"But this year, it's gonna be a good one."

New York songwriter Cassandra Jenkins was one of the hits of All Points East festival, taking to the stage on Friday afternoon (August 27).

The set was drawn mainly from the acclaimed 2021 album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature.

It is a lyrical work, and she told this newspaper much of it is a direct telling of incidents from her life.

Hard Drive

I ran into Peri at Lola's place.
Her gemstone eyes caught my gaze.
She said: "Oh, dear, I can see you've had a rough few months
But this year, it's gonna be a good one.
I'll count to three and tap your shoulder.
We're gonna put your heart back together.
So all those little pieces they took from you
They're coming back now.
They'll miss 'em too.

The album's central track is Hard Drive, a collection of encounters over a rhythm recreating time skipping forward.

The song's final scene is a birthday party for singer Lola Kirke, where Cassandra's friend Peri Lyons, a professional psychic, sees she is struggling.

"At that moment she pulled me aside and she could see that I had some heartbreak," says Cassandra. "And she started to talk about a specific person in my life and say: 'I'm not going to let you have room for them anymore. We're going to put your heart back together. We're going to take all those pieces that they took. I don't want you to give them space anymore.'

"It was much more in depth than I ended up writing into the song, but then she counted to three and tapped my shoulder while she was doing it, and on three everyone in the party started clinking their glasses, not hearing us, but because they were about to do the birthday wish thing and give a toast.

"But she looked up and she said: 'Uh, see, it's working.'"

Cassandra laughs: "That's the kind of thing that you experience with Peri where you're just like: 'Okay, I believe you.'"

She says most people assume the "good year" was 2021, but sadly not.

"That was 2019, going into 2020. That was the year that was gonna be a good one. Can you believe that? So there's the irony there, of course, of how much weight do you put into the words of a psychic who corners you at a party?"

She adds: "The spirit behind it is very loving, and it's a loving thing to say to someone, even if it turns out not to be true."


I'm a three-legged dog
Workin' with what I got
And part of me will always be
Looking for what I lost.
There's a fly around my head
Waiting for the day I drop dead.
My DNA looks pretty strange
Can you see it on my breath?

The album's opening track is inspired by the Buddhist teachings Cassandra follows.

"All of the lyrics from that song, I'm basically just ripping off a bunch of dharma talks that I listen to – a lot of them in person at silent retreats. It's very much my little dharma song," she says.

"And I think one of the beauties of the dharma is that you're repeating age-old ideas and saying them in different ways."

She continues: "With the three-legged dog analogy I was thinking a lot about how trauma works and processing that, and feeling like trauma almost feels like losing a limb and having to balance yourself without that limb."

Cassandra has a mutation in the MLH1 gene – something associated with increased susceptibility to certain types of cancer.

"When I found that out, it also felt like I was missing a limb or something, and like I was handicapped from the start," she says.

"And I was feeling sorry for myself, I think, at the time, but I've continued to process that, as well through songwriting, and I'm not really feeling that way any more."

One way of approaching it can be found in the lyrics to a demo version of the song, which is available on (An Overview on) An Overview on Phenomenal Nature.

Call me Michelangelo
I'm a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
My DNA looks pretty strange.
Must be something in the water.

"I threw in that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line because I was feeling like: well, I literally have a mutation in my genes so maybe it's my part of my superpower, you know? They're really my mascot."

New Bikini

My mom asked if I was okay.
I said: "Nothing to do about DNA."
She worriеd at me
And went out and bought me a nеw bikini.

The gene mutation is hereditary and Cassandra's mother has, with "strength and humour", survived cancer seven times - five different types. At 74 she is still teaching.

"So that line in New Bikini was at a time when I had just received this diagnosis, and I was also simultaneously sort of falling in love with someone," says Cassandra.

“She was like ‘well, you should take care of your health' and I was like 'well, I should also live my life because who knows how long I'll have my health'.

"It was one of those really tough conversations where we argued about whether or not I should be living my life. And then finally she heard me and was like: ‘Oh yeah, you should do that.’

“The guy’s gone, but that’s not the point.”

An Overview on Phenomenal Nature is out now, as is the single Pygmalion. Cassandra Jenkins performs at End of the Road festival in Dorset on September 4.