Unlike many L.A. transplants, singer-songwriter Chelsea Williams didn’t arrive as a starry-eyed dreamer seeking a catapult toward fame. It would have been a little soon for that anyway, considering she got there before she’d even started walking and talking.
With a vocal-coach mother and that Joni Mitchell-inspired name, it’s hardly surprising that Williams embraced music early on. By 12, she was writing songs and hitting open-mic nights. At 14, she joined a band of blues players closer in age to the grandfather she never knew. At 21, she started busking at Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. After watching her solo mom struggle to raise two daughters (even selling her guitar to buy them Christmas gifts one year), Williams’ simply wanted to make a living playing her dreamy-sounding pop for attentive — and hopefully generous — listeners.
Performing five hours a day, four days a week, she not only achieved that goal, she wound up scoring a high-profile TV commercial singing in Maroon 5’s “Playing For Change” version of their hit “Daylight”, and landing not one, but two record deals. Catching the appreciative ears of prominent Promenade strollers, including Ron Howard and the revered influence Sheryl Crow — to whom Rolling Stone Country compared Williams in a 2017 ”10 artists you need to know” feature — was a huge bonus. The release of Beautiful and Strange, her second album for L.A. independent label Blue Élan Records (that second deal), will bring even more attention for Williams’ musical charms.
On Beautiful and Strange, which follows 2017’s Boomerang, Williams and her producer (and husband) Ross Garren, somehow strike a wire-walker’s balance between the seemingly opposing forces of childlike whimsy and mature sophistication.