You released your first EP “To Be Alone” earlier this year. What can you tell us about it?
I actually did an EP in college in 2016! It was about being in love and all that gushy stuff (haha). I can say that since then, my music has changed a ton and I’m happy to see it grow with me.To Be Alone was my quarantine baby, as I like to call it. I wrote this EP as part of a healing process, but it became so much more than that. Ultimately my goal with the project was to help other people who might be experiencing similar feelings and situations. I was sitting at my piano one night in August last year and had just got done writing “I’m Tired”. I had the other three songs already written, so once it was done it was like the final piece of the puzzle and I could finally see the story for the EP come together. I knew I wanted this project to reflect how I was feeling in real time and follow this journey I was on.. and still am on right now! The EP touches on so many different aspects of the human condition and crosses over various genres in the process, but I feel that it all ties together perfectly. To date, these are the songs I’m most proud of because I feel like I was able to be my most honest self. I’ve always been afraid to show too much emotion, but in the end I think that me being vulnerable on this project is what drew people to it. The project tells the story of someone who struggles with anxiety and loss, but uses that pain and doubt as a motivator to find love within themself. To Be Alone is so relatable and I think everyone can find a connection to it in some way.
We spoke with you back in 2019 when you released “40 Days.” Do you feel like you’ve evolved creatively and/or personally since then? If so, in what way?
First off, I can’t believe it’s already been almost two years since 40 days! I definitely feel like I’ve evolved in all aspects, creatively, personally and professionally. I’m the kind of person that dives head first into experiences that incite change because it’s exciting for me, and if I’m not constantly growing and learning, for me that’s almost the same thing as being dead. Creatively, I’ve been listening to A LOT of different artists – Dua Lipa, Dominic Fike, Olivia Rodrigo, Joji (to name a few) and gaining inspiration for my own stuff, so I feel like my music still sounds like me, but has new pop elements, even some 80’s pop vibes. “Somebody’s Girl” was influenced by R&B melodies. I also love the experience of cinematic music, so I was happy to have that element in “To Be Alone is a Beautiful Place”. In the spirit of honesty, and boy am I nervous to share this, I tried therapy for the first time during quarantine. To my surprise, I enjoyed it and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. It taught me a lot about being open about my emotions with family and friends. I tend to deal with my problems on my own because I don’t want to be a burden — so I would put it into music and never speak of it again. I’m still having a tough time being an open book, but we’re getting there!! I’ve spent a lot of time since then unlearning behaviors that I don’t feel reflect my best self, and trying to strengthen the ones that do — like good communication, and attentive listening. In many ways, I think working on personal growth has even made me a much better writer because I’ve opened up this door where I can let all my emotions flow out now instead of trying to hold those thoughts and feelings back.
Why was the song “I’m Tired” chosen to be the first release for the EP?
I chose to put out the snippet of I’m Tired first because it’s the most “poppy” song I have on the project, and to me, I felt like it would set the anticipation up really well. It also took the longest time to finish out of the 4. You can ask my producer Santino and my friend Nathan who arranged the background vocals, it was a grueling process at times. I think there were just about 9 mixes sent back and forth between us trying to get it right. When I was showing demos to people, it was a fan favorite and I felt like I had put the most work into that song, so I couldn’t see any other track coming out first!
What song off of the EP is the most personal to you?
Burden is the one most personal to me because it’s about dealing with anxiety that I never wanted to admit that I felt. I actually wrote it three years ago and kept trying to fit it into EPs over the years, but it finally worked out here. Timing is everything.
I interpreted the EP to be about letting go of a past love and learning self love. I feel like the title “To Be Alone” was reflective of this idea because being alone doesn’t necessarily mean to be lonely. It can mean being content with being on your own. Is that the message you were trying to convey with the name of the EP or is there a different meaning to it?
Yes!! That’s 100% it. On top of letting go of a past love, it was also letting go of that anxiety. That’s not to say that it just goes away, it’s always there, but for me it was learning to embrace it and channel it in better ways. In our world, I don’t think we value our alone time as much as we should. We’re constantly tuned in to everything and everyone because of the internet. I wanted to tell people that it’s ok to be alone. Being alone doesn’t mean that you’re lonely, like you said. When you can find comfort and peace in yourself, you don’t have to siphon it off of other people, and in turn I think it opens you up to drawing in more genuine relationships and helps strengthen your connection to yourself.
What inspired the writing process?
I think the pandemic really inspired the writing for this in a few different ways. I was forced to look at my life in a way that I didn’t have time for in the past because I was always moving. I had to re-evaluate my priorities and actions. I found that the trajectory that my life was going in didn’t feel quite right. I think for a long time I didn’t know how to really truly love myself because I leaned on someone else for it. I found myself without a safety net in 2020 and so I had to learn quickly what it meant to be alone and how to be happy with my own company.
Who are your musical influences?
Right now I’m really digging Julia Michaels, Victoria Monet, Olivia Rodrigo as songwriters. All three are such great storytellers and also just such strong women, I love it. I’m also LOVING Dua Lipa, Joji, Dominic Fike, Still Woozy and of course the lovely Billie Eilish for their vibes and artistic style. A few of my all time faves are Britney Spears, John Legend and Jojo.
Who would you want to collaborate with in the future?
If we’re going big, I’d love to work with Julia Michaels or Billie Eilish one day, but a lot of the collaborations I want to do are with people that I’ve met over the years and built a relationship with already! I’m surrounded by so many talented friends it would be a shame not to work with them.
What’s next for Chanel Dela Cruz?
What’s next.. so so much. I’m excited for everyone to see and hear my new stuff! I’ve been writing something almost every day and have plans for my next few singles. One that I’m particularly excited about is a song that touches on the ’20 Something’ year olds’ experience. I’m experimenting with new sounds too like Pop Punk and EDM. Ultimately, I’m just ready to take myself and my music to the next level and am excited to have everyone along for the ride. 🙂
All photos by @lowetakesphotos
Watch the official music video for “I’m Tired” below!