Over the past few years, singer-songwriter Cassidy King has built a devoted fanbase, thanks to her intensely personal, poignant lyricism and irresistible, pop-forward melodies. In her latest EP, Concrete Walls, King delves even further, delivering a moment of reckoning that only comes with deep self-reflection. In six lushly arranged songs, King examines the intricacies of relationships—with friends, past partners, and, most importantly, with herself.

It certainly wasn’t easy for King to write these lyrics, despite her bold and thoughtful presence on social media. To many of her passionate followers, King is a confidant, a friend, and a radiant light. As a proud, queer woman, she offers a voice to those who are still finding the words to share their own stories. But what King’s fans may not know is that it took her a long time to find this self-assurance—and that they played a crucial part in empowering her to do so.

Born and raised in Chardon, OH—a small, conservative town outside of Cleveland—King never thought that a career in entertainment could be a viable option. While she harbored a love for the performing arts, it wasn’t until she enrolled at Kent State University that she pursued music in earnest. A few months later, a video of King singing an impromptu, heartfelt song went viral—resonating with millions of viewers around the world.

But just as the spotlight was beginning to shine on King, the 19-year-old was going through one of the most difficult periods of her life, as she struggled to come to terms with her sexuality. “I was taught to feel so wrong for who I am,” King shares. “It took a lot of time and patience to find the love for myself.”

In 2019, with the release of her first music video, King found the courage to reveal her true self. The response was overwhelming for “Professional Smiler,” in which the artist kisses an on-screen girlfriend. “The messages that I got back were so validating—they really kept me going,” recalls King. “It was reassurance that people like me for who I really am.” In October 2020, the artist once again tapped into that vulnerability, releasing her debut EP, Not So Picture Perfect. The acclaimed title, which includes fan favorites like “Safe Places,” “Abigail,” and “Wasted,” details her tumultuous first relationship—an experience that, King says, “made it hard to learn how to love again and figure out what I deserve.”

Now, Concrete Walls picks up where Not So Picture Perfect left off and finds King confronting the reverberating effects of that toxic relationship. “I unintentionally hurt a lot of people during that time because I was hurt,” she laments. “I didn’t realize how reckless I was being and I had an immense amount of regret for what I did.”

While the process of working on the EP ultimately proved to be therapeutic for the artist, revisiting the era was profoundly difficult. “It was really hard because I felt like I was moving forward and growing—but I was still looking back,” says King. “It was a lot of self-reflection, but it was what I needed.” From that pain, however, came beauty. Throughout the summer of 2020, King collaborated with a longtime friend, producer and songwriter TyC, to craft an intimate and stunning collection of songs.

Dictating much of the duo’s approach to Concrete Walls was the song “Underwater.” The thoughtful, midtempo electro-pop track concludes in a spoken-word outro, in which King confronts a romantic partner, asserting, “I don’t want to feel as though falling in love with me is easy/Because nothing ever worth anything ever is.”

Water, which embodies both beauty and chaos to King, is used as a metaphor for love throughout Concrete Walls—the title of which represents a dam. These references reveal themselves lyrically—in tracks like the brooding “Hard Feelings”—as well melodically, in such songs as the moody, synth-heavy “No Harm,” which ebbs and flows like the surf. The title track, meanwhile—a piano-driven ballad that closes the EP—finds King reconciling with herself. “It’s a final realization that I wasn’t ready to love anybody yet. I was only ready to love myself. I needed to stop and take a second.”

Other highlights include the up-tempo “Danger,” written as an apology to a former partner of King’s, as well as the EP’s sunny opener, “Four in the Morning.” A thematic outlier, the song captures the early days of a relationship, when each party is wrapped in the bliss of infatuation.

King is embracing that joyful sense of possibility as she looks forward to another major milestone: college graduation. It hasn’t been an easy route—juggling her studies, her music career, and countless hours working as a server to pay for studio time, videos, and shows. Throughout it all, her fans have kept her motivated, giving her the same sense of hope and encouragement that she has offered them.

While King’s formal education is coming to a close, her journey as an artist is just beginning—and there’s no doubt that she’ll be sharing everything she gleans along the way. “I can’t wait to keep growing and learning and speaking about my experiences,” she concludes. “I just want to continue to be a voice for people.”