I became aware of Chelsea Ybarra after my friend Henderson Nguyen sent me the music video he had just finished for a song called "All The Time." The video featured a new ORL artist who went by the name SugarPlum. The visuals were bright and SugarPlum was bubbly; her voice joyfully sung the sweeeet chorus. After meeting her a few times and seeing her first two live performances, at Will's Pub and Spacebar respectively, I became more interested in uncovering who this SugarPlum really was. So we scheduled an interview in Stardust Video & Coffee to talk about her upcoming, currently-untitled EP. Our talk even led to a visit to the ice cream parlor where "All The Time" was filmed. Enjoy.
matthew warhol: I wanted to ask you, straight off, who exactly is SugarPlum? Is she, you? Is it kind of like a morphed version of you? How do you see it?
SugarPlum: … it’s kind funny how SugarPlum started. Ever since I was little I wanted to do the music thing, but I was never like, ballsy enough to do it. I needed that push. And my best friend Sarah — who’ve I’ve been best friends with since we were three-years-old, she does all my cover art — she always had my name in her phone as SugarPlum. So I was said that if I ever made music, I would use SugarPlum. [She’s] kind of like the girl who could. And I always said SugarPlum could be so much more than music. But essentially I am SugarPlum.
matthew warhol: So aesthetically, what is that? What is the vibe around SugarPlum?
SugarPlum: She’s like the goofy side of me, I think. The one who’s cheery and happy all the time. And even when things are hard she’s like, “Whatever, let’s go out!” I think she’s the version of me that pushes me to do all the things that are out of my comfort zone. Maybe I can’t do it but SugarPlum can.
matthew warhol: When did she start to take shape?
SugarPlum: It [happened] after I met Henderson. He was a fan before I even met him. I would post little videos of me playing guitar and singing on Instagram. And he would randomly comment on them saying, oh this is good. And when I finally played for him, he instantly shed into tears and was like, “No, you have to do it!”
matthew warhol: Was Instagram the first platform you started putting your stuff on?
matthew warhol: And when did that start?
SugarPlum: That was my first semester of college, so roughly a year ago. So like the end of 2015, I started posting videos of me playing.
matthew warhol: Were you playing your own songs?
SugarPlum: No, I was just doing little covers. I was too scared to post my songs. And I was obsessed with Frankie Cosmos at the time. I would go to my friend’s house, who had all these instruments and a studio, and record myself playing all of her songs -- the guitar, the main and backing vocals, the whole thing. I was trying to get a feel of what it was going to be like to record songs. And then randomly I met my friend Alex, and he was super about recording.
matthew warhol: Your first song, “All The Time,” was that recorded with Alex?
matthew warhol: There are drums on that song. Who did those?
SugarPlum: Those were all done on the computer. I’ve been looking for a drummer for the longest time. They’re like hiding from me!
matthew warhol: Maybe you’ll be able to find one through this interview.
SugarPlum: Scouting drummers!! I really am looking!
matthew warhol: With “All The Time,” a lot of the lyrics seem very direct. They sound like we're hearing actual experiences. Is that the case?
SugarPlum: Yeah, yeah! 100% real. I think the moment I started “All The Time,” I already knew what I wanted it to be. The writing process for me is like … I can write a verse in seconds, but the chorus is what gets me — the repetitiveness, writing something catchy. But “All The Time” like basically wrote itself. It was about the scenario when you’re with someone and you end it. And they keep calling you. And you like that they keep calling you. It’s that good feeling that they still want you, but you have so much you have to do.
matthew warhol: And even the chorus came together quickly?
SugarPlum: It was super fast. I was honestly just rushing it because I wanted to get it out! I knew my first song wasn’t going to be my best song, so like I’m not going to over think it. But then it like, blew up and I was like *screams*.
matthew warhol: Where was that reception coming from?
SugarPlum: I was always random people who always wanted me to do it and were waiting for me to do it. One of those people, who I appreciate and admire a lot, is Scott. He runs a music blog, 53rd & 3rd. And Sarah, who I mentioned earlier, worked with him at Barnes n Noble. She showed him “All The Time” when it came out. And he wanted to meet me and post the song. From there one of those blogs that automatically reblogs songs it sees potential in reblogged it.
matthew warhol: Was it Hype Machine?
matthew warhol: Really? That’s really good!
SugarPlum: I was like "WOW!" I didn’t know what that meant at the time.
matthew warhol: Do you know how many listens it has?
SugarPlum: It just hit 1,000 two weeks ago. And “Maybe, Baby” has only been up a week and it’s already at 100.
matthew warhol: Tell me about "Maybe, Baby." I listened to it on the way here and it has a different sound. Were you wanting to make something different?
SugarPlum: After I came out with “Clover Pt.2” with EMRLDTRACE, I got a feel with a different vibe. Then Andre Thomas — who is an amazing, amazing musician and producer — reached out to me and wanted to work together. All of the music on “Maybe” is by him.
matthew warhol: So was it already done and you came in and added melodies to it?
SugarPlum: Sort of. He sent me a little snippet of it and thought I would like it. I loved it.
matthew warhol: Did you tweak it together?
SugarPlum: Yeah, I went to Miami to see him. I’m actually going this weekend again. It was all a very good feeling. We would do things in one take. We’re like two puzzle pieces and musically, we fit perfectly.
matthew warhol: Is he producing more on the EP?
SugarPlum: Yeah, the EP is all me and him.
matthew warhol: So is “All The Time” going to be on it?
SugarPlum: “All The Time” will be a bonus song. I think the EP has a different vibe — “Clover” will be on the EP. But “All The Time” and an interlude I wrote on the ukulele are going to be the bonus tracks. Because they’re more, more …
matthew warhol: You want the EP to have its own sound?
matthew warhol: So is it going to be more synth-based with more beat production behind it?
SugarPlum: There’s definitely still going to be guitar incorporated in the EP, but we have a more synth sound.
matthew warhol: How many songs?
SugarPlum: Five songs and we’ll all have the two bonus songs.
matthew warhol: Does it have a name yet?
SugarPlum: NO! I can’t come up with a frickin’ name. I’m seeing Andre this weekend and we’re like, “We have to get a name!” At the same time, I was bugging my friends like, “Do people name their EPs, or is it self-titled?”
matthew warhol: I mean it could be SugarPlum EP.
SugarPlum: I though the same thing with the interlude I wrote. I was like, should I just have it as “Interlude?”
matthew warhol: I think it can be either one. It can also be like … “[something] Interlude.”
SugarPlum: I had a name for the interlude, but it’s so long.
matthew warhol: What was the name?
SugarPlum: So when I recorded the interlude, it was on Christmas Day and I was eating Japanese food. So we just named it “Japanese Food on Christmas Day.” Everyone was like, “It has nothing to do with the song.” And I was like, “But it’s true!!”
matthew warhol: So the EP comes out … ?
SugarPlum: It should be early February. I’m going to be releasing it before the show on the 10th.
matthew warhol: Now the previous show at Will’s Pub, that your first show?
SugarPlum: Will’s was my first show. And it went surprisingly well.
matthew warhol: No, that was an amazing show. And so many people came out.
SugarPlum: Yeah everyone was so amazing. Zoya. Tiger Fawn was amazing. I remember smoking with Tiger Fawn before I went on, and I was like, “This is my first show! I’m so nervous.” And she was like, “MY FIRST SHOW WAS HERE!”
matthew warhol: And you had never performed on a stage before?
SugarPlum: Never, ever, ever, ever. I don’t think I had even played for most of my friends.
matthew warhol: How did it compare to what you thought going into it?
SugarPlum: I remember posting “All The Time” and thinking that I would be so happy if 10 people listened to this. I remembering looking into the crowd and hearing people sing along and it a different kind of feeling. To hear people singing along to my first song ever.