Cidny Bullens. Photo by Travis Commeau

Musician Cidny Bullens continues to lead an extraordinary, unconventional and authentic life. The latest chapter is the publication of his book “TransElectric: My Life as a Cosmic Rock Star,” which he’ll read from at an event Thursday in Portland.

In 1975, Bullens crashed a party in Los Angeles that Elton John was at. They met, John was enchanted, and a few days later, Bullens was hired as a backup singer for a massive tour. That same year, Bullens joined Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue for a show in New York City. That is just a glimpse of what Bullens candidly unpacks in “TransElectric.”

Bullens, 73, currently resides mostly in Nashville, Tennessee, and was born and raised in West Newbury, Massachusetts. His many ties to Maine include living in Portland and the surrounding area for nearly 30 years. He’s also owned a home on North Haven for more than three decades and has plans to move back to Maine in the spring.

His life as a musician includes not just the couple of stints on the road with John, but several solo albums, two Grammy nominations and a single on the Billboard chart. Bullens also sang lead on three songs from the “Grease” movie soundtrack. His list of album credits is long and includes backing vocals, guitar and songwriting on ones by Elton John, Don Everly, Gene Clark, Bryan Adams, Dixie Chicks, Irma Thomas and T Bone Burnett.

In the book, Bullens also writes of the unspeakable tragedy of losing his 11-year-old daughter Jessie to cancer in 1996. In 1999, Bullens released the album “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth” about the loss. Guests include Lucinda Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Rodney Crowell and Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).

“TransElectric” book cover. Photo by Georgina Carvallas, design by Chicago Review Press

Throughout his journey through grief, addiction and his many experiences in the music business, there was one constant issue pulling at his core: Bullens’ gender identity. In January of 2012, Bullens came out as a trans man. Before that, his name was Cindy and he uses that name when referring to life events that occurred prior to 2012. Bullens had been married to Dan Crewe and the couple had two children, Reid and Jessie. Now, Bullens, who got remarried in 2018, is a grandfather four times over.


In “Transelectric,” he does a deep dive into gender and the 50 years worth of journals he’s held onto were invaluable. “I could go into a moment and really feel the visceral part of it, whatever it was, and relive it and be able to write about it in a way that is immediate in the book, just not a memory.”

As Cindy, Bullens released eight albums between 1979 and 2010.

His first one as Cidny Bullens, originally called “Walkin’ Through This World” when he put out independently in 2020, will be re-released Oct. 27 on the Kill Rock Stars Nashville label as “Little Pieces.” The first single is a rootsy duet with singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman called “Not With You.” Bullens met Slim Moon, founder of the label, last spring at an event in Nashville. They hit it off, and Moon is eager to release the new version, which will include the duet and will be available on vinyl.

Bullens has also released three albums as a member of The Refugees with Deborah Holland and Wendy Waldman. Bullens’ career resume includes a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single “Survivor” in 1980. That same year, “Trust Me” cracked the Billboard chart. And now he’s an author.

Bullens says he wears his heart on his sleeve. “This book is about how I’ve lived through this life, it’s a human life.”

Writing “TransElectric” came a few years after a staged one-person production called “Somewhere Between: Not an Ordinary Life.” “Whatever I do creatively, it has to be visceral, and it has to have something that the reader can relate to.”


In a full-circle moment, Elton John agreed to write the forward to the book, which says, in part, “This is an amazing story. Bravo, Cidny.”

“Elton is one of the most, if not the most, generous person I know. He has been so incredibly supportive to me throughout the years,” gushed Bullens. “We have always had a special connection. I feel blessed to have him as a friend.”

Cindy Bullens and Elton John in 1976. Photo by Mike Hewitson

In November, Bullens and his wife traveled to Los Angeles to catch two of John’s final performances of his “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” retirement tour. Back in the mid-70s, fans held lighters up during “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” Bullens fondly recalled seeing the sea of them from the stage. This time, he was there as a fan and the illumination came from iPhones. The magic, however, remained.

“The hair stands on the back of my neck just thinking about it,” he said.

But in addition to hearing about these remarkable moments, I wanted to know what Bullens had to say about the struggle and unsteady footing that the trans community is enduring in several states, including Tennessee and Florida.

“Systemically, I feel the hate and feel the misunderstanding and feel the vitriol and feel the fear,” he said.


Bullens believes acceptance and tolerance for trans and non-binary people will get better in this country, though is unsure about when and thinks lives could continue to be lost to suicide. “I have to fight the fear and I have to show up, and I have to keep doing what I’m doing, whatever I can do.”

“We’ve lost our way, that’s for sure, we’re holding on by a thread to any kind of civility in this country. Trans people are now the center of misunderstanding at this moment,” said Bullens.

Hope, for Bullens, comes from the younger generations, who Bullens has observed care far less about what someone’s pronouns and gender identity are.

Bullens said his responsibility is to be out as a trans elder and to be there for people who are his generation and younger.

One of the things that Bullens does, in his words, is disrupt.

“My story is a disruption. Just by showing up, I disrupt the conversation and the thought process,” he said.

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