Powerhouse vocalist Chelsea ViaCava from Philadelphia soul-funksters, The Swift Technique, recently checked in with Honest Tune. She discussed the moment she knew she was meant to be a singer, what’s on tap for her band the Swift Technique, and some tips for singers everywhere.
Honest Tune: At what point did you know you want to be a singer?
Chelsea ViaCava: My whole childhood was purely music. I was a theater nerd to the fullest. It wasn’t until I was fourteen and started vocal lessons with a woman named, Britten Reid. After hearing me sing for the first time, Britt said to me, “you’re not meant for theater, honey. You are a blues vocalist.” After that lesson, something clicked and I definitely found my wheelhouse.
CV: I’ve pretty much learned everything I’ve ever needed to know about singing from Robert Plant and Etta James. Man, I listened to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy so much my CD stopped playing. I literally wore that album out! Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, Janis Joplin. I owe a lot to that woman. Janis epitomized “soul” in every sense of the word. I’m often told that I carry a bit of a Janis persona when performing. For me, there is no greater compliment than that.
HT: You have such range vocally and seem able to do so much, what is your favorite style of music to sing? Why?
CV: I’ve certainly found “home” in singing blues music. So many different vocal genres are based on blues singing. Once I’ve honed in on that style, I’ve definitely been able to develop a love for other styles, such as, rock and R&B. Anything soulful really fuels my fire.
HT: You joined the Swift Technique a few years back; can you give a little history of the band?
CV: I’m one of the newest members of Swift Technique, so it’s difficult for me to accurately tell the tale. I started singing for Swift a little over two years ago, but the core has been together since 2007. The band has transitioned a lot over the past eight years. When they first started up they had a hip-hop MC fronting the band. Eventually that MC left the group and Swift became primarily instrumental. It wasn’t until I came into the group that they sort of revamped the feel of the music. One thing that I love about this group is that they’ve always stayed consistent in keeping an authentic Philadelphia funk sound in every variation that they’ve seen over the years. We definitely all have a strong bond to each other. Swift is like a brotherhood and I think that kind of camaraderie is apparent when you see us in a live setting. Swift Technique has always been extremely high energy, quirky, and a little bit unconventional, but we all just love having fun and making music, and that’s what it’s all about.
CV: Hands down, The Blockley. The live music scene in Philly has not been the same since its closing. Swift Technique actually played the last show ever at The Blockley in 2013. I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who was there would say that it was one of the best nights of their lives. The Blockley consistently put on such great shows and there was such a rare feeling of community at that spot. God I miss that place. However, I’m starting to hold the new Ardmore Music Hall in a similar regard. Ardmore Music Hall is like The Blockley, but all grown up.
HT: What advice would you pass on to aspiring singers?
CV: Meet as many people as you can. Perform in public every chance you get. Don’t believe that a TV singing contest is the only way to make it as a singer. Never stop perfecting your craft and never try to sing like someone else. It is so important to hone in on finding the individuality of your voice and own it!
HT: What does the future hold for Chelsea ViaCava?
CV: I would love to be a background vocalist on a national tour. It would be awesome if the future granted that wish. Otherwise, I’ll continue moving onward and upward with Swift Technique, work with as many musicians as possible, and develop my career as a vocal coach.