Elle Casazza is a singer and songwriter based in Chicago, Illinois, where she brings a retro, soulful, pop aesthetic to the music scene. “When I brand myself, I call it a retro-pastiche,” she says. “I feel like with ‘Proof’ [her first album] that was very much pulling retro from all over — you know, cause I went to jazz school and that’s what you learn, you learn all different types. I like incorporating everything, I don’t wanna be pinned down to one style.”
Her upcoming album, which she’ll release next summer, will pull its retro inspiration from a different source, however. “This album will be disco,” she says. “Like disco as central genre, and it’s going to be fun — I’m really excited.” In conjunction with the release, she’ll also be leaving Chicago, which means that you should fall in love with her music before its imminent change.
Part of this retro-aesthetic speaks to the nostalgic millennial generation, which composes a significant portion of Casazza’s fanbase. Casazza credits millennials’ sentiment for the past to their easy access to both modern hits and the music of older generations. She’s therefore able to draw on more music for inspiration and connect with more people who have grown up with all of these artists.
She believes that the connection between her retro sound and the millennial generation is accidental in the best way, and is, in many ways, an inevitable byproduct of the easy access to music from a litany of genres that people enjoy today. Still, Casazza sometimes hits notes of nostalgia simply because she feels like an old soul.
In addition to her unique, composite sound, Casazza sets herself apart with her playful exploration of words. Her song “Save Me,” for instance, has a catchy chorus that, at first listen, seems like a standard damsel-in-distress track. But in the lead-in to the chorus she sings, “And I don’t need the likes of you to save me,” confronting the typical rescue tale and reminding us that this song “ain’t no fairytale love story.”
The casual tune of the track makes you think the artist is telling a completely different story than she is. It turns out Casazza does too. “I do like to play with that a lot … ,” she says. “You have to really listen to get what’s happening in the song, to the lyrics. I think that’s really fun and interesting.“
In addition to playing with the structure of her lyrics, it was important to Casazza to present the message that women don’t need saving. “I don’t want this to actually be a song about being saved,” she says, “because I am a strong independent woman, d—n it!”
This theme of empowerment is a trend that she plans on continuing in her upcoming album, with a song called “Complete” that is about becoming complete by getting rid of someone. “I think that’s just so much more interesting,” says Casazza. “We’ve all heard the same story of like, ‘I’m complete when I’m with you!’ you know, whereas what if I’m complete without you?”
Her most recent release, “A Song,” questions the need for lyrics altogether. The song tells the story of, well, another song, sung at first by a romantic interest but soon stolen by a narrator.
But the most interesting fact about “A Song” is that, as a series of scat-notes set to a catchy melody, it is lyric-less. The pivotal object around which the rest of the song’s narrative takes place isn’t words, but rather melody.
I asked her, as someone who clearly values good songwriting, why she chose to write an instrumental track. “I really think that over the years I’ve tried to worry less and less about lyrics,” she says. “I think it’s not a certain lyric or the melody, it’s the conviction behind it — the way you sing it that’s important. So I think it’s neither melody nor lyrics that’s most important; it’s how you approach it.”
Lyrically, Casazza draws from musicians from a number of different backgrounds, including everyone from Sara Bareilles to OutKast. “You know, sometimes you have to cry a little bit and then dance,” she says.
Casazza’s studio recordings are great and feature strong retro vibes and fun, lyrical exploration. But where she truly excels is the stage. “Oh I’m all about that live performance baby!” she says. “It’s so much more fun! There’s something about the energy of what the audience feeds you and what you feed the audience. You don’t know what’s gonna happen…it’s very in the moment and I like that.”
Part of that fun for Casazza is the audience participation. She says, “You never know, ‘Oh, they’re gonna sing this thing with me, that’s cool, I’m into that’ or ‘Oh, this crowd’s not gonna sing this thing with me, cool.’” This interaction with the audience, and even the live interaction with her bandmates, can help feed her performance. “It’s cuckoo,” says Casazza. “It’s beautiful.”
Casazza announced a brand new album just last week. “I don’t know what it’s going to be called yet,” she says, “but it is a disco concept album that will take you on a magical journey.” It’s a new direction for her retro sound, but one that’s sure to be a companion to her compelling lyrics and drive to get you to dance and sing along.
In addition to the eight or nine recorded tracks, Casazza is hoping to put on a final show. “I’m gonna do one very theatrical show,” she says, “with lighting, smoke machines — kind of take everyone on a journey”
This is likely to be Casazza’s final album as she moves on to pursue other passions. So now’s your chance to dive into her music before she drops these final disco beats. Because whether it’s her retro-pastiche sound or her unique wordplay, Casazza brings a little something for everybody to her music.