Close-Up Culture speak with Grammy-nominated artist Beth Nielsen Chapman about her latest album ‘CrazyTown’ – an insightful and eye-opening album detailing the ups and downs of life, and of love.
Q: Hi Beth, welcome to Close-Up Culture! Congratulations on the release of your new album ‘CrazyTown’, which was released on the 23rd of September. Can you tell us anything about what it was like to produce this album, and how you feel now that it’s out in the world?
I worked with a legendary producer, Ray Kennedy, on CrazyTown and it was an absolute joy to finally work together after having been friends for 20 years. I have always loved his production and the immediacy of his capturing of the sound of the artists that he has worked with, including Lucinda Williams, the nitty-gritty dirt band and Steve Earle to name a few.
With these sessions we really captured the energy that I often have in my live performances. I came back to “redo” or fix the vocals, after we had cut the basic tracks only to find that I couldn’t really improve on them much. So we left them as they went down with the band for the most part. I kept thinking of songs that I forgot that I had written as we were recording over the first six days until we had 17 songs all together recorded. The hard part was narrowing it down to 12!
After such a long wait in the pandemic, stretching everything out so long, it is incredibly gratifying to have this music out in the world and to be touring behind it.
Q: You’ve been producing music for a very long time – since 1980! How have you seen, and personally experienced, the industry changing throughout the years?
I was just speaking about this the other day to someone who is very involved in trying to protect the rights of Songwriters. There have always been discrepancies and unfairness, with regard to compensating the creators in all realms of the music business, but most particularly the songwriters have been taken advantage of especially in the world of streaming.
I’m aware of some new technologies coming about that will be providing more transparency, which is what we need to balance out the distribution of the enormous wealth that songwriting creates.
If you think of the music business without a song, you might have a great artist ready to sing and have a bunch of really fabulously talented musicians all tuned and dressed up on stage, and a bunch of fabulous experienced promoters and captains of industry ready to launch that artist, but you don’t have the actual thing that you need to propel this into being without a song. What you have is silence.
Considering the tiny percentage that goes to the people that actually write, those songs are abysmal, and that needs to be corrected. Otherwise, the songwriting profession will continue to struggle, and we will miss out on some of the great songs of the next generation because those people will be too busy trying to earn a living doing something else since songwriting cannot support them.
Q: The number of incredible, notable artists who have covered your songs includes Elton John and Willie Nelson. This is amazing and must feel like a wonderful achievement for you. How did it feel to know these people had taken such an interest in your music?
I still have to pinch myself really. These artists were a huge influence on me and many of them some of the greatest songwriters I have ever learned from so it is beyond my wildest dreams that they would have recorded or performed my songs.
Q: How would you explain the tone and themes of your newest album in 5 words?
Oh wow five words. OK.
“Navigating the chaos of life.”
Q: ‘The Edge’, a track on your latest album, is a heart-wrenching tribute to when you lost your first husband in 1994. What does this song make you feel when you listen back to it?
This song brings me back to the place we go in the deepest depths of grief. But going there, and being there, even for a moment is an important part of healing to the other side. I felt that “the edge“ was perfect for this collection of songs, which overall are quite a bit up-tempo while they do have things of depth that they touch on, there is a wildness to them. “The Edge” is an acknowledgment of something much more still and I think it helped to balance out the overall set.
Q: What would you say to your past self if you had the chance?
Try not to be self-conscious because it is a waste of time and everybody else is busy being self-conscious, so they don’t have time to be consciously judging you as much as you think.
Latest single ‘The Universe’- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oskWqGkTUpI
Lead single ‘Hey Girl (We Can Deal With It)’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv2nR-gzPFI