Nashville's Cidny Bullens Reflects on an Evolving Career in Rock and Roots Music

From Rock Riffs to Family Life: Bullens' Untold Story.

by Nouman Rasool
Nashville's Cidny Bullens Reflects on an Evolving Career in Rock and Roots Music
© John Lamparski/GettyImages

Sitting in his Nashville home, Cidny Bullens is a man who gazes thoughtfully at a symbol of his past—a photograph of a 28-year-old in a Superman tee, a guitar in hand. This picture is more than just a memory; it's the cover of "Desire Wire," the 1978 debut album by Cindy Bullens, the name he was known by then.

"That person in the photo feels like a separate entity," Bullens admits, his features now framed by cropped hair and the trace of a mustache. The image is a stark contrast to the Bullens of today, and yet, it is an integral piece of his journey.

Decades before this moment, Cindy Bullens was carving a place in rock history with an impressive tenure in Elton John’s band and a significant contribution to the "Grease" soundtrack, an Album of the Year Grammy contender.

"Desire Wire" introduced her as a force to be reckoned with in the rock arena—unbridled and authentic. "Cindy was electric, leaping off pianos, channeling Mick Jagger without it feeling contrived—it was real," recalls Mark Doyle, Bullens' guitarist during those heady days.

Trailblazing and Overshadowed

The path from there was marked by the tumult of the music industry—shuttered record labels and prescriptive norms dictating the creative expression of women in rock. Amid these challenges, Cindy lived a domestic life, raised a family, and continued to make music.

But the oversight by music historians is a lingering sore point for Bullens. "I blazed a trail as a woman who did it all—played guitar, wrote songs—yet my story often goes untold," he shares with a tinge of regret.

In 2012, Bullens embraced his true self, transitioning to become Cidny, a move that was to reshape not just his personal identity but also his professional world. Now, at 73, he's released "Little Pieces," his inaugural album post-transition, reissued with a new title and an added track featuring Beth Nielsen Chapman.

It marks a milestone in Bullens' career and joins the annals of Kill Rock Stars, a label revered for supporting iconoclastic artists. Bullens' narrative stands out not merely because of his age at reintroduction to the music scene but also for his emergence in the Americana and roots genre—a sphere now expanding to accommodate his transformation.

"Changing genders is not an endeavor for the faint-hearted," Bullens confesses. "It has cost me—opportunities, certain relationships—but also brought new friendships and perspectives, albeit not without personal and professional consequences." As a Massachusetts native, Bullens sensed his difference early on, a sentiment echoed by his mother's intuitive observation.

His memoir, "TransElectric: My Life as a Cosmic Rock Star," delves into these profound realizations and his complex journey through the '70s music landscape. From the daunting yet enlightening stint with Bob Crewe to fortuitous encounters with legends like Elton John, Bullens' life has been as vibrant and challenging as the music he's crafted.

In the forward of "TransElectric," Elton John compares Bullens to Hilary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry"—a nod to the irresistible tomboy allure that Cindy once embodied. As Cidny Bullens, that spirit endures, channeled into a narrative of authenticity and artistry that resonates in the annals of music history.