Celeste Celebrates Record Store Day 

Regal soul talent celebrates Record Store Day by with an exclusive release...

Currently residing in East London, raised in Brighton, and born in Los Angeles, the star talent and smooth soulful sensation that is Celeste has been ever-present in the industry since the release of her Mercury-nominated album ‘Not Your Muse’, and has remained a stronghold since. The impact the artist had in profiling Soul once more as a genre, and placing it back at the forefront of modern culture was prolific, whilst also a testament to her creative identity that radiates a charming energy. 

Undeterred by her growing popularity and raised profile, Celeste is an artist who never forgets her roots, or forgets to give back to an industry that is regularly faced with major difficulties. As an already difficult path to navigate for many, to build on her ongoing support, the artist will be sharing an exclusive vinyl release ‘Everyday’ for Record Store Day to highlight the importance of artists promoting music outside the usual constraints of marketing campaigns and industry obstacles. Meanwhile, to further champion the day, Celeste will be doing a free live show at Rough Trade West on Saturday April 20th at 2pm.

Clash caught up with the songstress, who opened up on her personal experiences with records, what the listening experience and the art of collection means to her, and delving deep into the themes and influences from her imminently arriving new music. 

With this being all centred around Record Store Day, maybe it’s best to go from the start. If you can remember, what was the first record that you bought? 

It was like this Hungarian classical music, like custom music, and it was the first thing I bought at this charity shop on the corner from where I lived, but I didn’t have a record player at the time and then I managed to buy one for a pound at the market on top of the car park at the Brighton Marina. But the first album I bought was actually a tape and it was an Otis Redding. 

When it comes to listening to vinyl records, what do you think makes it such a special, unique experience?

I feel like for me, the first time I ever actually got to listen to vinyl, especially like listening to older records from the 30s or the 50s, when you hear them on a record player, you’re hearing them as they were intended to be heard, and they were made with the idea that people were listening to them on those machines. I suppose it’s the same now when you’re making something you’re thinking about people listening to it in iPhone Airpods and Bluetooth speakers, and you want to make it sound the best for the current devices that are available, and that’s how they made vinyl. So I just feel like when you hear this, like warmth, and sometimes you hear the crackle, and just the velvety sound especially on old jazz records, and soul, all of that music just sounds so good on vinyl. 

I think you summed it up so well, just the warmth, I think is the perfect word for it when you put a record on.

Yeah, and when you listen to dramatic pieces of music, there’s so much volume and magnitude, especially any orchestral arrangement on vinyl. 

Totally agreed, and how important do you think it is that the industry as a whole protects independent record stores?

I think it’s really important. For me personally, it’s offered an opportunity to do something outside of the parameters of your usual promotional bracket as a singer on a major label. It allows you a voice and an independence that you can interact with, outside of what can sometimes be quite confining in that way. But then I think the other important reason why we keep on going to record stores is because there’s so many discoveries to be made, when you can actually go and shift and thrift through physical copies, and you’re usually drawn to something because your spirit is drawn to it, or you like the cover and actually, usually you pick it out just off your intuition. I think interacting with music in that way and allowing yourself to discover from your own sense of navigation rather than an algorithm that is trying to fulfil you and what it thinks you like, it doesn’t always allow you to find something that you would have never otherwise found. 

That’s really well put, talking of shifting and thrifting, are there any hidden gems in terms of record stores that you often go to when searching for records?

There’s one called Counterpoint Books and Records in Los Angeles, near the Los Feliz neighbourhood – that is my favourite book shop and record shop, they just have so much stuff, once even in there, I found this book of Miles Davis’ paintings when he went through a painting period with his wife that he had who was an artist. So you can find rare things like that.

I also found a book in there called Casa Susanna, which was kind of like an early commune of what we would call now transsexuals I suppose, but in those days, it would be on a spectrum of different descriptions; so it’s an early commune of people making that choice in their life, and I thought that was really beautiful because I’ve always really liked these glamorous depictions of people transitioning into being a woman and how much more they kind of accentuate and exaggerate elegant poses and certain makeup looks. In London, there’s Honest Jon’s in Notting Hill – it’s really nice – and of course Rough Trade.

So what is your favourite record that you bought recently –  It can be anything, ranging from a classic, or recently released?

I think it’s old, but I think it was only recently discovered and then re-released. It’s by a lady, her name is Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, she’s Ethiopian and it’s called ‘Is It Sunny or Cloudy in the Land You Live?’ and it’s such lovely, peaceful music. It’s definitely my favourite one at the moment. 

Lovely. And you’re releasing on Record Store Day, are there any other releases that you’re looking forward to?

Well, I got this email the other day, and it it didn’t have a proper contact, and I was like, ‘I do not know who this person is’ but it had this countdown with all these records that are being released, and it had one of my favourites which is Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’. They also wrote one of my favourite songs which is ‘Changes’, and that is one of my favourite songs of all time.

And with the new incoming single, and an album on the horizon, were there any messages that you wanted to convey within this music that might be different from what you’ve previously done?

I think that what is really important for me on this particular release is just giving an opening and making the statement that is; please don’t expect it to be anything to be like it was before, but also that I’m not running away with myself and completely abandoning and neglecting a part of myself that still exists. But sometimes being an artist you have a need for expression and my chosen way of expression that is through music. Sometimes you just have to be spontaneous, and it requires you to live with what you have created in that moment, and not try to make it anything else, and this song was that. It’s funny because the way it came about actually was somebody DJing at a party I was invited to, and they played this Death in Vegas song, which I didn’t know who it was at the time, I just had this feeling like, ‘oh, this song is really familiar’, but I don’t know it, but it does have that sense of intoxication’, and I actually kind of went quiet, I started singing this melody to myself in the crowd, it was so loud that I could kind of sing out loud without anyone really noticing.

This doesn’t really happen to me very much anymore where I get an idea come over me in a space that’s not the studio, so I went to the smoking area and just started voice recording these words and melodies. I was kind of gentle and respectful in the way that I approached it, and I waited two weeks to track down the sample, and then listen to it, and as soon as I listened to it again, I let all of these ideas really trickle in and really wrote them all down, and then I took it to my friend in the studio and was quite tentative about who to show in case like it made it go wrong.

My friend, Matt Maltese, then helped me write some extra lyrics to it. I took it to my friend who’s a producer, Zack Nahome, and within 20 minutes he’d put some samples and drums on it. Then Maverick Sabre came in one day, as I felt it needed a melody, he did it, and I was like, ‘Yeah. That was the melody that it needed’. So that was the song finished.

Yeah, amazing. So I also noticed that obviously for the promotional content for the release records, you used The Platters ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’. I was wondering if that’s an indication of the direction in which you’re going on with the new music?

No – the complete opposite! The reason why I posted that song is because I didn’t want to post a clip of the song, I really wanted the first time people to hear it to be able to listen to the whole thing all the way through. So they really get like, ‘Oh, this is something different’. But the reason why I posted with that song is kind of because it’s like a parallel concept to the song, this is called ‘Everyday’ and it’s kind of about when a love becomes like an obsession, and when you’re thinking about this person every single day that you wake up, especially in the wake of a breakup, or just waking up every morning feeling bit shocked with a huge sense of loss and it’s like that all day, every day. But there’s the point where you’re sick of thinking about waking up with that thought in your head every day, and feeling doomed, and feeling such deep sadness but it’s still there as kind of an obsessive thought – it becomes your suicidal prayer almost, it becomes the wrong mantra when you need to start finding other ways of settling yourself, but you’re still holding on to this as an anchor of something that could do that, so that’s what this song is about.

I thought of The Platters’ song because they asked me if my true love was true, and it’s this idea that it’s reflecting upon this relationship and this breakup, as this person really felt like a true love at the time, and in so many ways, I still have held them as that. Obviously, that changes and evolves over time when you’re absent in each other’s lives, I just found that The Platters’ song, it’s quite sinister, in a way, but it still lulls you into that romance that 1950s love songs do.

When it just says ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’, it’s kind of like, yeah, when that does happen, and you’re feeling heartbroken, your judgement is really clouded, and not just that, but it is like you’ve got something stuck within your gaze that you can’t quite remove, and only time can seem to do that.

That’s really exciting, and what are the other inspirations from the upcoming album?

I have a title for my album, but I haven’t released that as I want it to be potent when people hear and see it for the first time on text. But there’s themes and experiences of cataclysmic meltdown, and how you overcome that by regaining a sense of yourself within having felt like you’ve completely lost yourself at some point. All of the stories are about how you end up in that position, and then there’s all of the stories of how you find yourself out of that position. I suppose with that, there’s all this spectrum and shades of, being hungry, being upset, feeling volatile and feeling angry, and then all of a sudden having this surge of confidence, but then realising it’s a pseudo confidence, and then having to go back around in this cycle to find a real sense of confidence. So the songs contain and maintain those ideas. It’s something I’m still working on and the next phase of what needs to be said is just emerging and just trickling in. I found it on my first album and I think hopefully, this is something I will find again, that when it gets closer to completion, your confidence kind of grows within it and you’re proven that your decision making is going in the right direction. Each time something gets finished, you’re proven that you were right in the essence of your idea.

That’s super exciting to hear it. Thank you. And obviously, that’s hugely exciting news. Just so have you got anything else upcoming to be excited for?

I’ve got this show at Rough Trade in the street, which I’m really excited about. I’m excited to see who’s going to come, it’s really hard to play a show in London where you just want to show new music and it be an effortless thing without it being where someone comes to review it and then they’re just talking about what you’re wearing. Sometimes you just want these underground opportunities to just feel something natural. I’m also going to do a show at Tate Modern at some point, I feel like this is an important part of the cycle and the returning feeling. There’s going to be a video for this single, and then I’m just gonna have to bring out my album.

Celeste will release ‘Everyday’ on seven inch vinyl for Record Store Day 2024 (April 20th).

Words: Ben Broyd

Follow Clash

Buy Clash Magazine