Cassidy Waring: Vulnerability Is Sexy

The indie songwriter goes digging through the archives of her childhood for clarity.

by Stephan Boissonneault 

Cassidy Waring sells a pin that says “Fuck Small Talk,” and a patch that says “Vulnerability is Sexy” on her merch page, sentiments that perfectly encapsulate the ethos of the Vancouver-based indie rock singer-songwriter’s expansive debut full-length, Lonesome Reunion.

As Waring shares her life like an open book free of ambiguity, Lonesome Reunion becomes a deep dive into family tragedy, melancholic nostalgia, and the very fabric of childhood memory. Her rich vocals trace the narrative of someone trying to work through trauma and reconcile loss. “That’s definitely the line I find myself writing all the time,” Waring says from her art-checkered apartment. “I tend to be an oversharer and then I get vulnerability hangovers all the time.”

Early on, Waring’s childhood was pretty typical and carefree. Her family was thick as thieves and they would go on weekly family bike rides. She loved her family and even had a picture of them that she hid under her camp pillow for when she felt homesick. Her parents always socially drank, but it wasn’t until she reached age 12 that it really escalated and got out of control. “To the point where family services were involved and my brother was in foster care. I was living on my own with a government allowance when I was in my senior year of high school,” she says. 

That was the same year her mother died. “I ordered her death certificate and the cause of death was listed as ‘chronic ethanol abuse,’ but I think it’s more complicated than that. I really wanted to understand her state of mental health and what was going on in her relationships and in her world because I was a kid,” Waring says. “I was just in survival mode of trying to keep everybody safe and figure out what was going on around me so I didn’t have time to process it.”

She wrote the last half of Lonesome Reunion during the heart of the pandemic, isolated on Mayne Island, BC. Waring found herself alone with no commitments, except to her own healing. She began taking therapy regularly and discovered she had many unprocessed feelings of guilt and anger. Around the same time, she began diving through family home video VHS tapes she had digitized back in 2019. Like many families during the 90s and early aughts, Waring’s family filmed almost everything. “Watching these videos was also almost proof to me; it was validation that I did remember it correctly. That we were a happy close-knit family,” she says. “You start to second guess yourself and your own memories. I had like ages four to eight digitized, but I thought I had lost the earlier tapes to be honest,” she says.

Luckily, a former roommate from Calgary found the tapes in a closet and mailed them to her while she was on Mayne Island. “So I found this dusty VCR TV on the side of the road and just sat on the floor and watched them for hours,” she says. “Each tape had like three hours of footage, so I just went into a rabbit hole. I just watched them for hours on end.”

This process is also reimagined during the music video for the song “Leaving,” a bone-chilling ballad which Waring wrote, directed, and filmed. Channeling the raw songwriting sensibilities of Neko Case and the bravado of Stevie Nicks, Waring offers a truly heart-wrenching tale about the cruel passing of time. A bunch of home video footage also makes up the video for her music video single “Montreal.” “I was deep into it at this point,” she says. “Trying to understand my family and what happened with my parents’ addiction and what happened between them. I became obsessed.” 

Out of this obsession a beautiful and cathartic album for Waring was born. It’s an album she feels she had to write in order to move on and look forward into the future. “I really believe in that. I’ll probably touch on this in other albums to move with my music, but also just my life,” she says.

Lonesome Reunion isn’t the first time Waring has been vulnerable. She has always been extremely comfortable talking about heavy subjects like self-destruction in her music and on stage. “It usually sparks a really beautiful connection that may not have been discovered otherwise,” she says. “When people come up to me after a show or message me about lyrics and want to share their own story because I’ve created a space to do so, that just makes it worth it.”

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