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  • Ed Schmieder

Chelsea Takami: Heart Wide Open

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

“Sometimes a great live music performance can change your life in a single night,” Chelsea Takami said with the conviction of someone who has experienced such epiphanies.

We were talking about her favorite and most inspirational musical artists. It was a list spanning a wide range of styles and genres: Dave Matthews, Tori Amos, Jewel, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Eminem, and Rhianna – some directly influencing her singing and song writing, others serving as models of perseverance and aspiration. But all of them had one thing in common in her eyes: authenticity.

Our wide-ranging conversation certainly captured her desire to infuse her songwriting and performances with that same quality. It also revealed that sometimes getting there can be a circuitous path.

Her first album, Heart Wide Open*, released in 2018 is a case in point. That EP contains four of songs and was a full studio production. The stylistically it’s varied with the pure pop of “Rolla Coas,” the hip-hop reggae-adjacent “Romeo,” and the piano balladry of the title cut “Heart Wide Open.” When she and I began discussing it, I commented how highly polished the production was and how the songs sat comfortably in that sonic space.

This immediately elicited expressions of happiness with the production, her producer and pride in the whole process ending in its release. However, Chelsea said it’s not truly representative of the artist she has become. She feels that, over the past five years, she, her songwriting, and her performance style had matured. The “polish” now made it feel inauthentic. She was not disowning the recording but qualifying it within the context of her experience and growth.

It's her and her guitar. She’s earning her living as an unadorned singer-songwriter-performer. Chelsea has polished that. The studio polish and ornamentation stand between her and her authenticity.

And it’s exactly that which her followers and peers want too. It’s what The Paramount in Huntington wanted. She opened for Chris Isaak there; she was given a residency the theater’s Spotlight bar and bistro. She’ll, in fact, be returning to The Spotlight this March 25th.

Music merchants are interested in her too. Chelsea has earned endorsements from Fishman Amps and Pickups, Hohner Instruments, Azumi Flutes, Lanikai Ukeleles, and other music accessory businesses all by being herself. Her favorite endorsement is Lanikai which provided her with a six-string instrument they call the “gitelele.” She can play it like a guitar, but it’s not mini guitar. The tunings are different and so it’s a different sound. It’s such a beautiful and well-made instrument that she loves playing it. Having seen what it looks like, I can attest to its beauty.

Being herself: during our interview, I experienced her honesty, authenticity, and her wide-open heart. Knowing I was interested in any new songs she was working on, she sent me four demo files to listen to. Four songs: “Find You To Leave,” “Labyrinth,” “Don’t Worry,” and “When I Get Tired.” We were lost in conversation about them for a long time. I noted and she affirmed that the songs were all personal. I noted that all were written in the first person “I” and that all addressed a “second person:” a “you.” We talked about loneliness, loss, lost love, self-doubt, searching for affirmation, and consolation. She spoke about “you,” the addressee, being potentially ambiguous both a particular person or each individual listener (essentially everyone and anyone). And then there is the potential for a listener to experience the song’s emotional arc from the point of view of the speaker / the singer. Talk about hearts wide open.

I am deeply curious about the shape and sentiments of these songs when they emerge from the cocoons of their demos.

Heart Wide Open is available for listening and purchase on most popular platforms and through her website

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