Celeste, “More Lives”

Sjimon Gompers

Celeste, photographed by Alan Siegler.

Brooklyn-by-Birmingham, Alabama’s Celeste expounds upon the expansion of attitudes on life’s episodic editions on the premiere of, “More Lives”, ahead of her More Please EP available October 28. The singer and songwriter traverses north above the Mason-Dixon line working with electronic artist/producer Louis Sherman (one half of Locust), creating new dawning horizons that finds a oneness with life’s pivotal changes. Affiliated with Wu-Tang legends like Ghostface Killah and Raekwon through shared dialogues and performances—Celeste channels the inspired knowledge and wisdom of her heroes to inform the details and textures of sung poetic tales of embracing new lives, new opportunities, and new sunrises.

Bringing together the elements and interplay between voice, music, and beats into harmonious accord; “More Lives” exemplifies the highway road riding streams of thought that tease and test the crossroads of transitions. Chronicling the passage from Austin to NYC, Celeste describes the shift of, “Leaving Texas for the city,” through the lens of rapid endings and new beginnings, “Births and deaths can come so quickly.” The reckoning of things passing through to other places and life’s surprises are held within the lyrical balance of opposites. Celeste’s chorus hook radiates with the heart, soul, and drive of a fire’s glowing amber, while contrasted with the polar deep-freeze chill of “frozen timber.” In the following conversation with Celeste, we explored the complexities and creation of “Move Lives”, the upcoming More Please EP, inspirations from fellow talented friends, and more following this debut:

What sort of necessities brought “More Lives” together for you as a track?

Major life transition. I moved to New York from Austin with my long-time boyfriend and we broke up a few months after getting here. Writing it was my way of coping with things not panning out the way I had hoped and envisioned — trying to accept the deaths and births in that process. When I write, often sing what I need for myself and I needed to know change was okay.

The beat was the foundation. I wrote the rhythm by hand on a drum box iPhone app and demoed out the hook and bass line from there. My drum demo had this crappy digital charm we liked, kept and beefed up with drum layers. The whole track really came alive when we layered on analogue synths and vocal harmonies. We kept it pretty minimal on the verses, though, to keep the focus on the sing-songy melody and groove.

Notes on the process of recording your upcoming More Please EP?

I had demoed out a bunch of songs but was in the dark about with whom and where to record them. One cold-ass day in February, I had a chance meeting with Louis [Sherman] in a music shop in neighborhood in Bushwick. He spoke hyper-intelligently about synthesizers and I expressed my interest in working with them. I asked to check out his studio, played him a song I wrote over a Clams Casino beat, and the collaboration grew from there. It felt miraculous — our creative dynamic is incredibly natural, he’s now one of my best friends, and made More Please one block from my apartment.

We come from really different musical backgrounds and where they intersect is the sound of More Please. Early in our collaboration, we made each other playlists of inspiration — mine hip hop and r&b and Louis’ electronic and experimental. I turned him on to Timbaland and he turned me onto Kraftwerk. I’m really selective of beats and groove and he’s particular on synth sounds. I’m used to writing parts on a piano — so his pallet of analogue synth sounds was the perfect medium for inspiration and writing.

Though the instrumental vibe is electronic R&B, these are ultimately soul songs. We arranged the music around the voice so that it would shine while the music did the work of keeping the piece moving through time without being too showy or boring on its own. There’s a lot of interplay between the voice and the music that you can’t get from singing over a backing track, so a lot of work was done to bring those elements into harmony with each other.

How did you and the Wu-Tang family begin?

I met Ghostface after his show in Austin a few years ago. We talked for a while at the merch booth — he thought my speaking voice sounded like Juliette Lewis and liked that so he hooked me up with a signed Wu-Tang shirt. I stayed in touch over the years by email. I produce a hip hop showcase at The Acheron — a metal club in Bushwick, my neighborhood. Ghostface was on board to play it but had to pass due to a conflict, so he connected me to Raekwon’s people. Both Ghostface and Raekwon’s teams are really nice to work with — more like family than corporate bookers.

We hear you have performed with Raekwon before; how has their music, and legacy informed your own creative outlooks?

Raekwon played my hip hop showcase at The Acheron, it was an honor to play the bill with him. He’s such a nice person and gave me an inspirational pep talk before going on stage. Wu-Tang is obviously such a critical part of the 90s hip hop movement — and that movement influenced me so much as kid. I bought Fugees’ The Score when I was 11 and am still not over it — the beats and flow from that era were part of my musical awakening.


Other big power moves from Celeste we should be look out for?

More hip hop showcases at The Acheron! Look out for them. The most recent one included sets by Junglepussy and Princess Nokia and I’ve got some great leads for future bills. I’m also sitting on a lot more music and will keep it flowing after More Please is out there.

Celeste’s More Please EP will be available October 28.

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