Emma Watson’s doppelganger stands barefoot on a dimly lit stage. Her athletic figure is clad in a black tube top and leather leggings, and she begins beatboxing into the microphone. With the aid of her self-taught looping skills, she creates a tempo by combining this sound with that of two drumsticks clapping. She creates layer upon layer of hypnotic music using a synthesizer, trumpet, guitar, bass and bongos. Finally, she unleashes the most powerful instrument of them all: her melodic voice, reminiscent of a soul singer. You find yourself in a trance, unable to look away, and your body begins to move with the ambient beats. It is difficult to believe that these dynamic melodies are being created by a single musician: Chersea. However, her unique musical talent is just one layer in the deep mind of Chelsea Laing.
CBC music named Chersea one of the best young Canadian musicians under 25. She will be performing at the Adele tribute night at The Biltmore and is also set to play at the MultiCultural Festival in Inuvik in May. She attributes her success, which has allowed her to live off her music, to the work ethic instilled upon her by her parents.
“When people were getting their first kiss, I was taking my first slap shot.” Indeed, when I first knew Chelsea Laing, she was a Hockey Academy member two years my senior at Burnaby North Secondary School. She received a scholarship to UBC through hockey and was studying geography and english. Musically, she began learning piano at age 4, and strengthened her voice throughout her prestigious training at Coastal Sound Children’s Choir. However, in her third year at UBC, she was forced to make a life-changing decision: her coach asked her to choose between hockey and music.
“It came out of left field. It really bothered me because you can never make someone replace one passion with another,” said Chersea. Shortly after quitting hockey, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Placed on multiple drugs, she stopped writing music for a year and a half. “The most dangerous aspect of being bipolar is my extreme mania,” she describes over Skype as she moves her finger in a wave, imitating a heart-rate monitor.
“When they put me on drugs it zapped everything from me. For someone who is manic predominantly, it’s like taking away their life: you lose life’s essence.” As a testament to this, within three weeks of being taken off the drugs, Chersea wrote her entire EP, “Grey Matter”. To Chersea, being an elite hockey player would have been limiting, but “music is the only multinational, universal language”. If she gains international recognition, she plans on buying her parents an oceanfront home and opening an international Canadian Music school using the Montessori approach, which focuses the child’s learning on their area of interest.
Speaking of children, Chersea is the musical director at the Project Limelight Society, whose main motive is inspiring downtown-eastside children to explore their hidden talents in singing, performing and acting. With their help, Chersea created the Chersea Limelight Scholarship fund, which with a sufficient principal amount would grant money towards an arts career for an exceptional student. She also ran the Making Music Program over the winter, in which she wrote a song with 13 girls aged between 8 and 15. They shot a collaborative video,” Paradise”, directed by the infamous Tony Pantages, the man behind some of Sarah McLachlan and Our Lady Peace’s music videos, and it is soon to be released. To Chersea, the most beautiful thing about music is its ability to connect people together, to inspire them to recall a memory, akin to a memory stimulated through other senses like sight or smell. “Words are just words, but music just…is a feeling”, she declares, adding that mixing dark words with happy music creates the bipolar effect she strives for in her musical endeavors.
Coincidentally, polarization is a recurring theme across Chersea’s EP. Her favorite song, ‘You Caught My Eye’ with the chorus ‘You’re not you, yet you caught my eye’ has a double meaning.
“You’re foreshadowing your understanding of someone before you get to know them. Now, flip it and apply it to yourself: it’s a self-reflective song.”
Striving to create therapeutic music, she encourages listeners to have that intimate conversation with themselves. Consequentially, it is a reflection of Chersea’s own self-creation journey, initiated by getting in touch with her true passion. She says, “being confident is one of the hardest tasks any human can endure,” but doing so teaches you to love yourself.
Apart from her wisdom, Chersea’s nerdy side is evident by the title for her upcoming ten-track EP, ‘Vipera’. “Chersea Vulgaris is retired nomenclature for a European Adder, while Vipera Aspis is the new nomenclature.” The beats per minute in each song alternate from fast to slow, and the key from major to minor, which is why she describes it as a “conceptual bipolar music album”. She also plans on releasing many new music videos in 2016. Although you can purchase Chersea’s music online, the best way to experience her music is live.
The vibrant harmonisations grow fainter, awakening you from your trance-like state. Chersea’s gleeful voice resounds into the microphone: “Thank you so much, I hope you enjoyed the show.” The one-woman band is met with a standing ovation.