Canadian reggae-jazz dynamo Chelsea Stewart is back, once again bringing her name to the forefront with a newly released self-titled album, Chelsea Stewart — and premiere single “Forever Your Girl” — available now!
A reflection of Stewart’s rich Jamaican Canadian roots, Chelsea Stewart was mostly recorded in Jamaica, and features production influence from the likes of long-iconic and GRAMMY Award winning and multi-nominee artists, Sly and Robbie, and songwriting influence from Canadian Renee Brown.
“I have probably been listening to music from Sly and Robbie since the day I arrived on this Earth,” she says of the legendary reggae masters Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. “They have been responsible for so many hits that still play on the radio, and at almost every celebratory gathering in my community.
“It was surreal to be able to work with these living legends.”
Stewart was especially grateful for Sly’s daily guidance and the opportunity to observe his deep dedication to the craft. “I hope to be like him one day, and be able to go to the studio daily to create new content, tour seasonally, and collect royalties in my sleep!” she laughs. “As a young artist, watching that was incredibly motivating.”
“And Renee was able to travel to Jamaica and witness the growth of the production with my mom and I,” Stewart continues. “She helped with the songwriting and production for a few songs, and I was happy to share that surreal experience with her.
“I usually co-write with my mom, but working with Renee has been the first time I collaborated with another songwriter, and I’m very proud of the results. She, like myself, is Jamaican Canadian, and it was important for me to include Canadian content on the project so that the album truly reflects who I am.”
Much like previous releases before it, Stewart synced up with her longest-time collaborator, her mom, Karen Stewart. “Working with my mom to make this album was nothing new,” she says of the long-lauded and unique familial collaboration. “We’ve done this before on several singles and EPs. We know how to navigate disagreements on how to go about producing the project, and we enjoy singing along and dancing to the finished products in the studio, just as we’ve done at home — with the recordings of our favourite artists — for years.
“We’re happy to make our contribution to the music industry through Baby Momma Music!
“The only part of the whole album that was unexpected was the song, ‘Crush.’ I recorded it in Jamaica but had to re-record it in Canada because it wasn’t exactly how I wanted it…
“I naturally gravitate to ‘old school’ music, so I was aware my album would reflect that. In doing so, however, I had no idea I’d end up recording an album that covered almost every genre ever created in Jamaica — ska, rocksteady, reggae, dancehall, dub poetry, nyabinghi drumming — except mento, which is the first style of music to ever be recorded in Jamaica.
“When I listened to the recording, I felt it could be instantly revitalized if I were to rearrange it into a mento song, which would also mean the album would result in successfully covering seven genres of music that have come out of Jamaica.
“This is not what I originally set out to do, but it’s what happened, and I’m very excited about it.”
The full-length LP lands as a welcomed follow-up to her chart-topping and critically acclaimed JUNO Award-nominated previous EP release, Genesis, and on the heels of Stewart winning ReggaeXclusive Magazine’s Song of the Year, a Trailblazer Award, an Entertainment Award for the International Woman Achievers’ Award, and a Caribbean Entertainment and Music Award. She was also the first Canadian female to perform at Rototom Sunsplash, the biggest reggae festival in Europe, in their 22 year history.
Most notably, Stewart made waves on the Canadian music scene being the youngest ever nominee for that JUNO Award, in the Reggae category, a status that rippled forward to the production experience of this new album. “Although the musicians could’ve been condescending because I was both so much younger than them, and female — both of which they’re probably not used to taking direction from — that was not the case,” she recalls of the recording process. “The environment was very welcoming and encouraging, even though I was the rookie in the room. They welcomed my ideas and contributions, and always respected my desires.”
Though she’s released several EPs and singles before, this eponymous LP was Stewart’s first time recording the songs all at once, and within such a large collaborative scope. “The last time I recorded multiple songs all at once, for The Only One EP, my only accompaniment was from my acoustic guitarist. This time, I had to record a rough demo live in the studio, and the musicians would add to it, one by one, track by track.
“It made it so that I was able to be a part of the organic growth of the production, and it was a beautiful process that I can’t wait to do again.”
Chelsea Stewart is available now.