How long has it been since someone was truly honest with you? Honest about their feelings or circumstance? When was the last time you felt truly hopeful for a brighter tomorrow? Many of us ask these types of questions on a daily basis, and not many of us get the responses or answers we desperately seek. But there are still people out there who see past the darkness, and can see the hope through it. This hope is what drives the band Cockeyed Optimist forward.
Formed in 2007 by lead singer/songwriter Cynda Renae and guitarist/songwriter Sean Pierce Johnson, Cockeyed Optimist started out as a way to perform the music Cynda had written to help her recover from the trauma of being kidnapped and raped. “I was mad at the courts, mad at my attacker...I was mad at the world”, says Cynda. “Writing down my feelings and putting them to music saved me.” The hope garnered from the writing and performing of this music kept the duo going as they would go on to record CEO’s first EP, Undocumented.
On their own, they produced two music videos, booked several tours of the west coast, and recorded their second EP, All That You Were with various drummers and bassists. “When I started this band, I don’t think I really understood what that meant”, shares Cynda. “I realized being in a band had to be more than what we were doing.” One night, while contemplating their next move the idea came: the band was not just a band anymore; it had to become a movement. “It was a lightning bolt moment”, shares Sean. “It was clear that we needed to be not just a band that wrote about hope, but we needed to go out and spread that hope. And we needed the right people to help us do that.”
In 2014, IAmACockeyedOptimist.org was born. The goal of the organization was simple: to spread a message of hope and healing through the arts to the people who needed it the most. “We decided early on that we wanted to bring this message to high schoolers”, says Cynda. “I remember being that age. I remember what I went through and I know that those feelings and problems are still dealt with. But we couldn’t do this on our own. We needed people surrounding us who understood. And we needed our band to be strong.” After a lengthy search, Nick Stone was welcomed into the CEO family. A classically trained percussionist, his skills and willingness to always be open-minded to the music really gelled with CEO.
Since then have begun to spread their message of hope with their music. Assemblies have been performed in front of several high school classes in Southern California to rave reviews, and the interaction with the students has proven to CEO that they are doing something really special and worthwhile. “My whole outlook on what we’re doing has changed”, says Cynda. “This isn’t just about being a singer in a band anymore. It’s about starting a movement...a movement of hope.”
Recently, bassist Zach Popa was welcomed into the CEO family. “I think we kinda threw Zach to the lions at the first assembly he performed. We didn’t tell him ahead of time how many students would be at the assembly so he wouldn’t get nervous, but he definitely asked about it later!”
CEO has begun writing music for their third release, “Into the Night,” which will be released as a series of singles starting at the end of 2016. Keep an eye out for more Cockeyed Optimist performances in the SHOWS tab and FOLLOW our social networks for great weekly series like “Mildly Depressing Facts with Nick Stone” and “Sean’s Riff of the Week.”
Check out the organization's website here: