Name: Chantal Acda
Occupation: Singer, Songwriter
Current release: Chantal Acda's Saturday Moon is out now on Glitterhouse.
Recommendations: Mark Hollis solo album; Book: The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse. By Mackesy
If you enjoyed this interview with Chantal Acda, her website is the best place to start your yourney into her music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I think I wrote my first song when I was about 18 years old. I was a crazy dEUS fan and of also inspired by heroes like Joni Mitchell. But it was mainly my mum. She was an opera singer and I loved hearing her sing. It always took me to this parallel world.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Mmm I have always been very uneducated musically. I cannot read sheetmusic and I do everything by ear. It has been hard sometimes but it’s also great because you never loose sight of what you really intensely feel.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
It goes hand in hand. It’s connected in every possible way. What is inside will come out. At the right time. Just when it should.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I've always felt insecure because I just do what I feel. With my intuition and without being able to explain to others what I was excactly doing. In this world where words have a (too important) place, it made me feel lost sometimes. But now I know and I have learned that there is a strength in the not “knowing” in intuition, impulses.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
That actually didn’t change that much. I still work with the same software and instruments. Very basic. But the past records I sometimes go into studios to record and have a different set-up.
The instrument that has changed is my voice. I have always been very interested in singing freely. To not judge and look for limits. For your own real voice. It's the instrument that is closest attached to who we are. Very delicate but it can be so pure and real. It’s an interesting and ongoing path of research and feeling.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Protools :-). I have been working with Protools for a while now and it made it possible to put all my crazy ideas together without needing anyone else. Also I am a big fan of analogue synths. I have a couple of Moogs. They made me listen to older records and I love that scratchy sound.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
First of all: I don’t talk and I don’t jam. I choose the people I work with very carefully. I trust them more than I trust the friends I might see everyday. Because I do, I just let them play. I invite them in my world. I am pretty much a fan of one-take recordings also.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
First I get up at 7 for my kids. I have two kids. A son and a daughter. Early teenagers. Breakfast and when they are gone I take my dog for a walk. That clears my head and puts me in the right place.
In the mornings I mainly work on the paperwork side of things. Organisation, e-mails. After that music and horses. These two are pretty connected. I can’t make music when I don’t have my time with the horses. They put me into my essence and strength. And … in the evening I need some trash tv.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
My concert with Bill Frisell at the Jazz Middelheim festival. It was special to me in every way. I can have issues connecting with people on a deep level. With him … I felt so deeply understood. Carried almost. We didn’t talk. He didn’t know the songs. We closed our eyes and just listened. As if we danced. Gently. The audience was part of this. The energy started dancing too. I never felt so understood.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I need to be alone. For the first part. Totally alone in the house. Also I need a good balance between music, sports and horses. In that way I make sure that my energy is flowing. I take very good care of these side things like running, horses, walking the dog … and …trash tv.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I know both. On every record you can find both. When I play live I feel both. Music can connect in a very deep level. A level where words don’t matter anymore. Or opinions, or backgrounds. That is very powerful. It’s kind of a safe place to go from one feeling into another. To be instead of to do. We need that. Maybe now even more than ever.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
To be honest, I am not really thinking about this so much!
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I once had EMDR therapy when I had a post-natal depression. It was an auditive one. It totally shifted everything. Crazy!
Also on stage … Someone once inspired me to listen deeply when I play instead of getting just the sounds out. To listen to the room, and even further. It always brings me to this extra sense. Where a new universe opens. And at that certain moment: it is not about me anymore. I am just passing on the message and energy.
After having felt that once, I am always looking for it now!
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Because what I do is so intuitive, it will always show what itshappening inside at that moment in time. So it is in a way always a reflection on what’s happening around us.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Everything. The beauty. The depth. The feeling of loss. The pain. The joy.