Rage Becomes Her: CMAT on Crazymad, For Me
Propelled back into pop after a chance encounter with Charli XCX, Irish songwriter CMAT explains how she’s embracing her anger and inner Miranda gladly in latest album Crazymad, For Me
“One day, I'm going to meet Cynthia Nixon,” begins Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, who performs as country alt-pop artist CMAT. “I've been trying to figure out if I can meet her when I'm in New York. Think of the content for the album campaign!”
For over two decades now, Miranda Hobbes (played by Cynthia Nixon) has represented the fiery redhead we all want fighting our corner. But she’s not the only one. Much like Hobbes’ well-constructed arguments in court (she's a high-flying lawyer in Sex and the City), Thompson has a knack for presenting real-life issues on a rhinestone platter. Like the smart sincerity of her debut, If My Wife New I’d Be Dead, which saw the songwriter take the opportunity to reconnect inwardly, as she explains: “I wanted to do something for myself that didn’t have anything to do with that [time].”
The time in question is during a romantic relationship she weathered aged 17 to 23 which she explores in follow-up Crazymad, For Me. Only this time she’s fully embracing the two roles in question. But unlike some teenage sob story, Crazymad… taps into a sliding doors moment for the artist. Not only was Thompson’s previous long-term relationship a pivotal one during her first steps into adulthood, the setup was also deeply entwined in her creativity performing with her ex in a band. It was one particular moment that stopped the musician in her tracks forcing her to rethink her direction and identity. “I played a festival in Ireland and we got tagged in the Facebook album. I went through the photos and I couldn't find a picture of myself. Then someone's like, 'Yeah, you're in there!' I went back and looked again and I just didn’t recognise myself. I didn't know what I looked like anymore.”
The encounter caused a “full mental flop” and Thompson swiftly took a step back from music-making. Thankfully, a chance encounter with a certain seismic pop star lured the now 27-year-old Irish songwriter back out on the stage years later. “The true love of my life, you might say... I got to meet Charli XCX [at] a focus group for fans.” While the others in the group were keenly singing the praises of the unreleased tracks, Thompson leant a more cautious ear. “I was like, 'The drop from the fourth beat of the second bar is too aggressive. It's a bit cheesy. Maybe if you padded it with a bit more synth…’ I was being extremely technical about it.” Her nous for a pop hook clearly caught Charli XCX’s eye as she took Thompson aside after to quiz her about her songwriting and future direction. “She's like, 'What music are you doing right now? Obviously, you're a musician so what are you working on?'” Admitting she’d put her music on the back-burner, Thompson was astounded at the rebuke she received from one of pop's most beloved flag bearers.
“She was so specific in her criticisms and advice. It was freaky,” she recalls, clearly dumbfounded. “On the Megabus back to Manchester, the entire journey I was like, 'I have to break up with my boyfriend. I have to move back to Dublin. Charli XCX told me to!'” And so to Crazymad, For Me, a record that digs into that difficult relationship and all the domestic manipulation and heartache that went along with it. What started as an anonymous ode to forgiveness and acceptance quickly turned into something far more visceral. “The deeper I got into it, I got so angry. I’m still fucking angry about all that shit that went down.” The record not only feels necessary for Thompson as an artist but, consciously or not, much needed against the current backdrop of popular culture. In this new decade so far, women’s wrath is on the rise – everything from police brutality to domestic inequality.
Just like Miranda Hobbes side-stepping into a human rights internship in the reboot of SATC, And Just Like That..., our Irish redhead admits she’s still exploring how she expresses herself and her opinions. “Anger is very important but it really needs to be tempered,” she reasons. “I was really politically and socially active when I was a teenager. I was 18 and I had read The Communist Manifesto once. [But] I am a lot more careful where I place my anger now.” She’s not the only one. Rage rooms (a designated space for people to vent their rage by destroying objects) are on the rise across the country. “Block his number and smash up a printer instead,” as TikToker @vickaboox urges her 800k+ followers. While the mental health project Women Are Mad hosts Screams In the Park to connect with our repressed rage.
But for Thompson, it’s about taking stock to find the right way to effect real change. “We need a beat before we can go back into doing the real work. Female rage is important. And it's definitely something that I'm well equipped and experienced in. But women also need some relaxation. We need some kindness.” With music as her outlet, Thompson is letting the toxicity go and getting on with it, and Crazymad, For Me is just the permission slip we all need to do the same.
Crazymad, For Me is released on 13 Oct via AWAL; CMAT plays Barrowlands, Glasgow, 24 Nov