The Red Bulletin June 2019

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Chelcee Grimes

“I’ve fought my

way to be where

I am, so I feel

like I deserve it”

Now at Fulham,

Chelcee has also

played for Liverpool,

Everton, Tranmere

Rovers and Spurs

encouraged by a teacher who noticed her aptitude for

songwriting. At 16, she won a six-month recording arrangement

through a competition on local radio station Juice FM. The

studio belonged to Liverpool winger Ryan Babel, which meant

Chelcee went to all the team’s games and learnt her way around

a studio with the help of Babel’s engineer. She was hooked.

At the same time, Chelcee began gigging. “I’d play every openmic

night in Liverpool,” she recalls. “More people would turn

up and a buzz developed. Kids would have my lyrics as tattoos

– I can’t even remember the songs. I think one was called The

Truth, and someone had that written on themselves. I’d say,

‘Don’t get it done, your mother will kill you.’ But when people

started to do that, I could tell a movement was happening.”

This led to the agonising choice between football and music

that culminated in Chelcee signing a contract with record label

RCA. “They wanted to make me into an English Alicia Keys,”

she reveals. Not long after Chelcee signed up, however, her

contact at the label was sacked, and two years later she was

unceremoniously dropped. Deflated and running out of money,

Chelcee moved to London to pursue her songwriting dream,

recording in bedrooms, basements, wherever she could.

She looks back on that time with frankness: “At 18 I hadn’t

really lived, I’d just played football. I had a bit of a gap for a year,

wrote four songs, got a record deal really early. I don’t think

I deserved it, if I’m honest.” Instead, she threw herself into new

challenges. “It made me travel, learn about myself, and I gave

writing a go. Then someone called and said, ‘We think you’re

a good songwriter, we’ll give you a publishing deal.’ It’s not what

I really wanted – I still wanted to be on stage – but I did it.”

She found herself at a songwriting session in Copenhagen with

veteran Danish producer Cutfather. Feeling homesick, Chelcee

wrote the lyrics “I feel like I’m a million miles away”, which evolved

into Kylie Minogue’s 2014 song Million Miles. Then she began

working with Steve Mac, one of the most successful producers

in modern pop, responsible for huge hits by the likes of Ed

Sheeran (Shape Of You), Clean Bandit (Symphony) and Pink

(What About Us). “If you have better players around you, you

automatically grow and thrive,” she says, drawing a connection

between songwriting and football. “I don’t get intimidated.

If I put my mind to something, I usually go on to do it.”

Chelcee is in no doubt where this self-belief comes from:

“It’s because I’m a Scouser. There’s something in the Liverpool

water where we think we can do anything we put our mind to.

It’s in the heart of our football team, too. I remember the 2005

Champions League final [the now-legendary match against

AC Milan in Istanbul] where we were 3-0 down. To come back

and fight and win it in 45 minutes – that embodies everything

I believe as a person. It was the first time I saw that magic can

happen if you fight for it.”

Looking back, Chelcee believes the whole journey has

been a valuable lesson: “I’ve only been [working in music]

professionally for four years, but I’ve developed massively

from when I was writing songs at 17 in my bedroom with

no one saying, ‘Do this or change that.’” After signing to the

management agency that represents Dua Lipa, Lana Del Ray

and Ellie Goulding, Chelcee’s talent for composing a killer

melody and a catchy hook emerged. “It’s a running industry

joke how fast I am at writing,” she says. “Yesterday, I went

outside the studio and saw a sign that read, ‘Please don’t play

ball games,’ and I thought, ‘That’s a dope title,’ so we wrote

a song called Please. There’s no yellow brick road to making

a hit record. You’ve just got to feel it as you go.”

When you write a song a day, as Chelcee strives to, some

are bound to resonate. One she wrote about her father, titled

11:11, was covered in 2016 by South Korean artist Taeyeon and

became a huge hit, racking up more than 52 million YouTube

views. “Sometimes you don’t remember writing songs, but that’s

a special one,” she says. “[The song’s co-writer] Christian Vinten

said, ‘What have you never written about?’ and I said, ‘It’s really

weird but I’ve never written about my dad.’ He passed away

when I was a kid, and I feel like I’ve never wanted to open that

box. My mum would say, ‘When it gets to 11:11, make a wish,’

so I used to wish for my dad to come and speak to me. When

I hear the opening chord, it takes me right back to writing it.”

Much as Chelcee enjoyed her songwriting success, she never

lost the longing to perform, and last year her perseverance paid

off when she finally released her own music. “It’s been six years

CHELCEE WEARS ELLESSE PINZO TRACK TOP; KAPPA AUTHENTIC BALIC JOGGERS; NEW BALANCE 997H SHOES; TANK TOP AND FOOTBALL, AS BEFORE

70 THE RED BULLETIN

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