“Transient, Introspective, & Cinematic”: cehryl Delves into the Intimate World of ‘willow tree,’ Her Soul-Stirring Third Album

cehryl 'willow tree' © Gemma Harrad
cehryl 'willow tree' © Gemma Harrad
Hong Kong-based singer/songwriter and producer cehryl takes us track-by-track through her soul-stirring new album ‘willow tree,’ an achingly intimate and altogether breathtaking tempest of raw emotion and even rawer sound.
Stream: “burn blister” – cehryl

There’s a breathtaking warmth to cehryl’s third studio album.

The world she creates is soft and still, yet full of movement and energy. Her intimate emotions are loud enough to capture the weight of words unspoken, and her gentle melodies ache through and through, tugging at the heartstrings in a bid for connection, closure, and cathartic release.

The Hong Kong-based singer/songwriter and producer (born Cheryl Chow) has long used songwriting as both a diary and therapy, but there’s something extra special about her latest LP: In pushing herself deeper both sonically and lyrically, cehryl has created a record that is simultaneously stormy and serene, heavy and light, soothing and chilling. A tender tempest of raw emotion and even rawer sound, willow tree is enchanting, inspiring, and soul-stirring: A triumph of vulnerability, musical nuance, and unfiltered confessional introspection.

willow tree - cehryl
willow tree – cehryl
I get lost on Saturdays
Though the rough sand
stirs me back into place

I feel warm when I see your face
And my blue wears off till you fade away
I get so lonely half of the time
Don’t think you know me
when I’m out of mind

I wanna leave my possessions behind
And follow you to the end
My burn blister’s not going away
So I hate myself to compensate
I miss you with your poker face
So I put my missing on display
– “burn blister,” cehryl

Released June 7, 2024 via Nettwerk Music Group, willow tree promises to send shivers down the spine with every listen. cehryl’s third studio album arrives three years after her last EP time machine, which Atwood Magazine praised at the time as an immersive, enchanting mind and body experience: “”cehryl’s new EP is as emotionally draining as it is utterly stirring,” we wrote. “A beautifully bittersweet indulgence of nostalgia and reflection, the wistful time machine radiates warm sound and raw emotion as the artist spills her heart and soul in six breathtaking songs.”

The same could and should be said of the eleven-track willow tree, whose songs find a candid, exposed cehryl dwelling once again in the deep end of her emotions.

cehryl © Gemma Harrad
cehryl © Gemma Harrad

“This album is a documentation of my life from 2019 to 2023, from when I moved back to Hong Kong from LA. It’s a collection of songs about dissatisfaction, fear, loss, hope, letting go of the past, being in love,” cehryl tells Atwood Magazine. “I had recurring themes and motifs that I could trace in the songs I’ve written, and deciding to make an album, I revisited old songs and picked 11 songs with a coherent sound and put them in a tracklist that had some sort of trajectory or emotional arc. I didn’t write the songs with the album in mind.”

Cehryl considers willow tree a continuation of the artistry she’s been building throughout the past nine-plus years.

“They’re all mellow,” she says of her current and previous records,” and I don’t think I’ve departed drastically from my previous albums. This feels like a more mature continuation of my previous work. Better, hopefully. I tried to be more flexible with song structure in this album — letting vignettes be vignettes. Not making every song a single (although ironically the album rollout was five singles before the album dropped).”

cehryl © Gemma Harrad
cehryl © Gemma Harrad

She candidly calls willow tree a transient, introspective, and cinematic record.

“The original title of the album was ‘something’s better than nothing,’ but I changed it for a title with stronger imagery,” she explains. “Had a newfound appreciation for trees in 2023 and all the metaphors that come with it: how they provide shelter and refuge, how peaceful and introspection-friendly they are. I imagine the sound of leaves rustling in the wind – that’s the energy I think this album has.”

Highlights abound throughout willow tree as cehryl deftly balances the worlds of indie folk and alt-R&B, crafting a singular sound full of color and visceral feeling. She cites her gently dramatic album opener “need/give me,” ambient album closer “guarantee,” and the propulsive “rules” as some of her own favorites. “‘Need’ is important to me lyrically,” cehryl adds. “I still think all those thoughts even months after writing it. All my songs are personal, but some are more fictional or abstract than others (the less attached I am to them).” She describes “need/give me” as a reflection on her “seemingly futile” attempts in previous relationships to search for a completely satisfying and fulfilling love. Her lyrics capture the intensity, and the weight, of what that means to her:

I’m an extreme
Without you, I’m without me
I can’t handle what it means
To be free from what I love
It’s always been
Kind of lonely it seems
From Back Bay to New Orleans
I’ve never reached
What I need…

cehryl © Gemma Harrad
cehryl © Gemma Harrad

Meanwhile, the dreamy, aching reverie “burn blister” is an instant standout with its heavier beat and catchy melodies, and the gut-wrenching “kill the thought” proves a brutal, yet beautiful fever dream of regret and inner reckoning.

As vulnerable as it is visceral and as catchy as it is cathartic, willow tree is without a doubt one of the year’s most moving album releases – full of songs that stop us in our tracks, demanding our undivided attention as cehryl softly spills the contents of her heavy heart and soul.

I feel detached, I’m a fly on the wall
Not taking pictures, just waiting to fall
I wanna grow old in a house of my own
I wanna smile in the faded memory of it all
Smile in the created memory of it all
I killed the thought in the shower
I killed the thought in the shower
I killed the thought in the shower
I think it only got louder
– “kill the thought,” cehryl

cehryl © Gemma Harrad
cehryl © Gemma Harrad

“I hope listeners get into a mood they haven’t allowed themselves to get into before,” cehryl shares.

“My takeaway is, now I can move on from songs from 2019 and move on to making better new music – I think my taste and sound’s evolved so I’m just glad to put it out and grow and move on.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside cehryl’s willow tree with Atwood Magazine as she takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her debut album!

— —

:: stream/purchase willow tree here ::
:: connect with cehryl here ::
Stream: ‘willow tree’ – cehryl

:: Inside willow tree ::

willow tree - cehryl

— —

need/give me

this is a reflection of my numerous seemingly futile attempts in previous relationships to search for a completely satisfying and fulfilling love. this song is me asking the universe, why, after putting so much in, does it feel like i’ll never get what i need?

sometimes i get so tired

this is one of the songs written in my depressive periods, it’s about trying my best to be self aware with how i express disappointment and anger, trying to be a better friend and person or advance in my career etc. all the time, feeling let down by myself, defeated and tired of trying at all, wanting to give up completely.

burn blister

this one’s a straightforward short and sweet poppy love song, it’s about finding an anchor in the person i love or in the process or idea of falling in love and following the person wherever they take me while my life somewhat falls apart, surrendering to that love

kill the thought

this song’s about regret about all the doors you’ve closed in the past and all the ways your life could’ve turned out differently, it’s about losing yourself in that regret and nostalgia and then extinguishing that brutally because unfortunately that’s just what life requires us to do (miss out on alternatives for sake of forging a path).


short and sweet song i imagined as an interlude playing on the radio (that’s how i pictured it in my head, a transient sort of reminder that comes on the radio and leaves), i imagined myself giving advice to another friend about their unrequited love, saying “sorry bro that’s how it goes”

row row row

another song i created as a vignette with the image of being stranded in the middle of the ocean, not knowing what’s next, neither here nor there, close but not close enough to reach the shore. a song i wrote way back when i moved back to hong kong, when i felt like i was disconnected from my musician/artist community in LA and disconnected from my roots in hong kong.

goodnight, don’t wait

this is a song i wrote about convincing myself to let go of my anxiety of the person i love not putting me in their future, it’s really a lullaby writing myself into the delusion of reassuredness: “okay im good, im not worried, i wont wait for your answer or reassurance or confirmation anymore, ill deal with it myself”

swimming pool

wrote this around the same time i wrote row, row, row, hence the water imagery, song’s about moving on from a closed chapter of my life

anything you ask

this is a vow and a love song, a blind uncompromising promise that id do anything for this person, including not asking for more from them, the line about breaking my pear in two came is a reference to this chinese idiom 孔融讓梨. song’s a vow to give up anything for this person, they just have to ask

last summer i found a reason (again)

i wrote this when, after a long period of not feeling inspired or motivated to make music, i heard this album that made me feel elated and alive again, i was filled with such an explosive adoration of melodies and arrangements and chords and words that i didn’t even care to look before i crossed the road because i would’ve been happy dying listening to that album. so the song is about how i found my raison d’etre again


this outro wraps the album up on a more hopeful note, it’s another promise, this time saying: i know you, you know me, we’ve got a lot to figure out but the bottom line is, we got each other unconditionally and in spite of it all, until the end of time.

— —

:: stream/purchase willow tree here ::
:: connect with cehryl here ::

— — — —

willow tree - cehryl

Connect to cehryl on
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Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Gemma Harrad



willow tree

an album by cehryl

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