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Interview: Chelsea Jade Talks Pop Dreams And Life In LA

Interview: Chelsea Jade Talks Pop Dreams And Life In LA

Thursday 7th December, 2017 1:46PM

Los Angeles-based songwriter and producer Chelsea Jade has had an excellent year, dropping multiple well-received singles and receiving a Silver Scroll award nomination for her song 'Life of the Party', alongside nominees Lorde, Aldous Harding, Bic Runga and Nadia Reid. The future is only looking brighter with the imminent launch of her long awaited debut album Personal Best. Sheíll be returning to Aotearoa this summer for a special New Yearís Eve performance at Wondergarden 2017 alongside Unknown Mortal Orchestra, SWIDT and more, her first local show in two years.

Chelsea Jade currently divides her time working on her own projects and those of others, we felt it was the perfect time to catch up with the artist on her musical life and plans for the future. Read on for a candid chat with Chelsea Jade about her upcoming album, DIY pop, her involvement with the upcoming Girls Rock! Camp Aotearoa, and moreÖ

Congratulations on your nomination for the Silver Scrolls, what an amazing lineup!

It was a real honour, it felt like a special year.

Youíre currently based in LA, how long have you been there for?

Itís coming up on two years now that Iíve been knocking around Los Angeles. People love to ask if I like it, but itís quite a loaded question (laughs). I feel when people ask theyíve usually been here longer than you have, and I feel like anyone who moves here to pursue anything, they have a definite teething period. Itís impossible not to go through it, itís a hard city to crack because thereís no central hub, thereís no heart of the city, itís like little deposits of life. Another thing about LA is you have to be really intentional with going anywhere, because thereís no pedestrian culture. You have to be pointed about what youíre doing, so you have to be ambitious in a way, in order to really do anything. Even if itís like going to see a friend, you have to really commit to it because youíre probably going to get stuck in traffic. Thereís no halfway point, you just have to commit.

Do you reckon youíre through the teething period now?

I think Iím definitely more comfortable. Something I still struggle with is when people come here and they ask what the cool things to do are (laughs). And Iím like ďI can tell you where one of the cooler taco trucks are, but I canít tell you where to have a wild fun time.Ē Because all I do here is work, and I like it that way. Thatís why Iím here.

You can only really do one thing in LA a day because getting around is so difficult. So today I had an important meeting but it was in Santa Monica. So it takes an hour to drive there from where I live, so thatís two hours gone. The meeting was an hour, so thatís three hours driving and being in a meeting (laughs). And then rehearsing. Thatís my day today.

What are you rehearsing for at the moment?

Iím playing my first LA show for a Neon Gold showcase thing called Pop Shop. Then Iím coming back to New Zealand to play Wondergarden on New Yearís Eve.

With Personal Best, your upcoming album, is that all wrapped up now?

It is, Iíve really been sitting on it for a year now. Iíve just been trying to figure out the right way to put it out. Because Iím completely independent. I donít know how forthcoming I should be about this thing butÖ when I came to LA I had to start all over again. When I interact with labels and stuff theyíre very much in the camp of ďyouíre a new artist, you need to put out EPs you shouldnít be putting out an album.Ē And Iím like ďHmmm no.Ē Iíve been dreaming of putting out an album. Nobody knows this but in 2013 I had an album, I was going to put out an album. But I chickened out basically and I scrapped half the songs and I put out an EP. So I really feel strongly that this has to be a full length record.

Iíve been going back and forth trying to figure out who I feel would be good at putting it out, and I really feel itís on me. Iím the one who understands whatís going on with it, so Iím takiní it on my own shoulders.

Were you on production duties for the album this time around?

No, I would say I Ďexecutive producedí it. I produced one song by myself, but for most of it Iíve been speed dating, Iíve been getting into the vibe of this place. To be honest half of these songs I didnít intend to make them for myself. I came here and I was trying to figure out what my next move was or whatever. I thought that I was going to stop making music for myself and start writing music for other people, which is something I really love to do. Itís a niceÖ Iím not going to say Ďdiversioní but it does divert the ego for sure. You feel like youíre actually helping somebody or something. But then as it turned out Iíd made all these songs that I really loved. I had tricked myself into thinking they werenít for me, but they were so specific to me that thereís just no way I could give them to anyone else (laughs).

I had been working with my friend Leroy Clampitt who goes by Big Taste, he is from New Zealand as well. A lot of the songs are with him. I have a couple of songs with my old writing partner Justyn Pilbrow, with Sam McCarthy (BoyBoy), and with Brad Hale from a band called Now, Now. This is pulling back the curtain a bitÖ because it took so long with this record and because Iíve been dying to put it out - but I want to do it right - Iíve actually decided to add more songs to it (laughs).

Howís that going?

Itís good, I feel way more excited because when you sit on stuff for so long, even though nobody else has heard it, Iíve still been working Iíve still got a thousand new songs. And I want (the album) to feel good for myself.

With your current recordings, and with the album as well, were there any artists that have been inspirational to you recently?

I guess I was obsessed with the Carly Rae Jepsen Emotion record. Especially because I felt it was a record for women. The reason I felt so strongly about that was I had a session with somebody and I was just gushing about that record, and the guy was just like ďthatís a completely inauthentic record.Ē And I was so upset because I was like ďmaybe it is inauthentic to you, but to me it means so much.Ē Itís because itís not from a masculine perspective. Itís completely valid. That just changed my whole worldview, I was like ďoh god, maybe Iíve been pandering to this idea of whatís cool or whatís authentic, or whatís valid or whatever.Ē In fact I have a whole different priority, itís not pleasing that. Itís pleasing this feminine pop thing.

Half of the reason (the album) is called Personal Best, well the whole reason, is because itís about measuring yourself against yourself and nobody else. I feel thatís whatís the recordís about, itís like itís a conversation with myself. Itís not throwing anyone under the bus, itís basically throwing myself under the bus and also helping myself back up. I think you can hear itís a huge difference to what I used to make. Itís quite overtly bright. Itís pretty brazenly bright, I feel, and bratty.

That theme relates to the photos youíve been using for Soundcloud.

Because all of the single covers are me interacting with me? (Laughs) Yeah yeah.

Who takes those photos?

Itís all just me. I donít have the resources to employ professionals (laughs). Yeah itís just me and I get assistance from Sam McCarthy, who I live with. Itís just me photoshopping pictures of me making out with me. I think itís important to confront yourself. And I think itís also important to have a sense of humour about yourself. I donít know if thatís been clear before in my work or whatever.

You were talking about how youíll be playing at Wondergarden on New Yearís Eve, are you going to be spending summer in New Zealand or is it just a quick visit?

Nah, Iím going to spend the whole summer in New Zealand. Thereís a thing called the Girls Rock! Camp. Theyíve been fundraising, itís happening at the end of January. Nobodyís asking me to plug this, I just really believe in this so much. The closest to my heart that an issue can get is young women feeling welcome in music, and I would just do anything to be involved in that camp. Iím throwing myself at them, ďlet me let me let me be there.Ē

Youíre going to be working with them for that?

You had to apply to be a mentor, and I went through the application process and I was like emailing them being like ďI donít think Iím qualified to do any of these positions, but I will do anything to be involved.Ē So weíll see, but I do hope that people will support it and it gets a lot of attention. Because I think itís so important. Just girls and gender non-binary people feeling like they have a space to ask the questions they want answered. You donít even have to get the whole answer. But for me, Iíve actually answered questions when theyíve asked them to me, like ďwhat do you want to achieve?Ē And when Iíve given my answer Iíve felt really shut down. I wanted to learn how to record pop vocals really well, and I just felt that people scoffed at me all the time. And it didnít help. So Iíd love for there to be a feeling of being able to get the ball rolling for people.

Have you been working with anyone else on any side projects?

One half of my life is being an artist, and the other half is helping people write songs. It was just a fluke, once itís written I donít have anything to do with when it gets released, or if it gets released or anything like that. All I do is the session, it just happened to be that three songs came out in the same week that Iíd been involved with. It was so dreamy. One of the artists who came out with a song was a woman called Soren Bryce, I just think the world of her, I think sheís brilliant. Basically, I was employed to do the best job Iíve ever had (laughs). They flew me to New York to work with her, she just had such an abundance of good ideas all the time. She was just constantly writing and producing songs. She almost needed some to be like ďokay letís just focus on this one for a bit.Ē She just had so many good ideas. I love her, sheís amazing. That was the best job ever.

Itís been a while since youíve played in New Zealand.

Itís been a while since Iíve played at all.

So what can audience people expect from your upcoming New Yearís Eve show?

Just a waterfall of new material. Just a lot of new songs. I hope thatís okay (laughs). Theyíre very good songs so no one needs to worry (laughs). Thatís what America has taught me: donít put yourself down because no one will listen to your thing if you donít want to listen to it. And number two: ask until people say no (laughs). Youíve got to believe in your own thing or itís just wasting everybodyís time, letís be honest. I think itís better to believe in yourself. And thatís what I respect about the generation under me. I really feel thereís a sense of confidence that I just think is so fucking cool.

You can catch Chelsea Jade performing live at Wondergarden 2017 on Sunday 31st December at Auckland's Silo Park.


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Sun 31st Dec
Silo Park, Auckland