…and says she owes it all to her music teacher from Ireland, she tells Michael McDonagh
At the swish offices of Sony Records in Kensington I was introduced to the bundle of Liverpool energy and enthusiasm that is 25-year-old Chelcee Grimes, the hottest new pop signing to RCA Records.
Major Record deals these days are like gold dust, so it is a great achievement that has been signed and her record label are pulling out all the stops to promote her new single ‘Just Like That’.
They flew her to Joshua Tree in California to film her video and the full power of the major label is now getting behind her to make sure it is a big hit. Getting one record deal is big news for anybody but in the case of Chelcee she actually got two, as this is the second time RCA has signed her up. Back when she was 19 RCA Records signed her but such are the mysterious workings of the major companies that they then dropped her before she had a chance to make a record, causing her great disappointment.
Chelcee, with characteristic Liverpool resilience turned adversity to advantage by going away, learning her craft, writing songs for other people and then low and behold RCA came knocking on her door again and singed her for the second time around. When she was 16 Chelcee Grimes entered a talent competition sponsored by a local Liverpool Radio station and sang a song she had written herself but thinking she would not stand a chance against all the other entrants, who were stage school kids with elaborate dance routines.
She did win though and got a chance to record more songs and learn the piano and she also got the chance to improve her other career as a footballer. Chelcee now plays football for Fulham having played for Liverpool Ladies for seven years.
Such is her talent that songs co-written by Chelcee have been recorded by such stars as , Olly Murs, Dua Lipa and The Saturdays and it is clear that it is her positive attitude and enthusiasm as well as her undoubted musical ability to write great pop songs, that made RCA realise what they had missed the first time around.
So Chelcee you’re a scouser of Irish descent, you have two careers and have had a bit of a roller coaster ride to get here. Tell me about it.
“I have indeed. I play football still as that is how I started as I was playing for my school when I was ten and played right up to the age of 16 but unfortunately the women’s game does not pay the same as men, so everybody has another career. I’d just then started to get into music so I started pursuing that and then got signed quite quickly after 2 years of writing songs and stuff which was quick but then I got dropped after six months without putting a song out. It was not my time then.
Did you come from a musical family or play an instrument at school, how did you start?
“No there was nobody in my family who played music but I just had a knack for it. It really started when I was doing my GCSE’s as I only took music as I thought it would be an easy lesson. I was really focused , so I could learn about sports therapy and things like that as I was going to go into that. But at first I started with the piano and now I play the guitar as my first instrument and just fell in love with it. My music teacher really pushed me, he was Irish actually, Mr Quinn and he really encouraged and pushed me that was at St Julie’s Catholic High in Liverpool, all girls”.
Who were your influences?
“My mum liked pop music and that was what we had on in the car but from growing up my step dad was into things like Sting and things like that but I grew up on Beyonce and pop R n’B with Usher and Jenifer Lopez and then gradually I started seeking out other stuff like Gwen Stefani, Pink, Katie Perry and Lady Gaga, strong ballsy women. I was always in to that, a bit left field a bit left of centre. I was 19 then and what I was doing was a bit more urban I had not been in love before or had my heart broken and I was writing songs but was not really connecting to them.
I wrote this one song called ‘Mannequin’ with me playing it in the kitchen and I did a cover of it and put it up on You Tube and my mum was ironing in the back ground but it got a good reaction and RCA picked it up and I got signed of that one song really Its funny now if you listen to that one song I could put it on my new album as the lyric goes: “I could be as fake as a mannequin/ Don’t try to dress me up just to try to fit in/ Some kind of Centre Fold that’s not me/ I’m not a typical girl on TV So even then I was talking about being different and it was not like I was conforming and now even more I know my way a lot more, so I think then I was still trying to figure it out.
You must have been delighted when you got signed to RCA the first time around and being dropped must have been a terrible disappointment for you.
“Of course it was terrible it was just before Christmas and it just ruined my Christmas and I was just crying on my bedroom floor and I said I had never had my heart broken but at 19 that was like having my heart broken. I just got a phone call to say that a new boss at RCA had come in and they dropped me just like that. It was kind of like football and I use a lot of football analogies .So it is like when a new football manager comes in and if he has not signed that player he will be dropped. At the time it was terrible and I got my heart broken but looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me and I am so happy I did not put a record out then”
Do you think your ‘never give up’ spirit had anything to do with your Liverpool Irish survival genes. How did you deal with it?
“It was just the football embedded in me like. It’s never over like Liverpool three nil down in the Champion’s League then we come back and win on penalties in the second half. Anything can change in a 45 minutes. “That attitude to not giving up has been embedded in me through sport since I was a child it could be the Irish thing in me or my Scouse but it was something I knew was going to happen and I never gave up. “I could have easily got another job and thought you know what that was it but I didn’t. I always knew it would happen I went away and I wrote songs and I worked hard and I learned my craft and I got better and stronger and I knew a lot more. I’ve grown up and now it is my time so I am ready for it now, more ready than ever.”
You can’t be person to bear grudges if you came back and signed with RCA again, how did that happen?
“Well the only thing that is the same is the four walls as everything else has changed with a new team of people and a new head has come in. There were a lot of other labels, it wasn’t the only label but I felt that it was unfinished business and it was like the Paul Pogba story. I’ve come back and they signed me for more money and it was just meant to be”
I see you have used aged grey-haired people like me in your video in America as extras what is that all about?
“That was fun and it was brilliant being out there and if you listen to the song it is very tongue in cheek and fun but I didn’t want to be like rubbing oil on my body that’s not me at all. We were trying to think of a fun way and cool way of introducing myself and Charlotte Rutherford the director came back with this concept and said why don’t we do it this. I don’t want to say too much as I want people to see it for themselves but we gave it this spin and it reminds me of the stuff I grew up on like Eminem and it was just fun and right now the world needs a bit of fun”.
How do you describe your music?
“It is pop music definitely pop music but I am trying to use as many live instruments as possible in the tracks, like I always try to keep the drums real and there is a lot of guitar and even if it sounds like a synth it will be a guitar. Like I said I grew up on Pink and Gwen Stefanie and Avril Lavigne, so its a bit poppy rock. The album if you listen to it from start to finish you can laugh with it you can cry with it and feel heartbreak. It is just a four-year slice of what anybody from 19-25 goes through”
How do you go about writing your songs or getting inspiration?
“Everything I try and do has a concept behind it with a story. I can be on a train or anywhere and I can see a couple and I’ll go off and immediately write a song about it from that idea or sometimes I’ll be in my bedroom and it just comes or I’ll get a title and it comes off the back of that. With the Kylie Minogue one that was my first cut and for an unknown songwriter it was massive thing to get a song covered by Kylie and it propelled me in the songwriter world.
Her whole album was overlooked by Jay-Z and then there is one track by Chelsea Grimes, like who is she? It was my first time away from home. I was in Copenhagen working with this team called Cutfather, who are top producers there. That came about as I was slogging away writing in my bedroom and word got around and to be fair he took a shot on me and said come over as they had heard I was a new writer. He said Kylie is looking for some songs and I had never written for somebody before.
I just wrote and passed a few songs around to try to get interest but they did not get through. He just put the track on as they already had a backing track and the first thing I thought was that I feel I am a million miles away and it was obviously me being homesick away from home. We finished the song in about 10 minutes and we sent it to Kylie that night and she replied straight away that she wanted to record the song. I felt oh this is so easy as it happened so quickly but it was a little flash in the pan because it does get more difficult.
It was perfect though and just what I needed to start that whole world and I am so happy that getting dropped lead me down that way because writing for other people was good. I really took in pieces and influences, be it a country song or whatever and I learned so much”.
Will you be doing live dates?
“Well I’ve not been doing much as I’ve been too busy but I played live two nights ago and I am playing live tonight and we will do more but that’s where I live, on stage. Being on stage is my favourite place to be, there is no other feeling like it but I have been recording and writing for other people for the last four years, so I have been locked away in a studio but now they are letting me out and I’m back on stage which is brilliant”.
What advice would you give to a young performer like you were when you started out?
“I’d say everything happens for a reason. Just get your head down is true to yourself and believe in it. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback to that one song and people say it is dead different and not like anything else that is around and a bit throwback and quite brave what you are .I believe in it and I know my sound and I just want to do something g new. So I say stick to who you are and don’t try to change and if you keep at it long enough you will get better and you will get a crack at it and you must take that chance. And Oh my god with the Internet you can do it all yourself now. For this record I wanted to make I wanted to be part of a big team, I like being part of a team here at RCA but I am also down here in London living on my own but it is lonely too. I have worked so hard to get here and I want to make it work. I also have my football and play for Fulham every week”
Have you ever been to Ireland where you have roots on your mother’s side?
“I’ve been to Dublin and I’ve played a gig about four years ago it was like a massive pub and I had a great time, it was for a charity I had the best time of my life staying out at parties till 5 in the morning it was just great and I can’t wait to go back” They say god loves a trier and Chelcee Grimes after her early set backs is certainly all of that and I for one loved meeting her to share here infectious boundless enthusiasm and wish her continued well deserved success as RCA’s hot new pop signing.
‘Just Like That’ was released June 8th: Pick it up on