When she’s not kicking ball for Fulham, she’s in the studio stateside with RedOne. Chelcee Grimes is the 26-year-old female boss who’s “doing it for the girls”, and doing it her way. We caught up before her gig with Sofar Sounds, when she agreed to fill us in on music, football and everything in-between.
August is a busy time for any artist. Festivals come calling, while a nation of cidered-up revellers needs entertaining during their short sunshine flex. Add to this cocktail the commitments of being a professional footballer, and you’ve got what most might consider a conundrum. I ask her what she’s been up to in this hectic period…
“Preseason with Fulham’s definitely underway, let me tell you that. We’ve just got a new manager as well. Shoutout to him! I’ve been doing gigs and festivals, I had to miss the game last Sunday because I played at Bestival. It probably wasn’t the best impression to make on the new manager two games in…”
As if her talents weren’t already enviable, Chelcee informs me that she’s been playing up-top as a striker in pre-season “and scoring goals”. At this moment, my envy and admiration build in equal measure. Half the people I know want to be musicians, and the other half probably want to be strikers. What’s more, this symmetry of football and music was established in fairy-tale fashion, when a young Chelcee entered a talent competition run by Liverpool’s Juice FM.
“It was the first time I’d played piano on-stage, and it was on a little keyboard that my mum bought me. I think I learnt about three chords and found a few songs I could play from them.”
As the nostalgic tip establishes itself, as does her long-standing love for football:
“I’m pretty sure the only reason I entered was because the prize was 6 months’ studio time in Ryan Babel’s house. He had this amazing studio set up in his basement. It was when I first got a taste of mixing football and music, and I got to go to all the Anfield games with VIP treatment. I was living the dream!”
For those unversed in Liverpool Football Club’s recent history, Ryan Babel is the silky Dutch baller who played for the club from 2007-2011, with skills and a home studio to boot. Ironically, he’d likely now be envious of Chelcee’s success in the studio and on the pitch, while he probably also wishes he was still playing in her hometown on a big buck contract. So, are her scouse roots are an integral part of her identity in music and football?
“Oh my God, completely. I think being a scouser is just in your blood, it’s in your DNA. People in London ask me what I miss most about Liverpool and I always say it’s the people. We’re one of a kind and we look out for our own. I get so excited finding anyone who’s even northern in London now, we’re dead warm!”
Though away from the beating heart of Merseyside, Chelcee’s journey to London has paid dividends. Her most recent single, Just Like That, is making waves in the UK music scene as she delivers a delightful advent of her playful persona. Having already enjoyed an illustrious career song-writing for artists as influential as Dua Lipa and Kylie, it’s now high-time for her shot to deliver the goods and “perform [her] own songs instead of giving the best ones away to other people.” Cut to the present, and she’s doing just that. Just Like That is a hedonistic and infectiously catchy number with sexual overtones, a bi-product of improvisation and enjoyment.
“The song was never supposed to take the world by storm, it just started off as a fun record. I didn’t really think it would be anything, if you get me. I ended up writing it with some friends in the studio in 10 minutes, off the cuff, but the label loved it and we decided it would be a great introduction to me and what I’m about. I’m very unapologetic in everything I do, and I don’t take myself too seriously!”
Her honest and grounded attitude towards herself and her own achievements comes through in the project. This is no more pronounced than in the video for Just Like That, which gives a tongue-in-cheek insight into of a group of amorous pensioners getting frisky on-camera. Through the video, Chelcee checks in with her audience, emphasising the fact that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Where did this humorous side of the project come from?
“First off, I didn’t fancy getting all oiled up and gyrating my body all over somebody in the video! That’s not really my style. This video’s tongue-in-cheek and as fun as possible. I grew up on nostalgic 90’s music, the Eminems and the Avril Lavignes. I always loved watching their videos when they were almost playing caricatures of themselves, having a laugh. There’s a bit of that in this and it’s something I’ve never really seen before. It’s definitely a bit of a throwback.”
It’s light-hearted and fun, granted. But was the song written with someone in mind?
“Okay, yeah, it was about one person”, she confesses, letting out a laugh. “It was about someone who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I’d been away for a while and I was looking forward to getting back so that we could have some ‘alone time’ together.”
It wasn’t hard to read between the lines. Serving up maximum fun and a dash of nostalgia, Grimes denies her video’s audience of the male gaze, thus subverting a viewpoint with which Pop music is so often associated. It is, perhaps, this backbone, this willing to do things differently and to defy expectations that makes her command of two separate fields so impressive. And her secret? Perseverance. Chelcee accredits her success to a never die attitude, or as she calls it, the “Istanbul 2005 mentality”. This is, of course, the year that Steven Gerrard rallied Liverpool’s underdogs to the Champions League trophy in a stirring slugfest with AC Milan. Once more, it’s clear that the triumvirate between football, music and herself is embedded in her DNA. Not only that, it contributes to her positive outlook.
“I got signed when I was 19 and got dropped 6 months after. It was one of the worst moments in my life. They’re both hard industries, music and football. In football, it’s rare that you’ll end your career at the club you started at. A new manager might arrive, and they might not like you… But being dropped was the best thing that ever happened to me. It pushed me to go away for a few years. I had to learn my craft, fall in love… just have more experiences. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
These experiences amid being dropped and – she lets slip with a wry smile – “returning to the same label for more money”, are currently being channelled into a whole lot more material. Before her debut album – earmarked for the end of 2019 – drops, we can begin to hold our collective breath for the next single. Night Out will be pumping her brand of infectious Pop into ears everywhere very soon. Its “much more personal” and intimate focus is set to counterbalance the sex-infused teasing of Just Like That, giving us a greater insight into an artist who – aside from pre-season – is clearly just getting warmed up.
Whether with the mic in her hand or the ball at her feet, Grimes shines on centre-stage. Her work ethic and likability bestow her with the tools necessary to propel her to the forefront of the British airwaves and beyond. We’d best tune in.
‘I Need a Night Out’ is out now
Photographer: Lorenzo Berni
Stylist: Holly Chapman
MUA: Anni Rademacher using Glossier
HairStylist: Sheran Miller
Styling Assistant: Johanna Lillie