Karen Chisholm fuses sultry silk with raw grit. From rhythmic rock and addictive pop to dark, sensual blues and soaring ballads, and sweet little ditties, she blurs genres as easily as she blends textures. Combining haunting, cinematic melodies, direct lyrics and an engaging voice — which draws comparisons from Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette and Feist to Janis Joplin, Regina Spektor and Jewel — she creates a powerful sound that lures new listeners daily.
Her third release and first rock album, Love’s Road, Chisholm confronts betrayal, champions freedom and finds deliverance — though she steps through fire to get there.
“Love’s Road,” she says, “is the wind whipping my hair while I’m tapping the wheel and just getting the hell out of town as fast as I can.”
Love’s Road was produced by Ramy Antoun long time Seal drummer whose credits includes The Black Eyed Peas, Paul Oakenfold, Ed Kowalczyk, Pat Benatar, Matchstick Men, Crazy Beautiful, The OC, Warner Brothers, Hollywood Records, Universal Music, and opening for the Rolling Stones. Instrumentation on Love’s Road includes Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live house band), Sergio Andrade (Lifehouse), Brian Batch (Alpha Rev), violist Orhan Çelebi (Austin Opera), guitarist Jacob Hildebrand (Miranda Lambert, Deadman), cellist/composer Mark Ford, Michael Rey and his crew on horns and Clayton Corn (Pat Green, Jack Ingram) on Keys.
“My favorite track, ‘Seventeen’ was inspired by young love and my hell-raising, racecar-driving teenage daddy raising three kids on my mama’s back. Ramy really captured the 60s racing vibe I was looking for, and my performance felt inspired. I almost think someone snuck Sheryl Crow into the studio without introducing us. It gives me goose bumps. I am really proud and humbled to be able to work with Ramy,” says Chisholm.
Though she started writing songs while growing up in Michigan, Chisholm didn’t begin performing until 2008. But she’s covered a lot of road since then and has done more than many artists do with a whole team behind them. Chisholm began work on Love’s Road in 2013 during a two-month sojourn at the California home of author and screenwriter Thomas Steinbeck. An active member of the Recording Academy, she made frequent forays into Los Angeles for Grammy-related activities, taking advantage of every opportunity to meet filmmakers, musicians and other industry influencers. She and photographer Rodney Bursiel turned her trip back to Austin into a seven-day, 7,036-mile photo and video shoot across the desert Southwest — which inspired the album’s title.
No stranger to Hollywood, Chisholm did her own red-carpet walk in 2011, when her animated music video for “Rhapsody Animated Film Short Music Video” aired at the Feel Good Film Festival there. She started earning accolades with the release of her first album, 2010’s Random Year; the song “Snow Globe” placed third in a national songwriting competition. Chisholm recorded a video for that one as well, and produced the video for “Garage Sale Queen,” a song about her mother. An accomplished graphic artist, Chisholm has done design work for Mick Fleetwood and her friend Billy F Gibbons, as well as ZZ Top and Moving Sidewalks. That’s in addition to placing songs in independent films and even an iPhone app, and creating a full theatrical production at the North Door Theatre including choreographed video, lights and effects for the release of her Perfect World EP in 2012.
Chisholm has lived the kind of life that belongs in song. Born to teenaged parents in Michigan, she landed in Texas as a young teen herself. After waiting tables through college and earning her degree, she married and faced the challenge of raising two children, one with a disability, while she herself battled cancer and chronic Lyme disease. She’s also survived assault, betrayal, losing friends to suicide and other experiences that could have crumbled her will, but instead made her stronger and wiser. You can see that determined spirit in her contagious smile — and hear it in her songs. Chisholm is confident there’s a light at the end of every tunnel, and she’ll travel any road to find it.
It’s honest songwriting. She writes into the pain, honors the pain. You can hear her processing through situations, and the hook lines seem to come to her. She has met the enemy, and she won. –– Dillion McKensy, KOOP 91.7 FM Radio