New York Times Music Contributor : Artist Bio Article

 

 

By PHIL SWEETLAND

New York Times Music & Radio contributor (2012)

 

NASHVILLE – Once upon a time, Nashville albums featured variety, sparkle, insight, and magic.

Chakra Bleu takes us back to that stronger time, both in her latest work and throughout a series of highly personal yet delightfully accessible albums that reflect a personal and artistic Nashville journey that began in the early -1990s.

For instance, on SouvenirMs. Bleu’s latest album, the opening song “Addicted To You” is reminiscent of much of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s finest work, both in production and performance, while “Free Again,” the ideally named second track, is a Zydeco-flavored bit of syncopated fun that the late Clifton Chenier might have loved. 

Fans have also noticed flavorings of Waylon & Willie – heroes of the Outlaw Movement in the 1970s – in Chakra Bleu’s writing and performing, and she’s the first to admit those are two of her personal favorites.

 Chakra Bleu’s 6th CD (2012), ‘SOUVENIR’ had seven singles simultaneously bedazzle: Top 40 Country Main & Indie Charts (sts) with  Weathered the Storm (#8); She Walks Alone (#17); Top 40 Main Charts with ‘Sabotage‘ scoring TOP DEBUT single & charting (#8); ‘Anyday Now’ charting at (#10) for three weeks, as well as(#4) on Top 30 Indie Charts!; ‘Addicted To You’, on Americana Charts,and also making the Spotlight on Cashbox Magazine.

 

Yes,“Sabotage,” the title track, rocketed past superstar acts including Justin Timberlake, Pink, Maroon5, and Train into the Top 10 of the Top 40 Main Chart, while other recent Chakra Bleu singles made it into the Top 20 of both the Top 40 Country Main Chart and the Top 30 Indie Country Chart – a rare and difficult daily double!

2010’s You’re The One album showed a fascinating other angle of Chakra Bleu, as she and co-producer David Henry gave us 16 originals which embody “the Essence of the Sunflower: Happiness, Hope, Prosperity, Vitality, Serenity, Freedom, Beauty, Devotion, Success & Fulfillment.”

Its ethereal single “When I Hold Your Hand” had strong showings at AAA and Americana, including reaching No. 27 on the mainstream Top 40 listing. 

In 2005, Seize The Day yielded “Hopelessly In Love,” which got a lot of attention with a No. 16 Adult Contemporary chart success; another format Ms. Bleu’s music fits beautifully. Tom Mazetta, whose earlier radio clients have included Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney, promoted “Hopelessly In Love.”

“How long does a river flow?” is how the title track of 2003’s How Long opens, as Chakra Bleu sings of how love follows the unpredictable twists and turns of a river. 

One of the strengths of all Chakra Bleu’s albums is her remarkable prolificacy at writing and producing songs. Each album gives us hidden gems like the smoky and yearning “Not Strong Enough” on How Long.

Titles are a strong suit, as The Hidden Mirror in 2000 reminds us. That early record gave her fans “Playing The Victim” and the title track, both of which remain among the most requested songs at her shows. 

European radio and fans responded excitedly to the album’s “Shoulda Coulda Would’ve,” a title that only she could create and a tempo tune with rockin’ country overtones.

  Bleu’s very first album, Don’t Make Me Choose from 1992, shows the pattern of versatility even just after she moved east to Nashville, with some songs that sound folk, others R&B, pop, Alternative, and country – but all clearly Chakra Bleu. All were unified by her strong, sensitive alto and radio-friendly writing and production.

This takes real creative vision, and a willingness to make often tough musical choices.

Since she was a kid growing up in Spokane, Washington, she benefited from having an older brother with a varied record collection. She loved the music of artists like Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Daryl Hall/John Oats, Doobie Brothers,Tom Petty, Pretenders, REM, U2, Annie Lennox, and David Byrne, and more.

At an early age, spellbound by the roots country guys, as she and her parents watched country awards shows on TV and Opry legends like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn intrigued her, but her favorite and greatest influence at that stage was Emmylou Harris.

The Washington native loves performing at popular Nashville venues such as The Bluebird Café, 3rd & Lindsley, Twelth & Porter, Douglas Corner and more.

Spokane’s eclectic music scene keyed “why I love rock and pop just as much as country,” she tells us.  

Like so many who move here, she spent a few years trying to write strictly country. That produced several fine songs, Chakra’s heart wanted more and so did fans at her shows.

“It’s what is now called Americana, before Americana was defined,” she says, smiling. “I finally got to the place where I just wrote and played for the joy of it. It’s important for me to honor what my fans want.”

Chakra Bleu’s audience spans into Europe, Australia, and even as far away as Japan. 

“They’re really into Americana over there,” Bleu says of her fast-growing international audience. “Thanks to the internet it allows indie artists like me to take the reins and run.”

Chakra Bleu has found that even in a co-writing town like Nashville, she does her best writing alone. Yet she has co-written with some of the Row’s best, including Kim Richey and John Foster.  

 Bleu is also able to play a variety of instruments. Guitar is her primary instrument, but she also plays piano, bass, and mandolin, all which impact her writing. 

A key technique that enables her to create so many signature songs, are the songwriting retreats she takes twice each year.

“In the fall I go to the Blue Ridge Mountains for 10 days and lock myself in a cabin. I take all my charts and a tape recorder. Then in the summer I go to Washington state for three weeks to write,” she tells us.

Those two venues on two different coasts have been breeding grounds for dozens of Chakra Bleu album favorites.

“I love writing in the majestic energy of the mountains, as well as at the other cabin retreat at the snow-fed mountain lake in the inland Northwest.” “I’ve found that the beautiful nature around me inspires countless lyrical ideas and melodies to bubble up effortlessly.” 

For Chakra Bleu, both of these rural retreats seem a million miles away from Nashville, but the material she crafts there rejuvenates her to do even bigger and better things every time she returns to Music Row, to radio, and the concert stage. 

“Playing and singing is just a real pleasure. On each and every one of my CDs, I include songs which have inspiring and empowering messages, songs that simply put are food for thought,” she says. 

Fans and radio both in the States and overseas will be loving a steady diet of Chakra Blue’s musical food for thought for a long, long time.

 

     

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