This feature is part of the Chico News & Review’s 2022 Arts & Music special issue.
When Chloe Brandii is pissed off, she’ll either kick the hell out of a sparring bag or write a song about how she’s feeling, holding nothing back.
She’s been doing a lot of the latter lately. In December, the 18-year-old Chicoan released her second full-length studio album, People Pleaser, a searing, vulnerable, brutally honest collection of songs that examine abusive relationships, self-worth, love, change and a world battered by global warming, pollution and an indifferent populace.
During a recent interview at a cafe in downtown Chico, the singer-songwriter spoke enthusiastically about her journey as an artist and her plans for the future. Brandii says she’s distanced herself from the “energy vampires” who used to leave her feeling drained and insecure and is now embracing how happy she’s been as a result. It’s like she’s made of bubbles, she said.
“[My] anger more stems from the people who weren’t allowing me to just be naturally happy and to be myself, really,” she said. “It’s almost like I have too much bubbles now!”
Brandii’s roots are in musical theater, and she has been performing in that capacity since she was 6. Her most recent role was as Ariel, the lead in California Regional Theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid and she’s performing in that company’s rendition of Godspell this month (through April 16).
She’s also a pianist and bassist. The skillful piano and soaring, immaculate vocal work on People Pleaser and her first album, People, is all hers. Brandii works as a vocal coach and music director at CRT Kids Theater Academy. Though she loves teaching, her ultimate goal is to become a full-time musician and performer whose “main objective in life is to help people.”
When Brandii was about 15, she started experiencing intrusive thoughts and depression, she said. At the same time, she was in an abusive friendship. She recalled a traumatic experience where this friend put her in a headlock for so long that she could barely breathe and she struggled to break free. She remembered thinking, I almost died.
To process and heal from it all, Brandii started writing, and before she knew it, she had her first album, People. She connected with local musician/engineer Jake Nolen, of No-Side Recordings (formerly Studio 6), to record and produce the record and had her first album release show at Apollo School of Music. (Nolen also plays guitar on both of Brandii’s records and her single “The World is Ending.”) The community response was so tremendous, that’s when it clicked for her: She could do this—she could pursue music as a full-time career.
Brandii has it all planned out: Step one: Establish a fan base and image. Step two: Move to Los Angeles and hit the ground running.
What’s her “Plan B?” Broadway.
“My backup plan is just as hard and just as difficult,” she said with a laugh. “There is an image difference … if someone starts on Broadway or starts in a TV show and then becomes a pop artist or a rock artist or a singer-songwriter, people already have this perception of them from what they used to be involved with. So that’s why I prefer starting from originality and then going into [those other avenues] later.”
Step one is already well underway. Brandii had already amassed 6,000 followers on TikTok just from her self-promotion of People Pleaser. Then she uploaded a rehearsal clip of her singing “Part of Your World,” from The Little Mermaid, which has received 1.9 million views on that platform since it was posted Feb. 20, and her following has nearly tripled.
Brandii says she’s drawn inspiration from confident, powerful and outspoken women who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable or call people out. She lists Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine), Alanis Morissette, Brandi Carlile, Adele, Taylor Swift and KT Tunstall as some of her greatest influences. Other influences include David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and The Beatles.
For People Pleaser, Brandii focused on channeling that energy, challenging herself to be even more open than she was with her first record, pushing through any remaining fear and discomfort she had in sharing her story. The album is about empowerment and freeing herself from abuse, she said, and her hope is that it inspires others to embark upon that journey for themselves and feel less alone.
“I knew that the way that I’m ultimately going to be able to help people isn’t by putting on a face and being like some nice, cute, fun, perfect, poppy artist,” she said. “I knew that the way I would ultimately make a better impact on people’s lives is by being really down to earth about [my experiences] and speaking out against [abuse] so that other people can relate and feel comfortable doing the same thing and feel comfortable getting out of things.
“Now it’s about healing. Now it’s like, ‘OK, I’m going to move on and I’m going to move forward and leave and get out of all of it, in my brain and in my head and in my soul and everything.’ So I wrote my story, my actual story, without hesitance. That was the most freeing part about the whole experience.”
People Pleaser by Chloe Brandii is available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and more.