When I attended the Artemis Film Festival this past April and I was checking out of my hotel at an unearthly hour of the morning, the personable and loquacious desk clerk alerted me to a gifted local musician as I was awaiting my ride to the airport. She encouraged me to check out this artist named Chase Bell, and she even followed up with an email later on to ensure that I didn’t forget. This summer, Chase and I connected, but due to my frenetic schedule, I am only now able to post my interview with this talented musician. As we chatted a few months back, he was quite forthcoming about how he began inmusic, his outlook on the business, and what his plans are for his future.
RH: Chase, how did you get started out in music?
CB: My mom was a jazz and cabaret singer in New York, and I always heard her singing, whether she was practicing in the car or at the house. There was a piano at home, so I was always playing piano. We also had a guitar–a very ancient guitar to be precise. All my memories are with things regarding music. I’ve always had a drive to do it ever since I was very young. I just wasn’t sure what to do inside of it. I learned guitar up until I was about eighteen. I’ve always had this songwriting inside of me, but I never really let that out. So I got started by listening to my mom and watching her sing as well as going to clubs in New York
What brought you out to LA?
I went to school in Philly for jazz studies. I went for a year and learned a lot, but I realized Philly was a little bit depressing for me. I hadn’t seen that much of the country. Maybe it was because of how old I was–I don’t know. I came out to visit LA, and I just knew I needed to live out here. I need to live in a place that inspires me. When I moved out here, my whole direction of music started to change. I realized that jazz was never really my thing. I wanted to learn jazz because Jimmy Hendrix said he was influenced by jazz. Ray Vaughan said he was influenced by jazz. So I wanted to learn it, but once I learned it, I was like I knew I didn’t want to live there and base my career on that style. For me, living in the world of jazz was not a great place to live. I started to look at pop music more seriously. I delved into pop and then rock. I went to Italy and London and lived there for a while. I came back to LA about a year and a half or so ago.
How would you describe your musical style?
I’m happy to say I finally have found my style. That’s the thing. A lot of people don’t realize that the artist needs to go through a lot of styles to find themselves through their music. I’ve always been creating music and wanted to release music to show people even if it’s not perfect. Now that my music is much more refined and tailored, I’m very, very proud of it. You can listen to the older stuff and hear how I was always playing with certain ideas, but I never got it quite right back then. Now I feel like I’m getting it right. I compose a lot for film, TV and commercials. I’ve always loved classical music so I learned to write for an orchestra. So I have that part. And then I have the funk performance where I go out and perform which is a lot more up tempo and pop-style.
That’s very commendable that you can write for an orchestra because I know a lot of musicians starting out don’t have that knowledge.
Oh, I love it! You have to love it to be able to learn it, right?
Where do you get the inspiration and ideas for the songs that you write?
Well, if I’m just by myself, I’m going to be writing music. I’m going to be thinking about music, and melodies will come to me. It’s not like I have to go somewhere or something like that to search for inspiration. I’m always creating music in my head. I can’t really turn it off. I never could understand how some people would get a melody or a lyric in a wrong circumstance. Like, “Darn, I wish that would have come to me later!” For me, if I sit down with a guitar or the piano, things will come to me. I will try to guide it by listening to a song or two to put me in the mood. Or maybe I’ll listen to a song and I end up wanting to write a song that touches me like that song does. My inspiration is life and music in general. The reason I got into music was listening to music like Beethoven or pop artists that would make me feel something that was really good and nothing else would make me feel like that. So that’s what I’m trying to do. The inspiration comes from desiring to make people feel things specifically through music.
So let’s talk about your album. What can you tell us about it?
I’m working on an EP. It was a full album at one point, but I realized I needed to cut this and that, and it’s gotten smaller. It’s a three or four song EP. My last one was a three-song EP, Whatever Love Means. It was cinematic in its references, but still pop. This one has pop, but funk and rock influences as well. Completely different, but still me as a songwriter. Me as a singer, performer, songwriter, and I did all the instrumentations this time. I’m really excited about the way that it looks, the way that it feels and the way that it sounds. I was conflicted for awhile about how to release it, whether I should spend the money on promotion or release it like I always have done, which is through my own channel. Or if I should find someone to release it for me. This is a different level of professionalism for me to figure out. But now I’ll be releasing it soon, so I can move on to my next creative process.
So will this be your second EP?
As myself, yes. But I did an album in London when I was twenty which I funded and wrote everything myself. It wasn’t very good. And it was just a way for me to learn. And then I did two albums with my band in Italy. I actually have another album I’m gonna release with them eventually. But Ain’t Funkin’ Around will be my second EP, and it’s releasing next month, January 17, 2017. But you can look up my newest release from that upcoming EP that came out last month called “Turn Me On.” I’ve done three or four songs a year for the past five or six years.
It got to be tough this day and age. Back in the day, you only had one real option–go the traditional route when releasing an album. But now you have so many more options. It’s got to be hard to decide what direction to go. Then add to that all the reality shows where people record and release an album after being on the show.
Yeah, it’s very saturated. It’s hugely saturated. But I think it’s one of the ways that the cream will rise to the top. There’s a lot of music out there, but there’s a lot of bad stuff out there too. The stuff that I think is really, really good out there and strikes a chord I hope will always rise up. I think it will. Once I strike a chord, I think my music will rise up. I feel that all I need to do is keep creating to make that happen.
I think your idea of inspiring people and creating an emotional connection is key. When I saw your video “Whatever Love Means to You,” I loved the song, but I really loved the way the music video went together. I’ve seen a lot of really bad music videos, even from established professionals, and you think, “Wow, that was really dumb.” They’re a big name and their music video was really pathetic. But yours, I thought was really great. It had loads of different people and plenty of scenery from LA. It all went together quite well.
One of the ideas behind that video was I wanted to show people what it’s like in LA. I take it for granted; I live here. The Hollywood sign, I walk by it, but people from all over the country and the world are like, “Wow! That’s what LA looks like.” Of course, they’re only going to see the good side in the video. There are other things I didn’t show. The plan was to go up to people I did not know on the street and ask them, “What does love mean to you?” I was expecting ninety-five out of a hundred people to go, “I don’t have time for this. I’ve got things to do.” ‘Cause it’s LA and everyone has too many things going on. That’s probably what I would have said. Every single person besides maybe one person said, “Yeah, I want to be a part of your music video. And let me tell you what love means to me.” And I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.”
I think some people have a negative view of LA, but you did a great job of putting the positive spin on this city.
Yeah, I wanted to keep it positive. I do love it here. I do love the city. It has a lot of problems, but I’m trying to make it better.
There’s too much negativity in this world as it is, so it’s nice to have the positivity.
So you mentioned writing for TV, movies and commercials?
Yes, hopefully soon with TV and movies. I’ve done a lot of commercials and PSA’s. I’ve done about three or four short films too. So the next step is to do a TV show and a film. That would be fantastic.
Do you have aspirations to move towards being an actor or at least beyond just being a musician?
I would be open to being an actor on a TV show if I was playing something that I felt comfortable with. Someone who is at least an extension of who I am. I wouldn’t be comfortable being a coffee barrista or someone who hates black people. But if I’m like a drummer on a show or something else music-related, I would step into the show easily. That’s what every song is. It’s kind of like acting. You have to be that person inside that song. You can’t be thinking about anything else. I’ve never done it before, but I’d be interested in doing it.
I think that’s smart that you’re saying this because I know that sometimes musicians will try to step into something that has nothing to do with music and they just totally bomb. These musicians think that being an actor is easy, and they jump into a dramatic role, and they have no clue what they’re doing and you can tell.
My sister is an actress. I’ve watched her do her acting, and it takes just as much talent and discipline as music. If she sat down at the piano, she wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing because I’ve spent my whole life doing music. She’s spent her life doing acting. I can’t say I’m an actor. I can act if the right part comes along.
While this is probably a very long list, is there some dream musical collaboration you would like to do someday?
Yeah, lots and lots. One person I’d like to work with at least right now is Pherrell Williams. I’m really inspired by Pherrell. He’s done so many different styles. Everything from being part of the dirty rap, hip hop to being a pop star with “Happy.” He’s so amazing, and I’d love to work with him.
It’s really cool to see someone who is that versatile.
Yeah, the whole country knows that song “Happy.” My dad came to me and asked, “Have you ever heard of this new kid called Pherrell?” I was like, “Dad, Pherrell has been around since the ’90’s and is actually pretty old.” He’s been amazing since the ’90’s. Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlake started around the same time he did. He’s done something with everybody. But everybody knows him now as the guy from “Happy.” I love how that happens. We listen to stuff from the ’70’s. Like the “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Queen. Timeless song. But “Happy” is one of those songs that I think is going to stick around and be timeless too. I want to write those kinds of songs.
I am elated that what some might consider a “chance meeting” at a film festival caused an unexpected connection with such a talented, intelligent, and humble man as Chase. As he is in the final stages of preparation for his upcoming EP, I wish him all the success in the world. So many flock to careers in the arts in this day and age because people mistakenly assume that these jobs require little to no work and reap massive benefits. This is one of the principal reasons why young hopefuls often give up all too quickly when their dreams do not materialize overnight. Thankfully, the tenacious Chase Bell has remained committed to his dreams, and as he continues to aspire to greater heights and take advantage of every opportunity that is afforded him, I believe that his career will continue its steady ascent. With his staunch dedication and firm resolve to inspire others and shine the light of positivity to all around him, I see him as a refreshing sparkle amid the dimming flares of Hollywood. Please consider checking out all his links below. And if you are so inclined, don’t forget to pop back to his site on January 17 for his newest release Ain’t Funkin’ Around.