After yet another cold spell, the weather is starting to warm up here in the Washington, DC metropolitan region and the rest of the East Coast. They are still absent from my neighborhood, but I wonder if the heat wave that will hit us starting tomorrow will bring them out. Many entomophobes in the cicadaless spots of the East Coast next to infested areas are asking themselves the same question right now, and we are all waiting in trepidation…
They aren’t even out yet (at least not in our towns) but we’re already sick of cicadas! So are (obviously!) those poor people now in the midst of the plague. This catchy, fun song by Nashville-based singer-songwriter Kathy Ashworth could be our anthem!
Kathy found Cicadaphobia on Twitter and sent me the link to her video. I think it’s amazing that a revulsion with cicadas inspired a song, so I decided to interview Kathy to know more about her and her work. Thanks again, Kathy, for being part of Cicadaphobia and providing catharsis and entertainment for all cicadaphobes! Singing along at the top of their lungs might really help some! Blasting to your song at home or in the car while driving through infested areas will also help us drown out that ominous, constant hum or those freaky, screechy mating calls!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been writing songs and performing?
I grew up in Southern California and moved to Nashville, TN 12 years ago to pursue music. I have been entertaining (singing/performing) my whole life but got into songwriting more seriously in 1998 so I would have original material to sing.
How’s your relationship with cicadas? Would you say you’re terrified, disgusted, both, or just moderately annoyed by them?
When I heard they were coming to Nashville in 2011, I was really upset and genuinely freaked out. Like I said, I grew up in California near the beach where the most annoying insect is a house fly. I booked vacation plans to Florida (not Granada) when I knew they would be at their peak and was super stressed. I am not a bug person at all!
How did you come up with the idea for Sicka Cicadas? Did you write it just for fun or was it a cathartic experience for you?
I wrote the song and filmed the video in 2011 when the cicadas swarmed Tennessee. (I then did a re-mix for Brood II so the information would be correct for the new brood in 2013). We were having a party in our backyard when someone noticed the cicadas on the side of our house. We started talking about them and I got more and more stressed out about them. One of my friends said, “You’re going to write a song about them, aren’t you?” Her husband said as he was walking out, “You know, Cicada rhymes with Al Quaeda.” Then the next day when I was writing, another friend who was at the party e-mailed me and said, “A good title would be ‘Sicka Cicadas.'” I thought I might as well try to write a song about them because I could not get them out of my mind and get any “real” songwriting done that day. I started researching them, finding out things like how long they stay underground, that they have big eyes but can’t see very well, etc. I will say that learning more about them helped my fear, so yes, it was cathartic. They still freak me out, though.
Were cicadas really flying around you while you were filming the video?
Yes! We filmed the video about a week or so later, and the cicadas really were flying around when we shot it in my backyard. A few times they bumped into my head and once I thought one was caught in my hair. Gross!
How has the song been received so far?
It got a lot of local attention in Nashville (in 2011) when they were here, so I was on the news a lot and got local radio play. It was fun. Then I got a call from a TV morning show in St. Louis, MO because they had cicadas, too, so I drove up there and played live on a morning show (Fox 17 with Tim Ezell). He was eating cicada ice cream while I played my song. It was so much fun! I also made a live radio appearance there and sang it on the radio.
Will you write more cicada songs when different broods emerge in the next few years?
The funny thing is, people were teasing me that I would have to wait 13 years for my video to emerge again, but when I heard about the cicadas coming to the East Coast, I got so excited. I changed the lyrics to fit Brood II and we changed the graphic on the video, so now I have a Brood II remix and my old version.
My “old” version got on You Tube’s suggested videos a few weeks ago, so I got tons of hits but people had no idea why this lady was in her backyard singing about bugs (and why it was getting so many hits). One person said I was Rebecca Black’s mother! Ouch! My new version is just starting to pick up steam, so hopefully people will like it. The non-haters think it is funny. It is not supposed to be serious!
As a singer and songwriter, what’s your biggest dream?
I have many dreams, but of course one is to hear one of my songs performed by a major label act (and I would be backstage and they would call me on stage and I would sing harmony). Another would be to perform on TV and also to win a Grammy or the Song of the Year Award. I also want to be on the Today Show or do a duet with Jimmy Fallon!
On a parting note… I have been working hard for many years to write well-crafted, thoughtful songs… so never in a million years would I have thought I would write one about bugs! It has been so much fun and I love hearing from people who liked it. That is the best thing… getting to connect with people!