For most of her life, CHEL was told that she didn’t have the looks or the body type to make it in music — but now, she's following the success of a viral song with a new track, soon to be just as famous as the first. After releasing "Nasty Woman" last year — an empowering anthem which received 1.2 million views on its music video — CHEL is dropping "View From Down There," a song about finally reaching the top.
On June 2, the artist dropped the "VFDT" music video — and spoke to Intersect about the process of filming, the huge reception to "Nasty Women," and her fans. Check out our interview with CHEL below.
What was your journey into the music industry like? What hardships did (or do you) face? How do you handle them?
It was an interesting journey into the music industry for me: I’ve been singing my whole life. I’ve been in lessons since I was five years old. I’ve have known for as long as I can remember that I wanted to be a singer. Growing up in the Midwest, in a small town, there weren’t many options for me to explore the professional side of the industry. I joined everything I could that had to do with singing. I was in choir, show choir, a cappella group, jazz choir, musicals, and even camps for putting a band together.
Unfortunately, I was either told that my dreams were not realistic, or that I was too fat to ever be a popular artist. It wasn’t until I had started college and met a producer in St. Louis, that I started really making music and becoming an artist.
Since then, I have had to fight for every opportunity; for people to take me seriously, for people to pay attention, and to get people to work with me. I still battle some of these obstacles today, but I keep my head up, and I keep pushing forward. I don’t wait for people to come to me — if one door closes, I start looking for the next one. I have worked extra hard to get myself to a point where my value speaks for itself. I do the job of five people and although it can be exhausting, it makes the wins extra sweet.
How would you describe your songs to those just discovering your music?
It's definitely pop, but I would call it pop fusion. I like to add notes of rock, jazz, alt, R&B, and hip hop. I was also always drawn to ballads, so I make sure to include a few big moments. I like to think [my music] is familiar, but unique in its own way.
What do you find to be your favorite part of creating music? What’s your process like?
Creating music is my favorite part of everything I do — to me, it's therapy. It's taking all my bottled-up emotions and letting them out through song. I love every part of it. The process of building the production, the melodies, the lyrics, the harmonies, the ad libs... it’s all amazing to me.
My favorite way to work is to get together with a producer, sit down and listen to a few songs to catch the idea of the vibe I’m going for, come up with a basic production or guitar/piano chords, lay down a bunch of melodies, choose the melodies we like best, write the lyrics, record the lyrics, then harmonies, ad-libs, and stacks! Sometimes we separate this into two days so we can sit on the song and decide if there’s anything we want to change.
What was it like releasing “Nasty Woman?” How did you handle its response?
It was funny. I always wanted to release "Nasty Woman" around the election, but we had talked about another song instead... And then, the day we were going to submit the other song to the distribution company, the morning newspaper read “Trump calls Kamala Harris a Nasty Woman” and I knew, it had to be "Nasty Woman." I believe in signs and if that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is!
I was super excited to release "Nasty Woman." It's a song I'm proud of for so many reasons: I deeply care about the message, I love love love the sound, and I feel like it embodies me as a singer stylistically. Plus, it’s a damn good song! I got nothing but positive responses and if there were negative comments, I tuned them out. I love that it is still gaining traction as we speak — for myself but more importantly, for the movement!
What inspired "View From Down There?" What message do you want fans to take away from it?
This song is about someone who has fought really hard to achieve their goals and has now achieved a lot of them. Through this process, they had support from close family and friends, but not from everyone. Fast forward to now, when this person is doing well, all the people who neglected to support them in the past, are now trying to be a part of the momentum. The song is a bit tongue and cheek, and it feels good to sing it and to say it because it is a story I have lived.
I think the takeaway is one of empowerment. It makes me feel like a boss to sing it, so I hope it does the same for others because I know a lot of people have been through this same situation.
What was the process behind the "View From Down There" music video?
I give full creative direction to the director, Matthew Freiheit. He came up with a visually stunning video that I am in love with. I was so fortunate to have a beautiful team to help me from the wardrobe, done by Melissa Mercedes, to hair and makeup, done by Carissa Arellano, and photography by Basia Nakatani. I also had a bunch of my friends volunteer which made it fun and easy. I think this dream team created an amazing environment for this video to be as amazing as it turned out.
What’s next for you as an artist?
Shows, writing, releasing more music, more videos, and all around more content!
If you had one message to give to fans, what would you say?
Don’t be afraid to get a little more nasty!
Check out CHEL's new single, "View From Down There," below. Let us know what you think!