Cece June wants you to indulge. Specifically, she wants you to indulge in her album of heartbreak.

“(I want listeners to) give in to the music and … feel things and embrace what they feel,” June said.

Heartbreak is an unfortunate part of the human experience. It can be triggered by a bad breakup, the loss of a loved one or life simply not going the way you wanted. No matter its origins, it’s a feeling that everyone has experienced at least one point in a lifetime. In her upcoming album, June dives deep into what it means to have your heart broken. And she does so by drawing on the story of Sisyphus. 

Cece June talks about her album in the WCBN CD stacks Nov. 18. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

“(He) was condemned to bring a boulder up a mountain and when it got to the top, it would go back down. So he had to do that for infinity. Which is how I’ve felt (about) love until now,”  June said. 

Although all of the songs relate to Sisyphus, an interlude in the middle of the album pins down a direct reference to the myth. In “Interlude,” a piano base takes over with a voice narrating a passage directly drawn from the myth:

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. He too concludes that all is well. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” The narrator concludes, “One must imagine Cece was happy.” 

The Album

The album, which is expected for June, is not yet titled.

“As with my last (album), it’s kind of a last-minute decision,” she said.

It won’t be until she is finished recording her album that she will make that decision. She has, however, named the songs on her album: “Prelude”, “Coffee Turned Cold”, “Things Unsaid”, “De Mi Por Ti”, “Interlude”, “Tiempo”, “Todo Lo Que Di” and “Born Again featuring Lily Talmers”.

Cece June reaches for CDs in the WCBN archives Nov. 18. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

In June’s development of her album, she worked with the idea of a color palette made up of neutrals, rusty reds, browns, black and white, which is reflected in the black and white photos throughout this piece.

June explains that her album reflects the different phases of heartbreak. In the first half of the album she sings about moments of hurt and the multitude of emotions that come with them. After “Interlude,” the album resumes with lyrics describing the mending of oneself and eventual resolution. 

Her songs explore her experience of feeling that her love is smothering, that she is unworthy of love and that her love is wrong. At times, she’s felt like Sisyphus … pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down and have to start over. It’s perhaps the rawest form of heartbreak, where you can’t stop a cycle of hurt even as you tear yourself apart. However, she doesn’t want to give up on love. She keeps trying over and over again to get love right.

June also reflects on times when she’s been ghosted moments when she has felt hurt by those she loved and the understanding that time heals all.

Cece June plays “Barcelona”, a song from her album “Pieces”, before performing Nov. 12. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

In the Beginning

Cece June is an LSA senior majoring in political science. Originally from Barcelona, Spain, she came to Michigan shortly before COVID-19 closed the University’s doors. June refers to this time as transformative for her and her music. In Spain, she grew up listening to her dad’s records. A small music-loving June would hum made-up melodies while she played with her toys — a story June’s mom likes to tell. At age 12, she picked up a guitar and began to use her voice. 

June has found inspiration in musicians like Lily Talmers, Bon Iver and Radiohead. She has looked to artists Egon Schiele and Carrie Mae Weems as well as artwork such as the statue of David to develop her own aesthetic. She cites “A Little Life,” “The Hour of the Star” and the myth of Sisyphus as literary inspirations for her work.

The Crawlers

Sam Uribe-Botero explains his role within the recording studio as the band records Nov. 14. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

June met Sam Uribe-Botero, an LSA and Music, Theatre & Dance senior, through Helicon, The History of Art Undergraduate Society, during preparations for their 2021 exhibition. Sam was a member of Memco, the student DJ collective, while June worked as a curator for the exhibition. The two hit it off by talking about Bon Iver, creating a friendship that transcended into a musical partnership.

Casey Cheatham, a Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore majoring in jazz and contemporary improvisation, briefly met June at a Courtney Barnett concert, but the two officially bonded on a car ride to New York Pizza Depot for a late-night snack after a party.

June met Tyler Thenstedt, an LSA and Music, Theatre & Dance senior, during a night she credits as the moment she felt drawn into the Ann Arbor music scene. Thenstedt was playing with their band Electric Chic and, according to June, “they were just the coolest.” June was drawn to the performer and another friendship was born.

Sam Uribe-Botero celebrates a successful take Nov. 14. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

Originally the album started off as a “very stripped thing,” with just June and possibly a few more arrangements. But she and Uribe-Botero felt that the songs had so much more potential to grow. June describes the band as coming together organically around the beginning of March 2022 when Cheatham came along. 

At first, though, they were just recording the album and the band (Cheatham, Uribe-Botero, Thenstedt and an almost revolving circulation of other friends and musicians) operated solely to record until they, according to June, fully transformed her songs. June notes that while she was the writer and gave her guidance, the band became the backbone of her songs.

Now, at the finishing stages of the album, they’ve begun to perform as Cece June and the Crawlers. June never dreamed of having a band and plans to make the most of her final college year.

“I cannot think of a better thing to have happened to me in my college years. The music scene is my college years,” June said.

Tyler Thenstedt gives feedback on the band’s recording Nov. 14. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

From there, the music community “sort of discovered (her),” as she puts it. She had been doing music for years back in Spain, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 that everything changed. June remembers going from not knowing of the scene to a multitude of friends willing to be participants in her music. June feels she has finally found her home. 

The Songs

“Todo Lo Que Di” was written after June was ghosted by someone she had caught strong feelings for in 2021. It had been a while since June had written a song in Spanish, her native language, and she describes the experience as cathartic. Since that initial writing, the song has grown from a realization of a vision beginning with a guitar and voice to an “orchestral rollercoaster of emotions” finally pinned down. To June, this growth is “one of the best things that have happened to me in life” and is “the epitome of what (her) experience in (Ann Arbor) has been.” “Todo Lo Que Di” contained the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. Most importantly, though, it was accomplished through the talent and contribution of friends: Micah Huismann, Lucas Tittle, Eli Heinen, Ryan Venora and of course, the Crawlers.

Cece June and the Crawlers perform at Escher Co-op Nov. 12. Lila Turner/Daily. Buy this photo.

“Born Again” was aptly born from inspiration brought by musician and U-M alum Lily Talmers, who is featured on the track. June was inspired to write the song in February 2021 between the time her plane from New York City to Detroit landed and when she left the plane. During her entire trip to NYC and the departing plane ride, June had been listening to “Remember Me as Holy” by Lily Talmers. June fully credits the inspiration for the song to Lily, and as time progressed and the two became friends in the fall, June knew she had to have the musician perform on the track. Talmers, through the process of collaborating on the final product with her artistic input, was a teacher to June, and June has nothing but praise for the musician.

“It has been one of the most amazing things, having a friend turn a song you like into a song you love,” June said.

For Listeners

June set out to create a work that she would be proud of, no matter how long the process, and rewardingly has seen it through. Throughout the album’s development, June has found community and collaboration, a fulfillment difficult to come by amid heartbreak. 

When the album is released, listeners will follow the story of heartbreak just as June has through her writing. Starting with the emotion stemming from the initial pain to the earnest attempts to move on, June mirrors her experience. Like Sisyphus’s trials, June tries, again and again, to convey her heartbreak, pulling emotion from her audience. June bares her soul and her stories on this album, and it pays off. 

Ultimately, June wants you to know the album is “a little gift from me to you.” 

Assistant Photo Editor Lila Turner can be reached at lilajt@umich.edu.