03 February 2022 (released)
03 February 2022
It is morning in America when Chrystabell greets me over Zoom and despite the early hour there, she welcomes me with a glorious warm and glowing smile. My day has been a long one and this is a welcome sight after hours in front of a screen. But there is some sadness to the call too as hours before the singer and I speak, she has been told her world tour plans are in shreds because of the pandemic. I had questions planned about her shows across the UK and they are now binned for a fascinating chat about her music, videos and working on the Twin Peaks update with legendary director David Lynch.
Chrystabell has released four acclaimed albums and featured in a series of musical projects with Lynch. Having launched her career in the late-1990s with the neo-swing band 8 1/2 Souvenirs, she first joined forces with Lynch for a song featured in his 2006 film Inland Empire and has worked on more music projects with him since, as well as being a central character in Twin Peaks. Acting though has been a side-step, music is her passion. Latest single Midnight Star is a glorious slice of space age electro-pop with a wonderful video.
She tells me the visuals are critical to her art; “It's imperative. Having worked with wonderful directors, one in particular over the top wonderful director, I always had that sense of wanting a full experience with music. That really started with musicals in my very young years. I really love just giving that full experience, all the elements involved. “
Chrystabell is from San Antonio, Texas and speaks with a lush deep south American accent where every has feeling. She is intense but funny, relaxing into our conversation and admitting that this world of video interviews has become a comfortable norm. She is someone obviously at ease in front of a camera, even when speaking to tired journalists. In her latest music videos there is that space-age, futuristic glamour as well as a sense of having fun and no limits. The video for Midnight Star was written and directed by Polish filmmaker and long-time collaborator, Archon. Chrystabell says she likes to explore the combination of visual and music:
“Most of that though was guided on intuition with directors. I want to collaborate and follow my intuition, an inner guidance. If I get with a director that I've got a good feel, something sparkles, I get that cosmic yes going! Once that's happening, I say yes and that's the first threshold. I gotta feel it but at that point I really allow the director to have creative control and go wild and to experiment.”
As a singer, actor, and model, Chrystabell has many talents and this willingness to try different things with her videos and, perhaps, push the boundaries, has come from a varied career:
“I've always loved photography and modelling, where I was going out with photographers in strange locations and doing things differently. To conjure a feeling that from the art something different was happening. So, with the visuals it's feeling that confidence with the director and then letting he or she just go wild. I love to collaborate and I'm just I'm in it to win. There is a part of me that wants to be glamorous and beautiful, but that's not what I want to be boxed into. There's this part of you that says you have to really push yourself out of that and say yes to these things happening. When everyone is just allowing that collective energy to really be in full force and not feel like oh God you know what if Chrystabell and will she like this, let's just go with it and I'll figure it out!”
The plan was for Chrystabell to play shows in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Brighton, and London in February. The cancellation came days after she had returned from playing a live show in Europe. Given the change of her schedule she is even more grateful for having the experience to take part in celebrations of Serbia's second-largest city Novi Sad being elected as one of the three European capitals of Culture for 2022. She is delighted and thankful to have had that experience:
“We performed in this outrageously beautiful centuries old gothic church and the priest had to sign off on the performance and say that it was okay. We were the first band playing electrified music and it was spectacular. Now of course it is even more special. Everything about the trip was a triumph and I'm so glad that we had that experience. Over the last couple of years some of the magic things that have happen against all loads are just really special. That doesn't mean that when we get back to doing gigs and doing all the things that we used to maybe take a little bit for granted, but it just makes those moments even more special.”
She says the pandemic has focused the mindset to enjoy whatever is happening as much as you can:
“I'm definitely more trained now on appreciating every moment for whatever it is and maximising things. We don't know what's gonna happen. It is a choice you can make in every moment for your perspective, which way you're gonna lean and what you're going to lean into. It can be a daily discovery. I find the most personal fulfilment in seeing the richness of my experiences. That's the measurement for me, how much I'm getting in the moment from that experience. Because of the nature of my career and the span of it, I've had a wide range of experiences and so you can get the kind of glitzy super glamorous moments and those that can fall flat. If you don't make the effort to make them amazing and special and wonderful it's really a choice that you make.”
Chrystabell admits that in some places around the world audiences before the pandemic were not always as enthusiastic as they were for this gig in Serbia. She is not the first singer, and certainly won’t be the last, to find London shows slightly more restrained. She says in capitals like London and Paris, audiences have so much choice that perhaps there’s more appreciation in the likes of Kosovo or even Moscow. The fact the tour has been delayed means she will spend some time rethinking the shows and considering how those extraordinary visuals from the videos can be incorporated. Expect those gigs to be even more glorious as a result. The delay may benefit us all.