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Interview - 8 March 2018

Chantal, Chanteuse

Speaking of singing…

What do you do when you’ve spent the last ten years (or so) behind a piano, writing songs…for no reason in particular, and with no particular audience in mind? And what do you do when it seems these songs might actually be rather good? Good songs have a life of their own, and a tendency to nag at whoever happened to write them. Great songs want an audience. They need one. And, as Chantal has discovered, they nag until they get one.

How long has this been going on?

“How long has what been going on?”

This nagging; this desire to get your songs out into the world?

“Gosh, I must have been about 8 or 9 when I felt what seemed like a calling, and I begged my parents for a piano.  I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing. The piano eventually arrived for my 13th birthday and I actually burst into tears when I saw it.”

That’s a highly specific reaction; looking back over the years, what does it tell you about yourself and your music?

“Looking back, that overwhelming feeling that came over me in that moment is not unlike the much gentler (perhaps) feeling of a song trying to be written. Somehow, I instinctively knew that the piano was my outlet; my vehicle for the expression of my real self – my real feelings. I think it’s like this whenever you feel true passion.”

Can you remember discovering that you could write songs, and how you went about?

“There is almost something very mundane about the song writing process, for me at least. Although it is rather mysterious, in that I couldn’t tell you how it works, or why, or how it happens. But it starts through everyday things…shopping, driving, chatting with friends, watching the news or going about my work: a phrase here, an image there, a gesture, a smile, a remark. People do and say things all the time that suggest deeper, meaningful experiences of our lives that resonate with us all. For me, that resonance just turns into a song.”

Your new album’s title song is ‘Scars’. Tell us that story?

“The song ‘Scars’ was written just after Knysna experienced horrific fires last year. There was a lot of media coverage and reporting around the fire and its devastation, but several weeks later the reporting slowed and the story eventually vanished…but the people affected have not, and I wondered what they were still going through. The song itself speaks to the scars we all carry. Some are shared, others are highly personal, but we all put on a smile and carry on because life goes on.  I think this song was a way of reminding myself that I don’t always know what others have been through. And even if all I see is a scar, that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. It doesn’t take the experience away. Quite the opposite: time heals – but scars remain.  We can never underrate kindness, and I was very moved by the kindness of people from so many different spheres who stepped after the fire to assist in the crisis. Scars tell us that something has happened here. And not all scars are visible. Kindness places wisdom over ego; reminds us to be human.”

Would you say most of the songs on this album share this process: going from a current circumstance or event, to reveal a more timeless truth about being human?

“Yes, I would say that. But I would also add that some of the songs are calls to action; some are just reactions themselves – some just slam the door.”

Chantal’s debut solo album – Scars – is released on 5 May 2018, and the official launch will be at the Galloway Theatre. 


Interview by Nicholas McDiarmid

8 March 2018

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Photographs of Chantal by Robert Kirsner

©  Chantal