|Chaka Bleu on one of her 'Songwriting Adventures".|
Monday, July 27, 2015
Outdoor Songwriting Adventures Lead Chakra Bleu to Success
By Chuck Whiting
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 2015) – Some songwriters pen songs in their living rooms, others in the cozy writing rooms at ASCAP and BMI.
But for pop/rock/Americana artist Chakra Bleu of Spokane, Wash., successful songwriting wouldn't be possible without solo excursions into the great outdoors. Her "songwriting adventures" as she calls them are a way to bring "wonder, awe and gratitude" into every song she writes.
On July 31 (Friday), the artist will take her guitar, notebook and pencils to the mountainous Spokane region for what she hopes will be her most inspiring writing sabbatical yet. She will spend almost three weeks alone at a cabin in the rural inland Northwest, writing melodies and crafting lyrics with daily breaks for hiking, roller blading and meditation. This fall, she will do the same thing near Asheville, N.C., in Pisgah National Forest.
"The utter peace, adventure and wonderment of the great outdoors calls to my heart and inspires me on so many levels," said Bleu, whose latest single "All of Me" has topped New Music Weekly's Top 40 Indie Chart for five consecutive weeks. "I focus completely and solely on writing songs or melodies at those times. Both cabin locations are close to a lot of mountains and natural water, be it a lake, streams and river, and have access to hiking trails and greenways."
Chakra starts each sabbatical morning with a meditation (her songwriting multi-vitamin) to clear her mind and free up her creative spirit. She eats fresh organic yogurt while reviewing a new lyric or melody she wrote the night before. She then takes a four to five-mile walk with pen and paper in hand, thinking of ways to expand and/or build on her ideas.
The tunesmith plans to write up to a dozen full song melodies during her Washington sabbatical, recording rough versions with a small, portable tape recorder. She will play the melodies back again and again in Nashville before penning lyrics during her October songwriting adventure in North Carolina.
"While playing back a melody, I tune into my feelings, asking myself what the song might be about," the artist added. "Before long, I start getting ideas for a particular direction. Sometimes, I just start hearing lyrics, perhaps part of a phrase. Then I start the process of building a story."
That's just what happened with her latest hit song "All of Me", which currently sits at number one on NMW's Top 40 Indie Chart, number two on NMW's mainstream Top 40 Chart, and number seven on NMW's Hot 100 Chart. The music was written at a lakeside cabin in Washington. She added the lyrics while on a songwriting adventure near Asheville five months later. The melodic theme under the words "I want to know" was inspired from a Chickadee songbird that she heard while on a camping trip in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee.
To watch the "All of Me" video, visit https://youtu.be/OLvBUksVBKc.
Bleu noted that her song, "Sunflower of My Dreams", was written after she roller bladed through a field of Washington sunflowers.
"The sunflowers evoked a feeling of joy and happiness in me," Bleu continued with a smile, noting that the song is featured on her fifth album, "You're The One". "I noticed how they were all facing the direction of the sun. Once back at the cabin, I researched the symbology of the sunflower. The next morning, I started hearing the beginnings of a beautiful melody in my head, which I started writing down immediately. I finished the rest of the melody once back in Nashville, whereby I wrote the lyrics several months later in the Blue Ridge Mountains."
Other songs created during her writing adventures include "Footprints in the Sand", "Hidden Mirror", "Retreat to the Center", "Believe in Me", and "You're What's Missing".
Bleu will take a short break from writing on Aug. 10 to appear on the "Good Day Spokane" talk show, airing live on Fox 28-TV.
The artist's passion for hiking, climbing and camping in the great outdoors isn't limited to her two annual songwriting adventures. She set out on her first backpacking trip into the Cumberland Mountains shortly after moving to Nashville in the 1990s. She knew she was addicted soon after she hit the primitive camping trails toting a backpack, cooking gear and flashlights -- although a bad thunderstorm, red ants, ticks and chiggers gave her a few second thoughts.
"The desire to know how to backpack more efficiently led me to take some classes at REI," Bleu added. "From then on, I've been backpacking in places near Nashville such as Savage Gulf, Fall Creek Falls, Virgin Falls, Frozen Head, Pickett State Park, and Big South Fork."
Bleu also has taken numerous hiking and climbing adventures in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington and other states in the Northwest. During a recent trip to Montana and Idaho, she joined friends for a rugged outdoor adventure that included climbing a three-pitched granite rock called "Cruel Shoes", riding bikes up and down steep mountain roads for miles, and hiking cliff-hanging trails thousands of feet above sea level. She ended her trip by hiking to a mountain-fed lake on Jenny Lake Trail in the Grand Tetons.
The artist says her backwoods jaunts in the South are just as exciting, although with a few annoyances.
"You can expect to get a few hitch-hikers, namely ticks and chiggers, and see a copperhead snake or two on the trail or swimming in the water with you," she laughed. "I've been grateful not to encounter a wild boar or angry momma bear. Yet, I hang my food at night and depend on my dog's nose and ears to give me fair warning of uninvited critters coming into my camp."
Although Chakra doesn't believe her songwriting adventures are for everyone, she encourages creative types to get outdoors. She's run into a few of her peers during day hikes near Nashville, including Percy/Edwin Warner parks, Radner Lake Trail, Long Hunter State Park, and Montgomery Bell State Park.
"The delicacies of nature are divine and wondrous," said Bleu, who also sidelines as a visual artist. "I actually get into looking at the details of a petal of a wildflower, counting its petals and looking at its unique shape, color and texture."
Born and raised in Spokane, Wash., Bleu grew up with a passion for music and the outdoors. She started writing songs in middle school and performing with jazz choirs and grunge, rock and country bands in high school and college. On weekends, she headed to the mountains for hiking and camping. After college, she lugged her guitar and synthesizer to Paris, where she taught English at the French/American Language Academy for a year. She spent the next two years back home in Washington working in secondary education. But a trip to Nashville changed her life. Successful performances at the Bluebird Cafe and other venues convinced her to move to Music City to pursue a professional career as a singer-songwriter.
Bleu's music accomplishments have been substantial since then. Her recent single, "The Shadow", quickly climbed various NMW charts, reaching number four on Top 40, number four on Hot 100 A/C, number five on Top 40 Internet, and number one on Indie Top 40 (where it remained for six consecutive weeks). Her sixth album, "Souvenir", generated five top-40 hit singles on various charts, with the song "Addicted to You" receiving "Spotlight" recognition in Cashbox Magazine. Other hit singles from previous albums include "When I Hold Your Hand" and "Hopelessly in Love".
According to Dave Carew, a writer for the blog Underground Nashville, Bleu is "hands down one of the most original and distinctive pop/rock/Americana artists ever to grace the underground Nashville music scene. Inspired by everything from the styling of bands like Heart and the Cowboy Junkies, to transcendent New Age thought, she has forged, over the past decade, some of the most uplifting, eclectic, thought-provoking, and empowering music ever created in Music City USA."
For more information about Chakra Bleu or to hear her music, visit www.ChakraBleu.com. To book the artist for an upcoming event, send an e-mail message to 1746Records@chakrableu.com.