A Rock Star at Rock Bottom
How I became the kind of women I never thought I’d be…and my pathway back to strength, authenticity and wholeness. By Lucia Cifarelli
Lucia Cifarelli, has released her highly anticipated album, “I Am Eye,” the long overdue follow up to her 2004 release, “From The Land Of Volcanos.”
Describing “I Am Eye” as the soundtrack to her life, the album is a time capsule of songs, that capture defining moments from throughout her life, while contemplating her place in it. With infectious melodies and deeply personal storytelling, “I Am Eye” is an addictive collection of songs covered in black glitter and dark sparkle, delivered straight from the boulevard of broken dreams. To listen to Lucia’s album, check out her Spotify & Instagram
R was the first person to put me behind the mic in a professional studio...the first person to believe, guide and invest in my career. He was also my lover. Although he wasn’t my first lover, he was in a way, because he was the first person I’d ever experienced complete uninhibited passionate sex with. (Although admittedly, at the time, he was at the top of a very short list since I was only 19.) He was the point of entry to everything I thought I wanted: Money, power, fame, love. I was all in.
I first met R when I was 15 years old, interning at CCS recording studio in Long Island where he was a young up and coming English record producer. I’ll never forget meeting him for the first time: I thought he looked like a Viking god that just stepped off the cold shores. It was love at first sight for me. But I was a young, skinny teenager and he was on the cusp of stardom. I carried this flame for him for years...long after that internship ended.
But to understand what happened next, I must take you way back...
I grew up in an affluent suburb of New York in an Italian American family. We appeared to live an idyllic existence on a pretty tree-lined street, where my parents hosted large family gatherings and the lingering smell of cinnamon and coffee cake was always hanging in the air. But behind the scenes, my father was an abusive alcoholic with a mean streak and a terrifying temper. For someone who seemingly had it all, he wanted none of it. I think he blamed us for robbing him of the life he always wanted: One without children. He also resented his parents, who chose his career path in life, preventing him from following one of his life-long dreams of becoming a singer, antiquarian or Olympian. According to him, he could’ve been any of one those things given the chance. But if my uncle is to be believed, my father’s lack of empathy stems from an accident in his youth, when he was hit in the head with a baseball. His family routinely made excuses for him and gaslit my siblings and me. If my grandmother happened to be visiting on a night he flew into a rage and beat us, she’d comfort me afterward by saying things like, “Be nice to him,” “Be a good girl,” “He loves you,” “Try not to make too much trouble,” “Don’t be a bad girl.” My mother would often say these words, too. Over time it became a mantra I’d recite in my head. Be a good girl. Be a good girl. Be a good girl.
My earliest memory of being hit was when I was 4. I was asleep and my mother woke me to come downstairs. She said your father has something to show you. I was sleepy and confused, with my eyes still adjusting to the light as I climbed down the stairs. I stopped before I got to the bottom, pausing and pressing my face between the banister with hesitancy: I saw him in the living room sitting on the floor with a gigantic dog. He was petting it and telling me to come over and touch it. I was terrified and said, “No...I’m afraid it’ll bite me.” Then he said in an angry voice, “I told you to come over here!” As I got closer, I could see that it was a stuffed animal, and I got excited. But then he yanked me by my hair, making me fall to the floor saying, “You see, you dumb, fucking idiot? It's fake!” When I started crying, he said, “What are you crying about? There’s nothing to cry about!” My mother said, “You’re scaring her!” And he replied, “I don’t care! She ruined the surprise! She’s a dummy!”
My father’s moods were so unpredictable and dangerous my siblings and I referred to him as “The Reptile,” because you never knew when he would strike. One time when I was showering for school in the morning, he busted through the door, tore the curtain back and belted me across the face with the back of his hand, saying “What the hell do you think you’re doing? I can hear the fucking water running through the pipes! Get the hell out of there!” I turned the water off as fast as I could and scrambled to maintain some modesty. After he left, I sat in the bathtub crying, wishing he’d go away forever and never come back.
Another time when my sister K had a track meet at school, my father said he wanted to take me with him to watch, so we arrived early to find a good seat. The moment we stepped on the field my father said to me, “You know what, Lucy? You’re running in this race with your sister today!” I said, “What are you talking about? I’m not a runner. I’m not even on the track team!” With that, he grabbed me by the hand and dragged me across the field to the coach, who was preparing the girls for the race. He said to the coach “Hi I’m Dr. Cifarelli. I’m “K’s father. This is my other daughter Lucia. I want her to run in the race today.” The coach looked at my father and was completely perplexed and said, “But Sir! I don’t even know her. What do you mean?” Now, please try to imagine the setting: It was a Saturday, and the bleachers were filled with kids and families. There were A LOT of people watching this unfold. Then my father said, “I don’t give a shit! Put her in the god damn race!” Before I knew it, I was being marched to the starting line and getting in position along with the other girls. My sister was completely embarrassed, her teammates were horrified, the attendees were baffled, and the coach couldn’t take his eyes off my shoes, which were open-toed sandals. Once they sounded the alarm, I took off running along with the other girls, but tripped a couple of yards down the track and fell on my face. You could hear the collective gasps of a couple of hundred people coming from the bleachers as it happened, along with a lot of laughter. It was mortifying. As soon as I brushed the dirt from my eyes, I didn’t stop running until I reached the front door of our house.
My father also had a zipper problem and cheated on my mother several times over the course of their marriage. They often fought about this after a long evening of drinking, and he’d take it out on us. Sadly, my brother had it worst of all. When I was 11, I watched my father hold my brothers head to the floor with his foot, while kicking it in with the other, with his eyeglasses twisting on his face, telling him he was a worthless disappointment of a son, a piece of shit, and waste of space. “Bad kids! You’re all bad kids!” My brother never fully recovered. He’s struggled with a myriad of health issues ever since. My mother, who was very loving and devoted – was also very young. She would get terrified when my father flew into rages and would often drive off in her car. As a child, I was confused by her leaving and wondered if she’d ever return. That created abandonment issues for me. I realize now my father must have scared her as much as he scared us, but at the time I’d thought she’d gone and left us forever.
Back to my relationship with R.
A couple of years after I’d graduated high school and was living in Manhattan, working for J at a music management company, R and I reconnected. I had bumped into a guy that looked a lot like him on the Upper East Side in Carl Schurz Park and couldn’t stop thinking about him. I thought, WTF, I’m going to track him down. So, I called a mutual friend of ours, DB, who I’d known from my intern days. We caught up on each other’s lives, made small talk and then I said it: I told him I’d had a crush on R back in the day. He laughed and said I’ve got to tell him, he’ll love that! Later that night R called me and said, “So...I heard from DB you used to have a crush on me.” I said, yes, I did, and then he asked me on a date. We went to dinner at Petaluma, a nice Italian restaurant not far from the apartment I was living in at the time. We spoke about all the records he was making, who I was writing with, what everyone from the studio was up to, and then I asked him: “Do you have a girlfriend?” And he said, “I did, but we broke up and she’s in the process of moving out of my house on Long Island back home to Cincinnati.” Lucky me! One date turned into another and before long we were having a full-on love affair.
Fast forward a little further into the future...
A couple of years into our relationship, he signed me to his production company and his publishing company. My band, Drill, was later signed to A&M Records through his label there. We rented an apartment in Gramercy Park and everything seemed perfect...or so I thought! He told me it would probably be a good idea if we kept our relationship a secret, because it might give people the wrong idea: That the only reason he signed me was because we were sleeping together. I didn’t care what anyone thought, but he insisted, and I trusted him, so we snuck around NYC and swore our circle to secrecy.
After a while, I began to suspect he had ulterior motives. He had girls throwing themselves at him all over town hoping to be the next big thing. Sometimes I’d find women’s toiletries in the bathroom cabinet at his house in Long Island, or a sweater...a t-shirt. He’d say “Oh D must’ve left that behind when she was moving out.” There were red flags everywhere, but we were having so much fun, I kept pushing it out of my mind. Then he’d do something so romantic, I’d forget what I was worried about: Like the time we went to his best friend’s gallery exhibit. We walked hand in hand through the rooms until I stopped at a painting and cocked my head in a quizzical stare, and he started laughing. “It’s you baby, can’t you tell? It’s from the Polaroid you gave me from your last photo shoot.” My heart nearly split wide open from happiness.
But those moments were always short-lived.
One evening after a beautiful night in a suite at “The Plaza Hotel,” while I was lying on his chest after we’d just made love, he told me he was going to be a father. He told me he’d slept with his ex-girlfriend D, and she was pregnant. I flew out of bed like a bat out of hell and let out a primal scream. I stared at him in shock and said, “Why? Why would you do that to us?” He told me it was a mistake, how sorry he was, how much he loved me, that she wanted the baby, and he would support that decision and be a father to his son. I was devastated to say the least, but still, I stood by him. I just couldn’t imagine life without him.
Not long after D had the baby, I visited R at The Peninsula Hotel in LA. When I arrived, the person behind the desk greeted me by saying, “Good morning, Mrs. D. So nice having you back.” I smiled tightly, retrieved the key and rode the elevator up to the room, seething, wondering if he had in fact married her and he just never told me. He was so good at compartmentalizing his life, anything was possible. When I went inside, he wasn’t there but his briefcase was, so I searched through it to find out what other lies he might be hiding. I found a plane ticket issued for a week from the date I was looking at it. BOOM! Another lie. He had told me he’d be staying in LA for an additional week after I left, when in fact he was flying across the country to be with D, his ex and the mother of his child. When he got back to the room we embraced, made small talk and I said, “So what are your plans for the week?” He gave his stock answer: “Meetings, studio, you know, the usual.” Then I presented him with the ticket and said, “Really?” He tried to lie his way around it, but in the end, admitted it. I was becoming increasingly worn out by all the deception and constantly being triggered into fits of jealousy and rage. I realize to you the reader, how obvious it all must seem, but you have to remember for me “hitting” was the benchmark of abuse, so in comparison to that what was going on felt relatively normal.
Again, I know it’s hard to believe but I was still completely unprepared when I discovered yet another new woman in his life. We’d driven out to his house on Long Island for the weekend and he was very quiet and distant on drive out from NYC. I asked if something was wrong and he said, “No, I just have a lot on my mind,” but something felt off, not quite right. We were both tense. By the time we arrived at his house I was ready for a drink. I needed to relax. But there was nothing there, so he offered to go the store to buy me a bottle of wine. Once he left, I looked through his briefcase AGAIN! (I know, I know...not good.) And found a folder, with a stack of promotional photos of an attractive young woman. I can’t explain it any other way: It was female intuition. I just knew this was the woman that would end it all between us. I took the pictures and laid them all over the empty kitchen island and waited for him to return. As soon as he got back, he stopped dead in his tracks, and I calmly asked, “Do you love her?” He took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes closed the way he would when he didn’t like the question being asked. After a long pause he said, “I think so.” Neither of us slept that night. I cried in his arms softly. We made love for the last time: A move I initiated in a last-ditch effort to remind him of “us.” He drove me back to the apartment in Gramercy Park the next day and said he’d call me later.
Everyone that knew us seemed to have known R was getting serious with someone else. It was apparent on their faces when we arrived at DR’s charity ball for the last time. DR was R’s business partner. She held the fundraiser annually in honor of her daughter who had passed from cancer to raise money and awareness. When we arrived at the company table DR had reserved, everyone stared at me like they’d just seen a ghost. I instantly felt uncomfortable and made a quick exit to the bathroom. Inside, I paced around utterly mortified. After composing myself, I returned to the table, but everyone had gone...including R.
Then I heard a familiar voice from behind me call my name and I turned around to see it was DR, reaching her hand out from a couple of tables away. She said, “Come here, honey. Sit down,” and wrapped her bejeweled hand around my wrist, gave it a gentle squeeze and said, “What are you doing here, sweetie? It’s over, he’s gone. Don’t you know? He’s in love with someone else now. You’ve got to let go.” As I stood up, her hand fell away, and I walked away into the crowd. Suddenly, I was face to face with Wyclef Jean, who was extending a glass of champagne out to me. As we locked eyes, he said “Damn! You look like the saddest girl in the world!” And I said, “I am” and I ran out the door into the night.
Amid the ending of our relationship, there was another hurricane about to hit my life and it was a perfect storm. A major music industry restructuring was taking place that would see several major labels merge, A&M Records among them.
Employees and artists were laid off left and right in the process. In the weeks that followed, my A&R girl and my biggest supporter at A&M who worked closely on the follow up Drill album, were both given pink slips. Not long after, I received news my band Drill would be dropped as well, and our second album, shelved. I was crushed!
The day after DR’s charity event, I woke up and there was an eviction notice from building management under my door, saying the lease that R had been paying for me had been terminated and I needed to be out of the apartment by the end of the following month. I was terrified! I called my good friend J, the friend I’d worked for years before. She was my closest friend in NYC. There was no one else to call. My father, mother and siblings, either couldn’t help me or didn’t care. It was as it always had been in my family: Every man for himself. I was completely on my own. J’s advice about R was, “You have to talk to him! He can’t throw you out on the street like a fucking dog after 9 years!”
We met at The Peninsula Hotel in midtown, where we’d shared so many happy memories, and he directed me to sit in the chair across from him while he finished up his call. I was shaking so badly my teeth were chattering. I was a terrified child all over again, preparing for punishment. I’d been a bad girl, and there’d be consequences. I could feel all my childhood conditioning scorch through my system. He continued talking and laughing with whoever he was on the phone with, and it was nearly impossible getting his attention. He knew why I was there, and it felt like whoever he was speaking with knew as well, because he kept saying things like “Yeah I know, I did enough for her, uh huh hmm…got it.” The longer I sat there, the more insignificant and loathed I felt. Exactly how my father made me feel: Like trash. Then something inside me snapped and broke. I did something I’ve never done before or since and I’m not proud to share it. I got down on my knees and begged for his help with such desperation that I think it even took him by surprise. Through a flood of tears I said, “Please, please help me! Don’t you care about me at all? Don’t you care what happens to me?”
I’d stood by him through infidelity, unplanned pregnancies, and allowed him to lie to me over and over again, always taking him back. I’d been working overtime to be a good girl, not make trouble, please him, just like I’d done with my father. I was so desperate to hold onto the identity I created as a result of being with R. I was willing to be demoralized and humiliated in order to hold onto it. He filled the “dumb” hole my father dug in my heart so long ago, because no successful man would be with a dumb girl, right? Being with him validated that I wasn’t all those things my father told me I was. It wasn’t until that moment, that he’d fallen in love with someone else, that I realized, no matter how far I’d run from home, I was still dragging the baggage of my childhood with me.
The next time we spoke, he agreed to give me the money I needed to secure a small apartment and said he’d have his accountant send enough extra each month, to cover basic expenses. After calculating my monthly budget, I had only enough left over to pay for the new meds I was prescribed to get me out of bed so I could function. I played with the treasured heart diamond necklace that was hanging around my neck, the one he’d given me years before, at the surprise party he’d thrown for my birthday. I loved it so much, but knew I’d have to sell it if I wanted to eat.
I met Sascha years before when he’d done a remix for my band Drill. He’s an artist, producer, pioneer and hero of the underground music scene, whose sound is a mix of styles known as “The Ultra Heavy Beat.” His band KMFDM is revered all over the world. During the last days at my apartment, while I contemplated if my life was worth living anymore and the most comfortable way to end it, my telephone rang. It was him. He asked if I wanted to come out to Seattle and work on a new project he was working on called MDFMK. He told me there was a ticket ready to fly me out if I was interested. As we spoke it dawned on me that R hadn’t taken everything from me. I still had my talent and told myself if I could pull myself together and get on the plane, maybe I still had a chance. With that small glimmer of hope I took the flight.
When I arrived at the studio in Seattle, Sascha and his crew played me what they’d been working on. I knew immediately what they were expecting of me. I just didn’t know if I still had it in me to give. They wanted the girl from Drill, who screamed like a banshee with looks to kill, but I was weak and tired and didn’t feel much like that girl anymore. Sascha must have sensed that because he put his hand on my shoulder, tipped his darkened Ray Bans slightly away from his eyes and said, “I believe in you! Go in the vocal booth and give it all you got!” What came out of me was so gut wrenchingly loud and anguished, it destroyed the inside coil of the microphone and the vocal booth began filling with smoke. Everyone in the control room looked up wide eyed and slack jawed. When I came out Sascha said “Gut Gebrüllt Löwe,” which loosely translated into English means, Well roared, lion!
Little by little I took slow tentative steps toward my future and began to laugh again. I moved to Seattle, made new friends, started taking yoga, running and spending time in nature talking to God. I began trusting myself more and standing up for myself, by refusing to accept less than I deserve. As I got off my meds, a new version of myself began to emerge and I liked her! Over time as my battle scars healed, I could feel myself becoming the woman I was meant to be: Confident, strong, authentic, fierce and fearless and began dating Sascha, who I later married and have a daughter with.
I’ve learned that a healthy daily routine is imperative for my mental health, so I take it very seriously and start early in the day. I begin by sitting in quiet solitude with a cup of coffee and my dog, reminding myself how far I’ve come and thanking the universe for the strength to continue, while resting in gratitude for all I have. Then I point my compass in the direction I want to go and get down to the business of getting there. I know I still have work to do. I get triggered like anyone else and can fall down the rabbit hole of the past and feel sad. But over time my perspective is evolving, and anger is being replaced with forgiveness, compassion and love. Tony Bennett was right when he said “Life teaches you how to live it, if you can live long enough.” I’m going to live long enough to learn. I know I got this.
The soundtrack of Lucia’s Journey 🤍🖤❤️ :