Princess Chelsea is a truly unique singer and songwriter. Her collection of fantastically off beat electronic pop Lil Golden Book took on everything from casual smoking to singing songs to laptops and gathered here quite a few fans along the way.
Amongst their ranks are the now Mercury Prize winners Alt-J, who’ve asked her to support them on their upcoming UK tour. With the massive news we talked to the Kiwi singer about the tour, her unique musical style and her love of Disney.
So, to start with, how did you and Alt-J get acquainted?
Actually, me and my band mates went and met Alt-J at the Laneways Festival in New Zealand and we knew they were fans of my music as they’d talked about it in the press, which was really nice of them. So, we just decided to go up and ask them, so we did and funnily enough they’d been thinking the same thing in the back of their minds. So, it worked out rather well.
Excited about playing the UK?
Yeah, really exciting. Obviously, touring with Alt-J is a big deal because they have an enormous following and they’re a great band so it’s going to be really good for us to play in front of a lot of people who probably wouldn’t have heard of us before.
Your album Lil Golden Book’s gotten some great reviews. What’s that like for you?
I was really pleased. A lot of reviews I got were from music bloggers and music journalists who are doing it for the love of it and have a great musical knowledge and it’s really nice to read a review of your work and you can tell it’s someone really intelligent and has really good taste and spent a lot of time listening to it.
I suppose I didn’t get reviews in the bigger magazines, but to be honest I prefer those small places and was really happy with the response.
A lot of your songs kind of sound like the sort of lullaby that David Lynch might sing. Where did that sound come from?
Well, it’s funny because I never plan how a recordings going to sound while I’m recording it. I don’t have any set rules, so it’s so happened that my music ended up sounding like some weird hybrid of children’s music and electronica.
I’ve always listened to a lot of classical music, I’m somewhat of a Disney fanatic and I love old sci-fi movies and I think as a musician anything you write and record is going to be influenced by the books you read and the music you listened to. With me, it just happened that all my influences combined to make this sound.
The Little Golden Books are a real thing though right?
I think the Little Golden Books started way, way back in 40s. Maybe earlier. I used to have a lot of them as a child and they had that tell-tale little golden spine. It took me a long time to figure what to call my album and then that jut hit me. They were all little stories, so it just made sense to me.
This is very much a little collection of stories. How did that happen?
I guess I like to write in a narrative style that wasn’t super personal so I could sneak in little personal messages without being too obvious. A lot of the songs end up sounding like stories, even though they have quite personal experiences in them. I just found it and intriguing way to write.
Speaking of personal experiences, did you have to do The Cigarette Duet in real life?
That song is entirely inspired by real life. I don’t smoke properly, but I was casually smoking for a while and my partner hated it. I thought it would be a brilliant topic for a song.
Your songs are really layered and have massive intros. How do you go about doing them live?
Part of the reason why they seem to take a while is that a lot of the time I’ll write and record simultaneously, so it’s almost like this recorded experiment that’s just happening and isn’t very structured. So live, it took me quite a few years to get a band together and be able to interpret those songs live.
At first, I was trying to mimic the recordings which I think wasn’t probably the best to try and do. We managed to find a happy medium though by making the live set a totally different thing than the album, but still recognisable. I think we’ve done a great job and it’s a great live set.
The album defiantly feels like an album, not just a bunch of songs thrown together. Was that an aim of yours?
Definitely. Even though I don’t plan music as I record it, I wanted to create a cohesive album, and artwork if you will. I’m a big fan of the album format, it’s underappreciated these days. I really like to have themes and an undercurrent running through the whole album.
So, where does your love of Disney come from and who’s your favourite Disney princess?
I think a lot of girls and boys my age (and older) feel that way. I remember as child it was my form of escapism from the world and the songs were just so good. Favourite princess? I really like Mulan actually, she’s a more modern princess, but I’m also a pretty big fan of the Little Mermaid, she’s pretty cool.
What’s next for you then?
After I do the support tour with Alt-J, which is going to be massive, we’re going to go to be doing some shows of our own in Euope. So if everyone from the Alt-J gigs could come come along that would be really cool!
Also, I’m working on a second album. This time I’ve got a name for the album, I just have to finish writing the songs! That’s dealing with technology and the internet, so hopefully I’ll finish that soon. I’m going to be releasing a new single or two before then though.
Princess Chelsea’s album Lil Golden Book is out now.