POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2010:
Looking Back and Ahead
Chelsea Coleman lets her heart -- and mind -- fly free with debut EP, Lullabies and Learnin' Songs
In 2009, a song was haunting Chelsea Coleman. "This Feeling This Feeling" was writing itself in her head throughout a three-month period, but Coleman did not want the song to be written. She did not want to admit that it was true.
With lyrics such as "Sometimes I think about running/ so far away you can't find/ sometimes I think about riding off/ into the sunset to die," the song was a painful assertion about her dissatisfaction with her marriage. But she could not confront her own thoughts on the matter.
"I didn't want to believe I was going through what I was going through," Coleman said.
In the beginning of 2010, she played the song for her husband and left two days later starting a new life and filing for divorce. She was 23.
Her actions and experiences from this period were life-changing and became a big source for her songwriting and the six songs that make up her debut EP Lullabies and Learnin' Songs. She will be celebrating the release of the EP at the Coffee House on Cherry Street, 1502 E 15th St., Thursday Sept. 2 at 7pm. Tyler Slemp and Ian Picco are also scheduled to perform.
Coleman has been playing coffee shops around town since April this year, slowly developing as an artist and becoming a more experienced performer. She plays her autobiographical folk music mostly by herself with an acoustic guitar and her sonorous voice resulting in an intimate atmosphere.
The recording process, however, has allowed her to embellish her arrangements adding drums, lap steel guitar, piano and cello. The result is a logical expansion of her music: An artistic spreading of wings.
Coleman expressed particular excitement about the completion of the record, and the opportunity to add musicians to her music.
"I didn't think I would be able to record," she said. "I never thought I would be in a position to play with a full band. I'm doing all these things I thought I would never be able to do."
So for Coleman, Lullabies and Learnin' Songs is a dream fulfilled.
The introduction track on the EP is the aforementioned, "This Feeling This Feeling," wherein Coleman's singing and guitar is gently complemented by a sleepy lap steel as she vocally paints a picture of being on the verge and at the mercy of emotion.
The following track, "When the Dam Bursts," is another side of the same lyrical coin. She sings about a sense of tragic domesticity that haunted her marriage and an anticipated intense uncontrollable outpouring of emotion. On this track, Coleman's finger picking is supported by a steady drumbeat that later swells in the song providing an emotion climax that would be much more difficult to achieve by Coleman alone.
Whereas "This Feeling This Feeling" took three months to write because of Coleman's reservations, "When the Dam Bursts" took 30 minutes or so, she said. She has learned to embrace her talent and life experiences.
"I'm not scared of the songs I'm writing anymore," she said.
Coleman was raised on folk music and worship music, so a musical simplicity is at the center of everything she writes. She led a worship band for two years in high school and played piano in jazz band and sang in choir. Her modern influences, however, come closer to the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats.
In a sense, Lullabies and Learnin' Songs is a short journey chronicling Coleman's decision to leave a part of her life behind and start over again. If the introductory tracks "This Feeling This Feeling" and "When the Dam Bursts" document the impending need to change and the departure, the song "Wearin' My Heart" is the first breath of fresh air and comfort in decisions made.
The song is the closest the EP comes to pop music territory with catchy vocals, a carefree rhythm and a repetitive guitar melody that carries the song along. One can hear the strength and resolution in her voice as she sings, "I've been waking up happier and stronger these days/ everybody's wondering what's gotten into me."
The sound of effortlessness found in "Wearin' My Heart" is no accident.
"I wrote a lot of (the EP) in the kitchen washing dishes," Coleman said. "I didn't try to write them, they just happened."
2010 continues to be the year of life-changes for Coleman. In September, she will be moving to Seattle for a romantic relationship and to further her music career. As a result, the release show is also a farewell performance.
"Hopefully, Seattle will be receptive to my music," she said.
Coleman has reason to believe that the city will be. During a recent visit there in July, she signed up for an open mic night at a bar named Hopvine. A handful of artists performed before her to a loud and inattentive audience.
She sat down and quietly introduced herself before beginning the sparse, lazy, hushed song "One More Year." The song chronicles the passage of her upcoming years with the lyrics "One more year I'll be back in line/ one more year and I'll be fine/ two more years and I'll be twenty-five/ traveling the continent making up for lost time."
Her honestly and authenticity silenced and captivated the room before she finished playing the track. The reception was warm and enthusiastic.
Coleman is not sure what to expect, but she is up to the challenges that Seattle presents.
"So many of my fans here are friends and family, which is great," she said, but she is looking forward to building a fan base from scratch. Earning new fans in Seattle will be less about her as a person and more about her as an artist. She will let the music stand on its own for people to judge and enjoy.
For now, she leaves us with a sentiment best described in the final verse of "When the Dam Bursts": "I don't know all the words, and I can't make out the chords/ but I can feel a song a-coming like I've never heard before."
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