Ann Arbor born and Chicago resident retro-pop contemporary soul-jazz singer Elle Casazza offers a visual offering to her single YOU and has a line up of upcoming tour stops for the summer. Elle Casazza performed and sang at the age of 8, but it wasn’t until college she started writing her own music. Releasing her debut EP For your pleasure in 2013. And as at the last quarter of 2016 she released her album PROOF a collection of unapologetic tracks featuring her recent music visual YOU. We had a chit chat with Elle via email to talk about the single YOU, her album PROOF and we also got to make discoveries about the artist and more…
Was listening to your single YOU, i could pick a hint of mild colorful lyrics and a silhouette of a moody loop. And it got me wondering about the backdrop story…can you tell us what inspired the birth of this song YOU?
“You” came from a very dark night I had. It was one of those nights where my emotions spiralled and I felt like I was forever broken. That night my boyfriend was there by my side supporting me, helping to bring me out of the darkness. I knew that I didn’t want to go back to that place of self loathing. I also didn’t want to put my boyfriend in that situation again. A few days later when I sat down for a writing session the melody and lyrics of the first verse instantly came to me. As I continued to write the song, it slowly morphed from a promise to my boyfriend to a promise to myself.
Quite a story there…can you tell me more about the creative process, how did it all morph from note clips into a musical piece?
After I had written the first verse, I figured out the chords and the rest of the song ended up writing itself. I wrote a chart, recorded a simple demo of just vocals and piano and sent it out to my band. A lot of times when we workshop a song to figure out it’s full potential it can take us some time to find the right groove, but with this song it took no time at all. We all came to the same conclusion to keep it piano and vocals for the first two thirds of the song to really build the tension. We wanted the second chorus and the bridge to be this explosion of emotion and then to bring it back down for the very final verse to get back to the core of the song.
Yeah, it does have a certain texture about it…both balancing each other out. And i think it plays a lot to a certain demographic, i kind of love that taste of contemporary Chicago soul and jazz influence. I understand you recently started a radio airplay rotation campaign, yes? Can you tell me what’s the reception like?
The radio campaign is in its very early stages, but so far so good!
Right, it’s still pretty early to round up a figure around that. Speaking of reception, do you have a go to target audience in mind whenever you creating a project? Or do you kind of just get the picture of what you want to create and let the puzzles fall into each piece, sorta like you did with the single YOU?
When I’m creating a project I let it see where it takes me vs trying to target a specific audience. I find that when I let a song guide me to it’s particular sound, it comes off much more sincere and a more well rounded piece of music.
Ok, but beyond the stages of the creative process. Do you have like a general or specific audience you want all your songs to resonate with? Or is it more of a different strokes for different folks kinda thing?
I think to a certain degree that my music is geared slightly more towards women. I find that I end up writing songs with themes of being a strong and empowered woman.
Ok, You released your recent album PROOF in the last quarter of 2016. I feel like the album title PROOF sort of screams making a statement…like you got thrown into a room of jury and a judge and was like you say you not guilty gimme proof lol. Would it be presumptuous to relate that to your recent body of work or does it cross off far beyond those borders?
You know originally I wasn’t going to title the album PROOF at all. I was going to call it UNAPOLOGETIC because I wanted to present my music as kind of a take it or leave it to the world. Then I realized that Rihanna has an album titled Unapologetic and I didn’t want to seem like a copy cat. I then had to come up with a new name and PROOF just came to me. The album serves as proof to myself that I have something worth saying, and it’s proof to the world of who I am as an artist.
Right, i think that’s like Riri’s sixth or seventh album. Can you tell us more about what inspired the title PROOF? I feel like that would be a story worth telling, not just for the tabloids but i think it could be an inspiring story for someone else whom maybe due to a bad review, reality didn’t match the expected results or something within similiar bracket and was contemplating throwing in the towel. Could have a thing or two to learn from this.
Making an album and being an artist in general can really take a toll on your sense of self worth. There is so much rejection, and what’s even worse is a lot of the time you’ll send out your music for a review or to book a show and you just won’t hear anything back. When I thought about these songs I had written and recorded I really had to think about what title could cohesively bring them together. I was so proud of what I had achieved by creating these songs and bringing them to life and it hit me that this album was my “proof.”
Yeah, i kind of relate. I feel like the creation of music kind of draws up a lot of drama. You tend to think about your audience, how they would resonate with the song–creating character archetypes. And could probably to some extent worry about appropriation of any kind that might result in a backlash. It could be mentally straining, but i think it could sort of play a kind of good cop-bad cop experience on you. I mean it could possibly give you an anchor to a catchy chart popping OST to a romcom pilot. We all get to deal with creative blocks at one point or the other. I’m guessing you have at some point, yes? How do you come out of that void and push through that block?
There are a few different ways I deal with a creative block. Let’s say I’m working on a song and I’ve got about 2/3 of it done but I just cannot figure out a bridge or some lyrics to a verse, I’ll just walk away. Typically in that situation if I try to just force something out, I end up getting frustrated where as if I just let the idea simmer in the back of my mind, a few days/weeks/months later the perfect part will come. That’s what ended up happening with the song “You.”
For general creative blocks, I like to view it as a fun challenge. If I have absolutely no thematic or melodic inspiration I’ll go to a favorite book or movie and try to write a song based off of it. Even if I only write a fraction of the song and nothing else comes of it, it’s like my creative battery has been jumpstarted and other ideas just start flowing.
Yeah, it’s kind of like they say with writing–write something everyday even if it’s just a sentence. One of my favorite writers would say write like you on substance abuse but edit like you sober lol…umm speaking on thematic inspiration, i’m guessing Chicago plays a lot of influence to your creative process. Yes?
I’ve been living in Chicago for eight years, and this city has seen me go from being a plucky bright eyed 18 year old to the person I am today. This city is where I became an adult, it’s not only had a massive influence on me as an artist but as a person as well. On top of that this city has such a vibrant music scene that I have found to be super supportive. It’s a lot easier to create music in a city that is willing to listen and truly values artistry.
Ok, so where are you originally from? I kind of thought you were born and raised in Chicago.
I’m originally from Ann Arbor, MI
Cool, Can you take us on a sail back in time, would like to know what you were about before going to Chitown–was there music in your sail then or was it something you picked up later on?
Music has been a part of my life since I can remember, but I first started officially singing at the age of 8 in my temple’s youth choir. From then on I was bitten by the singing bug. Growing up I was always in choirs, taking voice lessons and performing in musicals. It’s actually kind of a fluke that I ended up going down the path of contemporary music.
My senior year of high school we had put on this musical called The 1940’s Radio Hour. The entire musical was comprised of jazz standards and I loved singing them. When it came time to start auditioning for colleges I originally planned to go into a classical voice program. I found out that one of the schools I was auditioning for had a jazz/contemporary voice department so on a whim I decided to audition for it and got in. It was just an option I never had thought to explore.
Ok, I can most definitely hear a lot of contemporary Jazz influence on YOU. Are you more fixated on contemporary music or does it go beyond those lines?
I prefer to write/perform music that is in a more modern form. But that being said I love singing jazz, and that’s what I studied in college and there is a lot to learn from jazz. I think it’s the precursor to the music we hear today.
So can you tell me about your style of music? I mean what are your most favorite genres of music that you incorporate into your sounds?
Pop from the 90s and early 2000s definitely find their way into my writing style. I listen to music all over the map and I find that it all influences me. I think that’s why my writing style is so eclectic.
I see you got quite a fascination for the ukulele and the piano. Yes?
I do dabble in both Uke and piano as well as Guitar!
Nice, which of the instruments is your favorite though?
Guitar for sure. It feels the most natural to me.
Ok, did you start off playing the guitar, ukulele and piano as a kid? Or is it more of a recent discovery?
It’s pretty funny how I ended up playing guitar. When I was in eight grade I took a beginners guitar class and learned the basics, and essentially didn’t touch a guitar after that. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college where I was volunteering with a synagogue’s youth choir. The synagogue’s religious school needed a new music teacher halfway through the school year. They asked if I played guitar, and in theory I did, so I said yes and got hired on the spot. So I picked the guitar back up and ever since then I’ve really taken to playing the instrument!
Wow! So you taught music, what are the odds…how long did you teach playing the guitar for? And what was the experience like?
Well at that particular job it was more song leading with the kids and singing songs. I do teach guitar currently and I’ve been teaching it for the past four years as well as teaching voice. It’s really pushed me to grow as a guitar player verses the standard “I can play ten chords” type of guitar player. It’s also really rewarding to teach. It’s so fun to pass on the knowledge and power of music to a young mind who is passionate about music. It’s really beautiful to see how each student progresses and how music can help them grow as a person.
Cool, so do you once in awhile play some auto chord rock riffs? Or is it mostly more of an open mic sing along acoustic ballad sort of tune for you?
I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that question.
Ok, let me rephrase that. I was wondering if you play a little bit of metal rock guitar riffs or are you more of on the soft acoustic string plucks when you teach?
Gotcha, when I teach my method is to teach my students what they want to learn so it just depends on the students. A lot of my students prefer to just learn how to accompany themselves on guitar, so I teach mostly rhythm guitar.
Ok, so do you like run this teaching platform between the four walls of a class room? Or is more of like a private outfit–students having their classes as when they schedule them?
I teach at an after school music school. Kids have a lesson they schedule with our studio manager, and come in and see me weekly.
Ok, in a comment from earlier you said you started music at the age of 8. Did you have a mentoring-tutor relationship with someone (anyone) way back then like your students have with you? Or was it more of an interest turned into career sort of drive for you?
I started music with my youth choir at temple led by our Cantor Annie and she really opened my world up to music. She’s a huge advocate of what music can do for the soul and how it’s something for everyone to enjoy. No matter what your talent you could sing with her in her choir. When I reached high school Annie ended up offering to teach me voice privately for free which was an amazing experience. She is who prepped me for what the music world is like and how to maintain yourself in it.
Unfortunately this was all i was able to squeeze out of this session, hopefully we would get to catch up on more at a later date…Elle Casazza on June 24th performed at Chicago’s Ravenswood On Tap Beer Festival along side Tara Terra, Cold Country, Natalie Grace Alford, The Just Luckies, Tyler Sjõstrõm and would be making an appearance on the 2nd annual Localpalooza Chicago showcase on July 22. To stay abreast with more about her tour line ups and upcoming project, you can look her up on ElleCasazza.com
And here is a lil parting gift for you…let me know what you think
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