Localized: Anaïs Chantal
Don’t miss a trifecta of local jazz and neo-soul music with Angie Petty, Anaïs Chantal and Le Dad & The Niños at SLUG Localized. Check them out on Thurs., Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. at Urban Lounge (tickets are $5); SLUG Localized is sponsored by Uinta Brewing and Huge Brands.
Much like her craft, neo-soul artist Anaïs Chantal is a work-in-progress. Despite growing up in a musically inclined family—her parents met at a music camp and her brother helped mix and master her EP, Birdie—Chantal didn’t immediately divulge her own interest in music. “I was a pretty shy child,” she says. “When my parents would be gone, I would just write songs and imagine music videos, and I kind of kept them stowed away until I decided that I wanted to sing.” When Chantal made that decision, she found herself in a completely supportive environment: “I remember from a young age my mom would tell me, ‘You’re just not meant for the nine-to-five job’,” she says.
But after attending a performing arts high school in Utah County—what she describes as “the most toxic environment I’ve ever been in”—she felt she didn’t want to be a part of music anymore. Chantal eventually transferred to another performing arts high school, but her experience changed drastically when she reached college. Chantal credits Kris Johnson, the director of Jazz Studies at the University of Utah, for nurturing her creativity and believing in her. “He saw how I really struggled with getting my voice out there, but he saw this potential,” she says.
“I think from listening to a lot of jazz … I’ve never felt like I need to follow any rules.”
Chantal’s moving, hypnotic voice has often been compared to that of Billie Holiday’s and correctly so—there’s a nostalgic quality to both artists’ voices, something that demands to be heard. Growing up, she listened to a wide range of music from Mexican pop, mariachi and jazz. “I think from listening to a lot of jazz, it definitely has instilled a lot of freedom in my music and I’ve never felt like I need to follow any rules,” she says.
Through the years, Chantal has learned to roll with the creative roadblocks. After the release of her three-song EP, which she describes as “my absolute soul,” Chantal says that, “I really had some bad imposter syndrome. I couldn’t write any music—I could barely sing. I don’t even know if I can write any more because I feel like I wrote what I needed to write. I thought I was all dried up.” She adds that she couldn’t even listen to music.
When COVID hit, Chantal and her partner went back to the farm in Oregon where she had originally crafted a lot of Birdie. She speaks fondly of a friend who goes by L that helped her understand that it was okay not to be able to write. One day, when they were both sitting in L’s room and writing, Chantal finally started feeling inspired again. “There was a song that I’ve been wanting to write, and it just wasn’t working,” she says. “Then, I decided to write with a whole water or nautical theme. I started having fun … That was huge for me, how it felt so happy.”
“Birdie was all about me, and I wanted to write some songs that were outside of that.”
That sense of happiness prompted Chantal to continue creating. Her debut album, Where Do I Go? is in progress now, taking a different form than its moody predecessor. “I realized that this was basically like a project about the complications of the early ’20s,” Chantal says. “I think it’s going to … [be] showing a brighter side of me, as well. Birdie was all about me, and I wanted to write some songs that were outside of that.”
Chantal says despite the ups and downs of a creative pursuit, she loves to create. “I feel like I am my most vulnerable when I’m writing, and for me it’s very therapeutic. I feel like it is definitely a form of medicine for me,” she says.
As Chantal’s musical journey evolves, her perseverance, angelic voice and keen ear for production are sure signs to mark a prolific career. You can find her on Instagram @anaischants and soon she’ll be starting a Twitch channel. Chantal will be debuting her first single from her upcoming album soon.