Electro-pop artist, Chersea, is like a breath of fresh air. She’s honest, relatable, and insightful. She makes dreamy pop music that speaks to the mind, body and soul, and she just released her new album, In Limbo. In short, she’s pretty bad ass, and we can’t wait to hear more from her. We caught up with Chersea to talk about her new album, mental health, upcoming projects.
How’d you get started in music?
Music started for me a very long time ago. I grew up listening to classical music like my parents had intended, and then fell in love with piano and voice. From there I sought out some training and became a part of a touring choir as well as a classical piano player (although I admittedly focused on writing as early as seven or eight years of age). At around the age of nine, I picked up the guitar and shortly thereafter started learning how to play bass, clarinet, trumpet, and drums. It kind of all came together when I was eleven years of age and in middle school. They had a rock band program where kids my age were able to put their skills to the test and perform a real rock show. My first show was with my band “The Twisted Knickers” and we played “Summer of ’69” (Bryan Adams) and “Otherside” (Red Hot Chili Peppers). It was out of tune, poorly sang shit but it was one hell of a time.
Congratulations on your new album, In Limbo. What kinds of themes, ideas and stories does In Limbo explore?
Thank you very much! In Limbo covers a lot of ground in the mental health spectrum. It discusses highs and lows associated with mania, psychosis, and depression, and explores the cause and effects these processes have on relationships. The idea wasn’t meant to isolate the listener so that they feel like they don’t have the extremes; it was to make someone feel like their emotions matter, no matter how small or big. Usually it’s easy for people to talk about love and loss, and there is definitely a bit of that in this album. But the subjects aren’t gendered, and you don’t know if they’re lover, friend, foe etc. So, by creating this dialogue without a template of who the person is, I’m hoping people will be able to create their own story in how it relates to them.
Your 2014 EP Grey Matter was written very quickly, while In Limbo came together over the course of six years. What’s your creative process like?
To be honest, Grey Mattercame out because I did a little too many mushrooms one night and I had an “awakening” of sorts. In the following weeks it poured out of me. In Limbotook a lot of time because some of the songs featured on In Limbo were actually written during the Grey Matter time, they just didn’t make the first cut. Then with In Limbo, I had literally gone through hell… except for at the time of album completion, I still hadn’t really recovered. The process took forever because I needed time to heal and to figure out what the hell was going on with my brain. I can happily say I’m healthy now, and things are good… but at the time I truly was in limbo. And you know, just like life, some things come together relatively quickly, and other times you need to wait and not force things. So that’s what happened with this album. No regrets whatsoever, but I can definitely assure you that the album to follow won’t take nearly as much time.
“I Can’t be You” is a great track. Could you tell me about how it came together and how it’s taken on a different meaning since its release?
“I Can’t Be You” is a frustration anthem when it comes to people having expectations of you. Specifically, with a romantic partner. At the time I was dating a person who was very controlling and wanted me to act, perform, and be a certain way at all times. There was definitely some emotional abuse involved, and I started to get sick, and then more sick until it was unbearable and I wound up in the hospital. What better than to write a ballad about it? The funny thing is the writing for this song began months before I wound up in hospital… so it’s kind of like a chronological map of my mental demise. I don’t know about you but for most songs I write, the meanings always change. I feel like songs kind of foretell the future a bit, in the sense that their shifting messages are dependent on the circumstances of the time. I feel this communication across time so unique to music alone…like when I saw Arrival (that awesome sci-fi movie) for the first time, and they introduced us to the Heptapods and their logogram language – a language that is expressed through time and space – I couldn’t help but think about music the same way. Although the words still hold their meaning, your application and observation of the words can change.
You create this beautiful ‘wall of sound’ with your music. It’s dreamy and ethereal. How did you develop your sound?
Creating my sound has always been the easiest thing for me. I love trying to implement classical melodies and infuse them with contemporary design. I grew up listening to a crazy eclectic library of music, so I enjoy pulling from all of those influences. I’ve heard people say “sometimes finding the silence in a song is the most important thing”… and let’s just say I’m not very good at that. I love sounds stacked upon each other, but in a way that you can almost pick it apart like Jenga. But I always think about Enya when I’m writing. “What would Enya do?”… She just has a way of creating that wall of sound with orchestral and drawn out synth patches. It’s breathtaking. I try to work like that, but also throw some harsher bits too. You know, gotta keep that element of surprise going strong.
I started with loop stations after watching a live performance by Imogen Heap. She’s been a massive influence for me and the technology she performs with never ceases to amaze me.
You attended UBC on a hockey scholarship. But in third year, you had to choose between hockey and music. Could you talk about having to make that decision and the impact it’s had on your life?
As time passes my outlook on that experience changes drastically.. It was a great experience, and I think it taught me to have drive and tenacity…that anything can happen if you want it enough. All through my hockey career music was still really important to me, and at different times sometimes I was able to meld them together, you know, at team parties and bonding retreats etc. But I can understand now what my coach wanted at the time. She wanted me to make a lifestyle choice. And I knew there wasn’t a full-fledged career for me in hockey. I was a good player… but I wasn’t THAT good. And then, when I looked at my future, I would always be a musician and have music in my life. Although I was so angry and my coach for having me make a decision like that, I’m now thankful I didn’t waste any more time in continuing to pursue hockey, when I should’ve been pursuing what I really love and have a future with. Hell, I wish I had more time. When I look at my writing here and now, it just feels like a relationship I couldn’t ditch. I’m in love with music, like it’s my partner. And it’ll be around for the rest of my life.
You’ve been open about your mental health, and you’ve talked about the challenges you’ve faced. For anyone facing similar issues, what advice would you give in finding clarity?
Yeah, I am open about it. I try to make sure that it’s never a crutch or a disability. I want people to know it and see it for what it is. My doctors have always said to me “What happens when you get a broken arm? You go get it fixed.” The same thing goes with the brain. If it breaks, you get it fixed. And it’s not to say that you may not re-injure yourself… or that you’ll be fixed for good. It just means that it takes time to get better, and that’s how I want other to approach it as well. You know, I’ve had people joke when I talk about having bipolar or having psychosis and they’ve said “Oh, should I be worried?”. Probably no more worried than you should be that you lost a sock in the dryer. It’s just a way of life. And if I can make that known in music, and make these complex brain chemistry issues relate to those who don’t have as extreme of a time dealing with these issues, then I’ve done my job right. We’re all human, and we’re all neighbours on spaceship earth.
What’s next for you?
Looking into the future I hope there are more festival slots lining up, and more exciting opportunities for my bandmates and I. I’m trying to expand the set eventually to incorporate a DJ set as well, so I’ve got a lot on my hands. My team and I are also working on creating a work flow so that we create more exciting content on my Youtube… so keep an eye out for that. Especially if you love donuts.