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INTERVIEW: Chelsea Carlson

Hi Chelsea, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I have been great!  My upcoming album, “The Broken Road,” is being released next month and I am so excited.  There is literally so much going on and everyday it seems like more awesome stuff is happening surrounding my music.

How did your love for Roots music started?

à When I first started getting into music, I was all about the classic rock – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles were pretty much all I listened to. I really started to get into roots music, especially blues and singer-songwriter styles, when I started pursuing music as a solo artist.  Before that, I hadn’t really been to many coffeehouses or listening rooms.  After hearing the work of so many other local songwriters, I really got inspired to look into roots music more to enhance my own songwriting.  I even took a class at my college about the history of American music, and took a trip to New Orleans to study blues and jazz.  I really like the storytelling aspect of roots music, and that’s what I want to incorporate the most into my own writing.

What draw you to combine both folk and rock music together?

à Up until a few years ago, I pretty much primarily played in rock bands.  When I started performing acoustically as a soloist, I realized I would have to adapt what I was used to playing to fit into that genre.  The result was a mixture of two very different worlds – loud, energetic rock, and a sort of folksy, bluesy acoustic vibe.  I really don’t hear a lot of musicians that play the same style as me, and I think it’s because I blended these genres together in a very unique way.  What’s funny is that now that I have started to venture back into the world of full rock bands and reintroduce my original music in that style, my songs are incredibly different from the way they started out in my mind.  I’ve been playing them acoustic for so long – I’ve always heard them as rock songs – but everyone else heard them as acoustic songs.  I think letting them develop in the singer-songwriter genre has allowed them to grow very organically (I sound like I’m talking about vegetables), and if they had just been written and arranged as rock songs from the get-go they would sound very different.  Instead, they were able to transform into this mix of the two genres, and I think the result is amazing and exactly what I want to hear my songs sound like.

The genre has been gaining popularity – what has been the PROs and CONs for a young artist like you trying to breakthrough on this industry?

à I think in general that rock music doesn’t get a lot of publicity anymore, which has allowed it to take something of a backseat to popular music.  The days of bands like Nirvana performing at the VMA’s are long over. Rock isn’t dead, but let’s face it: most young people don’t really listen to it.  And those that do, listen to the classic rock greats, not necessarily new bands.  I think that is the hardest part of being a young artist trying to break into the rock & roll industry, especially as a female.  I’m sure you can imagine that female rock singer-songwriters are not exactly the most common musicians you come across!  But on the flip side, that’s also a huge bonus.  There aren’t a lot of people who do what I do, and I kind of like that.  I’ve had to be creative in developing my music and figuring out who I am as an artist, to meld rock – which is not typically female-fronted and which isn’t as popular as it once was (AKA as it should be!) – with singer-songwriter roots music, which is not even an area I was totally familiar with when I started playing solo.  Trying to stand out in both settings forced me to really hone in on what I wanted to do with my music, and I think it really helped me create something new and exciting, and that has actually opened a lot of doors for me.  I think that this genre is gaining popularity because so many people really do identify with rock, but it hasn’t always been accessible to people who view it as the stereotypical, cliché, 80’s hair metal rockstar.  With that addition of folk and alternative vibes, rock has become something everyone can really enjoy again in the form of roots rock.  I’m really glad to be a part of that!

Can you tell us more about the story behind your track ¨Cherry Blossom¨?

“Cherry Blossom” is one of my favorite original songs because it’s one of the first instances where I used a lot of metaphorical imagery in my lyrics – something that I feel has become a trademark of my songwriting.  The idea is that a cherry blossom is a beautiful flower, but only for a few weeks – soon enough, it will become a regular leaf and eventually that leaf will fall down.  I wanted to use this symbol to represent the falling out of a friendship I had.  At the beginning of the friendship, everything was great – but as the friendship progressed, there were betrayals and fights, and soon it just ended it altogether.  (I hope you weren’t expecting a happy flower song! Haha).

Did any event in particular inspire the song?

à Yes, it’s based on true events about a group of friends that I had. We all had very different personalities, and for a while everything worked out – but eventually, those opposing personalities clashed.  Suffice it to say, people change, and sometimes you just have to move on.

The single comes off your new album The Broken Road – what´s the story behind the title?

à I’m very conscious to not write about the same thing in a lot of different songs – so pretty much all of my songs are about something completely different from one another.  That made it kind of difficult to come up with a name I felt was representative of the whole album!  I decided what ties my songs together the most is the timeframe in which they were written – which is the time that I’ve been developing myself as a solo artist.  No one gives you “DIY Music for Dummies” when you decide to pursue music, so as I’ve been trying to create a career for myself there have been a lot of bumps, bends, and detours along the way – in other words, it’s been a “broken road.”  Now that I am releasing my album, I feel like I’ve really come a long way on my musical journey and I really know where I want to go from here.  I believe that all the experiences I’ve had up until this point have helped to uniquely shape me as a musician and an artist, and I am incredibly thankful for all of those bumps, bends, and detours!  I’ve met so many fantastic people and played in great places.  The idea of “The Broken Road” isn’t supposed to be negative.  In fact, it’s really a celebration of my musical journey up until this point.

How was the recording and writing process?

à All of the songs that are on this album were written prior to heading to the recording studio.  I wrote these songs over the course of about two years, with the intention of one day releasing them as an album.  I launched a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded in 2013, and so began the recording process!  Since I had been primarily an acoustic soloist for a while, I had to find a band to work with for the album.  I am so lucky that I got to work with such amazing musicians – Mike Lefton, Tam Garcia, Brandon Pirrocco, Wyatt Sikora, and Billy Biddle to name a few – who really made my songs come to life.  I also was extremely fortunate to work with Dave Pirrocco as my producer at Jacked Cat Productions.  He really understood where I was going with all of my music and helped shape it into exactly what I wanted for my album.  After holding some band practices, we headed to the studio in September 2014 to start recording.  Every moment in the studio was so much fun, and it was great seeing my songs come together piece by piece.  We wrapped on the album in June, and it really felt like the end of an era.  Honestly, so much time and work went into the album that I was kind of sad to see it end!  But I am so extremely excited that it’s so close to being released, I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

à Different things have inspired all of my songs.  Most of my songs are based off of true experiences, mostly my own but sometimes other people’s, and usually I write them when I’m right in the thick of whatever they are about.  I think I write the best songs when I feel a very strong emotion, be it love, anger, sadness, hope…all of my songs are very personal to me and I hope when other people hear them, they can relate.  I really think of myself as a lyricist above everything else – it’s my goal to write good lyrics that tell a story and hopefully make the listener feel something, connect, or just be entertained by what I have to say.  If I can accomplish all that and still have it sound like a rock song, then I’m doubly happy!  I feel like most people don’t think rock songs can have deep, narrative lyrics, and I want to prove them wrong about that.  I guess that’s where I mix the folk with the rock the most!

Any plans to hit the road?

à Right now there are no definite plans for a tour, but I am planning on playing a lot of shows in the NY/NJ/PA area and hope to extend that to other places as well in the near future!  I love performing and think it’s the best way to share music, and I can’t wait to get onstage and share my album with everyone!

What else is happening next in Chelsea Carlson´s world?

à Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that I’ve been writing a lot of new songs and I can’t wait to get back into the studio and start recording again.  I’m definitely not going to be waiting long before I start releasing even more new music!  I also plan to get a band together so I can start doing more full band shows.  My mind is literally always coming up with new things to do, so I guarantee you a lot will be happening in 2016 with me and my music!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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