25 February 2019
By Ellie Palmer
Recently signed to Sony Music Masterworks, Chloe Flower wowed the Grammys crowd earlier this month when she performed with Hip hop's current biggest star, Cardi B.
If you tuned in to the Grammys back on February 10th - music's biggest awards ceremony of the year - you would have noticed a certain pianist stealing the limelight from one of the world's current biggest Hip hop stars, Cardi B. She had the rapper's blessing of course, as she reveals in her chat with us below. But for a classically trained pianist to be talked about online more than the actual star of the performance - Cardi went on to win Rap Album of the Year - really says a lot about how far classical music has come in recent years. Chloe Flower was determined to be seen. Pairing her fearsome performance with a crystal-encrusted Liberace piano meant she certainly couldn't be missed!
Below, she talks to us about her whirlwind experience.
I'm sure everybody is dying to know: How did this opportunity to perform at the Grammys with Cardi B come about?
'It all happened so fast! My publicist Lauren Ceradini introduced me to Marsha St. Hubert, a VP at Atlantic Records. Marsha showed my Instagram page to Cardi and her Creative Director, Tanisha Scott. Once they saw my Kendrick Lamar “Humble” cover, they called me and asked me if I was available. Yes, I had to keep the whole thing a secret! That was hard because so many of my friends wanted to hang out with me while I was in LA the week before the performance, and I felt bad saying no and not really having a good reason why. I kept telling everyone, “I’m working,” which they are used to hearing. “Chloe, you're always working. Come to this event for just an hour!” I basically ghosted on everyone.'
You really did channel your 'inner #Chloeyonce' as you called it in one of your recent Instagram posts. You served some real looks to the camera in the opening! Did you have any help with your stage presence?
'Haha! As you know, classical pianists very rarely face out towards the audience. However, this kind of performance required the exact opposite. My best friend, Sanaa Lathan, is an amazing actress and has a lot of experience in live theatre. She taught me to look up and out, rather than straight and down.
As for the opening, I never practised looking at the camera. What you saw on Grammy night was what everyone on the team saw for the first time. During soundcheck, the camera was right in front of me for the opening solo, and I never once looked at it. Afterwards, we all went back to the rehearsal location in Burbank, and I asked Tanisha if I was allowed to look at the camera. I had never performed on TV like that before (or with that kind of music), so I wasn't sure if I was even allowed to look directly at the camera. Her response was very direct. “Look at it. Look at it as much as you can.” Once Tanisha gave me the go-ahead, I was like, okay, I may just have to work that camera tomorrow night! I didn't practice it, I wasn't thinking about it. It really just happened in the moment.'
What was it like to perform at the Staples Centre, one of the world's biggest stages?
'It was a lot of pressure. I knew the President of my new label (Sony), Mark Cavell, was in the audience. I knew the UK head of my label, the woman who found me and signed me, Sarah Thwaites, was also watching from London. Both had never seen me perform live yet. Many of my peers were in the audience, as well as people I work with or want to work with. It had to be amazing. I also knew that this could be a big moment for pianists everywhere, so I wanted to really do my best and show a different side to classical music, not just for me, but for working instrumentalists and young musicians watching too.'
Chloe performing with Cardi B at the 2019 Grammys. © Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
What has been your favourite venue to perform in?
'Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds (American singer and record producer) and I performed a classical/crossover version of “Change The World” at Disney Hall in LA. That was another amazing moment because I had arranged not only the piano but the orchestra part as well. We had the Koreatown Youth and Community Centre orchestra playing my arrangement with us to an audience that was standing, clapping, and yelling. It was so much fun to perform for an audience like that.'
On your Instagram, you often play on an incredible glass piano on loan from the Liberace Foundation. At the Grammys you played on another Liberace piano; one covered in crystals. Which is your favourite?
'I have to say, the crystal piano was worked on quite a bit in preparation for the performance, so it played beautifully. I love crystals. Most of my wardrobe is crystallized including several speakers and clutches, so I'm going to have to say I prefer the crystal piano... so much so that I'm switching them out very soon!'
Photo courtesy of Instagram: @misschloeflower. Chloe's on-loan Liberace glass piano
If you could tour with any pop musician - dead or alive - who would it be?
'I would have loved to tour with Queen. Queen is truly one of my favourite bands of all time. Their music has a lot of room for a pianist like me to add flare. But I absolutely loved performing with Cardi. What Tanisha did with her set, the dancers, the colours... that is my dream set. Ultimately, I would love to actually have my own tour and bring along a bunch of different artists as duos or features.'
If you could perform with any classical pianist - dead or alive - who would you pick?
'Dead: JS Bach
Alive: Krystian Zimerman'
You spend a lot of time as an activist, which is inspirational to so many of us. Are you currently working with any organisations that you'd like to tell us about?
'I have been working on anti-human trafficking since 2006, and music education even longer. But it wasn’t until my work with the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drug and Crime) that I realized I could connect them and use music education as a tool of prevention - and tool for rehabilitation - of human trafficking. This was a huge breakthrough for me, not just because my work became more efficient, but because I felt like I discovered this untapped resource that could literally prevent young kids from entering the supply side of human trafficking.'
Photo courtesy of Instagram: @chloeflower
You've had your fair share of piano-related injuries! Any advice for pianists who are struggling with injuries themselves?
'Jimmy Fallon (American TV host) introduced me to his hand doctor, Dr David Chiu. I call him the hand whisperer! He saved my career. I was heading into surgery (which I would probably still be recovering from) when I met Dr Chiu. He advised me not to have surgery, and instead do physical therapy and put me on two nerve medications. The human hand has so many nerves. Having surgery could have done more harm than good. I haven't fully recovered yet, but I'm doing much better than I would have been had I done surgery. My advice is to get a third opinion before doing something drastic like surgery, stay off your phone (overuse can lead to carpal tunnel), and try localized cryotherapy. That really helps too!'
Chloe signed to Sony Music Masterworks just hours after her killer performance. 'We are planning a release very soon!' A star on the rise for sure. Keep your eye out for Miss Chloe Flower.