Cassandra Kubinski Surrounds Herself with Community for Her Upcoming Record


SARATOGA SPRINGS – With her latest release, The Saratoga Sessions, pianist and singer-songwriter, Cassandra Kubinski promotes community and perseverance, all bolstered by her never-say-die attitude. The entire project, which marked the camaraderie and support in the area, was forged entirely by local collaboration. Kubinski, who unveiled her new record on Sept. 8th, will celebrate with a release party at the venerated Caffe Lena on Sept. 27th.

For those who wish to purchase tickets to her album release party, they may do so by clicking here. To pre-save the record, please click here.

I had a chance to sit down with the artist before her release date. What follows is our conversation.

Lucas Garrett: Cassandra, nice to talk to you again. How’ve you been?

Cassandra Kubinski: I’ve been really busy. It’s been a great summer of balancing music. I went on a west coast tour, playing house concerts and private dates between L.A. and Seattle. I’ve been doing everything I need to prepare for The Saratoga Sessions and the release show. I’ve managed to have a good time: go hiking, go biking, go kayaking, all of that. It’s been a great summer.

LG: Awesome. When is The Saratoga Sessions coming out?

CK: It’s coming out Sept. 8th.

LG: Talk to us a bit about making the album.

CK: About a year ago, I sat down with Jim Mastrianni. Jim and I had met through Caffe Lena ‘cause he was the chair of the board at Caffe Lena, and I was serving on the board – which I still do. I knew Jim was a producer, and I heard his work with Carolyn Shapiro’s album and thought it was really great.

We were bandying about the idea of trying to make some music together. I shared some songs with him that were unproduced. He gravitated to a few songs and said, “I’m interested in producing these.” I said, “Cool, how are you hearing them? In what direction do you think you’d take them?” It was really interesting to me because the songs he picked I personally thought were going to be more electronic-dance music songs. I thought they were going to be songs I’d do with DJs. He heard it as a more organic, classic rock, singer-songwriter sound. Something within me said, “Go for it. Trust the creative, collaborative process.” That’s how we got started. The first song we did is “Hindsight is 20/20.”

LG: How does the new album relate to other things you’ve done?

CK: That’s a great question. I think one of the themes I write about a lot – from many different angles – is the theme of transcending our own limitations, getting over own blocks, getting over our own dark times, failures, and limiting beliefs. I’d say this is a continuation of that theme. All four of these songs have a similar linking in that vein. They’re not about the same things: each experience that inspired the songs is very different.

My last single I wrote, “Burn it Down,” was about choosing to burn down your life and reinvent and claiming your power to do that. On The Saratoga Sessions, I feel there’s an evolution to that theme where there’s more of a declaration of what’s coming next. “Burn it Down” was the moment when you don’t know what to do, so you say, “I’m going to start over,” and The Saratoga Sessions is more about creating the future intentionally; declaring the impact you’re going to have on the world, and that you’re going to rise again from the ashes. That’s the song “The Phoenix.”

But it was really interesting because we didn’t choose the songs on purpose. We chose the songs Jim felt drawn to. The ballad “The Phoenix” is the one I wanted to add at the end. [Jim] didn’t pick that one, but I really thought we should have a ballad because we had three songs that move. It was just lucky, or divinely inspired, that it all worked out that way.

LG: What is your favorite song on the record? Do you have one?

CK: No. You know how it is: you’re an artist. How can you pick a favorite? I would say that I have two favorite records. The record we made with “Fierce” is this really awesome, classic disco-feel, and I don’t know that I really have a song like that! It evokes Chic and that vibe. The other record I really love is “The Phoenix,” is because it’s naked. It’s just a piano with a little bit of organ shading and this big Chinese gong that we use for effect.

LG: Well, you have to have a gong in your music!

CK: Right! I love that those two vibes are so different. I would say, sonically, that those are my two favorites.

LG: Let’s talk about your show at Caffe Lena on Sept. 27th. What can we expect?

CK: It’s going to be really special because, first of all, it’s the release show, so the energy is going to be really high, and there’s going to be so much love in the room because the team that made the project will be there. I’m also really excited because, for the first half of the show, I’m playing with the band that created the EP. That includes Todd Hanhurst on drums and Michael Cassels on bass. I’m really excited to play with that band. It’ll be awesome to play the entire EP as well as a bunch of songs that are related to the upstate community. The whole first half of this show is focused on songs that had an impact on the community or were inspired by the community.

For the second half of the show, I’m going to take our audience on a journey through different facets of my songwriting: songs I wrote for other people, a song I wrote that’s going to be on an upcoming Broadway reading… They’re trying to take this show, Runaway Home, to Broadway, and I have a song in that show. It’s going to be a very unique show, and it’ll be well worth coming and staying for both halves.

LG: You talk about how the album is about rising up and acknowledging your failures and successes. I’d like you to elaborate on that. What do you mean by your failures and successes, and how do you deal with them?

CK: There are many failures, or perceived failures, that I could talk about – both internal and external. For me, I tend to be more fascinated with the internal journey that everyone is on – including myself. I feel everything that happens outwardly in our lives is a reflection of whatever’s happening on the inside… Even with that perspective, in real life, it’s challenging because even when you go through something, you’re in the thick of it.

I’ll give you one example of why I wrote “The Phoenix.” I was a healthy, functioning, thirty-something-year-old adult, and I was having a lot of trouble with nerve issues. I couldn’t seem to figure out why I was having them, but it was the kind of thing where I’d be walking and feel like my legs were going to drop from under me. I was having all these spider sensations down my arms and on my head, and I was in pain, I was uncomfortable, and I was scared. In the end, it was an issue of vitamin B12 deficiency, but at the time, I was really freaked out because I was young! I felt vital and creative. I have a long way to go ahead of me; why does it feel like my body is breaking down? The lyrics to “The Phoenix” begin, “I don’t want to die/but my body feels broken, and my heart has spoken ‘no more.’” My drive to write “The Phoenix” is from that very real physical experience from where I felt my body was failing and I had no control.

Songwriting is often my way out of something or my way into something. In this case, “The Phoenix,” writing it down and leaning into that feeling, and giving it a voice, and validating that feeling by leaning into the drama of it really helped. I think that’s why that song is so moving to people. I’ve had a lot of people that’ve reflected that’s their favorite song, or that that’s the song they feel the most deeply, or how that song stopped them in a parking lot and had them crying in their car… I didn’t censor myself when I wrote it.

LG: If you perceive something is a failure, how do you deal with that?

CK: For better or worse – and it can be a challenging lesson to learn over and over again – life really does play out how we say it will. Our circumstances are our circumstances. They’re not the truth of who we are. I think everything that happens to us – every circumstance – is an open invitation to learn if we want to look at it that way. A lot of us, myself included, just look at challenging circumstances as bad luck, or the universe being unfair. Why did this happen to me? If we ask a different question, like, “What can I get from this that would move me forward?” instead of “Why is this happening to me?” If we ask a better question, we get a better answer. That tends to be the way I deal with failure.

I’m not going to lie, I’m a human, so I have my breakdowns and temper-tantrums about whatever’s happening, and I feel like it’s unfair, too. It’s just that I’ve learned that after I allow for that emotion to get out that the next thing is… I [say] that this is the right thing for me.

LG: I think understanding how to deal with failure is a skill that not enough people have in this industry. In my opinion, if you want to stay in it, you have to know how to handle that.

CK: Yeah. It’s personal, and it can be challenging even when you’ve been through it a million times. I don’t know that it’s gotten easier for me just because I’ve been through it. There’s still certain goals I have that if I really look at why I’m not taking action on them, it’s always something as simple as “I don’t want to be rejected.” It’s something so plebeian, but I do it anyway.

LG: I haven’t heard the word “plebeian” in a while!”

CK: Hahaha.

LG: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

CK: I want to really acknowledge the role that Caffe Lena has played in this project because it really wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the community and board at Caffe Lena. I’ve had a presence in Saratoga for eleven years, and I’ve owned a house in Saratoga for six years. I’ve been based there full-time for three years, and I really didn’t know the extent of what a vibrant, creative community, as far as songwriters, producers, and artists, right in the area until I was serving on the Caffe Lena board and participating in their festivals, obviously beyond just getting to meet Jim (Mastrianni), every person on this album, from designers to photographers, to musicians, to press people. Everybody is local to the 518. That’s completely unique for me; I’ve never had a project like that before.

LG: This area is amazing for so many different, creative people out there.

CK: Right! I want to point out that for anybody who’s looking to tap into the robustness and range of the talent that’s in the region, Caffe Lena is such a good place to start.

LG: Thanks for your time, Cassandra, and good luck with your new EP and release party!

CK: Thanks, Lucas, I appreciate it!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.