• Michael Bugeja

WEATHERING THE STORM


There’s been a lot of studying, a lot of gigging and a lot of collaborations happening in the musical journey that upcoming artist Chess chose to undertake when she relocated to the UK just a couple of years ago to follow her dream. The London-based Maltese singer and songwriter says her decision was hard to make, but she has no regrets. “For anyone with dreams of having a music career, it’s the best place to be,” she says, referencing the British capital’s eclectic mix of cultures and its constantly-evolving music scene as a constant source of inspiration.“I know there are thousands, perhaps more than that, who like me want to pursue music, but it’s a challenge that motivates me.”

Last December, Chess (aka Francesca Galea), released her debut solo EP Babygirl, featuring three self-penned tracks, Breathe, Storm and TTT (Things Take Time). All three underline her determination, passion and potential as much as they do her inclination towards RnB and her musical vision. “My idea was to have three songs that would reflect my versatility, my edge as a singer,” she explains. “Having an RnB number alongside a pop song and a ballad enabled me to use different areas of my vocal range.”

A second EP featuring remixes of the Babygirl EP by Jo Micali, Alex Bakker and Katsuo, was given a digital release last March. More recently, just a couple of months ago, in fact, Chess launched her Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funding to take her next step forward, namely the production of an animated music video for Storm, off her debut EP.

The 30-day campaign was successful, as a result of which the finished product was launched and uploaded to her You Tube channel on June 10. “It’s an animated video,” she quickly points out. “It was created by American artist Taylor Caudle, who got in touch with me through an animation website where I had advertised the Storm project.”

What, one wonders, was the reason that she opted for an animated video rather than feature in it herself and take the opportunity to become more of a familiar face? “There are a couple of reasons why I opted for animation actually,” she laughs. “The first is lack of time; filming a video takes up much more time than I can spare right now. The second reason is that, instead of sitting pretty or posing or whatever, I thought it would be rather interesting to go for something different; something people might not have expected me to do.”

She might not have actually featured in the video in person, but the main character, a young woman with long, flowing black hair and a bright red scarf around her neck… “yes, that character is based on me”. The rest, of course, is all the result of some creative thinking on another level, especially because the video’s story takes place a few hundred years ago. “I wrote Storm as a metaphorical way of saying, I will wait for you in this pouring rain if I have to. The storyline in the video is essentially an expansion of the song’s core message.”

Set in the 1800s, the video portrays a love story, in this case between a young woman and a Commodore, whose individual and mutual emotions are represented in the turns the story takes. “The video projects the song’s message on another level,” Chess explains, naturally alluding to the space that the visual dimension allows in accommodating her and the animator’s imagination to wander. “Rather than base it in a contemporary setting, I opted to use characters from centuries ago. It’s based around the Commodore and myself, the young lady who turns into a Queen as she stands her ground to fight for what she wants and believes in.”

Bearing this in mind then, it stands that the battle depicted in the video is one fuelled by emotions more than anything else. “Yes, it’s the result of the different feelings we experience when someone or something is missing from our lives,” she continues. “Such instances can lead to conflicting emotions, even a bit of chaos, and that is what the battle represents.” This is perhaps clear enough in the video, but it is far from ordinary. “I wanted the video to be less mainstream, but still fun to watch.” And of course, one mustn’t forget the song that the video is built around; an incredibly appealing track that has all the makings of a hit.

Indeed, apart from making a name for herself in Malta, Chess also gigs regularly in London. “Performing live here, especially at venues like The Bedford gives me such a rush,” she says. “Playing at prestigious venues certainly boosts my faith in making my dreams comes true.” There are other factors to be considered, especially the above-mentioned music video. “Oh yes, of course,” she concurs. “I definitely want to say a big thank you to all the people who backed my Kickstarter campaign, as the video wouldn’t have been possible without their help.”

Interestingly, it transpires that this help came not only from Malta, but also from the US, Germany, Greece, France and England, which augurs well in terms of Chess’s reach as a budding artist. “I was surprised by the amount of interest the campaign created, even more so that the contributions came from so many different countries – people who genuinely loved my music and wanted to help.”

With this project now done and dusted, Chess says she’s already focusing on her next move. “I’m planning to set up a new Kickstarter project, this time to help fund my second EP. More details will be released by the end of the year, and of course, anyone who wants to get involved is most welcome,” she smiles. “If you liked the songs on Babygirl, I’m sure you’ll love what’s coming next.” Which pretty much says it all really.

Limited edition signed CD versions of the Babygirl EP can be ordered online here.

www.chessgalea.com

An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (23 June, 2013)

Photo by Matthew Attard Navarro

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