Reality television competitions. Auto-tune. Fix it in the mix. Media coaching. Production teams. The way contemporary recording artists are discovered, groomed, polished, and assembled turns us all into cynics. We watch, scoff, complain … and we’re stunned when we discover a new artist who writes, sings, performs, plays an instrument, and has a clear vision of how they want to look, sound, and present themselves.
Chandler Juliet is one of those artists.
She grew up surrounded by music: her father, Bob McChesney, is a trombonist, and her mother, Calabria Foti, is a violinist and vocalist. As a child, Chandler and her sister, Morgan, sang and took piano lessons. While Morgan also studied flute, Chandler expanded her own repertoire to include violin, cello, and clarinet. At age 9, she taught herself to play guitar and began writing songs.
Her debut EP, Loud Heart, was released in 2015. The first single, “Road Trip,” garnered three nominations at the Indie Music Channel Awards, including a win for Best Pop Record. Since then, she has sold out concerts in Hollywood venues, released another single, “Don’t Miss You,” in 2016, and scored another Best Pop Record win for her most recent single, “Speechless.”
Earlier this year, Chandler Juliet began working on a new EP, collaborating with producer Mikal Blue (Colbie Caillat, One Republic, Five For Fighting) and producer/songwriter Dean Dinning (Toad the Wet Sprocket), with whom she co-wrote “Don’t Miss You.” She was nearing completion of the project when she connected with Guitar Girl.
First, congratulations on yet another win, and three nominations, at the Indie Music Channel Awards. You again received Best Pop Record. From “Road Trip” in 2015 to “Speechless” this year, where do you see the most growth and changes in your songwriting and recordings?
Thank you so much! I think with finding my production team, I have started to settle into “my” sound and discovering what I’m really good at in the studio. I have had such a blast working with Mikal and Dean, as well as Jake Williams, in the studio. With their expertise and all-around good vibes, I was able to experiment freely and find the sounds and feel that work best for what I’m trying to express as an artist. That is still developing, by the way, but I have noticed myself getting much more aware and comfortable with my capabilities.
How did those partnerships come together?
I met Dean at a mutual friend’s birthday party in L.A. There were a bunch of music people there, but Dean and I immediately hit it off. He’s such a funny, energetic, and positive guy, so we clicked personality-wise. We quickly got into the studio — Mikal’s studio in Thousand Oaks — and started working on writing and producing songs together and were having a blast with it. Mikal checked in from time to time to hear what we were working on and loved what we were doing, so he came on board the project after that.
How has working with them helped you develop as a songwriter and recording artist?
Mikal’s state-of-the-art studio, Revolver Recordings, had everything I need to fully dive in. Since I’m completely independent at the moment, I got to choose what kind of artist and brand I wanted to be for this chapter of my life and career. I think their expertise gave me the freedom I needed to explore what was calling to me at the time. In comparison to my previous works, however, I think that my sound and production value are clearly at an all-time high. I’m super-grateful to Mikal and Dean for their generosity, for working with me, and for believing in me. We call it #TEAMREVOLVER over there because all the artists and writers that work out of that studio have become a big family.
How many tracks are on the new EP? Have you selected the first single?
There are seven songs on the EP. It’s more of a concept album. I wrote it in an interesting time in my life where I was surrounded by seemingly perfect friends, perfect partner, everything seemed perfect, but I discovered that it was all an illusion. The seven songs are all different chapters of that part of my life relationship and then realizing I was “falling from heaven” and back into reality.
The next single is a collaboration with my new friends from Germany, Major Sound. I met them through the Internet, recommended by another singer, and discovered their remixes. I asked them to choose their favorite song and do a remix. They chose “Tribe of One” and, in my opinion, completely blew it out of the water. That comes out in September.
You studied piano, violin, cello, clarinet, and taught yourself to play guitar. Do you draw on that training when you write? Do you still play those other instruments?
I think having a musical background does influence my writing and production, whether I notice it or not. Creating pop tunes and coming up with background vocal harmonies and arrangements is only a little different than playing a sonata on cello, because I think it all comes from the same place for me. I love music, and creating and expressing myself in that way. I do pick up the cello every once in a while, and am getting back into piano lessons to help with my songwriting.
In addition to writing, recording, and acting, you also perform regularly. How important are the live shows in terms of introducing new material? Do you prefer to record and release first, or do you sometimes perform new songs live before they are completed in the studio?
I love to tease people with new music, especially with the attention span we all have nowadays. So yes, I do shell out a new tune in a live set before it is released online or in a physical copy. I think it’s kind of like a treat for those who came out to the show and supported live music. Then they will recognize the song they heard live when it comes out on Spotify or whatever. I love it when that happens when I’m following an artist, then every time I hear the song, I’m taken back to that night I first heard it live. It’s magical!
As we mentioned earlier, you began playing guitar and writing songs when you were 9 years old. Tell us about that first guitar.
The first guitar I learned to play anything on was my mom’s classical Yamaha nylon-string acoustic. The strings were so old that it always kind of sounded out of tune, no matter how much you tuned it. But I didn’t care; I was 9. I wrote the silliest little love songs. I still come across notebooks upon notebooks of lyrics. I half laugh at what I thought I was going through at the time and am half impressed by the musical songwriting style at such a young age. I also own a dark blue Ibanez hollow body electric/acoustic, a bright red Hofner electric, and am sponsored by Aosen guitars, from China, and own one of their awesome electric/acoustic guitars, which I took on tour to Memphis, Nashville, and Louisville last summer.
You have a degree in film studies and are hands-on in every aspect of your music videos, all the way from start to editing. What is most important to you when “telling the story of the song” through visuals and in how you are portrayed on camera?
Film is a huge passion of mine. I love storytelling, so I do find that I really care about how the story is coming across, and how closely that story is to the one that inspired me to write the song in the first place. I also care a lot about the boring, “how the sausage is made,” technical side, now that I have that knowledge. In addition to those things, branding, and visual aesthetic, I think it’s important that my personality comes across. I am starting to realize that it’s my calling card as an artist. I love to make everything I do and create something really fun and silly, with the exception of the heavier and deeper stuff.
Your parents are obviously supportive of your career choice, and you are close to both of them. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from them?
My parents inspire me in so many ways — more than either of them realize, I think. They have taught me by their actions, both professionally and personally, to never quit, never give up. Their talent and kindness and support have kept me going, but witnessing their relentlessness and perseverance has really been an inspirational and wonderful example.
Your faith is very strong and important to you. How does it help guide you professionally and personally?
It’s so easy to get discouraged when facing challenges, but it helps to know and believe in something bigger than myself. To have a career in music and entertainment is a huge dream and passion of mine, and having faith, and learning to trust my gut and my higher power, helps guide me when I find myself in uncharted waters.
So many young women dream about careers in the entertainment world, whether music or acting or other fields. As we know, it’s not for everyone, and the road is not always paved with good intentions from some of the people we encounter. Do you have words of wisdom — and caution — for those who look to you as a role model and hope to follow in your footsteps?
Get everything in writing. If you believe in your talent and craft, then hard work, merit, and perseverance is all you need. Ignore negative people. Decline work with unprofessional people and shady people, no matter how big their name is. It takes plenty of discipline and really knowing who you are and your worth. But my mom always reminds me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Stay in faith and gratitude, and always do the right thing.
So far, you have mostly performed in the Los Angeles area. Do you have plans to tour this year?
My dream is to be a world touring act, so there are plans to branch out and do a college tour on the East Coast. I also have travel plans in the new year to celebrate graduating college, so I will definitely be visiting friends and music colleagues in Europe, and might do some shows while I’m overseas.
— Alison Richter
Stay up to date with Chandler Juliet’s itinerary, and sign up for her e-mail list, at www.chandlerjuliet.com.
Keep up with Chandler Juliet via social media, and listen to her music, here: