INTERVIEW: Five Minutes with Chelsea Effect

By: Niki van den Heever

Canadian-born artist, Emerald Isabella along with her band, Chelsea Effect, have just released their latest single entitled ‘Ghosts on the Wall’ on 17 May and in the words of the artist herself, it is a song about feeling like your voice is not being heard or perhaps misunderstood to the point where your will to even voice your feelings is lost.  

The Chelsea Effect takes its name from the legendary Hotel Chelsea in New York City, which has hosted artistic visionaries for over a century. Everyone from Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin to Allen Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas, not only stayed at the Hotel Chelsea but also created artistic movements that have inspired generations. Arthur Miller wrote a piece entitled “The Chelsea Affect” that described life in the Hotel during the 1960s and the effect it had on pop culture. This project embodies that spirit.

Emerald lent her time to answer a few questions for us regarding their writing process, her inspirations and always having a bag of snack nuts on her person when performing a set.

Set the tone for us. What got you into music in the first place?

Well for myself (Emerald, the lead singer in the band), I started singing when I was 2 and I wrote my first song when I was 4. My brother started my music collection for me with Bob Marley and The Police and it hasn’t stopped growing since. I honestly don’t remember a world without constant music. I truly think it saves lives. I had a pretty tough time when I was a teenager and I would put on Tori Amos, Cat Stevens, Oasis, Led Zeppelin… and I would feel less alone.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Visual art, life, a great book, a line someone might say that sparks my interest lyrically, being really upset and not being able to express myself properly. I am constantly thinking of lyrics and melodies really.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I always wanted to be a singer and a songwriter, but there are 2 moments that really stick out to me.

At my first time at Coachella, I saw Coldplay perform and I remember watching Chris Martin having so much fun, running around the stage and infecting everyone in the audience with his joy. I remember thinking here is a guy wearing jeans and a T-shirt, who is not really dancing super well, so unafraid to move around. I knew that as long as I fully believed in what I was doing and I worked really hard, I could hopefully put on shows like that too.

The second time was when I watched the movie Almost Famous for the first time. The next day I called my guitar player, our videographer at the time and my manager and we hopped in a van and drove straight to Texas for SXSW. It took 24 hours but it was so worth it. It made me want to tour forever.

Could you describe your sound for readers? What are you hoping people feel when they listen to your music?

Our sound is warm, honest and vibrant. The type of music you would want to hear at a festival at sunset. We hope when people listen to our music that they feel less alone.

If you could do a cross-genre collaboration with any artist dead/alive… who would that be?

Ooo … that is a tough one because there are so many amazing artists to collab with. I think the answer would be different for all of us. Personally, I would love to sing with someone with a classic rich voice like Michael Stipe or Peter Gabriel.

What kind of artists do you have on your current playlist?

All of us in the band have very different musical tastes, which is why our music together is an amalgamation of several genres. If you were to throw our playlists all together you would hear everything from Black Coffee, James Blake and Bon Iver to Lana Del Rey, Tool and A Perfect Circle.

Listen to Chelsea Effect ‘Ghosts in the Wall’ here.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Since all the guys are Italian and amazing cooks, we usually start off preparing and eating lunch. I am probably the most well-fed singer in any studio. Then we usually write on the guitar or piano, come up with something we find interesting, and I’ll put down a scratch vocal. Or we record something we’ve written at a different time. Then we may or may not eat again depending on the time. There is also wine and bourbon involved on occasion, but we try not to do that too much.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

Francesco (the producer) is a multi-instrumentalist that can play everything very well. He is a crazy good guitar player but is not a trained pianist so he does stuff on the keys that are very outside the box. This gives you lots of room for vocal melodies and inspiration because you’re hearing the chords played in a way that you’ve never heard before. The magic is in the space between the notes and I think that’s what he’s best at. I also think because the band is so international (we are from Italy, Canada, America and Korea) we automatically come with all these different perspectives so we couldn’t make generic music if we tried.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

The guys will tell you whiskey. I’m going with Ricola, a cranberry, sprite and vodka drink and a banana or a bag of snack nuts. You never know when you’ll need energy.

You’ve described your latest release ‘Ghosts in the Wall’ as being about that feeling of not being heard or being misunderstood. Is there anything you maybe feel unheard on misunderstood about?

I feel misunderstood a lot. I think everyone does.

Are there any new artists that have caught your ear?

Personally, I love a lot of the new female artists. Ariana Grande, Ella Mai, Cardi B, Halsey, Lana Del Rey. Women that say what they feel, mean what they say and are bringing a new perspective and unapologetic power to the industry.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Our first record will be out this summer and then we will begin touring. Sooooo excited.

What would you say is more important: The Music, lyrical skill or the message in delivery?

I am a lyricist so I always want to say lyrics, but the truth is, it’s probably melody. An amazing melody will take you very far.

Famous last words?

Please be kind.

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