By Bella Savignano | July 9, 2022
A lot of us were put into piano lessons as children. For many of us, though, our classical competency has since faded into merely a wistful, or depending on your piano teacher, traumatic recollection. But for Chloe Flower, childhood piano prowess has blossomed into an abounding empire of composing, writing, producing, performing, and educating. Her music intertwines classical standards with modern hip-hop, pop, and trap beats–a style that she calls “popsical.” Chloe’s eponymous 2021 debut album exemplifies this synthesis. Take “Get What U Get,” for example, produced by the legendary Tommy Brown (Madonna, Ariana Grande). The first 45 seconds of the track sound like a standard classical composition, delicate and sparse at the onset. But then it swells, and a trap beat drops in. This doesn’t seem to phase Chloe’s stylistic choices on the track– she retains a definitive classical grace even as the composition grows fuller with trills and pounding bass.
You may recognize Chloe from her iconic performance at the 2019 Grammys, where she performed alongside Cardi B on a bejeweled piano.
“Should I be talking about twerking on a piano in front of kids?” she reflected in our conversation after her Lincoln Center show. Though childhood music education is an important philanthropic endeavor for the pianist, her professional career is often planted at the crossroads of culture and music. She’s played at events for the likes of Major Food Group (Carbone, Parm) and composed for companies such as Krug Champagne. She’s also a fashion icon, donning a slew of luxe designer dresses during her performances. At her Lincoln Center appearance, she wore shimmering Louboutin pumps and a diaphanous emerald green gown, not unlike something you might expect a Greek Goddess to wear.
Her open-air performance was magical, integrating covers of underground (does that word even apply to music that’s over 200 years old?) classical compositions, original classical themes, and genre-defiant songs that got the crowd groovin’. The pianist narrated the context behind each song before she played it, sharing illuminating stories about the friends, cultural influences, and life experiences that have shaped her and her music. Performing alongside her was a troupe of dancers, improvising in a vast array of styles to each score. They added an incredible layer of dimensionality to the performance, expressing corporeally the way Chloe’s music feels audibly.
After her performance, Chloe Flower sat down with us to answer a few questions for the groovement:
What was the first concert you ever went to?
Metallica. I was like “what is happening?” There were so many people drunk and rocking out! I remember thinking, “Oh my god, I want this!”
Where are you from? How did you get to the city?
Pennsylvania. My mom took me shopping, and we drove past a piano competition in Virginia. I met the first-place winner, and decided I wanted to be like them. That’s what brought me to New York! I started out at Manhattan School of Music.
How would you describe your music?
Like a mixtape. It’s so all over the place. Again, instrumental music really lends itself to that!
Are your inspirations that diverse as well?
Yeah, I get so much of my inspiration from different cultures and different sounds. Like Danny Elfman is such an inspiration but so is Tommy Brown. They’re very different!
Do you set off, when you play, to impart any mission or inspire anyone in particular?
Everything I do, all the content I do, and all the music I write, is to inspire young kids to want to learn instruments. And even adults, I know how important it is to your brain! They did a study of a 75-year-old, lifelong musician’s brain. It was indistinguishable from a 25-year-old non-musician brain. It’s literally exercise for your brain!
I imagine that was an incredible bucket list moment! Do you have any other venues or performances you would love to play?
My dream is to have a Christmas residency in Vegas or New York! I’m not religious, but I love Christmas music. I just love the holidays!
You always look incredible on stage! How does your clothing fit into your musical identity? Do you think it changes the way you perform?
I always like to choose looks that help tell a story about the music. For instance, if I’m doing a more edgy set, I like to throw in leathers, feathers, etc. But I also love the juxtaposition of a gown with hip-hop. When I performed with Meek Mill at Madison Square Garden, I wore a ruffled Alexander McQueen gown instead of a hip-hop vibe. Basically, my wardrobe is very thought out whenever I perform!
What’s next for you?!
I’ve been working on my 2nd album of solo piano music. I also have partnered with Amanda Nguyen (Rise/Rise Justice Labs) to create legislation for music education. This is something I care deeply about and have been working hard on.
📸: shot by Gaby Garcia