Chanteuse Chrysta Bell has joined forces with her close friend David Lynch to produce their first album together; a bewitching and impassioned alliance. David Lynch’s dark and dreamy idiosyncrasies are unmistakable and Chrysta Bell oozes aloofness, a Monroe-esque sex appeal. The result is a hauntingly beautiful collaboration.
The title of your collaboration is This Train – suggesting a journey – what specifically does it signify?
I would say it signifies the one big journey, of life here and before and beyond, comprised of all the journeys within that expansive experience. One journey aboard This Train made up of innumerable adventures. Or in this case, eleven songs.
You have been friends with David Lynch for many years – how did the collaboration on This Train come about?
David and I met because a friend of his had a feeling that David would enjoy making music with me and went out on a limb to make the introduction. His friend was right, thankfully! We had an instant musical chemistry and wrote our first song together the day we met. This Train as a complete record emerged over the course of a developing friendship and ongoing musical collaboration. It was this special thing that both if us really enjoyed working on and felt was worth pursuing. To me, it was as much about the moments of interaction between takes and sessions as it was about the music itself, and the two naturally went hand in hand. The more I grew to care for him and trust him, the more I allowed myself to be guided into his visions with utmost trust and artistic commitment. This comes through in the music unmistakably.
I felt nurtured and protected and gave everything I had to the performances. It was a remarkable process with an extraordinary person that I am incredibly grateful to have experienced.
Everything David Lynch does carries a certain edge, how was it to work with him?
He knows exactly what he wants. He has infinite patience to guide you to help the vision come to life. And somehow you know that by virtue of being there with him, being chosen by him, no matter how unworthy you may feel, you will get there, you will achieve. He gets you there with consideration and thoughtful direction. He is a joy to be around and it doesn’t hurt that he is the best storyteller ever. He knows how to put me at absolute ease when the song requires it or how to push me out of my comfort zone when that needs to happen. He knows when it’s ‘it’ and when it’s not ‘it’ and doesn’t tip toe around it. That’s refreshing and helpful as artist to not need to guess what the director is thinking. It’s very clear.
The songs and your voice on them vary considerably on the album – did David have an idea as to how your voice should sound on each song?
We found that place together. It happened naturally. If the song was more melancholy different textures emerge in a voice than if a song is meditative or erotic. The first concern is the tone of the vocal performance integrating appropriately in the music, lyrics and melodies being created. Because the record covers the emotions of wistful, spiritual, triumphant, sensual…there is a lot of opportunity to go different places in a vocal range.
Your voice is haunting and mystical, how do you prepare for such an intense live performance?
Thank you! What a marvelous compliment. The live performances are my favorite because you are so exposed and your senses are so heightened- it’s incredibly exhilarating. And you have touched on something very important to a performer, how she gets there to bring the full experience of a record like this to the audience. My personal process for this is calming my mind and taking many deep breaths while visualizing the optimum interaction with the audience as I perform. I do my best to offer the culmination of all my experiences up to that moment without over thinking the delivery. Finding that sweet spot is a journey within itself.
You spent five years working with LA group MASS ensemble – talk us through the experience.
MASS was an invaluable experience that afforded me the opportunity to perform under many unusual circumstances- performing arts centers in Shanghai, all night music festivals in Rome – a stone’s throw from the Colosseum – in a geodesic dome erected on the Santa Monica pier, private parties for A-list celebs and all manner of festivals and corporate events. There were shows when I was singing while partly submerged in water, singing while fireworks exploded from the stage. Such varying elements prepared me to feel confident performing in just about any environment. Because MASS became a sought-after act in large part because there was so much conscious emphasis on the visual presentation of the music, it made me yet more aware how important it was to have a strong and engaging visual component to a record.
What projects are you currently working on?
The central focus at the moment is raising awareness for This Train to give people who may be interested the opportunity to discover it. Quite a journey in itself! This includes creating music videos, which is something that the cinematic nature of the music really supports. The first music video for the song ‘Real Love’ will be released on the same day as the record, September 29th. The focus will eventually shift to the live presentation of the music. My band with musician and filmmaker Dutch Rall is called Black Book Angel, and we are charged with the responsibility of bringing This Train to the stage with a show that is worthy of all the elements involved. We are not taking this lightly and plan on having it be a truly wonderful and compelling experience for the audience. Black Book Angel has original material as well that I’d describe as electro dream pop noire. I am very excited to share that music when the time comes.