech Republic during Colours, walking around the festival grounds with all the acts singing in different languages. It felt like another world," Catania continues, smiling. "Solo shows in Australia, Ireland, and the US - playing with a great band live, like The Secret Things. These transcendent moments during live performances are very powerful."
"It's another high altogether getting lost as a producer in the dharma of a great production. When all the pieces come together it feels timeless - liberating - triumphant. That's how I felt with the new video for 'Only Time Will Tell'. The visuals we've been curating have been epic, and when it all comes together it's pure kismet. I worked with my co-writer Beth Thornley on the new single. I love celebrating that feeling, especially because my wife collaborated on the new video with me."
Was Catania worried about mixing her private life with her profession?
"Sue Ann is wonderful behind the camera as well, so it just felt natural. Lucky me, she has since worked on or created most of my music videos. I am so proud of our latest project, though," the New Jersey-born talent beams. "We were celebrating in the editing room - I really felt like she pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this one. The vision to create a fairytale pandemic was very intentional. It all came together as many indie projects do, with lots of passion and hard work."
The pair filmed themselves in The Palais des Papes in the French streets of Goult for 'Only Time Will Tell'.
"It’s remarkable we were able to do that during business hours. We took a puddle jumper to France after a string of Irish shows in November. We had a fantastical B&B, costumes in our cases. The town was magically empty, it was how I assume the silence during the Black Plague was like. The timing worked for the shoot thankfully, because Sue Ann had to jet back to LA to start press and promo for her new Amazon show As We See It."
"The series was just released to absolutely incredible reviews, so I'll be supporting her this year. She is so endearing and layered in her role. The feedback has been phenomenal. It’s so touching, funny, groundbreaking. The story is a tale of three autistic twenty-somethings navigating life. I’m so glad Jason Katims created it."
This pandemic was the "maddening" inspiration behind the enrapturing new offering.
"Literally not knowing what would become of anything from my pre-Covid life, feeling like 'What now?', spurred my to write this," she asserts. "I was trying to stay grounded. Find the hope, the light, and beauty in my day-to-day. It was insanely intense in the States during the first lockdown."
Turning the clocks back, Catania realised that music was her calling around the age of 11 or 12.
"I was in a Walmart-type store, in the record section looking at an album cover, and was mesmerised by the band's outfits. Then coincidentally I saw them on TV, singing away like banshees. I knew then I wanted to be a singer, strangely. I had a very tight, strict upbringing which suited the passion for music. It's a great escape, even in one’s own bedroom."
Later meeting Annmarie Cullen, Saucy Monky went on to share the Oxegen stage with The Black Eyed Peas and The Cure before they disbanded. That wasn't before they caused a stir in the LA music scene with their debut album Celebrity Trash in 2003, earning the group frequent radio play and television appearances. They split up before sharing their sophomore album — 2004’s Turbulence — due to internal band struggles.
"I think the lowlights from the band was just being young and making bad choices. One time we played Oxegen, left our bandmates at home, and hired musicians we’d never played with before because of tight budgets. I would get off the stage after singing for 60,000 people and just feel sad. Being wild and reactive at times – back in the day – not appreciating a novice sound person who caused a little pain on stage. I had to pay back that karma when I landed in that profession myself later on," Cynthia concedes, candidly. "The stories I could tell you."
Of course, there are some sublime moments Catania will never forget.
"My first solo tour, playing at The Ivy Room in the Bay Area when legends Julie Wolf and Vicki Randle sat in, the first time Saucy Monky played Connolly’s of Leap; it was absolutely magical. Don Hill’s in NYC, singing and touring with Jimmy Gnecco, playing Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern with The Secret Things. Performing in the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood with my hometown crowd. Testing out my sampler show and feeling all that love in the room...gosh, there are so many worth mentioning.
"We still get offers about reforming. Annmarie and I have also discussed an Irish tour," Cynthia admits. "I hope to do that one day."
Catania started off initially as a front of house sound engineer. In the DIY indie world no one could afford to hire a producer to work on an album, so you had to be crafty if you didn’t have a financial deal. As a women from the LGBTQ community entering a highly male space, production could be intimidating.
"We used to track the basics in a state-of-the-art studio, then bring the files home for overdubs and vocals. I learned all the basics in Pro Tools after getting a few lessons from friends. It started when I first moved to LA and made an EP with Tad Wadhams," she explains. "In the US, the music industry has definitely improved for non-binary or female-identifying people, plus those from minorities, because of movements like #Metoo, #BLM, trans awareness. Even with the current breakdown in democracy at home, the arts have opened up some."
There are some obvious differences in today's music world for Catania to navigate, years after starting.
"When I began playing music, the only indie genre was punk. The idea that anybody can release an album or a single or a video and have an audience and potential marketplace is miraculous. The caveat is over-saturation and lack of monies being earned for content. I do hope the scales even out," the singer argues.
"It’s a more diverse place, which I love. I also believe that it’s safer for women now. Slowly, higher consciousness is seeping into the business side of entertainment. That brings me hope. I’m seeing it with my own eyes as I watch my partner’s career soar into the stratosphere. Her world is a kinder gentler place, where the people at the top seem more humane and compassionate...very much like my experience in Ireland. I’ll never forget doing my own radio promo back in the day and the Irish DJs would answer and invite you to their shows."
In the US, companies that used to be run by passionate individuals are now owned by hedge fund corporations. I love that the Irish industry is still accessible, much more so than in the States. You can be 100 percent indie and have a bonafide career."
As a former sex and relationships journalist for Hot Press (" I loved how open my subjects were to sharing intimacies and triumphs, disappointments and techniques!"), writer, sound engineer, producer and singer-songwriter, Catania refuses to be limited in any way by boxes or professional labels. That makes her future even more exciting, given that she rules nothing out.
"The past two years have been expansive, challenging, self-reflective, surprising but also suffocating. One highlight was started working in the voiceover world. I’m a character in a top-secret video game with a list of world-famous actors. I’m super excited to play it. Since I signed an NDA - that’s all I can say!"
Cynthia will hopefully be playing a string of live dates in her beloved Ireland this year. Watch this space for more, Hot Press will be first in line for tickets...
Check out the video for Catania's new single below: