Interview: Celeigh Chapman of COYOL

This week we chatted with Celeigh Chapman of COYOL, a Los Angeles-based band whose members include John Isaac Watters and William Gramling. In the latest installment of our interview series, Celeigh discusses her band’s interesting sound, her songwriting process, and her favorite places to travel domestically and abroad.

Twenty Two: Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Celeigh: Newly 27, as of this week. Born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. Then I went to school at USC and have lived in LA ever since. I started performing / doing gigs in the third grade and actually performed a minimum of two gigs a week growing up. I love music and performing. I love writing music, seeing bands as well as the business behind it. That has changed vastly from when I was booking my own shows, and sending press releases as a teenager. I think the entire thing fascinates me.

Twenty Two: Your band COYOL has a very interesting sound, almost one that’s hard to describe. How would you describe it?

Celeigh: Oh man, that’s a tough question! Well, I think what I’ve decided is the best way to describe it is Folk Rock, although that hardly describes it. We have lots of influences, from Traditional Country, to Hymns, to Rock, and Folk, and Indie. I think our sound is just a combination of music we like, and then it just comes out very COYOL-ish.

Twenty Two: What do you mean by “COYOL-ish”?

Celeigh: I mean that there’s something about when Will, and Isaac and I get together. It’s a different thing than when we write for other projects or solo albums. It’s just this great mixture of sounds, and strengths, and even weaknesses, which makes it the best. True collaboration.

Twenty Two: Can you describe the process of making music for yourself versus making music with a band? Do you have a different mindset?

Celeigh: I do have a different mindset. When I write with COYOL, we usually start with an idea that I come up with, and try to find lyrics / poems that Isaac has written to support that. Maybe just a jumping off point. Maybe an entire outline. Then we figure out music to support it, and all have suggestions editing the lyrics, and the structure. It’s like making a stew: everyone throws in a vegetable or meat and then we keep stirring it until it’s delicious! There’s also a push and pull between us. Sometimes you have to give way to your own opinion for the sake of the group, or that someone is pushing you out of your comfort zone. I actually really like that.

For me, if I write on my own music, it’s pure emotion. What I have been feeling, what I’ve experienced, or what I’ve absorbed and it just comes out. It’s very pure. If I co-write for myself, then I usually come up with the idea and lyric ideas and the other person just helps me shape them and work through it quicker. Sometimes it’s painless and others… it’s really tough. But writing is something you have to constantly work at, to become better and put yourself in different situations because the outcome is different.

Twenty Two: How would you describe your songwriting style?

Celeigh: You mean genre or how I like to write… my process?

Twenty Two: Both.

Celeigh: I tend to naturally write country / folk songs. Three chords. Very honest. Although I studied jazz voice in college so I have written some jazz-leaning songs. That’s probably why I like COYOL so much. I can rock a little more.

Process for me is different. Sometimes it all comes to me in one sitting and other times there’s an idea that’s floating around but I can’t write anything and one day I realize what it all means. Other times it’s a simple idea that I just need to dig into until I figure out how to write a song about it. Every time is a little different. Maybe it’s a melody with no words. That happens too and then I can’t find words to fit the melody. It’s such a pain, and yet all part of the beauty of it.

Twenty Two: How do you overcome the challenge of finding the right words for a given melody?

Celeigh: I wish I knew sometimes! It just feels right. You can say the cheesiest thing, and if the melody is right it adds weight to it and it works the other way, too. Melody can add lightness to something quite heavy lyrically. How I overcome it… I just give in. Sometimes I figure it out. Other times I put it to bed in hopes I will someday.

Twenty Two: Do you find yourself writing about the same subjects or do the topics of your songs vary greatly?

Celeigh: I’ve tried to write about grander topics other than the typical ones but sometimes when I’m singing solo they don’t come off very well. Hopefully one day I can write and perform something that is really thought-provoking. With COYOL our topics range and they also mean different things to all of us. We each take a personal experience to the lyrics and cover a lot more than what I do in my solo music.

Twenty Two: How has living in Los Angeles influenced your work?

Celeigh: I have been exposed to so many different musicians, genres of music and art, and cultures, people, and landscapes. I mean everything here is different from where I grew up and I love that I’m constantly learning something new about this city. The inspiration is endless. I think for the most part LA has just given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had back home.

Twenty Two: Who are some of your favorite artists at the moment?

Celeigh: First Aid Kit is an amazing band. I’m really into Robert Francis. He’s incredible and easy on the eyes.

Twenty Two: When you’re not working on your music, how do you spend your time?

Celeigh: Well, I’m a very social person. I think just being with friends and family and supporting other artists is really important. I have so many talented friends, and I just am so moved by what they are trying to accomplish and what incredible things they are dong. Also, I really love to travel if I can. I think seeing other places can really help your perspective and can bring inspiration.

Twenty Two: Where are some of your favorite places to visit?

Celeigh: I loved New Orleans. I’m dying to go back there. I haven’t had nearly enough time. There’s just so much history there. I also have family in Italy and it holds a very special place in my heart. Beautiful place and life is just so different. I wish my eyes could take video / pictures. Sometimes my memory can’t keep up with everything that I’ve been able to experience.

Twenty Two: Do you have any advice for aspiring singers?

Celeigh: I just answered this question for someone recently and said to learn an instrument. I think I’ll still say that. There’s something incredibly freeing about being able to accompany yourself. I have had to teach myself and it’s been a lot harder. I focused on my voice as my instrument, but not many people want to hear you sing a cappella.

Also, expose yourself to a lot of genres. It’s amazing how many tools and skills and techniques you can use across all of them, and yet learn some unique ones that will help shape your own personal sound. As many strengths as you can add to your repertoire, the better. You’ll just be a better singer.

Twenty Two: What can we expect to see from you and COYOL in the future?

Celeigh: Hopefully another EP from COYOL and a solo EP from me! Also, I think I’ll be writing a song for another film. I believe COYOL will continue to play around LA, and I will be playing my first solo show in a long time back in Bakersfield. It’s the last Friday in June. So much more! Promise!

A special thanks to Celeigh for giving us the opportunity to learn more about her work and COYOL. You can keep up with her by checking out her websiteFacebook, and Tumblr, while you can follow COYOL on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Click on the images below to see more from Celeigh and COYOL.

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