Some artists have to work hard to find their way creatively, and other artists inherently know how to forge their own identity from the very moment they start making music. One artist who’s very much in the latter category is Nashville-based singer/songwriter CeCe Hetrick.
“I remember always knowing music was part of me,” Hetrick says. “It was never something I just decided one day and thought I might be good at. As soon as I got my first guitar, I knew that this was my thing.” Hetrick is also able to translate that level of self-confidence to the live stage. “I love playing shows,” she admits. “And I love watching people in the audience come together, whether I’m performing myself or attending someone else’s show and seeing people who don’t know each other at all singing the same lyrics. I think that’s so cool. At the end of the day, we all want the same things — we want people to love us, and we want to be happy. I’m just really into the idea of writing music that can get everyone on the same page.”
Hetrick’s infectious, come-together energy can be found well within the grooves of her recent indie release, Find Your Way, an album that shows the 25-year-old Georgia native to be a master of many styles and moods. From the insistent pleading of “Don’t Give Up” to the Dylanesque desires of “Close to You” to the acoustic/electric gut-check blend on “Ragged” to the sinewy, gospel-slide Allman Brothers vibe of the hopeful title track (“it’s got that take-you-to-church feel I really love”), Hetrick finds a way to display a rare kind of songwriting thread that connects listeners across multiple genres and appeals to multiple generations to boot.
Right from the outset, Hetrick knew exactly how she wanted Find Your Way to sound. “In my mind, I wanted to put aside the idea that it should sound like a country record or that it should sound like a pop record,” she explains. “I just wanted to take each song and look at it individually and decide what the song needed. It feels like it all came together as one piece.”
Part of her gift is the ability to tell stories listeners can instantly identify with. “Real life is what everyone can relate to,” Hetrick believes. “And I love telling stories, whether they’re my own or those of friends or family members. Sometimes I’ll write something that may not necessarily be true as far as the storyline goes, but the emotions are still real, which is how people can still connect with all of it. No matter how old you are, we’re still trying to figure it all out. Whether or not you have a great career or a great family, everyone still has things they want or are still learning about. So I wanted to make something that people my age can relate to, as well as those listeners who are older than me.”
As noted above, Hetrick began playing music at an early age. “The first song I learned to play on guitar was actually a three-chord church hymn,” she recounts. “When I was 12, I taught myself the chords on the guitar while I was in my family room.” At the beginning of her career, Hetrick absorbed whatever music she heard as inspiration. “My parents weren’t very musical, so whenever I got in the car to go to school, they’d just turn on the radio, and whatever was popular then was how I got my exposure to music,” Hetrick observes. “I was really into the pop-country culture at that point. But then I started writing my own songs, and it wasn’t until my first year of college that I got into vinyl, classic rock, and the blues — all the things that influenced the other people I was now listening to, like the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and Elton John. It’s kind of all over the map, but I love being open to listening to anything and everything. It only makes me a better artist to be exposed to things like that.”
The aforementioned “Don’t Give Up” demonstrates exactly how rhythm and melody are embedded in Hetrick’s songwriting DNA. “I really wanted it to be an anthem song,” she explains. “I like the idea of everyone joining in, singing along, and really feeling it in their souls. I had this vision of how we all have those days where everything is going wrong, and we’re just failing miserably. That song is like, ‘OK, we’re all screwing up here, so let’s just all have each other’s backs.’ And I love the way that track ends too — it’s all just one voice, which I think helps get that message across.”
And then there’s “Killer Queen” — not a cover version of the classic Queen song, but very much a Hetrick original that features, well, a killer effect on her lead vocal. “I love the rawness of live-sounding music, so I was very hesitant to put many effects on my voice at first,” she acknowledges. “But sonically, I think doing that fit really well with this song, which is about someone who grew up very sheltered from society who then had to hit the ground running in the harsh real world. It’s basically about loving someone who’s kind of a badass. It was interesting to figure out why they’re like that, so I wanted the vocal effects to be a little rough around the edges.”
What will Hetrick do next? “My next step is to do some co-writing, which I’m doing now,” she reveals. “I basically wrote Find Your Way all by myself, and it’s so awesome and interesting to come together with another artist to create something together. It’s a concept that’s somewhat foreign to me, but it’s something I want to be a part of. It’s good for me. It’s been a challenge, so I’ve been diving more into that.”
Hetrick is steadfast in pursuing her own path creatively. “In the future, I want to be telling stories, writing good music, and reaching out to people, which is the same thing I’ve always been doing,” she says. “Trying to create a name for yourself is always a challenge. It’s so easy to say, ‘I should be looking like this, or sounding like that.’ But when you go to sleep at night, you have to tell yourself, ‘This is my one shot. How would I do it, and how would I do it as me?’ There’s always that moment of thinking, ‘OK, do I really want this for myself, or am I really just trying to prove a point?’ It’s tough.”
No matter what, this determined singer/songwriter feels her future is quite bright. “For me, it’s just a matter of when it will happen, not necessarily if it will happen,” Hetrick notes. “Some people give up for whatever reason, but for me, I just know it’s gonna happen. It’s hard, though; it really is. Everyone gives off this illusion of being perfect in how they come across, and how they sound. You have to get through all of that and figure out what the thing is you want to leave behind. It’s really all about finding your way.”
Whatever destination Hetrick arrives at as an artist, one thing is clear: This is one badass singer/songwriter who knows how to share the joys of common musical ground and show everyone that there’s a light in this darkness after all.