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Garconne We Love
Photographs Jen Steele
Words Natalie Shukur
There’s something otherworldly about Chelsea Jade. All statuesque stance and high cheekbones, the singer/songwriter possesses an elegance and quick wit that belies her 28 years. With a beauty that harkens back to a golden age, it seems fitting that we meet at her art deco apartment on the cusp of East Hollywood, with its high ceilings and pretty courtyard, dotted with trumpet trees and a romanesque fountain. But once you get to know Chelsea Jade, her self-deprecating nature and digital savvy (check out her excellent Instagram) mark her as an ultra-modern woman; one who taps into the zeitgeist in her work as a pop star-in-the-making. We chat to the New Zealand-born, LA-based artist about the energizing nature of choreography, writing a hit single, and getting down to business.
I’m a young woman from New Zealand leaning my full weight into writing pop songs for myself and others in Los Angeles.
Outside of myself, I’m feeling really engaged and energized by the high calibre work from LA-based choreographers and dancers I’ve found lately. They are the main reason I open Instagram these days. Sarah C Prinz, Ania Catherine, Sandra Ruiz Morlett, Erin S Murray—they are endlessly making and participating in incredible work, it’s staggering. Within my own realm, I’m in a business phase. I made a diamond of a record last year, and now I’m building the infrastructure to let it loose.
It’s all tangled. In my experience, to have the fortitude to write in your own voice, you have to fervently exercise your writing muscle in ways that are impartial to your own taste. When all I do is think about myself and what I want, I find myself spiraling into nowhere. Working on other people’s projects and deferring to their vision helps you to feel ego-less. You learn to let go of being precious because other artists aren’t beholden to your opinion. In turn, you can use that freedom to defile your own process and eventually dig out good work.
The sick feeling of persevering with a lyric like it’s on the tip of your tongue. It’s this strange surge of miniature ambition. It’s making your blood boil with discomfort but you know relief lies somewhere in cracking the code.
I love Life of the Party, mostly because I got a new glimpse into how special the song was when Tiny Ruins played a version of it last year. I just wept with joy the entire time. I couldn’t believe I had written what they were playing, they just took it to another place. The most surreal writing experience I’ve had was with The Chainsmokers. It was a massive deal for me to be invited into the room and then to have the song come out as a single this year.
I don’t have a simple answer. I will say that I’m in a group message between several women in the LA music scene that we’ve delegated as a place to talk about our experiences. Some situations that arise are so absurd, we just laugh through them in disbelief. I’m glad we have each other’s eyes on everything. It feels vital to have that support system.
Nothing supersedes ease. I also like masculine shapes. Tailored suits are good for both of these provocations.
My favorite time to listen to music is walking through magic hour. It’s got that cinematic fantasy lens that makes every banal step feel energized. That’s the movement I want to include. Common phrases made into magic through synchronization and considered timing. Someone who does that with incredible insight is Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
I’ve been ricocheting between Auckland and Los Angeles a lot over the last couple of years and both have essential threads that keep me coming back. As of this year, my entire family has moved out of New Zealand so I feel like it’s just mine now. I don’t think I’ll never leave for long. Los Angeles is a risk I love to take. That and I’ve never had a better meal than from a taco truck in a supermarket parking lot here.
I love that nothing much about it is overly familiar. We are still strangers to one another. After living in what feels like a village for most of my life, I like the feeling of being overshadowed by the capacity of a city.
I’m currently watching any Jenny Slate interview I can find. She reminds me a lot of my friend, the designer Emily Miller-Sharma. It’s really comforting to see an overlap between New Zealand personalities and American ones. Especially really special and dynamic personalities like those two. I’m listening to the new Ravyn Lenae, Kehlani and Natalie Prass. I’m just about to start reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith.
When I wake up, I like to hear conversations I don’t have to participate in so I listen to a lot of podcasts. I do a vocal workout. Lately, I’ve been going to the diner around the corner from my apartment just to read for a while before I have to engage with the world.
My reading habits dramatically impact the impetus of my writing. When I’m not reading in tandem with writing, I can’t access language with much finesse. I think it’s helpful to have a medium to turn to that I can’t really mimic, which can be a danger if you’re relying on using other pop songs as inspiration. Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose had a nice impact on me during a hard time writing music. I often bring a book along to a session as a sort of talisman. It might never come out of my bag while we’re writing the song but I can feel it there, holding me accountable for quality.
I feel happiness when somebody displays true empathy.
Understated behavior but not lacking energy. Like seeing a color getting richer, the closer you get.