This week I (Jess) had the pleasure of meeting up with Chersea in Gastown for a delicious bowl of noodles and some good talk time. We chatted about the Peak Performance Project, dreams, Project Limelight, mental health and more. Check out our conversation below!
Jess: You recently said that you've had a brand change, what kind of brand change was that?
Chersea: When I went up to the PPP bootcamp, they were hinting towards how important it is to identify your brand and to have something that's attainable for your viewers or listeners or fandom. My issue was kind of that identity - and trying to find a way to truly represent what I want to do as an artist. So the brand change is kind of indicative of that, and I really wanted to focus on my bioplar: the black and the white, the manic and the depressive, the ebb and the flow of having a condition like that, which a lot of us as artists do have. The thing is I also want to help relinquish the stigma and I keep playing with it, toying with it, because we're human. We're normal people but just with a little extra somethin' somethin'. I just wrote a blog on the Peak and that's coming out, which tells my whole back story which will hopefully help solidify that brand. I've never been very vocal about that and I want to create something that a lot of people, especially these days, can identify with – mental health. As you can tell, it's a lot of black and white.
Jess: Is that explicit in your music?
Chersea: It already has been explicit, that's why Grey Matter is called Grey Matter. The lyrics in Grey Matter explicitly talk about 'What have I done? What have I become?” because I was on medication for so long and as soon as I got off mediation I wrote that song, and I hadn't been writing music for a long time because of the medication. So, Grey Matter is all about that and Vipera is more of a science based type of album I would say. I really care about science and I don't want to brag by any means but I’m a little bit of an academic. I love studying, I love learning. This next album [mental health] is definitely going to be a huge feature of it because it goes up/down up/down push/pull push/pull and the tempo changes. We lined up the album to make it very, taking your emotions through a roller coaster. That's kind of what we're going for, and because my music is so eclectic it's cool to draw from all of these resources while having my voice be the carrying piece, the torch carrier through it all.
Jess: So Vipera is out, but what about the rest of the music? Are you planning on releasing that by the end of the Peak?
Chersea: No, we actually planned to release an EP this summer which, clearly, fell through. But the reason why it fell through is for a very good reason. It's just... we want to make this album as good as we can. And I had this dream, it was early June, and in this dream I was holding my album and I had these two songs on the album that I'd never considered for the album. I looked at the album and saw these two songs and the next morning I called up my producer at like 8:30 a.m. and I'm like 'Cody, I had this dream, we have to add these songs!” So we started co-writing a bit more and then we decided to make a 10-track, so now we're making a 10-track instead of a 5-track. So it's going to take a bit longer. I've spoken to a few people who want to co-arrange and help and it will be the next big release for me. It's really cool to have the people on board help make those changes. Definitely waiting until the spring for that, but sometimes waiting is the best game.
Jess: So is that story the first time you'd really followed up on a dream?
Chersea: I do that a lot.
Jess: How does that work out for you?
Chersea: Sometimes I feel living day to day is a dream. There's certain things you can connect with in your sleeping consciousness that you were never really presented in your waking consciousness. I'm not one really to delve into it and talk about spirituality or dimensions or anything like that, but it's just, for me I feel like it's a sign and the way I felt in my dream, the excitement I had, those emotions for me are so significant. For other people who maybe don't have biploar they maybe think “Oh it's a dream, this means this...” but for me it sticks. I wake up and I feel that again and I feel that for days until I address it, so I was like 'this is a sign and I think I'm going to go with it.'
Jess: Have you ever written music based on a dream?
Chersea: Almost half of my songs come from dreamscape. I'll wake up, record a melody or write it in my book beside my bed, and the songs come from that. That's why my music is pretty ambient, kind of dream-scapy.
Jess: So you're in the music 24/7.
Chersea: I love it. It's my life. It took me a long time to find it. I've already been through university. I was the varsity hockey player, and I've been a whole bunch of different things but I reconnected with music and music saved me really through my healing with bipolar and coping with new mechanisms that I have to understand and I have to learn, being one who is diagnosed. There are two worlds, there's the non-diagnosed world where you are like 'I'm just crazy as-is, that's the way it is,' and then they tell you that there's an imbalance and I take that and I'm like 'okay, now this is my new world.' There's a change, there's a shift, there's a new dynamic.
Jess: How is music different for you in terms of healing than sports or academic?
Chersea: It's freedom. Music is freedom. It's the freedom to create.
Jess: What's your plan if you win the peak?
Chersea: It's developing. I think the big thing is getting into the states. Getting out of Canada. Expanding. I'm very, very fortunate to have a couple of international sponsorhsips so I've already been exposed to other parts of the world. It's really honing in the Canadian market and how I can be so successful here that I can take it and branch out. I am a Canadian through and through, I love Vancouver and I don't want to leave this place. I really think that we have such an incredible hub here, there's so many talented and wonderful people who are all amazing contributors to society for different associations like the Downtown Eastside, or like me for Project Limelight which is a huge thing for me, especially being the music director and vocal coach for that, there's just too much going on here for that. I know that a lot of artists leave, they go to Montreal or Toronto. I'm not going to leave, I’m going to stay here, but I'm going to do my utmost, my best to expand where I can and also bring this culture here to the next level. Being in the last year of the Peak, us artists are kind of on the frontier of Vancouver being something wonderful and something beautiful. We can do it, but people need to stop leaving. We've got to stay and we've got to commit because Vancouver's just the best. If we expand that culture it will make Vancouver a better place and a happier place because we're surrounded by talented people and inspiration and creativity.
Jess: What's your fundraiser for the Peak this year?
Chersea: My fundraiser is for Project Limelight which is free performing arts group for kids on the Downtown Eastside. I've actually been working with them and raising money with them for quite a few years already, it's been about two and a half or 3 years that I've been the musical director for the program. I do all of the live music [for shows], the live folley for the plays and I help vocal coach and pick the songs and organize the children and it's just the best time ever. I love it, I love them, I love them like my own family. It's just such a great group and that's the fundraiser. I'm calling it Chersea and Friends Talent Show Fundraiser. I want to keep it really cutesey because it's an all ages event until 10pm. So kids can come and I'm actually going to have a child from Limelight perform with me. You'll get to see how well they do and how well they're progresisng. And it's going to be a glow in the dark party! So we're just going to get the kids out, I have a whole bunch of door prizes. The event is mainly sponsored by Nimbus School of Recording Arts and Roland Canada. We have two big, amazing sponsors and I can't thank them enough.
It's Chersea and Friends – it's literally my friends, some of my closest friends in the music industry are coming out. Since there's so many changeovers we're doing smaller, acoustic sets, but I even have Yvette Lu from BTV who is a doctor, she's going to come out and talk about how to stay healthy as an artist and have a poet coming, a couple of duos, two loopers coming which is paying homage to my own craft, one is Druiz which is Daniel Ruiz, drummer of Bestie, and the other one is Waldron who is Tegan Waldron who is doing almost that Hannah Epperson thing, kind of edgier and kind of more medieval sounding. It's really beautiful. Gina Loes is going to be there, I just love her to bits, we've got a really good group of people coming. I hope the kids are going to love it, they'll all have glowsticks. I've got Sticky's Candy from out in Coquitlam who donated stuff. It's super family oriented but for the adults it will be a glow in the dark karaoke party from 10pm onwards.