“I was born to share my heart.”
That simple declaration explains everything about Cyndi Thomson and her music. At a time when so many young women bolster themselves with “don’t-mess-with-me” sneers and “hear-me-roar” armor, this 24-year-old singer/songwriter dares to be vulnerable. With unflinching candor she details all the hope, fear, doubt and passion swirling inside her.
“I don’t want to write ordinary love songs,” Cyndi declares. “I want to write from a different perspective. So I always question, ‘”What are we missing? What did we not talk about? What did I not say about myself?’ Her determination to leave no feeling unexamined makes My World a sort of diary, documenting the inner life of a young woman as she deals with the vagaries of romance.
Cyndi’s emotional honesty is made all the more compelling by her ability to see and understand her feelings so clearly. No self-delusions or defense mechanisms interfere with her songs. “Like her or hate her, she’s right there,” says her high school chorus teacher. “It’s so cool.” Tommy Lee James, her co-writer and co-producer with Paul Worley, of My World says, “She has a presence and maturity about her. As a songwriter, she always tells the truth and refuses to fall back on a cliche.” Cyndi herself realizes that her clarity is unusual for someone her age. “A lot of people tell me that I have an old soul,” she says with a smile. “I have an ability to talk about these things.”
And so on a song like “I’ll Be Seeing You,” the listener gets swept up in a couple’s goodbye ritual (“I’ll be seeing you/ Hey don’t forget your coat) only to realize midway through the song that it’s a final goodbye. The heartbreak is real, but so is the acceptance of it. “I Always Liked That Best,” looks back on a past romance with fondness, remembering the good times without regret or sadness. “If You Could Only See” wishes a loved one – feeling “down and defeated” could see himself through her eyes. “What I Really Meant To Say” graphically reenacts the moment when one unexpectedly runs into a not-so-far-past love. Meaningless chit-chat masks the ache inside, as pride overrules the desire to admit to missing them.
While many singers and songwriters say that their music is a form of therapy for themselves, Cyndi hopes her music is a balm for others. “People dedicate songs to others to tell them something that they don’t know how to say. If I’m used by people to say what they need to say, then I know I’m doing my job, ” she says. “If there’s some hard-hearted person who goes through life and doesn’t want to feel, then heck, I want to break down that wall. You shouldn’t live like that. I want to try to help people through my music.”
The last of four sisters, Cyndi recalls an idyllic childhood growing up in Tifton, Georgia. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but it was a house of many blessings,” she says.” I loved my sisters. We didn’t fight, and I realize how lucky I am that they are my best friends.” As most little sisters do, Cyndi always wanted to do what her big sisters did. And two of her siblings sang regularly in church and at weddings. One day, when she was seven years old, Cyndi waited for her sisters to leave the house, then snuck off with their practice tapes. In a room, alone, she attempted to sing along to the tapes. “I laughed because sometimes I got it right,” she remembers.
As the years went by music became a big part of Cyndi’s life. She followed in her sisters’ footsteps and began to sing in church, though she was terrified during her solos. At 12, she knew she would be a singer. In junior high she joined band, picking up her sister’s clarinet, just to try something different. “I was last chair and never moved. But I loved the way that, with all of us learning our different parts, the end result was this piece of music that we had taken from a piece of paper and made real.”
She began to sing – in chorus, at talent shows, in pageants – wherever she could get an audience to practice her craft. She won the prestigious Georgia Music Hall of Fame competition in her senior year. After graduation, she moved to Atlanta to attend college, sang a few times at a club called Cowboys and had an epiphany while watching a baseball game. “My best friend, someone who always encouraged me and motivated me, was on the field. He was going after his dream by getting out there and playing, and that made me think, ‘what am I doing to make my dream happen?’ My heart told me that the time was now — go to Nashville because that’s where I have to be to pursue music.”
In Nashville, after a few semesters at Belmont University and a few years of struggle, small triumphs and more struggle, Cyndi met songwriter Tommy Lee James. “She had so much focus and energy,” he recalls of their first meeting. “It’s weird, but I agreed to write with her without ever hearing her sing.” Cyndi had written poetry before, but had never written a song. “I was so scared,” Cyndi remembers. “I said ‘Lord, if you’ve ever heard any prayers in my life hear this – let me write like I’ve never written before. Let me write this song. Let them be blown away. Let me be blown away by what I’m capable of.'” The song they wrote, with Jennifer Kimball, was put on hold by the Dixie Chicks. The second song they wrote is “I Always Liked That Best.”
All but two of the songs on My World come from Cyndi and Tommy Lee. With startling honesty they paint a portrait of a young woman learning to live with her decisions and to create her own life. That young woman knows her heart, and that gives her unbeatable power.
Because sometimes a woman’s strength is her vulnerability.