EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Chloe Flower

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You performed alongside Cardi B at the 2019 GRAMMY’s, that must have been such an exciting moment. How did this performance come about? Who reached out to who?

My good friend and publicist at the time, Lauren Ceradini, introduced me to Marsha St. Hubert, who is an executive at Cardi’s label.  Marsha showed my videos to Cardi and her creative director, Tanisha Scott.  The producers called me and asked me if I could fly to LA the following week, and the rest is history!

Speaking of that performance, your stage presence was incredibly captivating. Are you someone that experiences stage fright? How do you prepare for a live performance?

Thank you!  I definitely get nervous before any performance, whether it’s “big” or “small,” to me they are all the same.  This particular performance, however, was much more out of my comfort zone because I had never been on live TV before, and also, I had never performed live with one of the biggest artists in the world. Mark Cavell, the President of Sony Masterworks, was in the audience and watching me perform live for the first time since signing me only a few days before, so that was certainly on my mind, too.   I wanted to do a good job not just for me and for my new label, but for Cardi as well.  This was her first Grammy performance, so the pressure to deliver was certainly multi-dimensional!

What’s the best experience you’ve had in the music industry?

Signing with Babyface was really one of the best and most impactful experiences I’ve had so far.  He’s such a legend, so successful, hardworking and brilliant. Having him as a mentor not only taught me so much artistically, but also gave me faith in myself.  I had spent my entire life trying to explain to people what I was doing musically, and really, very few people understood it until him.  It gave me so much confidence to know that someone at his level could see potential in my sound and my music when nobody else did.  Whenever someone said to me, “I don’t get it,” or “you’ll never make it as just a pianist,” his voice and his support kept me going.  Without him, I would not be the artist I am today.

So, I know you describe your music as a hybrid between Pop and Classical, aka “Popsical” (brilliant by the way) – but how would you describe your music without using genre labels?

I would like to think of my music as empowering, whether it’s solo piano or has a trap beat.  I want people to hear my music and be moved physiologically –  like with goosebumps, tears, or however your body responds to the music.

As well as being a musician, you are also involved in philanthropy and activism. What sparked your drive to help others and become an Artist Ambassador for United Nations as well as a Music Education Ambassador for the Liberace Foundation?

I’ve always had a strong sense of empathy since I can remember.  In fact, one of my first concerts was at the local nursing home.  I used to go there regularly and do short concerts for free as a toddler.  I remember thinking, I want to do more free concerts for people who enjoy piano music.  It made me sad that not everyone could listen live or learn easily.  Also, my parents did a great job teaching me about gratitude and service, especially as it relates to music.  Anytime I would get nervous before a performance, my mother would tell me that my performance is an act of service, and if I enter the stage with gratitude for my audience, I would be less nervous.  So, without me knowing, I think that message was always in the back of my mind.

As I grew older, I realized that my platform – as it expanded – could be a real asset in non-profit whether it be awareness campaigns or just providing joy through performance.  It wasn’t until I partnered with the UNODC, the human-trafficking division of the United Nations in 2008/2009, that I made the connection between music education and human trafficking prevention.  During my first speech there, I think in 2010, I talked about how important music education is in human trafficking prevention.  Music has that ability to not only transcend cultural and language barriers, but it also teaches our most at-risk youth identity, empathy, self-esteem, teamwork, and so much more.  I saw this first hand by working with organizations like Music Unites, CAST LA, and Compton Unified School District, how music education programs could change communities and build stronger family bonds.  All of those things can prevent children from entering the supply AND demand side of human trafficking.   So if I could make this connection and do something about it, why wouldn’t I?

“Carol of the Bells” was released a month ago and your video for it just dropped on November 23rd! It is such a fun video to watch and has so many layers. What was your vision for this video and how involved were you in the execution of it?

I worked with Deb Tam on my music video for “Flower Through Concrete,” and immediately knew I wanted to work with her again for “Carol of the Bells.”  Deb is an insanely talented Asian-American female, so that alone made me excited to collaborate with her.  But it was her creative mind and vision to bring timeless, old Hollywood glamour to my song that sealed the deal.  This was my first time having full creative control over a video, so it was extremely exciting but also very scary. Deb and Emileigh Barrett, the producer, were on the phone with me at all hours of the night every day leading up to the shoot, I don’t think we slept properly for 3 weeks. Colin Locasio took the lead on styling everyone including all of the dancers and Jackson Hallberg, the Production Designer, spent every minute leading up to the shoot on creating the perfect set.  Daniel Martin and Jennifer Yepez led the glam team, which cemented the looks.  All of the key team members were on a group chat every day all day together to make this video happen, and every single person was essential to the final product.

Christmas is evergreen, so we wanted to not only create an authentic nostalgic aesthetic, we also wanted to pay tribute to the idea of a live performance – so we shot the entire video on 35mm film.  This meant each scene had 1-2 takes MAX so what you see in this video is basically a live performance shot on film.  James Alonzo, the incredible choreographer, worked hours on the dancers and his choreography was the backbone of this video.  Having 1-2 takes per scene really brought a special energy – one I think we were all missing during this pandemic – like, we have one take to nail this shot.  It felt so much like a performance inside a Christmas fantasy or my dreamlike world. The Grand Prospect Hall’s iconic French Renaissance architecture helped bring all of our visions to life. It is truly a magical location. 

It was important to me to make this performance and visual as authentic as possible and to represent me as not just a recording artist, but a performer.  I wanted to transport everyone around the world to my Christmas dream fantasy world, to create an escape for everyone and anyone who needed it.
This video is so special to me, not only because I adore the holiday season, but because I was so invested in the creative process from beginning to end.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DLI_OxNCUM[/embedyt]

What was it like filming a music video with Coronavirus restrictions?

It definitely complicated things. Prior to filming, a few people chose not to participate in the video due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Everyone was tested 48 hours or less before the shoot, as well as having their temperature checked before entering the set. Grand Prospect Hall had been closed until the day we shot, so because of that and the extremely high ceilings, we all felt it was safest indoor shooting venue, as well as being one of the most beautiful. I think the only sad part about shooting the video during Coronavirus was I couldn’t celebrate the way I wanted to afterwards.  Every single person involved in this video worked so hard every day for weeks, so I really wanted to have a dinner or party to show my appreciation, but it just wasn’t a possibility. 

At the moment, what song do you feel best represents you and your attitude?

“Carol of the Bells” really represents me the best right now, not just because of my love for this particular season, but also because of the innovative music and visual accompaniment.  I think it’s important as an instrumentalist to prioritize the visual element especially because most of my music doesn’t have lyrics.   And I always wanted to bring glamour to classical music, an industry that has been perceived as “stuffy” by so many for so many years.  Carol of the Bells allowed me the opportunity to do just that, glamorize the art of piano.  

Has being stuck at home during quarantine has hurt or helped you creatively?

It definitely didn’t hurt me because I was still able to record the rest of my album from my home studio.  In August, I bought the first Steinway Spirio | r, which is one of the most exciting pianos I have ever played.  It has a computer built into it, so I can record myself using the Spirio | r app, and then email it to Steinway HQ, where they can plug the file into the same model piano and engineer and record it without me there.  It’s truly one of the most incredible instruments I’ve ever seen and it saved me during quarantine.  Of course, creatively I wish I could get in the studio and collaborate, something I haven’t done since February because there’s always something unexpected and magical that happens in the studio.  I really miss that aspect of music making.  But for me, I can always find ways to work anywhere whether it’s on a a park bench or in a studio.  If you see me on a plane, I always have napkins with musical notes everywhere and a portable mini keyboard by LUMI.  

What did you do to pass the time in quarantine?

I was actually extremely busy during quarantine.  I spent the first few months creating content on my YouTube page for piano lessons.  Then, I spent the remainder of the time finishing my album and learning how to use technology (laughing).  I was so used to having Paul Boutin, our amazing engineer in LA.  Without him, I had to spend a lot of my spare time watching YouTube tutorials on how to engineer and use music software.  I also really got into films, and spent many nights watching and rewatching some of the greatest films of all time.

Are you working on any other projects that you can tell us about? 

I’m planning to release my first full album next year, so I’m really excited about that!  

What does the future hold for you?

I can’t wait to go on tour and get back on stage in front of a live audience.  I think right now, my focus is going to be on creating an epic live show that is even better and more impactful than my Grammy performance!

Christina Laderoute is a photographer, journalist, and podcaster from Boston, Massachusetts. In her free time she dabbles in digital art, plays with her hedgehog; Winston, and watches New Girl on a loop. She is the founder and co-host of Chinwags, a music podcast.