Meet Chelsea Warner, who moulds together genres with her debut single
How Come You Don't Pick Up Your Phone is an emotional, stirring entrance from the young Sydney musician.
Australia's future is going to be full of R&B stars. Over the last two years particularly, a clear group of rising musicians have each made themselves known as the future of Australian R&B, and while the genre shines through largely international talent - from the US and UK especially - it's evident that Australia may soon have some stars of their own. Whether it's through artists like Lara Andallo and Ms Thandi sporting these woozy, US-influenced R&B sounds or artists that add distinctly new spins and twists on the genre, there's a wealth of new acts emerging - and it's all incredibly exciting.
Chelsea Warner is someone that in 2020, is making herself known as one to watch and joining this legion of future names. Over the last few years, the 19-year-old Sydney musician has been honing in on her craft and creating subtle, genre-melting R&B from her bedroom, but now -after securing a couple of deals to ensure her bright future ahead - is finally stepping out, doing so with a delightful debut single that introduces who she is and the rich sonics that she's presenting.
Her debut single, How Come You Don't Pick Up Your Phone, is a washed-out dream of R&B, soul, pop and hip-hop, plucking stylistic characteristics that she enjoys from each of these genres - she somewhat pairs De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest along with Ariana Grande as some of her biggest influences - and uniting them together, crafting something that feels new and exciting despite the saturation of the genre around her, especially internationally.
It's rich with this sense of traditional R&B and hip-hop; the slow-burning pace of some of the genre's greats clearly visible on How Come You Don't Pick Up Your Phone. However, Chelsea then brings this forward to 2020, modernising it while keeping that sense of nostalgia that makes her work easily accessible. "At the time, I was really obsessed with Erykah Badu and 90s hip-hop, and I think that influenced my writing and production," she mentions. "I loved the moog/synth bass on De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest tracks, and I thought it would be interesting to draw inspiration from these old school sounds for a track with fairly modern subject matter."
With a single like How Come You Don't Pick Up Your Phone behind her, it's clear that Chelsea Warner is on the cusp of something special. She's excited to show the world her strengths in songwriting and with a debut EP teasingly on the way, it sounds like this will be Chelsea's year: "I feel like I’ve found my stride lately and am so blessed by the people and opportunities around me, so I want to keep creating as much as possible."
With that in mind, dive into How Come You Don't Pick Up Your Phone below, and better introduce yourself to Chelsea Warner before her stand-out year.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter from Sydney. I turned 18 last year and am currently working on my debut EP. I’m also a massive music nerd, and am honing my music theory, mix engineering and vocal technique, while studying my bachelor’s degree in music.
What’s the ‘vibe’ music-wise?
Someone once described this song as “Jazzy Destiny’s Child”. I like that. My music would probably fit into the R&B neo-soul category, with some pop sensibility.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
Recently I’ve been starting with beats, since I’ve been producing a lot for other artists and using all the time indoors to make loads of instrumental ideas. So my recent tracks have been toplines to a beat, but my most fruitful process is definitely writing a full song out on piano or guitar, and then translating it to Ableton after it’s already done. This was I can focus on songwriting and expression at one time, and then technical/production elements separately, and it doesn’t bleed into the writing process.
Can you tell us about your new single, How Come You Don’t Pick Up Your Phone?
I was waiting for what felt like forever for a (probably inconsequential) text back from someone, and I was getting quite frustrated. It’s not about one particular person, rather a collection of experiences and the angry desperation of external reliance as opposed to emotional self-sufficiency. The track started with the chorus. When it got time to write the verses, I related the situation I found myself in, staring at my phone pathetically, to ones I had been in the past, drawing from the reality that the only reason I felt so frustrated at the hands of other people was because I allowed them to have that power over me. So I started to acknowledge my own part in my unhappiness and mused on that in the song.
I was obsessing over Erykah Badu and 90s hip-hop, and I think that influenced the style the song took on. I wanted to combine the musicality of acts like Thundercat and A Tribe Called Quest with the storytelling of artists such as Badu, Amy Winehouse and Noname, while also taking influence from hip hop production like Tyler, The Creator and Mac Miller. Once I decided I wanted to release the song, at least 6 months later, I touched up the production, finessing the beat and adding the 808 moment in the second verse, as well as recording extra vocals and trumpet.
What does 2020 have in store for you?
I’m currently focusing on honing my technical skills with my voice and instruments at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as much as I can, while also writing and producing any spare moment for either myself or other awesome artists. I’m sitting on heaps of demos at the moment, so 2020 will see more releases from me. This year, my goal is to hopefully play shows across Australia and to release my debut EP, while having it all feel very true to me. I’m really feeling strong at the moment, creatively and personally, so I want to work and explore as much as possible.
What do you want people to take away from the project?
I want to create music that music nerds can appreciate, putting thought into my chords and musicality, while also creating really solid, tasty grooves. I want people to relate to the often quite self-deprecating, other times empowering storytelling, and to connect to their own vulnerable moments. I wanna wrap all of this up into a song that makes people tap their foot.
Where can we find more of your music?
This is my debut official release however I’ve been sharing my creative process and work on my Instagram for the last couple years. Snippets of songs as well as covers and jams are up there, in the meantime between releases. I also have a few covers from back in the day on YouTube and Facebook.
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