If you're in the mood for sultry, warm, nostalgic neo-soul/alt-R&B, look no further than Sydney-based Chelsea Warner. At only 20 years of age, her voice exudes the wisdom of decades as she sings on the difficulties of relationships, atop tinkling organs, echoey trumpets, piano lines you could find at a smoky jazz bar and contemporary R&B production by Warner herself.
Below she takes apart each song on her debut six-track EP Drama for Cool Accidents, including how she found inspiration from the likes of KAYTRANADA, Victoria Monét and Sabrina Claudio, as well as some pretty astute self-reflections that were the driving force behind many of the songs. There's a lot of promise in Chelsea's songwriting and we're excited to see what she does next.
Check out Chelsea Warner's Drama next time you're looking for something to warm you up from the inside, especially if you're a fan of Milan Ring, Solange or H.E.R.
Drama, the title track, was written as a result of some pretty serious self reflecting, where I realised that I actually might enjoy having tense, high emotion relationships. It’s something I see a lot - the adrenaline rush of dramatising the mundane, and picking fights to keep things interesting. I noticed this potentially problematic side of myself in the very fertile & introspective post-high school stage of my life, and decided to write a song that situated itself within these emotions, but with some subtle self-awareness. I wrote the whole song lyrics first, which is unusual for me. After that, I found myself singing a melody that sounded like a baseline, which I recorded and built a track around. The production, which is very Victoria Monét influenced, came together after getting some guitar from Min Ahn, and keys from Omri Aruch (Soulboi).
Not In The Mood
Not In The Mood is a love letter to solitude, within a diss track about people that annoy me. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was expecting to feel a little more down about having to spend so much time alone, but I actually ended up loving it. This song is me realising that. I started with a beat, and the KAYTRANADA-inspired instrumental really resonated with me immediately. I just started freestyling over the track and the hook came out, with the rest of the lyrics and melody following pretty effortlessly. That feeling of a song writing itself is so special, and that was definitely the case with this one. From the weird, jangly chords I built up a beat, got the production to a level I was happy with, then got Luke Horsley to record some killer trumpet parts. After that, I sent it over to Maribelle (Vetta Borne) to do some co-production/mixing. I think this one really speaks to the inner introvert in all of us, summed up pretty well in the lyric “I’m by myself, but I’m not lonely”.
Blush, in my mind, is a half ballad-half banger. It takes the light hearted dramatic energy of Drama and exposes its more serious side, musing on self, my character, the role of emotion in relationships and the historical idea of the ‘hysterical woman’. It started in a session with ANGE, where she laid down some interesting, bittersweet chords and created this jittery beat to go with them. We collaborated on the Sabrina Claudio-style production, with me finishing it up & weaving my topline in-between her beautiful, soaring string melodies and synth lines. In the song I explore my own psyche, specifically how in relationships, my tendency to enjoy hyper-emotion and thrilling self-righteousness has lead to me pushing people away. It also touches on the very gendered experience of women self-policing and apologising for their own feelings, and second guessing their emotional impulses after being told they’re ‘too much’. In the song, I can’t seem to decide whether I am actually ‘too much’, or if I’ve just been made to feel that way.
Nike Sweater (Interlude)
I knew for a long time that the EP needed a solid interlude; a song with a stream of consciousness style structure. In Nike Sweater I tell a somewhat fictitious story about having someone’s jumper left at your house after a breakup. I love finding meaning, narratives & beauty in mundane, everyday stuff, and I feel like that awkward stage in between being in a relationship and being on your own can be nicely summed up in the conundrum of what to do with their stuff at your house. What started about a relationship ended up representing moving on from past experiences in general. The track evolves from heartfelt solo acoustic guitar and vocals, to a Disclosure-esque wonky neo-soul beat, over which I repeat “rid myself of you”, almost like a mantra. I’m exclaiming the feeling of getting over someone, while also still convincing myself. I wrote the whole song on guitar, sat on my studio floor, which was a return to my songwriting roots, and the original guitar voice memo actually made it into the final track (that’s the acoustic guitar you hear in the first half). When I got over the social bump in the road after high school and started to come into myself more, I felt like the world opened up to me. This song is situated in the process of that happening, moving on from the past over time as I enter a new chapter.
Opinions is one of my oldest songs - I wrote it on New Year's Eve in 2017, in the thick of adolescence and high school. Like most young girls, I spent a lot of time concerned with how I was perceived, and am still a bit of a recovering people pleaser. This track really helped me to reassure myself that I didn’t have to be swept up in other people’s opinions, thoughts and perceptions, which has really stuck with me since I wrote it. In an EP about coming of age, it’s really heartwarming to be that a song written within my adolescent experience made the cut, because to me it really sums up the idea of coming to terms with the invisible audience. It was written fully on guitar and then produced up, tweaked consistently throughout the years to become what it is today. Harley Coleman added guitar embellishments and wrote the horn parts, played by Luke Horsley, Tom Andrews and Ben Devries. To me, this song is a time capsule of what it felt like to be coming to terms with my place in the world, and it’s super nostalgic and special to me for that reason.
It Be Like That
It Be Like That is an R&B-pop track about control and acceptance. It explores losing a sense of autonomy over your life, and wondering whether your decisions impact your future, or if fate has the reigns. Ultimately, I try and accept that I might not have as much control over my life as I’d like, since COVID threw me for a loop and diverted my plans. This was another one written wholly on guitar, on my studio floor. I really connect to songs I write this way, and in the moment of creating it I felt so much pour out of me. I’d really been holding all these fears and anxieties in, and as soon as I sat down to write, struck the first chord on the guitar and opened my mouth, it was clear I had something to say. The final version of the song is pretty close to the original demo, in which I added some simple drums, bass & keys to the guitar. While recording the final vocals I decided I needed to tweak the second pre-chorus, which is where the lines “I wanna have the hindsight to stop and get my mind right, but I am always in a rush” came from, and I really connect to these lyrics. I feel like a lot of young people can relate to the feeling of ‘anxious ambition’, where it feels like you need to act immediately and often to make sure you make something of yourself. When the pandemic seemed to slow down my trajectory and change my future, I was forced to grapple with not being able to actually control where I end up as much as I thought, and in this track I explore the idea of trying to trust your journey, but really having to convince yourself.