Introducing Interview: Ch’Lu

Having received acclaim from the likes of BBC 6Music’s Chris Hawkins, and with her music featured on the award-winning Unreported World TV Series, British-Romanian artist Ch’Lu is now set to release her new album this Summer. Ahead of the album’s release she’s recently shared her witty, yet poignant, insight into online dating with ‘I’m Not The Type To Sit And Swipe‘ – showcasing her ability to layer twinkling musicality alongside her celestial vocals, creating immersive ethereal soundscapes.

We caught up with Ch’Lu to find out more about what inspires her, her experience of the music industry and her upcoming plans… Have a read and watch the video for ‘I’m Not The Type To Sit and Swipe’ below!

Hi Ch’Lu! Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 
So, I’m Ch’Lu. A British/Romanian multi-lingual classical guitarist, singer, actress and ninja. My ethereal harmonies, conscious lyrics and guitar arpeggiation are the foundation to my signature Cosmic Chanson meets Fairy Folktronica sound. Taking you on a conscious and entertaining journey, blending the ancient with the voice of the Zeitgeist. So far my work (some under Camilla Mathias) has spanned thirteen languages, varying from performing live for BBC6 Music (with Chris Hawkins describing as “a beautiful, captivating and delicious chanteuse“), providing guitar for the award-winning Unreported World TV series, composing and performing my songs in the new London stage adaptation of Lorca’s Blood Wedding, and having my Romanian-Language track ‘Sunt Româncâ’ selected for charity album Mitra Music For Nepal, produced by Annie Hogan (Marc Almond).

Are you able to tell us a bit about how and why you initially started creating music?
A decade ago, song-writing and meditation both gave me not only beautiful ways to heal from the sudden loss of my musician father, but rapidly also showed me I could engage and help others though the sharing of such life-experiences. It has always been clear to me that the stories that form our greatest growth are the stories we have to share. Although I trained in classical guitar and singing, I only ever used my guitar as an actress, never to perform my own music. However, in 2010 I started writing and performing my own songs, (under my birth name Camilla Mathias), mostly as a means to process the passing of my dad. Very soon I started doing gigs in French as part of the cabaret circuit in London, and then moved to Switzerland and took on the stage name Diva de la Guitare. I then lived in Spain and eventually came back to the UK, in time for Covid, during which I rebranded as Ch’Lu. Pronounced ChooLOO,  the unique Sanskrit name was conceived by my Jyotisha (The Vedic study of timing) mentor, specifically for my work as a performer. It’s all about the vibration (hence my social media handle is @ChLuVibration). This Sanskrit name activates my spiritual and creative paths, and is very much altering the shape and direction my performance work takes me

We love your eclectic art-pop sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
My most common comparison is Kate Bush. And I would say she is a strong inspiration, especially her iconic ‘Wuthering Heights’. Other influences vary between Joan Baez, Bach, Villa Lobos, Madonna, Edith Piaf, Brigitte Bardot, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Manu Chao, Amanda Palmer, Agnes Obel, Max Richter, Scylla and Woodkid.

You recently released your new single ‘I’m Not The Type To Sit and Swipe’. Are you able to tell us a bit about it?
It’s a painfully honest song entering the hideous and ridiculous universe of dating apps. Everyone knows someone who has – if they have not had a go themselves – sat swiping on a phone to find love. Or to not feel alone. It’s about desperation, loneliness, and seeking validation. What happened to romance? And treating people with respect? I actually started writing the song a few years ago when I first started using Bumble and Tinder, and was recovering from surgery on a sports’ injury. Although it helped me at the time get the confidence to get out and about on crutches, I have noticed the behaviour get dramatically worse in recent years. It now seems to be the norm to match someone with no intention of writing to them, or to message non-stop but not want to actually meet. What a waste of time. It is just vile in my opinion, and this song expresses all the levels I have experienced. There are a few good-uns out there, but not enough for it to be worth the doubt and madness that comes from swiping and texting and waiting and being disappointed endlessly. It’s far better to focus on self-love and being happy with yourself.

Being based in London, do you get to see lots of live music? Would you say it’s recovered since the pandemic?
I actually move between Bucks and London, as I have my recording space in my Mum’s wonderfully remote place surrounded by woodland and hills. But I make sure I am in London regularly to get my culture fix! I need the balance of nature and silence with action and what’s happening. I would definitely not say the live music scene has recovered – there are many challenges with people not buying tickets in advance, so shows get cancelled; and audiences are smaller for gigs I’ve been to. Though music festivals I went to this summer were doing well. Touring is another issue – I used to gig a lot abroad, but with Brexit, that right now is not an option (unless you have a large-sized tour management to take on costs and admin) with all the restrictions, visa-requirements and controls on bringing merch. I am helping support the campaigning and lobbying the Musician’s Union are doing to improve the situation and a possible “Musicians’s Passport” for artists who want to play live outside the UK.

And what can fans expect from your live shows?  
I will have my first physical London show since before the pandemic this Summer, to celebrate the release of my debut album under the Ch’Lu umbrella. A Ch’Lu live show has a Campfire-meets-Kirtan-meets-Club vibe. It’s intimate, theatrical, fun and transformational. The way I blend the ancient with the voice of the Zeitgeist means you can expect lyrics in a whole range of languages, live-looped classical guitar and electronic beats, and audience engagement and relatability to make you howl. The first Ch’Lu tour (USA and Europe) is already under preparation and will be a physical version of the “Ch’Lu Campfire” streams I have been moulding online for the last 18 months. For me, the audience are very much part of the performance, and this tour is going to be designed by and for, my devoted fans. Every online show I do touches me greatly, and my followers tell me how I’ve helped get them out of bed, or through an emergency situation or given them hope… So I can’t wait to meet the fans I’ve got to know virtually on this physical fan-led tour. I feel very much that the Ch’Lu Campfire family is out there, and growing. Together we are finding where the Ch’Lu flame is heading next!

How do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? And do you feel much has changed over the last few years in its treatment of female and queer/LGBTQ+  artists? 
It’s harder than ever in most ways to be a new artist. Technology in some ways makes it easier to reach fans, but it also presents so much pressure. I am grateful for my martial arts and meditation practice, which helps relieve the stress of maintaining and growing a constant social media presence. And the fact that to get my music out there, I have to take on at least ten people’s jobs from sound engineer to mixer to producer to PR/marketing guru to show booker to merch designer, to name but a few, in addition to simply writing, composing and performing my music. I believe it is getting slightly better for female and queer/LGBTQ+ artists, but I am still faced regularly with the assumption that all I can do is sing, and that I need assistance with anything else. And that I am ok to be addressed as “love/darling/honey” in a working environment. Male bookers, engineers and producers are often surprised when they discover I record, mix and produce my music, compose in multiple languages and play classical guitar. As for the obsession with the age and appearance of female identifying artists, that is still a monumental barrier that I am passionate about obliterating. I want to see as many older and multi-shaped women performing as I do men. Of course there are exceptions, but it is all too often I am treated differently because I’m a woman.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands you’re loving right now that you’d recommend we check out?
I recently saw Carol Grimes in concert (at a lovely London venue called Piano Smithfield where I will be playing on June 14th) who is approaching 80, and in her band she had two female guitarists who were in their late 60/70s. I have never seen that before and it was so incredible to witness. They were all amazing. It blew me away. I vowed to do all I can to help this to become the norm for female artists out there. I also recently saw Spirit of Sundaze Ensemble do their debut live appearance at London’s Southbank – the stage was packed with musicians ranging from live classical to the electronic and DJs. And it was the first time I have seen the QEH turn into a nightclub with everyone on their feet and screaming. I love the unexpected and genre-fusion – this was that.

Finally, what does the near future have in store for Ch’Lu?
I’m getting ready for the release of my Arts Council of England and Help Musicians UK funded album, The Goddess Within on 10th June, Global Wellness Day. It fuses together my binaural field-recordings, hypnotic Sanskrit vocals, classical guitar arpeggiation and electronic soundscapes – the foundations to the album are the Sanskrit words of the ancient and sacred “Mandukya Upanishads”. It will be a journey into consciousness fusing the ancient with the voice of the Zeitgeist with a launch concert at London’s Piano Smithfield on 14th June (get early bird tickets here).

Many thanks to Ch’Lu for answering our questions!

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