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Cleveland singer-songwriter Chayla Hope discusses an Annie Lennox flip side and her new album

Chayla Hope’s new album 'Damn, Feelings' draws inspiration from Gwen Stefani, Cher, Robyn, Kate Bush, David Bowie and Annie Lennox as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Lennox’s solo album debut 'Diva.'

Annie Lennox's Diva on vinyl at the Goldmine shop

   

Chayla main

This Saturday, November 5, Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox will be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which we feature in a special Fabulous Flip Sides article in the new Goldmine December/January 2023 issue. Additionally, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Lennox’s solo album debut Diva here with Lennox inspired singer-songwriter Chayla Hope, discussing the flip side of Lennox’s single “Why” along with Hope’s exciting new album Damn, Feelings.

GOLDMINE: Welcome to Goldmine. Let’s begin with one of your influences, Annie Lennox, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Diva, which includes the singles “Walking on Broken Glass,” “Little Bird” and the first single “Why” with “Primitive” on its flip side.

CHAYLA HOPE: Thank you for having me. I adore Annie Lennox’s passion. No matter what she is singing about, you can hear and feel it. I absolutely love her voice and how it comes from the depths of her. It is amazing that you suggested “Primitive” to me for today’s session because my father just passed and it was almost cathartic to listen to as it has a beautiful meaning, encouraging you to not worry about death. I think that is really wonderful. So, I was really happy to re-listen to that song. I grew up in a Lebanese household and there are a lot of beautiful strings that remind me of a Middle Eastern string sound. I love the instrumentation. Everything Annie Lennox does is just so powerful.

Chayla cassingle

Annie Lennox

Fabulous Flip Side: Primitive

A side: Why

Billboard Hot 100 debut: May 16, 1992

Peak position: No. 34

Arista 12419

GM: I offer my condolences on the loss of your father. To continue to be soothed by Annie Lennox’s music with the holiday season upon us soon, I also recommend her classy album A Christmas Cornucopia. The dozen songs have a traditional sound from the singer who was born on December 25.

CH: I will have to listen to that with the holiday season getting close.

Chayla cornucopia

GM: In 1992, when Annie Lennox had her solo Top 40 debut with “Why,” also in the Top 40 that week was Sophie B. Hawkins with her debut hit single “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Now you are debuting your album Damn, Feelings, which opens with “Love in Lo-Fi” which is catchy, rhythmic and is a wonderful dance number.

CH: Thank you. I was influenced by Robyn from Sweden on this one. My co-writer Britton Roberts wrote a lot of the song and felt strongly that we would be a musical success together. He was so hopeful and sent me what he had during the pandemic in 2020. I woke up to his message, “Listen to this song. I think it might be perfect for you.” I jumped at it and wanted to work on it immediately. It was so uplifting at a time when we really needed that. I hope other people feel that they can do anything too, because it certainly helped me.

GM: I can hear Robyn’s influence in the track as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of her pair of Top 10 hits “Do You Know (What it Takes)” and my favorite, “Show Me Love.” Britton is also a key writer on “Forget Me Not.” I love the opening line “I’m not perfect but I’m worth it,” which says a lot in just a few words. It is beautifully sung as well.

CH: Thank you. We worked really hard on it and was the one song where I was uncertain on how to give it my own flair. My producer, Michael Seifert, said that I had to sing it as me and not as somebody else. It was such an encouraging song. We were driving around and blasting it. We would drive around playing it in his Honda in Parma.

GM: You are in Parma. That’s the Cleveland suburb where my wife Donna and I had our first apartment, and is famously where Drew Carey, who is my age, grew up. As the host of The Price is Right, he continues the Bob Barker ending sentiment about spaying and neutering pets. This single is also an animal rescue fundraiser.

Chayla rescue

CH: Yes. Animal rescue is a passion of mine that I learned from my grandmother. With “Forget Me Not,” I wanted to help so much with groups that I support. There is Team Bradshaw in Sacramento. We had them do an adoption video, showing what animals are up for adoption and we also did Wild at Life in Frankfurt, Germany, an international NGO who are anti-poachers, saving lions, monkeys and other animals. They want me to come to Germany and meet some of the monkeys that I helped, and I would love to go.

GM: The Christmas villages in Frankfurt along the Rhine are magical and Old Sacramento Waterfront is beautifully historic as is their capital area with palm trees interspersed for a California feel. Speaking of California, I hear a bit of Gwen Stefani in your voice on “Circles” which has a great arrangement.

CH: I appreciate that. That song has its own vibe. George Chase Jr. originally had written it on bass for a surf-rock song, then it transitioned to a pop-rock song for a band I was in, and finally I decided to put it on my own album. This is the first song that Michael worked on for me before his studio was renovated so he did most of the production in his laundry room. I got to come in and add around 55 back-up vocals on it, giving it a full choir sound. 

GM: You have such a variety of sounds on the album. “Sleepwalking” is a soft emotional ballad, and the piano backdrop is so nice.

CH: My goodness, thank you. Niles McKinney plays piano on that song. He played on “Blood on the Dance Floor” by Michael Jackson and has been involved with The Temptations and The O’Jays. What a gift! He came in and just killed it within the first couple of hours of our recording session. He is also on the bridge of “Dancing While I Cry.” I grew so much by working with him, working at Suma Recording Studio, out in the middle of the woods in Painesville.

GM: “Dancing While I Cry” is certainly the most Michael Jackson-like song on the collection and when you listen to Niles’ piano on the bridge, I am reminded a bit of Dennis DeYoung with his gentle touches. I remember when Suma opened in the late 1970s, my friends The Euclid Beach Band remixed one of their songs there for their album on Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International Records label, produced by Eric Carmen.

CH: I spent nine months at Suma and even got married there by the engineer to my manager Teddy Eisenberg. We met on his radio show on WRUW, at Case Western Reserve where he went to college. We love music so much and were drawn to each other. It has been wonderful.

Chayla Hope, photo by Lindsey Poyar

Chayla Hope, photo by Lindsey Poyar

GM: Donna and I send our congratulations to you and Teddy. I hear your voice deepen and sound like Cher on parts of “Tear My Heart Out.”

CH: I hear that often. That is a fun song. I also tried to reach for David Bowie in the choruses and a bit of Kate Bush in background vocals, so she is sprinkled in. My voice is probably what it is because I have practiced too many impressions over the years.

GM: You end the album beautifully with “Don’t Fade.” That song just stays with me long after Damn, Feelings ends.

CH: Michael has had that song for probably ten years. I was going through a loss at the time, and it hit so well. Eric Gorfain is the string arranger. He recorded the strings at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, where Prince recorded Purple Rain, and he was joined by Grammy winner Ross Hogarth. Due to the pandemic, I couldn’t go to L.A. to be with them. I was at my house on Zoom listening to the arrangement being recorded by the string quartet, arranged by Eric who has arranged a wide repertoire of recordings from The Nightmare Before Christmas to Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” He is incredible to work with and is also on my song “High” that I wrote.

GM: I can certainly hear him on “High,” a song that reminds me of one of my daughter Brianna’s favorites, Florence Welch from Florence + the Machine. Speaking of Brianna, when she was four or five in the late 1980s, we were in Downtown Cleveland and American Greetings had decorated Public Square as a Care Bears Christmas. You sing “caring is the key to unlock the magic” in the Care Bears’ “Unlock the Magic” theme song.

CH: I had been a machinist for a number of years in Cleveland and my absolute favorite machining job was running the presses at Gotta Groove Records and now I have just gone back to test press my own album there, which was exciting. When I was working there, I received a phone call from my producer at the time saying that there was a guy in town, and he was looking for someone to sing some Care Bears songs and he thought of me right away. They were looking for a 1980s sound like Pat Benatar. They wanted me to sing a song that would be in a Care Bears toy. While I was on my way there my producer said, “He might want you to take a stab at the theme song.” I practically lost my mind because I love the Care Bears. What a cool full circle moment to watch them as a kid in Cleveland and be singing a theme song. I think I beat out MC Hammer for the part, which is crazy. I am happy to be part of that legacy. I have recorded over a dozen songs for them. It has been a blast singing about sharing and caring.  

GM: For Halloween, will you be dressing up as a Care Bear?

CH: No, but our eleven-year-old one-eyed puggle rescue Tucker Bigsby will be wearing a Scream costume. It has been such a pleasure talking with you. I’ve had such a great time. Thank you and Goldmine for your interest in my music.

Happy Halloween from her dog Tucker Bigsby, courtesy of Chayla Hope

Happy Halloween from her dog Tucker Bigsby, courtesy of Chayla Hope

Related links:

annielennox.com

chaylahope.com

Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides now in its eighth year

goldminemag.com/columns/fabulous-flip-sides