VINCINT feels deeply, more than most. Across his debut EP, The Feeling, he falls apart and climbs back out of heartbreak through sorrow-laced lyrics and Whitney Houston-sized pop hooks. “I always try to write all of my songs from an honest perspective. It comes across sad because I happen to be sad every time I’m writing,” the Philadelphia native tells American Songwriter over a recent phone call. “I love the idea of songs being emotional but also giving you the feeling of wanting to dance.”
Songs like last summer’s juggernaut “Please Don’t Fall in Love” and new album appetizer “Save Myself” marry sticky radio pop sweetness with plenty of soul only a background in gospel music could allow. VINCINT (full name Vincint Cannady) grew up in a Baptist household – his father a member of a gospel group – and sang in a children’s choir. Later, he would attend a Catholic high school before trekking off to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
VINCINT competed on The Four’s inaugural season in 2018. While he didn’t win, he left an indelible mark with covers of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Coldplay’s “Magic.”
Along the way, he found himself drawn to predominantly female songwriters – as far as cultivating his own songwriting voice. “I fell in love with Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson. They opened me up to an honest way in talking about love and realizing you had many different ways of expressing it,” says VINCINT, who also draws influence from Houston, David Bowie, and Madonna in his work.
“Those emotions don’t just have one avenue. You can find joy and happiness in anger and sadness,” he offers. “I try to put that into the way I write songs and how I feel about love.”
The Feeling blossoms from a place of true pain. Other essentials like “Miss You” contain raw, unfiltered vocal performances that excavate what it means to bottom out. In the EP’s early days, he found a relationship quickly fizzing out, and his songwriting became the conduit of expression, as much a mode to process and cope. “[Writing this music] opened me up to what love really is and what it takes to make things work, not only in a relationship but in friendships,” he says. “I was also watching my friends fall in love and deal with everyday life. All these songs then fell into place.”
Even more, the music led him on a personal pilgrimage of acceptance and self-worth. “I learned what I want and what I expect of myself when in love and what I expect of someone else, too. It was a really growing up experience writing this EP. I was finding out exactly what I am and who I am in love – and who I am when I’m hurting, as well.”
“God, I fucking hate that you’re happy / While I’m barely getting by,” he bemoans on opener and title track, “The Feeling.” VINCINT busts down the door with a tender, yet heart-sore, vocal performance and lays the foundation for a walloping emotional through line. “It’s that feeling that the other person is on Instagram, out with their friends and laughing, and cut to me on my couch eating a full Entenmann’s cake and feeling sorry for myself,” he says, with a heavy sigh. “It’s that feeling of ‘goddamn it, I wish that I felt as good as you do… or maybe you’re really good at hiding it.’ I wanted it to start off with the truth. Yeah, I’m sad, and that’s alright. It’s also ‘I love you and I’m trying to let you go or let that feeling go, so I can be better.’”
In the song’s brief intro and outro, VINCINT laces in distorted dialogue from his favorite TV show, Grey’s Anatomy. “I’m a drama queen and pretty much every episode is someone dying or a dramatic monologue. Meredith is talking to Derek in the lobby. It’s one of the most poignant moments in the entire series where everything stops. It’s right after he leaves her to be back with his ex-wife. I know, drama. Welcome to my world,” he quips.
“She goes, ‘I have this feeling.’ He then goes, ‘I get those sometimes.’ She says, ‘Will it pass?’ He goes, ‘If you give it a moment, it will.’ She then asks him, ‘Do you promise?’ He looks at her, a little bit uncertain, ‘I promise.’ It’s that feeling that maybe this will go away, but we both know it won’t. But I’m here to comfort you in the moment. You can have this moment of peace.”
Peace quickly fades into anger, regret, maddening sorrow, and eventually peace again. VINCINT’s The Feeling bathes in every single shade of it.
“Please Don’t Fall in Love,” which wasn’t intended as a single or “for anyone to actually hear it,” says VINCINT, relies on the earth-shattering emotion that can’t help but be expressed with a skybound hook. “I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling,” he affirms. After reaching out to rising pop duo Fly by Midnight – of Justin Bryte and Justin Salvo – the trio met up in Los Angeles to write, and the session immediately became a therapeutic release. “I walked in and wanted to write about what I was going through at the time. Justin Bryte said, ‘Tell me exactly what’s going on in your life,’” VINCINT remembers. “We sat down and had a therapy session talking about past relationships, what we did wrong, and what the other person did wrong. The song poured out in maybe an hour and a half.”
“Save Myself” [co-written with Brandon Colbein (Liam Payne, Hayley Kiyoko) and Ryan Hartman] likewise unlocked a necessary emotional valve. “We were all in a place of being tired of people telling us how to feel and how to deal with something. We had all been in situations where we were going through something and someone said, ‘Oh, this is what you should do. This is how I think you should handle this.’ We all have that moment of sitting with ourselves and being like, ‘Well, I know what I need to do. Just let me do it. I love you so much and want you to know I value your opinion. But right now, I need to figure this out on my own.’”
The quickest song to write, clocking in at under 30 minutes, “Simple” is the set’s most ambitious and musically striking. Synths gurgle between a boisterous gospel choir and a lone violin layered over and over. “I was really happy then and really in love,” says VINCINT of his emotional frame of mind. “[The song] started out with me and the cool synth in the beginning – with me doing the background parts. I felt it was a little empty.”
He then rang up friend, singer, and arranger India Carney to piece together the soaring gospel choir parts. “Within a day, India came over and did the arrangement. It was incredible. We layered and layered and layered the parts. Dan [Klein, one-half of producing duo Some Randoms] knew exactly how everything should sound, and it all fell into place. We put this monster together. I think there were like 130 track parts going on – from background vocals to the lead, violin, and synths. There’s a lot happening. I wanted it to be an entire culmination of the EP. In the song, there are little accents from the other songs happening at the end of the song, which you can’t really define. I needed this story to have an ending. Love can be a complicated thing, but in the very end, it’s very simple.”
A journey riddled with brokenness, frustration, and freedom, The Feeling is a teaching moment. “I want people to know that it’s OK to feel sad in a freaking happy moment. That it’s OK to explore your emotions in a way that’s not the typical ‘I broke up with someone and now I need to be sad for eight months.’ You can find the joy in being sad or angry,” he says. “You can find the sadness in being happy. Closing yourself off to that is doing a disservice to your heart and to anyone you meet in the future. I want people to know they can feel this way and still be really good in the end. It doesn’t end with one feeling; it keeps going and going and going.”