Do the ‘Time Warp’ with Angela McClusky

You’ve heard Angela McCluskey’s voice just about everywhere for well over two decades. It may have been when she fronted the terribly underrated ‘90s band in Wild Colonials. It could’ve and most likely was her huge hit song with Télépopmusik “Breathe,” which is as timeless as the wind. Kendrick Lamar sampled her “Don’t Look Back” on his “Is It Love.” So perhaps it’s that. Or maybe it’s the countless television and commercial placements she’s had. Yet, while she’s had quite a successful career, the singer/songwriter has been able to hold onto her anonymity. And, that’s just the way the outspoken Scottish-born singer/songwriter wants it.

“I’ve been told, everybody knows my voice but nobody knows who it is it. And, that’s fine. I don’t want to be like Sia and have a lampshade on my head. I just want to do the music I love and want to have a good life. I’ve seen so many lives destroyed because they wanted to be rich and famous. I love to sing. I don’t need everybody to tell me how brilliant I am.”

She’s gotten her way so far, but her recent work may change things a bit. For starters, her collaboration with Big Gigantic on “The Little Things” is getting tons of pop airplay right now and more importantly, her new solo album The Roxy Sessions is the kind of masterwork that gets an artist front and center whether they like it or not.

The new album, which was inspired by a ‘20’s inspired track she recorded for HBO’s series Boardwalk Empire, wasn’t really intended to come out at all. My sister scrapbooks, and it’s all photos and puffy pens. For McCluskey, her scrapbook is this album, which is a collection of songs she’s worked on and off for the last nine years with producer/collaborator Kiran Shahani.

“We weren’t writing to make an album. We’re both busy, and we’d just send each other songs during the years. We’re very fast writers,” she explained.

It wasn’t until last summer that these random songs began to become so much more. At that time, McCluskey visited Shahani, and realized the songs needed to extend beyond the two of them. “I thought ‘I’m in L.A., why not do some shows?’”

And so she did, and the response completely caught her off-guard. “They went ballistic,” she said. “Sometimes you go to a really good wedding, the DJ is brilliant, and you’re like ‘I have to dance to this one. It’s usually like a Stevie Wonder song comes on or something Motown. That was the vibe of the show. Every age group [were dancing]. I remember thinking, ‘wow, I wish I could bottle this.’”

And, again, she did. She and Shahani got together at the landmark Roxy Hotel in New York City to record the album, became artists in residency, and soon enough, began hosting “time warp” shows in which McCluskey recreated the ‘20’s with themed nights with signature music, dancing, and costumes from that era. The result of Sessions and the shows is a literal hodge podge of songs that change in genre track-to-track – from ‘20s electro swing to ‘60s pop. But, it’s so much more to McCluskey. This happy surprise is a “document” of a period of her life. During a recent long drive with her husband Paul Cantelon (her Wild Colonial bandmate) and brother-in-law, she realized its significance hearing the album for the first time from start to finish. “When I listened to each, I remembered ‘oh that’s when I was crazy about dub.’ I’d listen to another, and I’d remember ‘oh, this is when I was obsessed with Ennio Morricone and film scores.’ The next one, I’d remember Boardwalk Empire and how I became obsessed with taking the ‘20s sound and modernizing it.”

And while McCluskey rarely gets excited about an album’s release, she can’t wait for this one to come out. “I’m really proud of this record. I can’t wait for it to come out. Everything about this is coincidental. We were just having a little fun. If someone else made this record, I’d be really jealous. Sometimes, life just offers you these wonderful magical things.”

Angela McCluskey will headline a show at The Troubadour in Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 30. She’ll actually open up for herself. The Wild Colonials, reuniting for one night only, will start off the show.

About A-Sides with Jon Chattman – :
Jon Chattman’s music/entertainment series typically features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles — just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change. (Theme song by Blondfire.) Artists featured on the series include Imagine Dragons, Melissa Etheridge, Yoko Ono, Elle King, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, fun, Bleachers, Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, and Bastille.