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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. She’ll be returning to Aotearoa this summer for a special New Year’s 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 more…

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

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

You’re currently based in LA, how long have you been there for?

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

Do you reckon you’re through the teething period now?

I think I’m 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 I’m like “I can tell you where one of the cooler taco trucks are, but I can’t tell you where to have a wild fun time.” Because all I do here is work, and I like it that way. That’s why I’m 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 that’s two hours gone. The meeting was an hour, so that’s three hours driving and being in a meeting (laughs). And then rehearsing. That’s my day today.

What are you rehearsing for at the moment?

I’m playing my first LA show for a Neon Gold showcase thing called Pop Shop. Then I’m coming back to New Zealand to play Wondergarden on New Year’s Eve.

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

It is, I’ve really been sitting on it for a year now. I’ve just been trying to figure out the right way to put it out. Because I’m completely independent. I don’t know how forthcoming I should be about this thing but… when I came to LA I had to start all over again. When I interact with labels and stuff they’re very much in the camp of “you’re a new artist, you need to put out EPs you shouldn’t be putting out an album.” And I’m like “Hmmm no.” I’ve 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.

I’ve been going back and forth trying to figure out who I feel would be good at putting it out, and I really feel it’s on me. I’m the one who understands what’s going on with it, so I’m takin’ it on my own shoulders.

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

No, I would say I ‘executive produced’ it. I produced one song by myself, but for most of it I’ve been speed dating, I’ve been getting into the vibe of this place. To be honest half of these songs I didn’t 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. It’s a nice… I’m not going to say ‘diversion’ but it does divert the ego for sure. You feel like you’re actually helping somebody or something. But then as it turned out I’d made all these songs that I really loved. I had tricked myself into thinking they weren’t for me, but they were so specific to me that there’s 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 bit… because it took so long with this record and because I’ve been dying to put it out - but I want to do it right - I’ve actually decided to add more songs to it (laughs).

How’s that going?

It’s good, I feel way more excited because when you sit on stuff for so long, even though nobody else has heard it, I’ve still been working I’ve 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 “that’s a completely inauthentic record.” And I was so upset because I was like “maybe it is inauthentic to you, but to me it means so much.” It’s because it’s not from a masculine perspective. It’s completely valid. That just changed my whole worldview, I was like “oh god, maybe I’ve been pandering to this idea of what’s cool or what’s authentic, or what’s valid or whatever.” In fact I have a whole different priority, it’s not pleasing that. It’s pleasing this feminine pop thing.

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

That theme relates to the photos you’ve been using for Soundcloud.

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

Who takes those photos?

It’s all just me. I don’t have the resources to employ professionals (laughs). Yeah it’s just me and I get assistance from Sam McCarthy, who I live with. It’s just me photoshopping pictures of me making out with me. I think it’s important to confront yourself. And I think it’s also important to have a sense of humour about yourself. I don’t know if that’s been clear before in my work or whatever.

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

Nah, I’m going to spend the whole summer in New Zealand. There’s a thing called the Girls Rock! Camp. They’ve been fundraising, it’s happening at the end of January. Nobody’s 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. I’m throwing myself at them, “let me let me let me be there.”

You’re 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 “I don’t think I’m qualified to do any of these positions, but I will do anything to be involved.” So we’ll see, but I do hope that people will support it and it gets a lot of attention. Because I think it’s so important. Just girls and gender non-binary people feeling like they have a space to ask the questions they want answered. You don’t even have to get the whole answer. But for me, I’ve actually answered questions when they’ve asked them to me, like “what do you want to achieve?” And when I’ve given my answer I’ve 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 didn’t help. So I’d 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 it’s written I don’t 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 I’d 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 she’s brilliant. Basically, I was employed to do the best job I’ve 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 “okay let’s just focus on this one for a bit.” She just had so many good ideas. I love her, she’s amazing. That was the best job ever.

It’s been a while since you’ve played in New Zealand.

It’s been a while since I’ve played at all.

So what can audience people expect from your upcoming New Year’s Eve show?

Just a waterfall of new material. Just a lot of new songs. I hope that’s okay (laughs). They’re very good songs so no one needs to worry (laughs). That’s what America has taught me: don’t put yourself down because no one will listen to your thing if you don’t want to listen to it. And number two: ask until people say no (laughs). You’ve got to believe in your own thing or it’s just wasting everybody’s time, let’s be honest. I think it’s better to believe in yourself. And that’s what I respect about the generation under me. I really feel there’s 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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Wondergarden 2017
Sun 31st Dec 8:00pm
Silo Park, Auckland