Cover Story

Kean Cipriano is a name that has long been etched into the fabric of Original Pinoy Music and local entertainment, as a whole, throughout the years. From his role as the lead for alternative rock band Callalily that has given generations some era-defining classics, to his numerous portrayals of characters in the big screen, and his overall rockstar persona that turns everything he touches to culturally-relevant treasures—Cipriano is one artist that seemingly has not stopped creating content people can connect with since his thrust in the industry way back in 2005.

Now, with his debut solo album “Childlike” out, and his work behind the scenes for his label O/C Records, Rank Magazine attempts to navigate his storied trajectory over the past 16 years, and how his music has sustained him (and in turn, sustained us) over the course of his constantly-evolving career.

First off, it is important to note that Cipriano is just one of those people that exudes artistry. From his student years falling in love with the songs of Matchbox Twenty, Incubus, and other pop-rock bands, to even set designing his video interview Rank Magazine and setting our creative direction for his cover shoot despite being confined at home, creativity is simply a wealth that runs freely through his veins.

In fact, during our conversation, he recalled how natural it was for him to gravitate towards music, even at such a young age, as he fell in love with the imaginative nature of being a musician. The bands he mentioned worked as a gateway for him to find the music he liked, which, in turn, paved the way for the creation of Callalily.

“Ibang aspeto yung nakita ko sa music na hindi ko kailangan sumabay or gumaya sa iba. Basta kung ano gusto ko, doon ako. Doon ko siya naisip na ‘I think this is something I want to do for the rest of my life because I feel untouchable, or immortal in a sense, because of my music,'” he shared.

Eventually, this path led him to one of the biggest pop rock bands in the Philippine music scene from the 2000s until today. Being very young at the time with the rest of his bandmates, Cipriano admitted that those first few years was just all about looking at music as a playground for fun and creative release. Art lang, walang pake sa pera,” he mused. (Just art, not a care for money.)

Though music has always been a medium of self-expression for him as an artist, those early stages were years he admitted when that’s all that mattered to him. As he got older, though, and got more involved with the ins and outs of the industry, he noted how the business side began to weigh on him. If before it was just all fun, somewhere down the line the process got a tad complicated. “You think about it more,” he noted.

Full ensemble, Adam Pereyra.

The singer-songwriter elaborated: “‘Yung tingin ko sa music before was just play time and fun. It is [still] of course, but as you get older, you look at it a little differently. Lalo na kapag naging career na siya sa’yo. Sometimes you have to choose, should I release something that’s the same as last time, because it worked? Or magre-release ka ba ng something totally different because you’ve never done something like that, and it’s going to fulfill your soul, but you know to yourself that it’s not really going to sell?”

These days, however, this has changed due to the pandemic. If anything, it brought out his passion and love for the craft with renewed vigor as an artist, and even changed his perspective on the world as a human being. Like a lot of us, he’s “fine, but not totally fine.” Scared, tired, yet amidst it all, he trudged forward and came out with a deeper love for music. He even went as far as saying: “Music saved me.”

All of this heart and soul was poured into creating his debut solo album “Childlike”, a project that was years-in-the-making project that perfectly encapsulates where he is as an individual artist right now. He revealed that he has always wanted to do a solo project like this, and to have total control of the direction of the whole record. The biggest challenge of it all, though, was how to separate it from his work with Callalily.

Blazer and trousers, Edwin Tan.

As Cipriano remains to be an active member of the band, with songwriting and producing, and Callalily releasing music the same time he was writing for his own record, he shared that it was surprisingly a natural transition for him to write songs for both, often at the same time. As he put it, he’s the type of guy who trusts and follows his gut feeling. The same rule applies to distinguishing which songs would go to the band, and which ones will be added to his solo portfolio. The secret? Trust your gut.

Mahirap siya, pero super fun,” he expressed with a grin. “Para akong naglaro ulit, kaya ‘Childlike’ yung title. Na-feel ko na parang naglalaro lang ako. Para kang bata ulit. ‘Yun yung something na alam kong hindi ko na maibabalik, pero at least man lang yung pakiramdam na nagawa ko pa rin siya pero I’m in control of everything.”

These days, he shared that he wants to go back to how he wrote songs before. Carefree, playful, curious, and all the things one can attune with falling in love with something for the first time. In his case, it’s rediscovering and deepening his love for creating music.

Blazer and turtle-neck top, Adam Pereyra.

In effect, this solo album is full of songs created out of the singer-songwriter surrendering completely to the creative process again. With the title “Childlike”, he wanted to create a playful record. Or, to be more accurate, an album that captures various levels and states of “landi”.

Flirty, promiscuous, and curious, Childlike paints the journey of finding true love. May it be in the romantic sense, or one’s own artistry, or a deeper state of getting in touch with one’s sense of being. In many ways, this album was a lot like going back to his youth, and writing tracks without the dictations and rules of the industry to limit him. Just pure fun, mixed with the awareness and experience of a mature artist.

“Pag napakinggan mo yung Childlike, mapapakinggan mo yung naging tunog ko sa iba’t ibang phases ng buhay ko,” he described. Especially since a lot of the songs from the album date back to years ago, like Took Me Out which he revealed was written a good ten or twelve years ago. In essence, the album is the amalgamation of everything he’s felt and experienced throughout his life, from youth to maturity.

Another thing that added to his love and respect for the craft is his work with O/C Records, a music label he founded with his wife, singer and actress Chynna Ortaleza (who actually served as his photographer, make-up artist, and overall assistant for this shoot).

Established in 2018, the label was launched out of the duo’s desire to help young artists forge ahead in the competitive and overwhelming world of OPM. Cipriano noted that, though it was weird in the beginning to feel like a mentor to the “next generation”, things fell into place quite naturally.

“I just really wanted to dish out kung ano yung nalalaman ko sa industry na ito, and help create a path for these artists,” he expressed.

Top and blazer, Stylist’s own.
Pants, Proudrace.

But working with young artists and various personalities have not only been beneficial for aspiring musicians under his care, he also opened up about how the whole experience gave him more appreciation for people working behind artists, and a deeper respect for the industry as a whole. Collaborating with so many people and working with them in a whole new way, it opened a new realm of understanding within him, he shared.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about respect. It’s all about working harmoniously with people. Whether you’re an artist, or a businessman, or whatever. You have to respect any people’s talents. Doon niya ako na-impact nang sobra, kasi mas nirespeto ko yung trabaho ko, dahil sa talent ng ibang tao na nakakasalamuha ko. Mas may karga kung paano mo aalagaan yung career ng isang artist, yung career mo as an artist, at paano mo iingatan yung company mo. It’s a lot of hard work,” he emphasized.

With that said, he’s now even more excited to work everyday because of the work he does with O/C Records. A job he admitted that was instrumental in further cementing his certainty that this is what he wants to do for the rest of his life.

After almost two decades in the industry, Cipriano declares that the two main things that keeps him going are his family, and his love for music. In fact, it’s one of his goals to collaborate with more artists in the future. To be specific, he confessed that he really wants to write a song for P-Pop royalty SB19 as he’s always been a fan of their artistry and performances.

Looking into the future, the established musician shared that he’s really just excited to work more with young artists and producers. He wants to see the “old school” and “new school” meet in music, and create something totally novel out of it. As he put it, the industry has changed so much over the years he’s been active, that he’s sure it’s well-equipped enough to accept and grow through even more changes in the future. This might very well be done with the marriage of music we’re already familiar with, and new sounds that we’ve never heard of before.

No matter the case, one thing he’s sure of is that he will always continue to make music. Music that will make him happy, evolve, and be proud of. Yes, Kean Cipriano might be a name established in the industry since early on, but 16 years down the line is nothing compared to what else he plans of achieving in the years to come.

With the legacy of Callalily still thriving as it’s being written, his solo debut album released a few months prior, and the young artists of O/C Records under his care opening a new chapter in the local music scene as we speak, there’s still so much more to come from Cipriano’s artistic mastermind.

From music as art, to music as a business, and back to the core of it all: a music career founded on fun and experimentation, and a whole lot of respect, appreciation, and hard work for the craft.

Moth shirt, Kelvin Morales.

Listen to ‘Childlike’ here:

Produced by O/C Records for Rank Magazine

Creative and styling direction by Leo Balante

Photography and grooming by Chynna Ortaleza

With fashion from Adam Pereyra, Kelvin Morales, Proudrace, and Edwin Tan

Interview by Leo Balante and Pauline Nacar

Image manipulation and cover layout by Bhernn Saenz