After the release of her debut EP, Grey Matter, we met up with Chersea to talk about what's next for her, and why she does what she does. This interview's an in-depth discussion with Chersea, full of wisdom for musicians young and old.
G: You've now released your first EP, how was it received?
C: It went over pretty well, I got some radio play and people liked it. For my debut, it was good.
G: Was it hard to get reception in Vancouver?
C: Yes, for sure. It's all about who you know in Vancouver, and who respects and appreciates you as a musician. Breaking into that sphere is hard, definitely, and gaining respect from your peers is difficult. That being said, the scene in Vancouver is very welcoming, and if you're social you shouldn't have any issues breaking into it. I've been pretty lucky in that respect. The hardest thing is getting people to come out to your shows.
G: And to move at them...
C: Yes, totally. I see my show as a three-show act. At the first show the audience will just stare. No movement, just looking. At the second show they understand you a bit better, and might recognize a new song. They'll groove to the few they remember. By the third, they'll know you and finally be dancing.
G: Do you have a favourite venue to play at in Vancouver?
C: Fortune Sound Club. It's an awesome place. They have all the tech-support and everything you need. The people who work there really care about the sound and the integrity of the music.
G: What do you believe your role as an artist is in society?
C: What I hope I can develop my role into, and become, is an inspiration for kids, and the next generation musically. I want to help instill the values of learning, and things like being able to read and play from notation. I think music is the best foundation to learn many other skills, it gets your brain working and thinking creatively (which in turn helps with other areas of life). It helps with the development of children's brains.
I work with kids a lot, and I feel I've developed my set to work for everyone, but to have the most impact on the next generation. I want to help them buy their equipment, figure out funding (grants), and realize that there is so much possibility with music right now. Music is moving toward being and independent industry, and it is possible to have a career in it. If you work really hard, you can get it.
G: Have you had a particular experience with kids that was inspiring to you?
C: Yeah, there’s a couple of people who’ve really taken what I’ve done and made it their own. I have a lot of younger fans that contact me through the interwebs, like YouTube or SoundCloud or whatever it may be, and they tell me they’re inspired by what I do and ask about my gear. So I try to help them build their own set-up, so it’s different from mine since we’re all unique, but I show them which gear is the best, what’s the cheapest. I worked with two girls specifically who are 10 and 13, teaching them how to home record using just what you have. We worked together on some stuff, I helped them with the writing and arranging. I’m not the best at that, of course, but I was able to help them grasp the basics and they’re flying with it now.
G: What made you develop such a passion for helping kids with music?
C: The reason why I want to help is because if I had that support at that age, that leadership and guidance, who knows where I’d be now? I didn’t have that, so here I am now at 24 playing the catch-up game, and make something of myself and my skill-set. I hope that helping these kids can bring them there faster, and inspire them at a younger age, so that by the time they are my age they have a career started and stability.
Learning music helps you not be so defeatist all the time, because it’s such a hard thing to learn. You get used to failure, and having to try hard. Music is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding.
G: Since you started music later in life, what helps you to keep going? And what advice do you have to people starting music later in life?
C: It’s been a challenge. I’m lucky because I have the energy, I’m really positive and I bounce around and so it makes it easier at my age. Everyone assumes I’m 17 anyway. For someone starting out, just know it’s never too late to start and to learn. If you look at half of the people that are getting any sort of Hollywood notoriety, they’re all in their late 30s and 40s now. It’s a long haul. It’s going to take 5, 10, 15 years for me to get to where I want to be, so just don’t worry. Age is just a number. If you’ve got the song, if you’ve got the music, people are going to love it. To have the mental barrier of age, that’s just silly.
G: How do you feel the Canadian music scene is seen around the world?
C: I don’t think Canada has really made its mark on the map, at all. We have so few acts, Arcade Fire, Neil Young, Bryan Adams... Then you think about the United States, and you can’t even begin to name all the artists.
However, the underground scene is growing. Despite the lack of international support Canadians get, we do have this wonderful underground scene. The support is coming to musicians from industries, with things like SOCAN. We are really lucky to live here, we have so much support. But, then we try to go to the United States and they charge us to play down there. By the time you’ve paid the fees, it pretty much is your whole paycheck. It’s asking a lot. So little things like changing that could help.
That being said, we do have a lot of new festivals and programs starting up, they'll help put Canada on the map. With time, it’s going to get better. Right now it’s a lull, a bit of a musical purgatory, but it will get moving.
G: Is there something specific you'd like seen done to support artists?
C: Six degrees of separation is kind of the rule. If someone hears your name they might not do anything until they hear it from like five more people. Once they hear your name those other times, then they'll reach out. If we could turn that into three, instead of five times, that would help.
It’s a lot of politics as well, it’s who you know and who is putting your name out there. The problem is that I think it’s the same circles getting the same people involved, and I think it needs to expand.Artists need to get more weight in society. When demand for industry goes up, the demand for music tends to drop. People need to work, and people need to live. A lot of people here, in Vancouver, aren’t even making enough money to live so why would they go and drop 20 dollars on a show? They just worked all day to barely make their spending money. We can’t control the economy, so it needs to start with people. It needs to start with networking.
As an artist, you need to be social. It’s so hard to sit at home and make all this wonderful music and get any recognition. People want you to perform. They want you out. They want you at other people’s shows. If they see you at other artists’ shows supporting other musicians, if they see you play and like what they hear, even if they don’t see you again the next six times you’ll still be in their minds as a positive influence on the community. That’s how you make your mark, and I think that’s how I’ve made mine. By being present, and so social. Get to know people. Go out of your way to make people feel good. Be positive, be happy, support your peers. Then your name gets out there, and other bands hear about you and ask you to be on their bill. If you’re complaining that things aren’t working for you, you aren’t working hard enough.
G: Any last words? Shout-outs?
C: Shout-out to Cody Taylor of Fiend Recordings, he is my producer and my partner in crime. We do everything together, musically. He’s the best guy, if you like my work and you want to work with him he’ll give you everything and more.
Shout-out to my pals Lovecoast. And my parents, they’re the best ever. They drive me places and help invest in my career, I couldn’t be more lucky. Mummy, Daddy, you’re the best.
G: Thanks for the wise words!