Chantele DiBrava is easily one of the sweetest people we've ever had the chance to speak with, and one of the more ambitious songwriters out there today. She's gearing up to release an EP in the future, but recently released a music video for a pop-rock track (with a little bit of country mixed in) called "Rollin' With The Homies" (you can view the video below in the article). We spoke with Chantele over the phone to talk about writing the song, producing the video, her love of photo shoots, and pushing the boundaries of country music!
Tell me a little bit about your introduction into both country music and pop music. When I hear the song "Rollin' With The Homies", I hear influences from both genres.
I consider myself a pop artist, with a little bit of a country feel. It's funny, because I'm from the North. People hear certain things and think it's country, but when you go to Nashville, where I spent a lot of time writing, it's a whole different vibe. Especially for "Rollin' With The Homies". There's that synth intro; nobody in country would ever do that. I love country, but I am definitely more into the "new country", like Florida Georgia Line and stuff like that.
The vibe is different. People can listen to an artist like Ashley Monroe, and that's what real country. Nashville will probably not think that "Rollin With The Homies" is such a country song. It definitely has influences of both genres. It's funny, because that song...one of my favorite movies is Clueless. I don't even know what channel it was on. When Brittany Murphy says that line, I was just like, "oh my God, I've got to write that right now!" And that's kind of like how it happened.
I write stuff on the guitar, so it can go any which way. I'm pretty happy with how it came out! I love the song and the record, and I'm really proud of it.
When did the writing process for that song begin for you?
The writing process, believe it or not, began in the winter. I don't remember exactly when, but it was the end of winter, and it was miserable outside. I wanted summer. I was like, "let me just imagine summer and partying with my friends right now!" And that's all song is about. It's got a complete summer, party vibe. It was horrible outside, here in New Jersey. I just put myself into the summer, and wrote it.
Oh and you're in Jersey, so that's got to be miserable in the winter. Was it snowing, raining?
I remember that the day I wrote it, it was slushy, snowing rain. It was the worst, most miserable kind of weather. It wasn't even like a pretty snowfall.
Yeah, I feel like it'd make a completely different song if it was a pretty snowfall!
ho was the producer you worked with on the track? What did he bring to the table for you as a producer?
His name is Kenny Hollywood. The reason why he and I work well together it because he somehow can see my vision. I play quite a few instruments and stuff, but when I explain something to him and it's just on a guitar, he completely gets what I'm trying to go for. I wrote most of my stuff on guitar, and sometimes I'll write on piano. But mostly, the guitar is my thing, and it'll go in a million different directions.
The thing with him, for whatever reason, is that he just gets where I'm trying to go with stuff.
Are you working with him on any other tracks?
Yeah! I just did five new songs. We finished writing everything and my record sessions start today at 3 PM. I'm putting all of the guitars down, so by the end of next week, the project will be done. I'm really excited. It's got a little bit of country, but a little Americana feel to it as well. There's some rock-ish, Tom Petty style pop-rock with a little bit of country.
Do you think this will be for an EP or for an album?
It'll be for an EP. I'm still finishing writing the album as well. I get so carried away when I write, I can never stop. That's another thing Kenny is really good at; he can say "I think we got it," [for songwriting] because I'll just keep going and going. I get in zones where I'm either in film mode, or music mode. It's nuts. I'll usually film a bunch of videos at once, then do music all at once, and then take a break. The only thing that I do all the time, consistently, is photos. I love photo shoots and different pictures and stuff like that. I do that every week, at least one to two shoots.
Nice! Is there a particular photo shoot that you loved the most?
My favorite shoot was a recent one we just did! Oh my god, it was in the worst possible area in Newark, New Jersey. There was this sign for this place called the Motocross Inn. It was the coolest, most vintage neon sign. I said, "okay, here's the deal. I want to take a picture in front of this sign, at night." I'm sitting here explaining this, and the photographers like, "...how do you propose that we do this on a property where there's crackheads everywhere?" (laughs) I was like, "I don't care. We have to do it."
It took three attempts (laughs). On the first attempt, the gas station clerk came over and said, "...I would leave if I were you." Then we come back again, and there's drug dealers and crackheads everywhere. The photographer was like, "these people are probably on bath salts or something." The third time, I was like, "I've got a feeling!" It was the Fourth of July, so no one was gonna be out there. I said, "Let's go right now. It's eleven o'clock at night, we can get in and get out. We know the shot because we tried it twice already now, so we know the angle. We'll do it in a half an hour, pack up the kit and get out of there." We got there, did it, and I was like "I freaking love these shots!"
Nice! I feel like the visual goes hand in hand with the music, in a weird way. It helps catch people's eye. I love hearing stories like this.
I'll send you the shots! It's funny what you say about the visual and the music. What I'm working on now sounds exactly like how these shots look.
It's just like the music video you did. The vibe you have is very "party" and "summer-like". It matches the video and it makes perfect sense with the song.
Thank you! I really appreciate that!
How long did the process take for making that video?
Well, most of it was shot in one day. The scenes of me in the truck and on the beach were shot on another day. But the party stuff, it was so funny. We cast it, and a lot of it was my friends. We got a bus, bussed everyone out to a house that Kenny Hollywood's friend let us use. He's selling the house, so it was pretty much empty. We basically just threw a party! It was crazy, because that was the most fun I've ever had on a video shoot.
Even though the shots are still set up and planned, everyone was having so much fun that we kind of forgot we were even shooting the video. There wasn't all of this pressure. The lighting ended up being really great. We had a lot of help on it. I had so much fun!
I could have made the video look country, but I didn't want to go to a house in the country, and try to make it look like that because that's really not what the song is about. I wanted it to feel like a Jersey party with a little bit of country.
I think what's interesting about country music right now is that there are so many different influences, and that "country" formula is being broken right now. That struck me about the music you were making.
Yeah! I feel like I fall into that category. If anyone can consider me to have a country side, it's definitely along the line of the more modern stuff, as opposed to the traditional stuff. I'm definitely not a traditional country artist at all. I love the rock 'n' roll element, and even Florida Georgia Line has elements of hip-hop in it. I love artists like The Strokes, Tom Petty, and Stevie Knicks as well!
What kind of message, if you have one, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Well first of all, I have two sides of me with writing. The thing about me is that I write about experiences. People that know my music will figure that out really quickly. If you're around me, I'm going to write about it. If I'm going through something, I'm writing about it. I'm not the type of writer to write in a generic way. Every song has a purpose to it, even with a song like "Rollin' With The Homies". I was watching Clueless; that's what it's about: (laughs) Clueless and feeling like I'm in seventh grade chilling with my friends again. At the end of the day, I want to have a positive message to people, but you can also feel pain and write about it, and leave feeling that, but leave feeling something positive, if that makes any sense at all.
I stay true to my feelings, and I'm a real writer. I don't even know how else to explain, but what you see is what you get, and if you come around me, I'll probably write about you. (laughs)
Finally: what does music mean to you?
Music, to me, is everything. I kinda hate hearing when people say "Oh, I started singing at age three!" I'm can't say that. The first professional job I ever had was when I was on Broadway at age fourteen. That's when I'll absolutely say that I knew this was the only path for me. And one thing people don't really realize about me is that I studied theater and opera. There's a lot of different aspects to me musically. Having experienced all of those other things, the pop-rock-country thing is where I feel at home; I feel the most comfortable here. I love playing on the guitar. The live performance to me is everything. To be on a Broadway show is amazing, but to have to do the same thing and play a character is not as appealing to me as just being myself and being able to connect with a crowd all the time. Also, being a pop star who writes is a way to express yourself! There's no feeling better to me than being able to write a song, co-produce it, shoot a video for it, do pictures, get out and perform, and then have people know the words to the song. The fan base that I have know the words to my song and are singing it back to me. There's nothing like that.
My whole goal in life is to be able to do all of that on a much higher scale. If I can get to that point, I will be in heaven. You know what's funny? People will ask me about music, and I swear I've never had another job. If I had to do something else, I would be so lost. If I ever had to work in another job, I mean...I have no other skills! (laughs) It's so sad! I literally have no other skills! I definitely didn't listen when my parents said, "well, maybe you should have something to fall back on." But there's nothing else for me.
It's just one of those things that you kind of have to do.
That's right! I feel like I'd die without it.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.