Singer-songwriter Cyndi Thomson’s breakthrough hit “What I Really Meant to Say” deals with things left unsaid and feelings kept hidden. In real life, Thomson has no problem expressing what she feels. The Tifton, Ga., native recently answered 20 questions sent in by CMT.com patrons, addressing a wide range of topics including the ups and downs of success, America’s reaction to the tragic events of Sept. 11 and her admiration for Julia Roberts. One of the hottest new artists of the year, Thomson hit No. 1 right out of the gate, in September, with “What I Really Meant to Say,” the first single from her debut album, My World. Thomson says communication is the key to living. So read on.
1. “What I Really Meant to Say” very quickly made you a recognizable name in country music. Did you have any idea it would be that song that would make your career skyrocket?
Honestly, I never thought about my career skyrocketing. I just wrote songs that came from my heart and I think it was obvious to everyone around me — my team and radio — that it would be the first single. I don’t think any of us knew what it would do. It’s really exciting. I could have never dreamed it would happen this way.
2. How has your success changed your life both positively and negatively?
Positively, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to follow my dream. Not many people get that opportunity in their life. Also, it’s a blessing to meet lots of little girls and be an influence on them and encourage them in their lives. The negative would have to be that you’re not home that much. You don’t get a lot of sleep. Then you’re required to be at your best vocally and look your best. It’s really hard to find time for yourself and time to sleep. That’s the only downside.
3. You always mention your hometown, something many artists don’t do. Why do you value your small town roots so much? It’s really great to hear that you do!
I love where I’m from, and my family is still there. I have three older sisters and parents who live there, and it’s still home to me because of that. I think it’s important because it’s my heritage. Plus, it holds so many memories for me.
4. Since you grew up in a small town, how has the adjustment to the “big city” lifestyle affected you? Has it been hard?
No, it hasn’t been hard at all. I moved to Atlanta after graduating from high school. I went to college there and then came to Nashville. Actually, I felt like I kind of outgrew my small town in eighth grade. I love being from there, but I knew there was more to see.
5. Hi Cyndi, I also am from Tifton, Ga. I am very proud of our hometown girl. What do you do for entertainment when you are on tour? How do you stay so fit?
I stay fit by dragging luggage through airports. I’m not kidding, that’s what it is. For fun, we do karaoke. I have a great band. They’re like my best friends and the brothers that I never had. We just have a lot of fun. We play our shows and then in our free time, if we can, we do karaoke.
6. Greetings from Valdosta, Ga. South Georgia is so proud of you and your accomplishments. I have to ask this silly question: Where did you find the shirt that you wore on your CD cover? It is so cute.
I got it in Los Angeles. I think the store was Fred Segal. I found it the day before the [photo] shoot.
7. Did you play any sports in high school?
No, I didn’t. I grew up playing tennis off and on, and I swam competitively for four summers in a row when I was younger.
8. I am 10 years old. My mom says I have been talking about being a singer since I started to talk. How old were you when you decided you wanted to become a professional singer?
I was between 12 and 13 when I decided. That is when I told my parents what I wanted to do.
9. Have you always wanted to be a country singer, or did you ever have another career in mind?
I’ve always wanted to be a country singer, but I also always had a backup plan. I wanted to do public relations for a fashion designer in New York City. I didn’t know which one, but my major in college was communications with a minor in journalism. So, I thought with a p.r. degree I could go into fashion. But I never veered from wanting wholeheartedly to be a country singer.
10. Do you have a fan club? If not, are there plans for one? I can’t wait to join.
There are plans for a fan club on the Web site [www.cyndithomson.com]. We’re trying to work that out right now.
11. Do you have any pets?
My parents have my dog from when I was in high school. He is a Lhasa apso and his name is Sully.
12. How much of your life is incorporated into your songwriting?
A lot of it is. When a major experience happens to me, I write it down, and then sometimes it can be translated into a song. I would say a good portion of my life is in my songs.
13. Do you think “What I Really Meant to Say” will influence people to speak up and say what they really feel?
I hope that is does. I think it’s really important to always be honest and out in the open about your feelings. Communication is the key to living. I hope it encourages people to say what they feel.
14. Which of your songs is your favorite and the most meaningful to you?
My favorite song is “If You Were Mine.” It’s a love song. I just love that song. But the most meaningful is “If You Could Only See.” I wrote that song with my father in mind. I wrote it with two other people [Tommy Lee James and Arnie Roman], and we all brought different perspectives to the table.
15. What are your thoughts on America’s reaction to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11?
I think it’s amazing how we’ve all come together and started to smile more, care more, take more time in relationships. I think it’s amazing. It’s sad it took that to bring us to this place. I think it’s really important that we turn to God. That is happening and that is important. Our lives shouldn’t constantly be about being stressfully busy. Life is about relationships, and I think we’ve kind of missed the mark on that lately.
16. If you remain successful in country music, could you see yourself crossing over to pop?
I don’t know. I just take each day as it comes and write songs when I have a chance. Who knows what’s going to happen? I’m just excited about where I am now.
17. What do you think separates you from other artists who are starting out (besides that you’re already making it in the business)?
I’m not sure. That has to be answered from another perspective. I can’t answer that. All I know is that I’ve written these songs and given my heart and soul to them. I’m from South Georgia, and I know who I am for a 25-year-old. I’ve had a vision for this since I was a little girl. So, I think with all of that in one package — it has been accepted by a major record label who believes in it, too. I would never be able to answer that question because it’s somebody else’s to answer. I just know that I’m doing what I love to do and I’m sharing my heart.
18. Who is the one person you would most like to tour with?
Well, I got to play four dates with Trisha Yearwood, but I would love to do a big tour with her. There are several other people, too, like Carolyn Dawn Johnson. I’m out with Jo Dee Messina right now, which is pretty cool. But I would have to say Trisha, just because I love her so much.
19. What feelings come over you whenever you perform for a crowd?
I just can’t believe I’m there. I thank God, that’s the first thing I usually do. When I step up there, I just say ‘Thank you, God, for this opportunity.’ I’ve wanted, so badly, to perform since I was 12. So, it’s an amazing feeling to think here you are on stage and people are singing your song out in the audience. It’s this peaceful, exciting, fulfilling thing. It’s hard to describe.
20. If you could hang out with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
Julia Roberts. I love her. She’s from Georgia, and I love her wit and her wisdom and who she is as a person. I would love to know more about her.