Interview: Chantelle Ernandez

March 31, 2012

Singer-songwriter Chantelle Ernandez was born in Kingston of Jamaican and Cuban ancestry. From a young age she proved skilled at piano, singing, dancing and acting. Raised on gospel by her church going family her musical palette began to expand from the late Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick and Nina Simone to Hindi, Arab and Greek music. While at school she joined some choir-mates in the 5 piece band Essence who in 1999 attracted the interest of producer and Grafton studio owner Mikey Bennett, the father of one of Chantelle’s friends. The group soon disbanded but Ms Ernandez was hooked and carried on doing backing vocals for Gumption productions until she was noticed by Shaggy’s bandleader Michael Fletcher, for whom she cut her initial single, Something Inside My Heart.

Harmonies for everyone from Gregory to the Wailers followed, yet the big hearted, big voiced Chantelle wanted to break out into the spotlight as Etana had done before her. A link with Sly & Robbie in 2008 lead to her cracking the Japanese market as part of the group UNITZz and even getting into the first round of selections for a Grammy. By chance, while laying some backups for Gussie Clarke at Anchor studio, Chantelle met the visiting pilgrim Curtis Lynch and signed up to his Necessary Mayhem imprint to release her impressive debut EP ‘My Forever’ in 2011. Since then, Chantelle has relocated to Europe where she is working on her first album with Catalan label Reggaeland. Angus Taylor spoke to a rising star in the making and found she had plenty to say…

Chantelle Ernandez

When did you discover you had so many creative talents and why did you gravitate towards singing?

Before I’d even started a formal class I was doing these things. I could do choreography, singing songs, being a drama queen if that’s what you needed (laughs). I’ve been writing poetry and songs since I was little, mind you they didn’t make much sense then! So luckily my family figured I shouldn’t waste my talents and allowed me to explore them in and outside of school. I gravitated more towards singing because it was an escape, but I tell people that I didn’t choose music, it chose me.

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