Nashville songwriter and recording artist Cidny Bullens has a tale to tell, and his memoir doing just that was celebrated at Parnassus Books on Tuesday evening (June 6).
His book is TransElectric: My Life As a Cosmic Rock Star and his appearance at the Green Hills store featured songs, readings and autographing. “This is the story of a rock & roller, a mother and a transgender man….all of them me,” he read.
During the first part of his career, the performer recorded nine albums on United Artists, Casablanca, MCA, Artemis and other labels as “Cindy” Bullens. Among them are the critically applauded Desire Wire (1978), Steal the Night (1979), Cindy Bullens (1989), Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth (1999) and Howling Trains and Barking Dogs (2010). Bullens made the pop charts with the singles “Survivor” (1979) and “Trust Me” (1980).
Along the way, the singer/guitarist earned a Grammy nomination, recorded with Rod Stewart, toured with Elton John, sang on the million-selling Grease movie soundtrack and appeared in Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Revue.”
His lively memoir contains anecdotes about Elton John (who wrote the book’s Foreward), Peter Wolf & Faye Dunaway, Meatloaf, Dr. John, Ringo Starr and more. Music events and conversations that occurred decades ago are recalled in vivid prose.
“I’ve been keeping a journal for years,” Bullens reported. “It’s a blessing and a curse to have those journals. I could not have written the book as factually without them. They made the book better.”
Cidny Bullens opened the event singing “Little Pieces” with his own, able, acoustic-guitar accompaniment. He then read from TransElectric. The singer-songwriter married and bore children during his rock-star days. He moved to Nashville in 1990 and transitioned from Cindy to Cidny a decade ago.
Following a reading, he again picked up his guitar and offered the melodic “Boxing with God.” Rodney Crowell then conducted a Q&A with the author. “Having written one of these memoirs [2011’s excellent Chinaberry Sidewalks], I know how much work goes into it,” said Crowell.
“I went through a dark night of the soul in writing this book,” replied Bullens. “But the book brought me back to myself.
“It’s a tough time for those in my community,” he continued, referring to the anti-trans legislation being enacted throughout the country. “It’s scary. I am one of the lucky ones.
“There is a whole section about Nashville in the book. Nashville saved my musical self. You guys accepted me for who I was…. a songwriter. I feel very loved tonight.”
His fellow musicians were out in force to show their support. Working the room were Jim Photoglo, Gary Nicholson, Lucinda Williams (who has her own new memoir, Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You), Jonell Mosser, Mary Gauthier and Beth Nielsen Chapman.
Industry figures Jewly Hight, Brian Mansfield, Tracy Gershon, Slim Moon (who will soon issue a new Bullens record on his Kill Rock Stars Records label), Tim McFadden, Ann Powers, John Bridges, Bullens’ wife Tanya Taylor Rubinstein and more packed Parnassus.
Bonnie Raitt calls Cidny Bullens, “a firecracker of talent, personality and courage.” That’s a perfect description.