Selena Jerome is a solo artist Newport born and bred, something she is extremely proud of. Over the last few years she has built up a solid reputation and fan base in the city and surround and will be looking to build on that in the coming years. I caught up with her to chat about her influences, the story behind her stage name and of course the second Newport Rising festival, which she is delighted to be part of, playing an acoustic set in the Westgate Hotel on Saturday November 2nd.
Follow Selena here to keep up to date with future releases and live shows, but for now, read on and find out a little more about Selena in the Chapel…
AS: Good evening Selena and welcome to the 3rd About Sound feature. We’ll call this the Newport Rising special! How are you doing?
SJ: Hey Gavin, I’m great thank you, I hope you are doing great yourself! Yess I love that, big up Newport Rising!
AS: Great to hear. I’m doing fine thanks. I’ve got a let’s say less than moderately priced Shiraz on the go but things could be worse! What have you been up to of late, artistically and musically speaking?
SJ: I’m glad to her that. Aha sounds like a perfect Tuesday evening in out of the cold to me! And thank you for the warm welcome to About Sound. I’m very happy to be a part. I have been up to less on the gigging front as of late as I am deep in rehearsals updating my current set and also working on new material. I’ve recently got myself some new equipment which is allowing me to add some new elements to my performance which is exciting. I’m hoping to debut my new set early next year.
AS: Some new gear to play with, sounds fun and exciting! I guess it’s important for artists to freshen things up once in a while for themselves more than anyone else?
SJ: Yes I’m having so much fun with it, I’m excited to get everything up to performance level and get out and share the next phase of my music journey so to speak. Yeah absolutely, as a performer singing has always been my strength but picking up the guitar to freshen things up for myself led to Selena in the Chapel and the person that has most benefited from Selena in the Chapel is me so I would absolutely agree with that.
AS: This brings me neatly to my next question. I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times over the years and I’m sure I’ve read it before (excuse my terrible memory), but in case any readers aren’t sure, why did you choose the stage name Selena In the Chapel and what does it mean?
SJ: Haha yeah I do get asked a bit and I’m always happy to explain because it comes from my love of Bob Marley and I love to talk about Bob Marley – what a legend. There is a song called “Selassie is the Chapel” which Bob Marley sang with the Wailers and the I Three’s. In the song Bob talks about how he finds peace by going to Haile Selassie. I was listening to it one evening and my mum told me it was a cover of an older song called “Crying in the Chapel” by a group called The Orioles. In their version they sing about finding peace at an actual chapel as opposed to Bob’s Chapel being Haille Selassie.
After listening to these songs I asked myself well if the Orioles found peace at the chapel, and Bob found peace in Haile Selassie, where do I find peace? Where is my Chapel? And that answer is music, I feel really at peace when I sing, so that’s why I called myself Selena in the Chapel because when I sing I am Selena in the Chapel. “The Chapel” being a metaphor for at peace.
Photo credit Kamila Jarzak
AS: I actually hadn’t read that before so I’m doubly glad I asked it. Fascinating stuff, I love the meaning and how you got to that name, it’s a great story and worth re-telling! You’ve mentioned Bob Marley there and reggae is one of many influences that can be heard in your music along with (and not exclusively) R&B and soul. What other genres and artists have inspired you to create the sound that you produce?
SJ: Thank you! Oooh that’s hard for me because I feel inspired by so many artists, in terms of my singing style I’d say singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Winehouse, Shirley Bassey and Eydie Gormé influence me a lot. My writing and musical style is still new territory to me and something I’m still figuring out but I really love songwriters such as Cole Porter, Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Sara Bareilles, so all that I have created so far I think will have come from their influence.
Going forward in terms of a fuller sound for my music I’m still figuring it out, I still can’t put my finger on a genre for myself yet but I’m really into listening to the production side of music at the moment and I’m really enjoying artists such as Sade, Tash Sultana, Christine and the Queens, Tom Micsh, Hall & Oats, and I’m absolutely obsessed with The Isley Brothers; the production, the musicianship, vocals, lyrics, melody, to me The Isley Brothers have it all. Going forward all these artists will influence my music for sure.
AS: That’s an incredibly varied and eclectic list of artists there, spanning over 80 years! I love Ella Fitzgerald’s voice, I really need to delve further into her catalogue.
SJ: Me too! She was such an incredible singer/performer. You absolutely should. She recorded an insane number of records. A recent discovery for me is a track called “Cryin’ Mood” it’s so lovely.
AS: I think that’s part of why I haven’t, she was so prolific it’s hard to know where to start. “When I Get Low I Get High” is a favourite of mine (think I’ll stick it on now).
SJ: Ooh great choice! yes I get you, totally.
AS: Taking things away from music for a bit. You’ve spoken candidly about your struggles with your sexuality prior to coming out, particularly in this fantastic “Coming out stories” interview . As a well-known musician in the LGBT community as well as in South Wales, do you feel comfortable potentially being a role model for younger women in similar situations?
SJ: Honestly not at all because I feel like (as I think many people my age do) that I’m a mess and I shouldn’t be anyone’s role model aha but at the same time I do feel comfortable just in the sense that if I strike something in someone that enables to them to heal in some way-right on!
AS: I’m sure people look up to you and more will continue to as you progress as a musician and person!
You featured in the Women of Newport project by Kamila Jarczak (photo’s featured on this piece). That must’ve been a proud moment to be in the company of so many of Newport’s inspirational women?
Photo credit Kamila Jarzak
SJ: Yes absolutely. It was such a lovely shoot with Kamila and then getting to see all the fabulous photos and amazing women included was a real honour.
AS: She’s brilliant, I love her energy and passion for the city.
SJ: She’s great isn’t she, it’s infectious. I love how real she is, as well as passionate and talented, she is a lovely person.
Photo credit Kamila Jarzak
AS: I’m putting you on the spot a little here, but it’s pretty relevant considering the festival next week and I’m sure the charity would love to know. What would be on your modern charter?
SJ: I’ve had a think but I honestly don’t know enough about the voting system to have 6 points, I can only think of 3 right now. I don’t want people to have to provide photo ID to vote. I think the voting age should be 16 and I do think people in prison should still have the right to vote.
AS: It’s not as easy as it sounds is it! Before we clock off, I just want to ask a couple more things. You’ve already hinted earlier, but what can we expect from Selena in the Chapel in 2020?
SJ: In 2020 you can expect new music being performed, as well as new elements to my set, much more online content being shared and hopefully some single releases towards the end of the year. I’m calling the last of 2019 the rehearsal period for Selena in the Chapel 2.0!
AS: And finally, will you be joining the hundreds of people in marching from Belle Vue Park to the Westgate Hotel before your performance on the 2nd of November?
SJ: Yesss! I’m really proud of Newport’s chartist history and to be from Newport. It’s an honour for me to be part of Newport Rising, I can’t wait to join the march and commemorate those who marched 180 years ago. Rise Up!
AS: Amazing! Selena, thanks so much for joining me this evening, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting and I really appreciate your time. After a year of avidly following your music I can’t wait to finally catch you perform live at the Westgate Hotel!
SJ: Thanks so much Gavin! I appreciate your support! It’s been great to chat with you! See you there!
Selena plays the Rising Stage at the Westgate Hotel on Saturday November 2nd at about 8 o’clock. Entry to the hotel is free, however priority will be given to those who attend the march. It isn’t a necessity, but you can sign up for the march by clicking here. There’s a full night of entertainment to enjoy in the hotel, with further music from Joe Kelly and headliners Rusty Shackle, plus performance art by Soviet Leeds, who will be performing “The Spark Once Struck”. It’ll be good to see you there, it’s going to be a night to remember in a venue that has been refurbished by a group of hard working volunteers. I’ve had a peek and trust me, it is looking brilliant! See ya there!