Welcome to Happy Valley—an oddly untouched neighborhood in the corner of Los Angeles, that has served home over the decades to wild buffalo, an ostrich farm, a racetrack, and now, Cilie Barnes. In a house carved into a hillside of land time has forgotten, is where Cillie, a musician, songwriter, and supernatural psychic, resides…
The house is a mystical artist’s denizen, with walls covered in hanging tapestries, shelves filled with crystals and other apothecary, a garden where you’ll stumble upon a ceramic effigy among the succulents and ferns, and an ever-shifting group of nomadic inhabitants. Inside lays a modest recording studio where Cillie concocts her self-described “gyp-hop” music, which embodies the eclectic, multi-faceted nature of herself. The enchanting Newport Beach native – daughter of convicted bank robber father and art teacher mother – moved to Los Angeles at 17 and has been here ever since.
In her house in the hill, Cillie and musical co-conspirator Joe Keefe wrote and demoed the songs that appear on her debut, a five-song collection, that recounts her time and experiences. It’s the first in a series of four collections, each with its own feel, like chapters in a much longer narrative.
Cillie and Joe developed the songs over the course of a few years, each showcasing her gravelly yet charming voice, hip-hop flow, and literary, but conversational, lyricism. The opening number, “Hey Hi,” takes the listener on a journey from smoky LA bars to the crisp country air in Woodstock, New York. Using Jordan Kolasinski’s music as a backdrop, she explores feelings that arose when she returned to her favorite ride at Southern California theme park, Knott’s Scary Farm, ‘Blood Bayou,’ as an adult (“Halloween Haunt, Halloween Haunt/You don’t thrill me like you used to”).
“Brainwash” slowly builds “like TNT and Dy-no-mite” to explore the emotions after being tied up and robbed in a Hollywood apartment owned by the infamous street artist. She fittingly describes her feelings after the event (“We be like Cleo and Marc Antony/Way we’re going down”).
“Solstice” delves into her Wiccan spirituality, singing, “I’ll be bringing in my solstice/In my Stevie Nicks Dress/Channeling my Energy to make my life/Less of a mess,” while “Veranda” explores the heartache of forbidden love.
And then, fittingly, there’s “Happy Valley.” While it’s a song about a place, it’s also about what she’s created and experienced since moving there, including this collection of music.
Much like the ‘Fool’ in her deck of Tarot cards, is the spirit of Cillie—exuberant, clever, and ready to take on the first steps to a long unknown journey ahead, whatever it may be…