Pop Diva in the making

By April 24, 2014Music

Interview with Chess

“In music, it only takes 3 and a half minutes to potentially change the rest of your life”. The wonderfully talented and beautifully graceful Maltese singer/songwriter, Chess, was nominated for Best Solo Artist at the Malta Music Awards 2014 earlier this year. With an innate passion and love for music, thick skin and unparalleled dedication, this young and independent woman is taking her future into her own hands, without the backing of a label.

Chess has invested all her time, money and strength into making her dreams come true. While her debut EP Baby Girl was produced and released by Chess herself, she kick-started her way forward to funding her second EP Tuxedo – selected for Best of British Unsigned and received instant airplay on BBC Introducing for her Carly Simons-inspired-track Vanity. Chess is a pop diva in the making… If she isn’t one already!

Chess – Vanity (Play this video in Creation 5)

When did you first get involved in music and when did you start writing songs?
My mum filled my world with music from before I was born – she is a great musician and I have loved music all my life. I began writing songs at about 7 years old, writing lyrics and making up dances for whoever had the patience to watch and listen!

What made you make the move from Malta to the UK?
I always wanted to take music as far as I could go. My mentor, Joshua Alamu, gave me the courage to move and attend the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guilford. If I didn’t do it then, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

How would you describe your experience at ACM and in what ways did it influence your career choices as an artist?
The ACM brings one to realise how much competition there really is out there. Although it also brings to light that not everyone has what it takes. I learnt to be more business minded, to be as versatile as possible and to create good relationships with peers. At times, knowing how much competition is out there discouraged me, but knowing I had the tools to succeed kept me on my path to pursue what I really love.

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You funded and produced your debut solo EP Baby Girl in 2013, yourself. With the help of crowd funding, you released your music video Storm (from the Baby Girl EP) and, later on, you used it to fund the production of your second EP Tuxedo. How did that help “kick-start” your career?
Kickstarter gives you a really good opportunity to showcase your ideas and be discovered by people who are interested in new things.

Would you recommend Kick-Starter projects to other up and coming artists seeking to eventually be backed by a label?
Sure, a successful Kickstarter campaign shows that you have good managerial skills, boosts credibility and shows determination to make something happen. It also helps you gain more fans, and that’s always wonderful!

You were nominated for Best Solo Artists at the Malta Music Awards 2014. How did it feel to be nominated, knowing that you did it all on your own?
It felt so good to know that my efforts have been recognized. A lot of hard work has been put in and it is important for me to know that my country knows that I am doing my best to create substantial Maltese Music History.

You released your Tuxedo EP mid-January this year and your Tuxedo music video came out on March 28th. What has been the response so far?
People have responded so well to Tuxedo as an EP. I think this is because it has more of a universal commercial sound. Vanity instantly got airplay on BBC Introducing and along with Tuxedo, got chosen for Best of British Unsigned.
I have received very positive comments about the Tuxedo video, with people saying that it is now their favourite song, and video.

Chess – Tuxedo (Play this video in Creation 5)

What inspires your style, the themes you write about, your ideas for wacky music videos?
I follow what’s happening in the fashion world – especially the catwalks and fashion week, to make sure that I am up to date with trends. I then add my own twist and taste. I like to be stylish, and I like to try out new ideas. What’s the worst that could happen?! I find myself writing a lot about issues I have with myself, with those close to me and issues addressing society.

You’re juggling multiple jobs at the same time in order to make your dreams come true. Can you tell us how hard it is to make it in the music industry these days and what it’s really like to follow your heart and take a risk?
Anybody who thinks that they can make it without paying their dues is well mistaken. This is a tough industry, which will test you time and time again. It’s scary knowing that you are spending all of your time and money on something that might never come true. I think you have to believe in yourself for things to happen. The really big slap in the face is that no matter how talented you may be, you will not be approached by a label unless you have made a substantial amount of money by yourself.
But all you have to think about is that in music, it only takes about 3 and a half minutes to potentially change the rest of your life.

What is your philosophy?
“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” – Stanley Kubrick.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I am in the process of finishing my summer single. Moreover, this year, I promised myself to focus on perfecting my craft and making my voice more acrobatic. I am doing intensive practice everyday, focusing on vocal precision and writing more music. I also hope to perform at a couple of good clubs in London and around the UK.

If you could choose one person to collaborate with, dead or alive, who would it be?
Freddie Mercury. The insight to the way he wrote those masterpieces would be priceless.

Chess chose our Sunday Sessions this week – here’s her choice of 3 songs for a smooth Sunday

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