I love being a ghost here: Musician Chelsea Jade

Acclaimed New Zealand musician Chelsea Jade has spent the last year and a bit building a life in California and bringing her ethereal music to new ears. She recently spoke to Aerostorie about wanting to hold on to her accent, taking a creative approach to politics, building strong friendships, and becoming an Oreo detective.


Chelsea Jade. (Greta van der Star)

Chelsea Jade. (Greta van der Star)

How long have you been living abroad and what do you miss most about your birth country?

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa and lived there until I was five. My candle for the place is mostly lit for my entire extended family who still live there but other than that human connection, I just have a vague memory of how magnificently small you can feel under that mountain. New Zealand is where I grew up and I’ve lived away for just over a year.

When you bring friends or family to California, what places do you recommend they try?

TACO ZONE. It’s a taco truck that can be found in a Vonns parking lot most weekdays. No other taco compares. I’ll go to the mat on that. I’ve also found an insatiable hunger for Vietnamese food that I didn’t know I had before. There’s a spot people call ‘No Name’ in Silverlake that will feed you delicious pho. Cash only on both counts.

Other than those, my sweet tooth is my primary vice and I’m constantly in the cookie aisle examining the Oreo shelf with fascination. Peppermint Oreos = hit. Raspberry Chocolate Oreos = miss. The investigation is ongoing.

Can you describe your life in California and how it differs from your life in New Zealand?

A huge difference is the amount of effort it takes just to see the ocean! I miss the ease of the Auckland isthmus but I love the California hikes. There’s a little canteen window near the San Gabriel Peak trail called ‘The Cosmic Cafe’ to get some veggie chili with your group’s combined pocket change where you can see the sea while you snack.

My life here is fairly insular save a few key players. I have a small support group who have changed my life, truly. The friends I’ve made here are so bright eyed, active and generous. They’ve helped me wail through meltdowns, taken me out for meals when I was too broke to feed myself and most vitally, facilitated me moving forward with my work. I think all of this has blossomed from having traversed the transition to be here themselves. For that reason, we all possess a friendly ambition that is actively inclusive.

I’ve had conversations that have stoked parts of my imagination I couldn’t have accessed if I hadn’t come to California

Over here I’ve had conversations that have stoked parts of my imagination I couldn’t have accessed if I hadn’t come to California - mostly to do with how I view New Zealand and where I see myself when I return. I love it there and I want to be present to create good waves in the future. I can see from the distance the incredible moves people are making - particularly women in the music scene. It’s a really special place.

On that note, the most radical change is creatively approaching politics since my voice here has to be an abstract one. I can’t action it through a vote so I have to find other ways. Donating to crucial organisations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU is a huge part of that for me but something I’ve learned the most from is listening to people who have been dealing with this climate for decades.

What are the best things about being an expat in your current city? And the worst?

I love being a ghost here! I haven’t put in enough time to have distant acquaintances here so I’m far more inclined to dance my way to the metro or in a supermarket aisle with a distinct lack of self consciousness.

The worst thing is being away from the friends/family I love very deeply, especially when any party is having a difficult time. It’s harder to sit in a comfortable quiet through Skype, when that human presence is all you really need.

Where do you consider ‘home’?

Auckland — without hesitation. Before I moved to California, I was prone to answering this question as a nomad with no real connections to anywhere because of the overwhelming restlessness I felt. Now, with perspective, I’m happy to say that New Zealand is the safe harbour I would tether myself to. And I couldn’t bear to lose my Kiwi accent, quite frankly.