Princess Chelsea – on her first tour of Aotearoa in two years - plays Nivara Lounge this Saturday, with Stef Animal and Bitter Defeat! HUP caught up with Chelsea, and talked with her about her song ‘The Cigarette Duet’ amassing over 54 million views on YouTube, the influence on her life of the Yamaha Keytar, an early memory of a Hamilton right-of-passage, and more!
HUP: Kia ora Chelsea! You're coming to Hamilton... hurrah! Have you played here much over the years? If so, are there any memorable moments?
PC: Hi! I have lived in Hamilton, in Melville, but have never ever played a show. I remember jumping off the top diving board at Te Rapa pools when I was 6 though.
HUP: It’s been a couple of years since your last album, ‘The Loneliest Girl’. Have you been writing and recording any new music in the interim?
PC: Yes, I have been written some really weird ass music for the mental breakdown release of 2021, hahaha.
HUP: If it's not too cheesy a question, what is your usual writing process?
PC: I often arrange and write at the same time in my home studio. I use Logic and a midi keyboard to begin with generally. Then I gradually layer and layer and might even have a song after a few days! Occasionally I have sat down at the piano too and busted out an O.G. tune. This happened with more singer songwriter style songs, like ‘Overseas’, ‘When the World Turns Grey”, ‘Growing Older’ and ‘Cigarette Duet’. Sometimes I write a song old-school style then take its basic chords and lyrics and spend a week doing weird stuff to it, so it’s almost unrecognisable. An example of this would be ‘Too Many People’, which started as a piano ballad. :).
HUP: The song that has brought you the most attention was 2011s ‘The Cigarette Duet’, which has amassed some 54 million views on YouTube. What do you think it is about this song that led to it going so big?
PC: Well for a start it’s very catchy and very simple, but I think the subject material became something a lot of people related to and was very shareable for that reason. It had an organic grass-roots type of growth, which is super cool. Just people showing their friends families and workmates. The video was probably perfect too, being so simple, and I guess without realising it at the time ‘meme-worthy’.
HUP: Your single ‘Growing Older’, off the ‘The Loneliest Girl’ album, had a lot of footage from when you were a kid, including you with your first instrument - a Yamaha keytar - which was left behind in a house you moved into when you were a kid. What do you think the chances are of a keytar being left behind in a house, what has happened to the instrument, and do you think this influenced your later love of synths?
PC: Actually, there were two of the same Yamaha Keytar and a giant Roger Rabbit! For sure they influenced my love of synths! I think those formative early years are very important in that regard. Unfortunately, they disappeared somewhere along the line. I wish I still had them because they had a great demo song of ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham! with midi clarinet playing the lead vocal line.
HUP: I have to ask this question - I didn't realise this but you are in or have played in The Cosbys and Disciples of Macca. Were you in the bands at Camp A Low Hum in 2008? Both those bands sets blew my daft mildly inebriated mind that weekend.
PC: Yes, I was in fact. I played in Teen Wolf and Brand New Math and my very first Princess Chelsea appearance in the Renegade Room.
HUP: Finally, what can we expect to hear from Princess Chelsea on this tour?
PC: A greatest hits package performed entirely live by five of us. Lots of synths and love; animated visuals by Simon Ward - it will be really fun!