Interview: Jessica Chapnik

Jessica Chapnik, elevenmagazine.com.au Jessica Chapnik is probably best known for her work as an actor rather than as a singer.

In her role as actress, the Argentinean born Australian-based Chapnik caused quite a bit of chaos in the sleepy town of Summer Bay in television's Home And Away as Sam Tolhurst.

Yet, it is her relatively unknown talent as a singer that has helped the spotlight shine upon her for much of 2008.

Earlier this year Chapnik joined Ben Lee to create the soundtrack for filmmaker brothers Joel and Nash Edgerton's debut feature film, The Square.

Working with Lee wasn't Chapnik's first foray into recording, having already provided backing vocals for good friend Sarah Blasko as well as the Kahn Brothers new album, Love Melts Fear.

Chapnik took some time out to chat with elevenmagazine.com.au about her passion for music.

How did you come to work with Ben Lee on this soundtrack? Ben and I had met when I was touring with other bands, so we were friends. One day we were hanging out in India. We visit the same teacher there. Out of the blue he asked me to have a go singing a song he had written for a soundtrack. We put it down on garage band and sent it to Nash (the director) to see what he thought, and then before I knew it we made a record.

Did you have much input into the lyrics of the soundtrack's songs? None at all. All the songs were written before I came on the scene. The lyrics are very unmistakably Ben. I like that they were written by a boy and I get to sing them. I like that I get to sing lines like “when I’m with you I feel like a man”. I’m glad Ben didn’t change those things to suit a female singer. I think there is a maleness in the lyrics that sung by a female voice sounds more sensual in some way, which works for the film.

Were you able to use your acting skills in your performance as a singer on the album? I tried to sing the songs as honestly as I could, which is what I want to bring to any work I do, be it acting or music. I guess I did have an idea of the kind of sound that Ben wanted for the songs, so consciously or not, my voice probably molded to that a bit. Maybe it’s an actors skill to have many voices up your sleeve. I’m not sure. But it was nothing I sat down and analysed.

As well as being mates with Ben Lee, you are also good friends with Sarah Blasko. Are there talks of you adding vocals on her upcoming new album? She is currently writing her next record. I did some singing for a song on her last record. And Sarah and I did backing vocals together for a record called “Love Melts Fear” by The Kahn Brothers. We like singing together.

Are you at all concerned about the "soapie star tries hand at singing" tag? I was in bands and doing music years before Home and Away. But Home and Away was the most public thing I did, so I guess you can’t expect people to know what you’ve been doing before that gig. I’m aware people will say whatever they are going to say about it, and I understand where it’s coming from. Its been done before that actors have tried to capatalise on a fan base and make records. And it is what it is. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. You do what makes you happy. I’m not claiming to be making this big pop move or be this amazing singer. I’m just someone that sings and acts. I think people prefer it if you stick to one thing sometimes. It’s neater in some way. It would be neater for me too, but I've always been drawn by both.

Are you planning to further branch out into music by releasing your own album? I hope to always be making music and be involved in music, whether its my own or someone elses project. Who knows what will happen.

Have you seen The Square? Is it strange to hear your vocals during the film? “The Square” is a beautiful film. Hearing the songs in the cinema added a whole new dimension. I got to stop listening to myself sing and just let the songs take me to the story, to the “square” world and atmosphere. I really got to see how my voice was serving something so much greater. It's so much more fun that way.