EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: "I Don’t Know Where That Courage Came From" – Inside Chealen's Music Life!
Chealen, the enchanting songstress from the picturesque landscapes of Colorado, is a musical force to be reckoned with. At just twenty-one, she's crafting heartfelt melodies that resonate deep within the soul, like a Colorado breeze gently rustling the aspen leaves.
Her journey to stardom is as unique as her artistry, a reminder that the path to greatness isn't always a straight line but a beautiful, winding trail through the mountains of experience. With a palette of musical skills enriched by years of piano and guitar training, Chealen paints her compositions with a blend of expertise and passion. In her tale of serendipity, a chance encounter with a producer in her hometown ignited the spark that set her on her musical adventure. Fueled by ambition and determination, Chealen's collaborative spirit shines, and it's no wonder she's catching the attention of record labels. Indie Boulevard is fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with Chealen and gain insight into her creative world, learn more about her journey to success, her plans for the future, and, of course, her new album.
Hello Chealen, thank you for taking the time to talk to us and share more about your music. "Never Knew I Had" addresses the theme of changes within oneself that occur when one is in love. Could you elaborate on the emotions and ideas you were trying to convey through this song?
Thank you very much for interviewing me! I’m honored. Yes, “Never Knew I Had” is about how falling in love changes you as a person. By this I mean that your priorities begin to shift and you begin to see things through a different light. For example, you start realizing that so many of your thoughts are centered around that person, possibly making it hard to always concentrate on whatever else is going in your life. Personally for me, I am a very driven person who is not easily distracted by what most people would consider the “exciting” aspects of life. Rather, most of the time, I am studying or trying to prepare for my future. However, at the time I wrote this song, I found myself falling for someone. I realized that, in a way, I didn’t recognize myself anymore, because I was overly giddy, I couldn’t concentrate on my work, and was experiencing about every other distracting symptom of falling in love. I therefore wrote “Never Knew I Had” based on these emotions of how love forces you to see another side of yourself that you previously didn’t know was there. It’s about that lovely little feeling of feeling stupid and in love. Could you tell us about the process of creating "Never Knew I Had"? How do you typically find inspiration for your songwriting, and were there any specific events or moments that inspired this track?
I wrote “Never Knew I Had” last October in my college dorm room. After trying to focus on my homework that Saturday and desperately failing due to my thoughts wandering off after this guy I had developed feelings for, I picked up my guitar and starting playing. Thirty minutes later, I had a song. I would say most of the songs I write come to be in a similar manner. Whenever I am feeling such strong emotions that I can’t ignore them, and which can’t be explained by words alone, I turn to either my piano or guitar and try to find a way to express these emotions in music.
Can you tell us how you choose the instruments for your compositions? What factors influence your decision to use piano, guitar, and other instruments?
I grew up taking classical piano lessons for over fourteen years and got my first guitar when I was just ten years old, so piano and guitar have always been the focal points of my songs. I used to gravitate more toward piano for my songwriting given that I was more experienced on piano; however, since starting college, I have only had access to my guitar. Therefore, over the past four years, the majority of my songs have been written on guitar and then before going into the studio to record the songs, I figure out a compatible piano part to embellish the track. I like sticking to these two instruments because I feel like their raw, acoustic styles make the track sound more authentic and genuine, which is really important to me in songwriting. Tell us about your journey in the world of music, starting from your decision to dedicate yourself to music and songwriting.
Growing up, I always loved music. Like I previously mentioned, I started playing piano when I was four years old, and guitar when I was ten. I also always loved to sing, however, I was extremely shy growing up, so I kept that passion hidden. On a whim, however, I decided to sign up for my school’s eighth grade talent show. I sat on that stage shaking the whole time, but somehow I managed to sing a verse and a chorus of Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team” without fainting. Due to the amazing reception I received, from that point forward, I took more and more risks and kept forcing my terrified self to perform more and more, because I genuinely loved it. A few years down the road during my sophomore year of high school, I started to get into songwriting. I performed an original song for the first time at one of my high school coffee house shows, and, once again supported by the compliments of my friends and family, kept writing more and more and more until I had hundreds of voice memos of possible new songs on my phone. Nowadays, although I still have a healthy dose of stage fright sometimes, I get excited about every opportunity I have to perform and share my new music with others. You studied at Belmont University and Northwestern University. What lessons and experiences did you gain from these institutions that have helped you in your musical career?
Although I was admitted into Belmont’s Songwriting Program, I actually ended up not going to Belmont University after a very difficult decision regarding what role music would play in my life. When it came time to decide where I wanted to go to college, I had it narrowed down between Belmont and Northwestern. At Belmont, I would study songwriting, whereas at Northwestern, I would study Civil Engineering, Spanish, and French. I ultimately elected Northwestern only after promising myself that I would still try to pursue music on my own. I have kept this promise by continuing to write songs in my free time and have been fortunate to work with three different producers over the past four years to record my new tracks. All this being said, I have actually never studied songwriting academically. This has forced me to experiment and try new things on my own, which has proven to be an exciting challenge.
A SNEAK PEEK INTO CHEALEN'S UPCOMING EP
What role does music play in your life outside of your creative work? What genres and artists do you prefer to listen to in your free time?
Music plays a role in practically everything I do. Anytime I step outside my apartment, my headphones go in and I start listening. Oddly enough, my go-to genres of music are country and Spanish pop music, my favorite artists ranging from Morgan Wallen and Ernest to Sebastian Yatra and Morat. That being said, I love exploring lesser-known artists such as Sjowgren and Patrick Droney as well. Do you plan to release a full album in the future? If so, what can we expect from that album?
Having recently recorded six new songs this past summer with the help of Hourglass Studios, I am planning on releasing another EP album at the beginning of 2024. These songs are definitely heavy on the emotions, and, per my usual style, are centered around piano and guitar and have layered harmonies throughout. Given that these songs are all based on true stories, I am even more attached to them and I am truly excited to share them very soon! What goals and achievements do you consider most significant for yourself in the near future?
Having started this year with the goal to release a new song on the first day of each month, I am excited and proud at the prospect of completing this in just two more months. It has been extremely rewarding being featured in magazines and music blogs (such as this one!), on radio stations, and simply added to playlists by listeners around the world. As I mentioned before, in the near future, I hope to release another EP at the beginning of next year and just in general, I hope to get more opportunities to perform in public in order to share my passion with more and more people. What is your favorite musical moment or performance that you consider the most fun or memorable in your career so far?
My favorite – or, at the very least, the most memorable – musical moment of my career thus far is definitely that eighth grade talent show. I will never forget how truly terrified I was to perform in front of people, especially considering I wouldn’t even sing along to the radio in front of my parents when we would be driving in the car. I don’t know where that courage came from, but I am so beyond thankful that I took that risk. If it weren’t for those shaky two minutes on stage, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. What is your favorite way to relax and unwind from music and creativity?:)
When I’m not songwriting, I love going on runs by the lake near my apartment and watching TV in either Spanish or French.
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