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INTERVIEW: Chapell

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

Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

Can you talk to us more about your new single “Soul Man”?

A few years ago, I spent several weeks at a secluded beach in the Caribbean and vowed to teach myself to play the ukulele. I wanted to write a new song every day on my uke (and to finish the Infinite Jest, but that’s another story). I managed to write a bunch of new songs during that time, but the song that stuck with me the most was “Soul Man.” There’s something wonderfully isolating about sitting on a beach, staring at the sea and making music.

Did any event inspire you to write this song?

Being in love means being vulnerable. Raw. Exposed.  Songwriting also leaves one vulnerable – and at times feeling very much alone. Soul man starts out about being with someone who just isn’t “right” and compares that to being on stage with an audience that you’re desperately trying to win over. In both cases, trying to be honest and show who you are. And in both cases, left feeling rejected. And wanting to get the hell out of there. Wanting to be free. Wanting to feel safe again.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

For my last album, the Redhead’s Allegations, I worked with a super talented group called Abandon Building – and we put together several really compelling videos that I’m super proud of. For Soul Man, I’ve chosen to let the music speak for itself. So we probably won’t be doing videos for Soul Man. We’ve got a few other surprises though, so stay tuned.

How was the recording and writing process?

I learned so much working with Jerry Harrison and ET Thorngren on my last album. So I was eager to bring everything I learned into recording Soul Man, but also to stretch out a bit and put my own stamp on things. My engineer and co-producer Tim Hatfield was incredibly supportive of that, but also was able to reign me in just enough. Tim was a fantastic partner on Soul Man. And I brought in ET Thorngren to mix Soul Man at Jerry’s studio – and as usual, ET was just amazing to work with.

ET and Jerry always emphasized the importance of playing with world class musicians. And I’m proud to say that I had a great cast playing with me on Soul Man: Lorenza Ponce, Ann Klein, Ali Culotta,  Alex Alexander, Bashiri Johnson – you’d be hard pressed to find people more talented. And unlike, the Redhead’s Allegations – which was more of a studio album – Soul Man feels more like a band. I’ve been touring with most of my crew for a while now, and there’s a real chemistry that comes out in our sound.

What role does NYC play in your writing?

New York has been my home for some time now, and continues to be the backdrop for most of my writing. On many songs, that backdrop is explicit. For example, “Watercolors” begins with the phrase “Midnight in Soho.” That said, I feel like I’ve expanded my influences a bit on Soul Man. For example, the song “Faith” (lead track in the full-length version of Soul Man coming in early 2018) was mostly written on a beach in Tola, Nicaragua. And you can sense that in the imagery created by the song lyrics.

The album is infused with some recognizable layers of 70s and 80s rock music – was that intentional and what made you want to explore these particular decades?

I started playing the trumpet at the age of four. And even though I haven’t played my horn in years, I still feel a very personal connection to the trumpet. I also learned piano at a very young age and for a time played the synthesizer in an 80’s tinged alt-pop band. Violinist Lorenza Ponce is a master at taking my 80’s infused synth lines and creating a depth of character to them. So I take great pleasure in writing for trumpet and violin. Check out the mid-section of the cover of Jonathan Richman’sMy Baby Loves Me” on Soul Man which features trumpet and violin. Rich Armstrong (who also played on the Redhead’s Allegations) does a fantastic job on that song.

I try to create music that has a timeless feel and love drawing inspiration from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s – really everywhere.

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

On previous albums, most of my writing has been purely autobiographical. For Soul Man, that element is still part of my writing. But I’ve branched out a bit to include songs about interesting people I’ve observed, or scenes I’ve witnessed. For example, one night on the NYC subway in Brooklyn, I saw two people meet, start talking and watched them walk off together. I wondered what happened after they left the station, and the song “Stay Tonight” was my interpretation of their second act. I can only hope that things turned out better for that couple in real life.

Any plans to hit the road?

We have invitations to play a number of festivals in 2018, including the NYC Indie Rock Festival. I’ve also been invited to perform at the Hard Rock Managua in February. I’ll be playing Chapell songs featuring members of La Orquesta Nacional de Nicaragua. I’m really excited about this show because Norma Helena Gadea agreed to join me on a few songs. Norma Helena is an inspirational figure throughout Latin America who is also a once in a generation voical talent. So I can’t wait to make music with her – as well as the rest of these fantastic musicians.

What else is happening next in Chapell’s world?

My band and I have plans to head back into the studio in January to start recording my next album. I’ve been writing like crazy over the past year – and don’t believe that I’ve written my best song yet.

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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