Say Chance features talented teenagers who just might attain their musical dreams.
By Steve Houk
Embarking on a career as a musician is, to say the very least, taking a big chance. A whale of a chance, in fact. The world is full of extremely talented musicians who end up wannabes. The sheer number of them who are able to maintain a successful career over time is tiny compared to those who try and fail.
But if it’s melded in your heart to try, there’s an almost magnetic pull for those who have music in their souls to give it their best shot, and hope that some skill, a little bit of luck, and even a good dose of positive fate blend together to propel them to stardom.
Well, that special blend of skill, luck and fate just may have landed on three very talented young women who call themselves, aptly, Say Chance. 19 year-old California native Kelly Rosenthal, along with her fellow bandmates from Maryland, Maddie Freeman, 17, and Taylor Broom, 16, are taking that “chance” — they are all bypassing the “expected” path to pursue, yep, their rock and roll dream.
“I may as well take a couple years of my life and give this a shot,” a confident Kelly Rosenthal told me last week. “It could potentially turn into the greatest thing of my life. If it doesn’t, then I knew that I tried, and I won’t have to live with the regret. I knew I was going to have to make a huge decision. But I have the time and ability to be here right now, and I made a conscious decision to give it a shot, because I felt like not trying it is the equivalent of failing. It’d be worse than failing.”
And it appears, so far, that failure isn’t part of this particular picture. Say Chance has gone from the casual blending of three teenage musicians who found some common musical ground online, into what could very well end up being an overnight sensation, with emerging songwriting talents beyond their years coming to bear, a great response to their live gigs and others coming fast and furious, and most recently, their excellently crafted original music becoming available around the world to their burgeoning international audience via iTunes and other online portals. To say things are moving swiftly for these three talented young ladies is, well, an understatement.
“Things have literally blown up,” said Rosenthal. “We established our band at the beginning of 2011, and it was all just dream stuff up to that point, and now it’s turning into reality. I definitely, definitely didn’t expect things to go this fast. Even day by day things are just moving so quickly.”
Kelly, Maddie and Taylor basically met how many young people meet these days: online. The guitar-playing Californian saw the Maryland-based singers videos while perusing the internet, fell in love with their singing style, and realized that the three of them just might be able to make some beautiful music together.
“I came across some clips of them and I had put some videos out there of me playing guitar as well,” Rosenthal continues, “and I reached out to them because I was just really moved by what they were doing, I really thought they were amazing. So we just evolved a bit of a friendship, we created a collaboration of sorts over the internet, and in the process of that, we just discovered that beyond the music, we have a lot in common personally. So the girls traveled out to California for spring break (in 2010) to visit Taylor’s aunt, and they were so close to me, we were like, why don’t we meet up in person and see if the music gels that way. So we met up, and we just like really hit it off personally, it was really cool, and we kinda made an excuse for every few months to try and see each other from then on, and it kinda got us to here.”
Rosenthal, who had already graduated from high school in California, eventually scrapped her college plans and moved east to live with Broom and her family in Towson, Maryland, where Freeman and Broom are now high school seniors.
“Even after I met them, (college) was the route I was choosing to go. But then there was this passion I literally couldn’t ignore, I mean, I tried so hard in school, I did very well in school, I got into my dream school which was USC, and I was so pleased, but there was just something in me where I was like, I’m so young and I have these opportunities. I’ve been somebody who’s been very school-oriented, however that’s changed, in that the music thing is kind of at the forefront right now, and it’s at my fingertips.”
The three soon called themselves Say Chance after the obvious chance they were taking, but also after a blend of a couple of songs that helped get them together. After recording and posting YouTube videos of them singing covers like Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” sitting huddled in their bedrooms, they got down to business and started writing their own songs, and have posted videos of some of those original tunes online as well. And so far it’s proven to be a wondrous collaboration seemingly made in heaven, with everyone having equal say and actively contributing to the truly exceptional end product.
“It’s, like, the greatest thing ever,” says Rosenthal. “Something that’s really important to me although I don’t sing is writing lyrics, and Taylor and Maddie make that really easy for me to be a part of. We all write our own lyrics, it’s pretty much equal, you would never call any of these songs just one of ours, or two of ours, it’s three of ours. As far as the music goes, sometimes I’ll have a riff thought up and we’ll start writing to that, but it all happens together. It’s not like one of us comes to the other in general, sometimes we bring stuff from the past up, but generally we start new, start fresh, and we make a Say Chance song, not a Kelly song with Maddie and Taylor, or Maddie’s with Kelly and Taylor, or anything like that. It’s so great, it’s so collaborative, it’s wonderful, it’s definitely an equal contributing process, we do it all together, so it’s really nice.”
Again, there are plenty of talented musicians who never make it, but in talking to Rosenthal, you get the feeling that this affable young woman knows deep down that she and her fellow Say Chancers have a real shot at making it, not just because they’re talented, but because they have just the right attitude going in that could set them apart from other up and comers with different aspirations.
“I think what separates us is that we want a lifetime career in music, we’re not into the whole one-hit wonder thing. We really want a lifetime of doing this, so I think it’s really important for us to keep our integrity and to keep everything organic and pure, like it was when we started. I mean when we started playing music together, it was a dream that seemed very out of reach, but when things started becoming a reality, I think that we all kinda looked at each other, and said, ‘Well, we’re still doing this for us, we’re still doing this for the three girls who sat in a circle in our bedrooms just playing our guitars together and singing.’ So I think it’s really important that we stay organic, and we keep our integrity.”
After a trip this past summer back to California where they played some gigs at a couple well-known rock clubs and visited Rosenthal’s family, the three returned to Maryland to continue writing and planning their next moves, which include a trip to Nashville in November to write songs and experience the history of “Music City.” They also have management they trust and most importantly, a close circle of supportive friends and family that really makes this uncertain journey at their young age easier than if they didn’t have that support network.
“I don’t think any of our parents thought of us going the music route realistically,” Rosenthal said, “so it’s been a big change for everybody, but they see how passionate we are about it. My parents are really proud of me for pursuing something that I’m very passionate about, they’re extremely supportive. At first it was a little bit rocky but once they see all the things I’m doing and how committed I am to this and how committed we all are to this and how much we want to do this, they can be nothing but supportive. It means so much to me. It’s really hard to be apart from my family, I’m extremely close with them, they believe in it as much as I do, and it seems a lot of other people do too. It’s great. I’m lucky. And Taylor and Maddie are really lucky too, they have great families who are very supportive of what they’re trying to do.”
Another essential ingredient of long lasting success in the music business is actually enjoying the company of the people you’re playing with, and at least at the outset of Say Chance, the sincerity of the positive relationship that’s been built over the last two years between these three ladies clearly comes across in their videos, and also in their songwriting. You just get the feeling that they really are the best friends they say they are, and that they love being in each other’s company. All in all, they seem like good people whom you naturally want to root for. And if the first steps of their career are any indication, they just may beat the staggering odds.
“I think it’s really important that our sincerity is coming across, because for us, it really is about the chemistry that the three of us have together. When I do the videos, you’ve probably noticed that I can’t wipe the smile off my face, and it’s entirely genuine. And when we play live, I’m giggling just looking at them, because I’m just entirely in love. The way I feel when I’m playing with Taylor and Maddie, they just have these voices that move me to my core. I just feel so very blessed to be lucky enough to be doing this, and I hope that cuts across. We just love each other as people, and as musicians.”
For a selection of Say Chance videos, click here.
Steve Houk lives and breathes music, and has ever since his days as a baby bouncing around his family’s music-filled converted barn in Wilton, Connecticut. Even though he lives by day as a TV executive in Washington, he comes out at night in his cape and cowl as an accomplished music writer as well as a blogger on midliferocker.com. Steve is also lead singer for Northern VA classic rock cover band Second Wind, and invites all to come out and rock with him and his band of brothers-from-other-mothers. Check out Second Wind’s website.