Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chicago musician Elizabeth Chidester bringing talents to scene


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

The Chicago music scene is richer as a result of Virginia native Elizabeth Chidester deciding to call Chicago home.

The multi-talented Chidester, www.elizabethchidester.com, who also is an actress, is keeping busy these days. At 8 p.m. April 20, she will perform jazz standards accompanied by guitarist Jarvis Raymond at Via Gelato, 1853 Tower Drive, Glenview.

In addition, at 10:30 p.m. May 4 and 25, Chidester will perform as part of the Chicago Beast Cabaret Spring Series at The Greenhouse Theatre, 2257N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. More information is at www.beastwomenproductions.com.

Then from May 10 to June 2,  Chidester will take on the role of  Glinda in the New American Folk Theatre's production of "The Marvelous Land of Oz," the second book in the original Oz series by L. Frank Baum, at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago. Tickets are available at www.landofoz.brownpapertickets.com.

I had the chance to talk to her about her latest projects.



Q - Great to talk to you. You're originally from Virginia. What made you want to move from Virginia to Chicago? Has the city lived up to your expectations?

I love Virginia, and will always love Virginia. I will go back there someday when I find nature and having a family to be more important than meeting people, making music, and having adventures.

I worked on cruise ships as a lounge singer for two years, and between my contracts, I wanted to visit different cities in the U.S. I moved to NYC right after college before working on cruise ships, and I wanted to see if I liked any city better than NYC. 

I loved Austin, where my brother lives, and I loved Toronto. I also loved San Fran and New Orleans, but for tourist reasons. 

I visited Chicago last, and I found that the work/play energy was balanced, I would be near water, there was an ample community supporting the arts, reasonably cheap cost of living, and great public transit. 

My friends that were living here seemed happy. I also felt a strange feeling in my body around the 5th day of my visit that this was were I needed to be.



Q - You're working on an EP that is set to be released this fall. What should people expect from the EP? What are your goals for the EP?

The EP will be around six to seven of the songs I feel are the strongest that I've written since graduating school. I would like for there to be various percussion elements, mostly acoustic based sounds. 

I like for it to make people feel, think, dance, something to meditate to, or to have on in the background of their commutes to work. I'd like for it to be an introduction of myself to the Chicago community, as well as tour with it in some surrounding cities, perhaps take it back home to the east coast as well.

Q - You are also an actress. Which do you prefer, performing as a musician or performing as an actress? Or do you need both in your life?

I have always considered myself to be more of a musical theatre actress. I have relied on music to be on stage in that capacity, so I would definitely consider myself to be more of a musician. 

However, I do enjoy being in an ensemble and telling good stories, and developing a character is really interesting to me. I'd say I'd like to be in two productions a year if possible. 

Right now, I'm Glinda in The New American Folk Theatre's "The Marvelous Land of Oz," the second book in the Oz series.

Q - You seem comfortable in any music genre. Is there a particular genre you prefer and why?

I really love "American" music. Music that is based in the blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass. I have a love for funk and Motown as well, some prog rock. I also love what England has done with "American" music. They actually do it better in some cases.

Q - You recently teamed up with fellow Chicago musician Jeff Brown for his song, "To The Ends of the Earth." What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit in it?

Jeff is a wonderful guy and musician. He's been so helpful and encouraging, and I'm happy to know him.

I think that the Chicago music scene has a lot to offer in terms of people with the desire and talent to perform. I know that this city is very big on theatre, improv comedy, and sports, but the music scene seems to be in a reemergence. 

I don't see Chicago becoming Austin, with live music in every bar, but I think the music scene could equal in prevalence to the other performing art forms.


I suppose the most daunting thing about gathering an audience in Chicago seems to be getting people to have time, or desire, to see your show over other kinds of entertainment in the city. Performers are too busy performing to see other performers at times. 

We need to reach the people who aren't aware that there is entertainment outside of what they are advertised on the internet or television, outside of the name brand. All the same, the internet is an invaluable tool for the local musician.

Q - Do you have any dream projects, either as a musician or actress?

I would love to tour the nation someday, and I'd love to perform at SXSW and all the various summer festivals. I've also put together a female old time/soul trio called "The Cherry Trio" with a couple girlfriends. 

We have a show at Uncommon Ground on Clark on July 6th. I'm very excited about that. 

I'm also looking forward to performing jazz standards in various restaurants in the spring and summertime with jazz guitarist Jarvis Raymond.