The 99% Episode #8 With Luca Chesney
Indie-pop star Luca Chesney shines significantly as a musician since she’s a talented producer and singer-songwriter. Luca’s inspirations come from dreams which she paints with music to describe. Each of her tracks has these dreamy elements with euphoric layered tones. She was one of the first artists to be on Steereo and audiences enjoy listening to Luca. Tune in to the eighth episode on the 99% Podcast as we interview the artist herself.
[00:00]Sean: Thanks for joining us, we are here with the talented singer-songwriter Luca Chesney. Thanks for joining us, Luca. We can just jump right into it. You grew up on a Caribbean island, and you’ve also lived in many places including Australia and New York City. How did growing up in that region, and moving around in general, help shape your view of the world and ultimately your artistic expression?
My parents were missionaries, so it was a very interesting upbringing. My parents gave up everything for what they were doing, which is a fascinating way to grow up. From there, I moved back to America through high school, and then over to Australia for music school, then California for a big and then New York. The biggest influence on my music is the search for yourself and your own voice. Many people from all over the world are very invested in their own beliefs, and communicating that to the world. I think the biggest influence on my writing and my voice is exploring all of that, which is a beautiful, unfolding thing as a writer.
Sean: My opinion is that your music has an infectious, eery, dreamlike feel to it. What inspires your sound?
Dreams, actually. A lot of the stories in the lyrics and a lot of the images I try to paint with the sounds and the music that come from dreams. When I would sit with my producer making this E.P., we would like soundscape and recreate feelings and emotions from dreams. I agree with you; it was very dreamy, hypnotic and soundscapes, rather than narrative. That’s something we went for.
Sean: I wondered if poetry or literature, in general, had any influence on your song structure in your music. It seems like you do have a narrative structure to songs. I was wondering if there was any poetry or literature that helps you write your songs.
Some books permeate through my dreams and lyrics. A lot of Madonna lyrics, the poetry, and lyrics from Radiohead are a huge influence on me as well.
Sean: What has inspired your visuals, specifically, in relation to the songs themselves?
I wanted the visuals to look as much as possible how the music sounded and how it felt. The wrestle between the dark and the light and shadows is a huge theme for me. That’s what I was trying to write about it.
Sean: As an artist, you are very mysterious. Was that something you set out to do, or is that simply reflective of who you are?
This is a huge topic for me right now, regarding putting myself out there as an artist in public. I am hugely an introvert, as I know a lot of artists are, so it’s this constant pull back and forth of needing to be heard, feeling like you want to be naked in front of a crowd, and here’s my diary and my deepest dreams and thoughts. Feeling that vulnerability so intensely can be crippling on the inside. Overall, I tend to be a little quieter and introspective, which comes across as natural as an artist and in my music.
Sean: It’s so interesting that there’s one side of you that is all about the art and music and also needing to get your music out there so you can spread that message and artistry. It’s a fine line to balance for any artist.
It’s honestly the biggest challenge for me. I’m clear on what I want to make and what I want to do, but when it comes to promoting that and communicating that, and finding that group of listeners that I feel like will very much connect with it is the enormous challenge.
Sean: So what is it like being an independent artist today? From your point of view, what are the benefits and maybe the potential drawbacks of being an independent artist?
You hear about all the people who have gone before me who have gotten pretty messed up by bad label deals; you hear the horror stories. I can see the tools in front of me; some people want music, and I’m here, and I have all this access to them. The issue becomes the amount of noise and the methods of connecting with them. It’s easy to see all the benefits of being an indie, and the challenge for me, personally, is the enemy of distraction. I think most people who create things feel that. Listeners are awesome, and I want to communicate with them and get it out there, so how do I do that without making it this huge distraction. That’s where someone like Steereo comes in because you have the brilliant idea to connect a music listener with an artist while cutting through the noise. I’m very grateful to meet people like you who are innovating in that sort of way.
Sean: There are good parts of technology, and there are parts that aren’t as favorable, attention becomes the currency, it’s very easy to get distracted.
At this point, I’m going into writing a new project, so it’s about the discipline of turning off the phone, and reconciling in myself that socials work for me I don’t work for them. If you look up online how to be good at social, it says to be transparent and be on there all the time, but I know that’s not the answer for me. It is a balance that every person individually has to find what works for them.
Sean: Creatives are evolving with the world, and there is growing pain within that. This brings us directly to my next question; what are your thoughts on music technology and how it’s given artists the opportunity to be discovered?
I’m a big fan of things like Spotify, and I’m doing everything I can to work with the tech and not mourn the days of people walking into a record store. Move with it is my feeling about it. Use everything at my disposal to create and put everything outward. I think the industry is in a very awkward teenage growth where we’re trying a bunch of stuff and throwing a bunch of paint on the wall to see what works. I know for me, it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all. I’m pretty open to trying everything I can but wanting to be smart about it working for me rather than feeling like I’m a slave to tech. At the end of the day, I want to create awesome stuff. If it helps me, awesome, and if it doesn’t, I can pull out my guitar and sit down to write lyrics. It’s that simple.
Thinking of ambiance and environment, where do you like to create music, and where do you like to hear music? Where are you most engaged when you listen to other musicians?
In terms of music consumption, I prefer to discover music alone with my best headphones on. Just getting so lost in the world that the artist is creating, and the detail of it. Once I know music fairly well, I’ll have it in my house or when I’m walking around. For me, though, it’s a very personal and private thing. It’s been a long time since I discovered a band I loved, out. I love going to see artists I know and love, out, but regarding discovery, I’d rather be by myself. Regarding me creating music, just last week I was at this beautiful lake house. I took four days off of my work and everything and just went away upstate and just wrote. Both discovery and creation are very private things for me.
Sean: What artists are you currently listening to and inspired by, both past and present?
Right now, I am obsessing, again, over all of the Kendrick Lamar albums. He is constantly on repeat in my house. I’m usually into hip-hop, rap, and neoclassical. A lot of instrumental. Regarding singers, I am very inspired by you know Nina Simone, Thom Yorke, and James Blake.
Sean: When someone hears Luca Chesney for the first time, what would you like them to feel?
The feeling that you want to connect into yourself, and the feeling that there is more than meets the eye. Music that is on high repeat on the radio are very literal very real-life situations, and I dig that. Singing about getting drunk in a club is super fun, but for my music, I want there to feel like there are layers of depth that you want to dive into. You’re not sure where it’s going to take you, but it is a deeper place in yourself. There is that little bit of dark and mystery and question.
Sean: Kendrick is a good example of a pop artist that’s able to mix social issues with veiled messages of how we live life and his perspective of life. He can craft music that plays on the radio but is very true to himself and his own artistic expression.
I agree one hundred percent, and as an artist right now here’s my ultimate hero. The ability to speak to modern and societal issues in culture so clearly and yet maintain this beautiful sense of artistry and transparency is absolutely mind-blowing from a writing perspective. I do tend to live in a bit of shadow and metaphor. I’m letting Kendrick inspire me to be more transparent and clear.
Sean: Music to me is…
It’s a thousand words, images, and states of being rushing through my head.
Sean: Who is Luca Chesney?
Right now I would say artist, and mystic, which sums up all those beautiful adjectives you were saying about my music before.