Over the past 20 years, dream-pop/spoken-word artist Ingrid Chavez has quietly and powerfully carved a unique path and place for herself in the world of music. Many music fans first encountered Chavez as the angelic character “Aura” in Prince’s 1990 film Graffiti Bridge. Pop and dance fans may remember her as the author of the words to Madonna’s erotic mega-hit “Justify My Love”, and R&B fans likely recall her groundbreaking 1991 Paisley Park release, May 19, 1992, which was packed with dancey grooves featuring both spoken poetry and spirited, sung vocals. Sonic adventurers of all stripes may also know her as a guest vocalist on recordings by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and maverick recording artist David Sylvian. After taking some time off to raise her daughters and limiting her music output to a few sporadic guest spots, Chavez is now back with a highly anticipated new album, A Flutter and Some Words, which effectively coheres her diverse background and particular set of influences into an enchantingly fresh sound.
A Flutter and Some Words is a collaboration with a duo of super-talented Italian maestros, Lorenzo Scopelliti (co-writer, multi-instrumentalist) and Alessandro Mazzitelli (recording and mixing engineer). Recorded mostly in Italy (save for some production work on the title track by longtime friend/collaborator Richard Werbowenko) the 14-song collection is a treasure trove of sonic delights: an earthy mix of lovely organic textures, otherworldly soundscapes, found-sound percussion and traditional string and wind instruments, with Chavez’s exquisite voice and words holding it all together.
What was the first song you fell in love with, and what is your current relationship to the piece?
I know that as a child I was always in love with some song, just as I am now as an adult, but one that sticks out is David Bowie’s song “Golden Years”. It was probably the first single I ever purchased. “Fame” was Bowie’s big hit at the time, but it was the B-side track “Golden Years” that I fell in love with. It was so funky and new and Bowie was so interesting to me as a child. Bowie was very much influenced by the music coming out of Philadelphia in the ‘70s. He was one of the few white artists to appear on Soul Train. “Fame” and “Golden Years” still sound great after all of these years.
Who is your favorite “unsung” artist or songwriter, someone who you feel never gets their due? Talk a little bit about him/her.
I would have to say neo-soul multi-instrumentalist Lewis Taylor. He is a British artist who is incredibly talented. Unfortunately, he became jaded and shut down. It’s hard to find anything online about him. He is adamant about keeping his name out of the public domain and shuts down any blogs or fan sites set up for or about him. He did a remake of Jeff Buckley’s song “Everybody Here Wants You”. It is truly gorgeous. As an artist, Lewis was unleashed and completely uninhibited. He was raw. I wish that he would come back and do his ‘thing’ again. Until then I will cherish all of the music of his that I do have.
Is there an artist, genre, author, filmmaker, etc. who/which has had a significant impact/influence on you, but that influence can’t be directly heard in your music?
The late Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky has had a great impact on me as a writer. The visual poetry that he captured on film is something that I return to again and again when I am in need of inspiration. Writing is in a way very visual for me and I found a connection with him through his use of film, sound and poetry.
Do you view songwriting/music-making as a calling, a gig, a hobby, other…?
For me, songwriting is a release. To take all of this emotional and creative energy and pull it together in a song is the most gratifying experience. It’s healing. A calling from within, I suppose.
Name one contemporary song that encourages you about the future of songwriting/pop music.
Wild Roses By Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. . I am encouraged that there is still room out there for such warm, beautiful music and that the internet gives us access to these artists that we love and cherish.
I’ve had the great pleasure of collaborating with Ingrid Chavez on a couple of projects. In 2007, she sang on my song “Disappear”, which appeared on my 2008 release Grab Bag. She was wonderful to work with, and sounded fantastic, despite having arrived at the studio after a long flight and a harrowing rush-hour car-ride. More recently, I remixed the first single from A Flutter and Some Words, “By the Water”, in a “hydraulic boom-bap” style; it’s part of an EP of remixes available
A Flutter and Some Words drops on 26 January 2010 from Ten Windows Records. For more information on Ingrid Chavez, A Flutter and Some Words, and more, visit ingridchavez.com