Ex-pat singer-songwriter Chelsea Jade released her debut album Personal Best this year, earning a Silver Scroll nomination along the way. To celebrate, RNZ Music collaborated on a video with the LA-based musician, while she was visiting her hometown of Auckland.
A while ago Chelsea Jade approached RNZ Music with an idea - she wanted to perform one of her songs with an all-girl choir from Auckland's St Mary's College, and film the results.
Or rather, they would perform it. She’d be there, but she wouldn't be singing, and she wanted to keep her face hidden. It’s a typically high-concept idea from someone who’s known for them.
“My favourite movie ever is Sister Act 2" Chelsea tells me. "It’s a choir movie with Lauryn Hill and Whoopi Goldberg in it. I watch it every year. It’s such a good film.”
We’re sitting in the Music Room at St Mary’s College in Auckland, where the shoot is taking place. I’m grilling Chelsea about her inspiration for the shoot.
“Maybe I just relate. I never wanted to be a nun but I definitely wanted to be a cool choir gal.”
And why young women?
“I learn so much from the younger generation. And it works for the concept: they’re the ones with perspective, singing to me. The subject of the song is acute jealousy, and when I was their age I was experiencing that emotion the hardest. So it’s a version of me (all these girls), singing to me as my older self.”
It’s a cliché to compare a musician’s output to therapy, but it’s so appropriate here that I have to do it. Chelsea agrees, drawing a comparison to her online presence.
“In terms of social media, half the reason I participate in it is as a form of therapy. I am so allergic to the idea of people not admitting their faults and flaws. Often people who listen to my music are young women; young non-binary people; young LGBT people. That’s who I’m experiencing as people who connect with me.
“I want to be honest with them when I’m having a bad time, and have it be a really direct connection and conversation.”
Once conceptualised, the work began to make it a reality.
“Godfrey De Grut from the University of Auckland did the choral arrangement. I cried when I saw my music written as sheet music, it was amazing. Then to come in and hear it was quite emotional. I have a habit of curling up in the corner of the room when something this cool is happening. So I was in the foetal position, listening to them sing my song, crying.
"I’ve had an emotional week.”