chela just wants to be real and spontaneous

The Australian singer-songwriter proves moving to LA to be a popstar is exactly as fun as it sounds.

by Wendy Syfret
05 August 2014, 5:10am

Hannah Scott-Stevenson

Perth Born, Melbourne bred, LA based pop starlet Chela exists in a perfect place somewhere between Prince and Alex Mack. Her songs are as catchy as honey traps and always accompanied by a perfect colour soaked video. Since moving to LA last year her career has exploded in the West Coast sunshine, and she's right at home DJing, writing songs, and playing to her swelling fan base.

We spoke to her the day after her birthday, she was remarkably chatty for someone who'd been up all night. Although you if were the coolest girl with all the moves you'd probably be in a good mood too.

You played in bands for a long time in Australia, why did you decide to go solo?
Chela: I guess after being in a band and dealing with so many other opinions for years it felt sort of fresh and free to be on my own and only having to worry about my own opinion. I do miss the band thing though, I would like to be in a band again at some point. But it's good to just be in charge of your own stuff.

Do you have any plans to start another band?
Yeah I do, I miss playing bass guitar so much, I'm thinking of buying a new bass and amp and picking it back up. I might even try and play in a band incognito to get my skills back up. I call what I want to start Dream Grunge.

That's amazing, so why did you decide to move to LA?
Things seem to look quite hopeful for musicians around these parts. And my team is mostly here so it's kind of easier. And I wanted a change too, and it just felt like the right thing to do.

Is it harder or easier to get attention as a solo artist over a band?
They're both such different experiences. In the band days there was no Instagram or really even Facebook. Social media is such a massive part of being a musician these days it's kind of hard to compare them. Everyone is able to become a little social media celebrity if they want to—if they work hard and have a phone (laughs). All these pop starlets are coming out of the woodwork, it's really interesting.

I feel like because we [Chela's previous band the Gingers] were an all girl band so we got a lot of attention, but my journey has definitely been extremely different this time around.

Your stuff is interesting because you're a pop star, but with an independant music sensibility. How has it been in LA, going up against all the other traditional "pop starlets"?
I guess a lot of people want the non-pop star. A lot of time there are girls with amazing pop voices, I don't think my voice is particularly incredible, but they don't write songs. I feel songwriting is a strong point of mine, and I'm always happy to write a song and not sing it. I'm amongst a big songwriting and producing community here which feels so good as writing the music is one of my biggest passions.

A lot of girls go to LA at 17 or 18-years-old, but you waited until you were in your mid twenties. Did that changed the experience?
Definitely, actually. I knew I wanted to do a solo project, but I learnt so much by staying back and working out what sound I wanted. Everyone has such a broad taste in music now everything is so readily available, it's hard to know what you want as your sound. I was so glad to have those years of just working a normal job and putting a lot of thought into what I wanted to do as a solo artist.

Now that things are really starting to move for you, at what point will you feel like you've made it?
I would love to make an album. I've got a lot of songs just sitting there which is frustrating because I want to share them with people. But you have to wait to get the funds—which is the most annoying thing. I kind of feel like I'm not going to be a fully satisfied person until I release an album. I don't care how it's done, I just want to do it, I want to share these songs.

How far away do you think that is?
Well the nature of the industry means you can never really predict it. But it looks like I'll record it this year, but next year will be the year I release it.

Finally, I'm so fascinated by your dance skills. Did you have lessons are is it all natural?
(Laughs) Well I had lessons as a kid. My parents put my sister and I though jazz, tap, ballet, and hip hop but that kind of stopped when I moved to Melbourne at 15. I was really glad I stopped, and I was glad that I stopped singing training too because I don't really like voices that are too trained and same goes for dancing. I just think it brings more of the person across. I try my best to just improvise, I don't want to be too planned. I think it's about being as real as you can while being spontaneous.


Photography Hannah Scott-Stevenson

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