Imagine you’re a bit of a free spirit, growing up in quite a conservative place, Switzerland. Imagine that your dream is to be a singer, but your parents think it makes a nice hobby, but couldn’t ever be your profession. Imagine you’re sixteen years old. What do you think you’d do? Christa Elmer found herself in this situation, and she ran from it.
She tells me her story as we drink a cafe con leche together in our village, s’Arracó, “I was young, I thought I knew everything”, she tells me. She’d been soprano in a classical choir in her homeland, in fact all of her family have a talent for music, but she is the only professional musician. A wild child you could say, or a determined businesswoman, because you have to be both of those things to make it in the music business here in Majorca or indeed anywhere in the world. After running away from home as a teenager she then moved again to the island sixteen years ago “by accident”, and has raised two children on her own. Four years ago, once they had started to be grown up enough she is focused back on her other great passion, music.
These days Christa is a familiar voice and face to me, I’ve seen her perform in many situations, always with great style, and flare. “I love to take people by surprise, for example I enjoy busking on the street in Palma from time to time, people don’t expect it, it’s spontaneous and that makes me, and them, happy.” Her eyes are shining as she explains to me how she loves to connect with her audience, “I enjoy the energy, I want to delight the people”. The problem is though that Majorca does not have many public places for live bands to regularly play. “The Shamrock, Saratoga and Jazz Voyeur, that’s it really. Sound limiters are limiting musicians and some places I would have played in before now there is no possibility.” Aside from playing piano and harmonica, Christa sings with two bands, The Monkey Swingers, and The Banditos. Both have different styles, and different audiences. “I decided that I wanted to work with real musicians rather than with backing tracks. Many bars expect you to just play covers, which obviously we do, but I choose which ones we do. I love jazz, soul, rock. I sing them all”. It was she admits a risk to be so clear about wanting to perform in a band rather than with a USB stick and a laptop, but “I decided I would do exactly what I wanted to do”.
Now Christa has taken this several steps further with writing her own songs and producing (with Carlos Lambertini) an album and performing them alongside the more familiar covers. “If you’re a songwriter than you have music coming out of you at strange times. Sometimes the lyrics just come to me and flow out of me, sometimes it’s much more difficult.” Writing and producing her album has been a lot of like giving birth, quite a lot of hard work, some screaming and crying and a beautiful baby at the end of it. I ask her if she feels vulnerable about having her songs in public ready for scrutiny. “Yes! I was a bit worried about how people would feel about it. But I like as well to see how they respond to the different songs. I can tell you exactly how I felt when I wrote each of the songs on the album, and there are strong emotions in all of them. But song writing helps me to make sense of things, and they are a glimpse in of intimate moments.” How has she grown since releasing the album I ask her, “I’ve found that yes, I do need approval, and I wish that I didn’t so much! We shouldn’t need this, but we all do”. It’s not just the music though, there’s the art work for the album, the way it is laid out, the production of the product, the cost of it. “Quality is very important”. It has been hard to get the attention of radio stations and potential avenues to promote her work further. “I hoped that the local radio stations here would support local artists in Majorca, but it’s not as easy as that. I’m not giving up though, I will keep trying to get my music played on the radio.” She’s already available to download and play on iTunes and Spotify after an epic amount of administration “So much paperwork! WOW!” and you can buy her CD in bars in our village, and wherever she is performing.
What about touring to the mainland, or to music festivals? Without a hesitation she smiles, puts down her coffee cup and looks me straight in the eye, “Yep, that’s my next goal.” Watch out Europe, Christa’s on her way.
You can see more about Christa at http://www.christaelmer.com