By: Sheena Lyonnais August 2, 2013
She'll be the first to tell you that this has been a wild ride. As a first year university student, Anna Cyzon auditioned and made it to the top 20 of Canadian Idol. It landed her a hosting gig at eTalk and eventually her own show on MTV Canada. But when the ball starts rolling, it doesn't always stop. Cyzon was making a name for herself (not to mention a decent paycheque), but it was clouded by her dream to pursue music. She was unhappy, but grateful. She was determined, but comfortable.
That's when, she says, the universe intervened. Cyzon's show was cancelled, MTV faced cutbacks, and although she could have gone back to TV, she made the decision not to.
"I felt like it wasn't my destiny," she says. "I tried it out and I made some money but I also learned in that process that money is worthless if you're not doing what you love. That's how I was in my TV days. I didn't want to be a role model. I didn't want to be recognized."
Things have changed. We're sitting on a patio along Queen West and she's wearing an oversized white t-shirt with 'Homie' written on the front. With her bright blonde hair and fresh street style she's impossible not to notice. The shirt was a gift from her sister, Cyzon's go-to for fashion advice, who told her to wear it with a big chain and red lipstick. She listened.
After television, Cyzon jumped back into music, performing first with her band Killing Hollywood, before switching gears and putting music out under her own name, Cyzon. To see her live is to see a rare breed of performer, for she is a wild woman on stage, a frantic beating heart of a musician that barely stops to breathe. It is this that drives her.
"I want to feel that feeling of freedom that I get when I'm in the studio, when I'm in a microphone, when I'm on a stage. That feeling is priceless," she says.
Cyzon is not afraid to push the limits in pursuit of this freedom and she has made more than one tough decision in an effort to protect her artistic integrity. She most famously turned down an offer from Gene Simmons because "it didn't feel right." More recently, she released her debut video for "Into the Sun," a video so gory MuchMusic refused to play it.
"You can never live your life as coulda, shoulda, woulda," she says. "That video for me was an unleashing of the past and a rebirth of sorts. Everyone has an internal battle and things they have to conquer and triumph, and there's things in that video that are representing that. Maybe it was a little bit gory to my liking and if I could go back maybe I would edit it a little differently, a little less bloody, but it wouldn't change the fact that it wouldn't get played."
Cyzon was born in Poland. Her parents were members of a folklore group and Cyzon would often find herself on stage rehearsing with them at a young age. She moved to Canada with her family at age six and they promptly enrolled her in vocal lessons and signed her up for festivals. It was no surprise then, when at age 11 Cyzon realized she wanted—needed—music to be her life.
"Some girls want to get married and have a princess wedding, but for as long as I can remember music was my dream," she says.
"My dad had brought home a karaoke machine around that time and we would go to Buffalo. The States had a wide variety of karaoke tapes, so I would pick up Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, and I think I had one of Alanis Morisette. I would sing in my basement in this big speaker that you could plug a microphone in to and I had this big reverb knob. During those times in my life I remember having that feeling like this is it for me. This is what I want to do."
She's since returned to her Polish roots, spending significant time in cities such as Warsaw where she has a considerable following. In 2010, Cyzon auditioned for the Eurovision song contest. She placed second and was offered a contract, but turned it down.
"I was one foot in and one foot here. I wasn't ready to pack my bags and say I'm going to move to Poland and be a Polish artist," she says. "That's when I came back here and found my sound."
Now, she's "gone full circle" and is re-recording some of her tracks in Polish as well as a slew of originals. She will return to Poland in October to be part of Must Be The Music, an X-Factor like show that she has already qualified for. That said, she has no intention of abandoning things over here. She's currently looking to nail down the business side of things, a drive she admits is partly financial.
"You want to project that you're ballin' and music is making money, but it's not," she says. "And one of the reasons is because I haven't secured proper management or signed to a label. You're getting me at a good place because I'm the first to tell you that I'm ready for that."
Cyzon is sitting on an album that is sexy and fresh, loud and energetic. It bears influences of Gwen Stefani and Blondie and showcases her ability to take risks and persevere. But for now, it's an exercise in patience. She is in no rush to put things out there, instead taking the opportunity to build her team and assure her future.
"I'm really a firm believer in working hard and honing your own," she says. "There are no shortcuts to success."
Anna Cyzon is performing at HoneyJam on August 15 at the Mod Club. The event supports women's charities and features performances from more than 20 female artists.
Sheena Lyonnais is Toronto Music Scene's Editor in Chief. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.