|Chelsea Spear (Photo: Susan Margot Ecker)
Meet Travels With Brindle.
Aka Chelsea Spear and her ukulele, Brindle.
A music critic, radio host, show promoter, a video director...and, now, an artist doing what she always wanted to do and bringing a wonderful edge to her music with inspirations from literature and film.
In time for the holidays, she just released Christmas single 'Rudolph's Ranch'. The song follows singles 'Ivan', 'Linden Street' and 'Something's Wrong', all four tracks serving as a tease of exciting things to come in 2023 for Chelsea.
I was fortunate enough to spend a Sunday evening chatting to her about cover art, Christmas and her inspirations.
Hi Chelsea! Appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today! You've just released your Christmas song, 'Rudolph's Ranch' and, of course, the holidays are just around the corner. When you think about Christmas music, what does it mean to you?
I always associate Christmas with childhood. So many of the Christmas songs you love as a kid, you still hear as adults. I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I still listen to that record every Christmas morning when opening our presents. My mom is Christian, and Peanuts and Charlie Brown is a good middleground between my musical interests and the religious music that she listens to. Vince Guaraldi was a jazz pianist. If you read about the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas, it was considered revolutionary that you would have this jazz pianist from San Francisco writing music for a kids TV show in the 1960s. So a lot of times I’ll listen to jazz and it’ll instantly sound Christmassy to me.
What really struck me about 'Rudolph's Ranch', and your other singles' is the artwork. They standout and there's a clear amount of thought and care about them...something that we're losing these days with streaming. What was your thought process behind them?
If you look at the cover art for ‘Ivan’, ‘Linden’s Street’ and ‘Something’s Wrong’ and now ‘Rudolph’s Ranch’, I’ve used a lot of toy and miniature imagery. I was working with a graphic designer, Chance Brown. I was giving Chance a lot of direction about how I wanted it to look like this publisher or this book cover. ‘Ivan’ was supposed to look like a YA novel from the early 2000s. For ‘Linden Street’ I took a photo of this LEGO Widener Library and gave it to Chance, and gave him some pictures of this 1980s soft cover publisher called Vintage Contemporaries and said ‘I’d love it if you could use this and we could work on something that looks like a Vintage Contemporaries cover’. With ‘Something’s Wrong’, the video involved stop motion dolls, and we grabbed a screenshot from that and put a textbox on top to make it look like a New York Review of Books reissue book - out of the four that I have released, that one sounds the most vintage and tied to a specific time period.
With ‘Rudolph’s Ranch’, I wanted to have a Little Golden Book cover. I put up a notice on Facebook looking for Christmas toys I could use and one of my neighbors had a Playmobil reindeer set! I grabbed a blue dress, turned it inside out and positioned the toys on this piece of blue felt. We photographed it and I sent it to Chance. About an hour later he sent me a mock-up.
One of the things we have, that my mom still has and is part of the Christmas decor is this kids book about the Christmas tree at Rockefellar Centre in New York - she has it framed and we put it up every Christmas, near the tree. I was looking at it, and it instantly reminded me and took me back to being a little kid and reading it all the way through for the first time. I thought that this [single cover] was a good way that I could lead with some nostalgia and get people to feel nostalgic before they even hit play.
I love that, it really feels like a more overall experience as it has not just the music but also the visual side of things.
It’s nice to be able to build a world. With this project, I really wanted to build this world balancing academia, because the whole project is inspired by a novel about this woman’s disastrous first year at Harvard. I wanted to balance this world of academia and literature, so having book cover style cover art [and then] balance that with toys. It’s playful and unpretentious.
I play the ukulele and a lot of people think of the ukulele as being a toy instrument, so it seemed like a good way to balance a lot of my interests.