Asbury Park, NJ
Born in Sleepy Hollow, NY, Carl has been performing on stage since age 13. In his 20’s he moved to New York City’s East Village and formed the indie record label Regular Records. What started as a vanity label for his critically acclaimed EP, “The Psychology of Waiting,” ended up expanding with a healthy roster of NYC-based artists. During that time he wrote and recorded the song, “St. Anthony,” which received worldwide airplay. In 2001 he relocated to Asbury Park, NJ and has been part of the Jersey Shore music community ever since. Chesna is the founder of the Asbury Wax Cylinder Recordings label, and wrote the Mercury Retrograde Society column for The Aquarian Weekly. He was nominated for “Top Male Acoustic” at the Asbury Music Awards in 2010 and played at the Awards ceremony at the legendary Stone Pony.
“There are no locks on story-box”
~Paula and Carolyn, The Magic Garden
Today’s war on women reminds me of the propaganda surrounding the Bush/Reagan-era war on drugs. I look at the misogynistic nature of our
society and the world in general and it sickens me. As a kid I loved watching “Wonder Woman” and was fascinated by the secret city of
Themyscira in the Paradise Islands. My entire family sat together to watch shows like “The Bionic Woman,” “Isis” and “Charlie’s Angels.” I
sang along to David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” years before I even knew what it meant. I’ve always been drawn to powerful women like Patti
Smith, Chrissie Hynde and Queen Latifah. I think the same is true for a lot of gay guys because it goes against the notions of what we were
taught women ought to be like. If there were no Suzi Quattro or Janis Joplin, there would be no Joan Jett or Pat Benatar. Not to take anything
away from Karen Carpenter or Janis Ian, it was just an entirely different dialect, so to speak. Sure, there were always dude role
models to look up to like Bowie or Lou Reed, but you’d better have been a girl if you liked them, or you were destined to be labeled a “fag,”
which was NOT OK in the jock culture of suburbia where I grew up. So like any self-respecting young subversive I moved to the city as soon as
I was able.
While it seems incredibly timely and relevant during this era of #MeToo, I actually conceived the concept for my most recent album, “Prayer to
the Black Madonna,” in the late ’90’s when I still lived in the East Village, NYC. It’s not a religious record, but like many things in life,
it is informed by a dysfunctional catholic upbringing. I wear a medal of the Black Madonna around my neck on a sterling silver beaded chain I
bought in Salem, Mass. Born in Sleepy Hollow, NY; I am drawn to places rich in dark history and folklore. One of my very first bands in high
school was even called “Alfred and the Hitchcocks,” and I remember playing the annual “Hollowstock” jam and almost getting busted by the
principal for smoking weed on the front steps, but I digress…
I was going through a lot of spiritual soul searching during that time and NYC is a veritable goldmine for anyone self-seeking wisdom in any
sense of the word. I had run into Henry Rollins at the Starbucks on Bowery & St. Marks St. and gave him the advance test pressing of my
first EP. Black Flag’s first album “Damaged” was one of my first vinyl purchases, and his solo release “The End of Silence” was a huge
inspiration to me. Never mind the fact that he’s easy on the eyes. The track, “Theme Song,” which appears on “Prayer to the Black Madonna,” was written shortly after our brief encounter. Around that time I read the book, “The Black Madonna,” and it was a
revelation. It really spoke to me, so I created a list of songs I intended to write around the theme of the feminine archetype throughout religious history. Unexpectedly, it proved to be quite depressing and I was really trying to get away from the whole Morrissey thing in my own
catharsis, so I moved more in a Rollins direction and wrote more empowering songs like, “You’re Gonna Shine,” which was my first attempt at a happy song. The opening lyric?: “Lost in the shadows without any answers: oh no!” It ends on a positive note though, I promise.Then I came up with the hook for “Whore of Babylon” during a shift at Acme Bar & Grill on Bond Street and finished the song after I got home
that night. I still have the original handwritten notes! While researching the Black Madonna in an effort to work through my personal demons (which have always manifested themselves in anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and eventually addiction) the concept of the tune “Dark Night of the Soul,” came into play. It’s a never-ending personal battle, and as my brother and I have learned as we research our
genealogy, it seems to be a trait I’ve inherited from generations of sufferers.
A song I’d written years prior as a teenager while working at Rye Playland ended up fitting the bill too. It was about the Greek Goddess
Demeter and her daughter Persephone. This was way before Al Gore invented the internet, so I actually had to call my friend Helen to drive a couple miles out to the bar by the scattered housing off Spring Street—because I couldn’t remember Demeter’s name, but knew there was a bar named after her that we passed every morning on the school bus. The bar was Demeter’s Tavern and the song is “Wintertime Greys.” At this time I was listening to Suzanne Vega’s new cassette “Solitude Standing,” which I bought off another kid who gave out quarters at Playland after he bought it but only liked “Luka” and nothing else. There I learned what a “case quarter” was and also made friends with a woman who would light herself on fire and high dive into a shallow water pool right by me every shift. She was older but flirted with me, sort of like when Steve Martin befriended circus starlet “Patty” in the movie “The Jerk.” I told her I was in a band and she told me she’d co-written “Round and Round,” the hit song by RATT. She didn’t get writing credit, but was paid in cocaine.
Yet again, I digress… Or do I? A few years later I moved from NYC to Asbury Park, NJ because it reminded me of one of my favorite places to
visit on the weekends: Coney Island. It was NOT the Asbury Park we know today. Downtown was all boarded up and besides the Stone Pony and The
Saint, there weren’t too many reliable music venues —except Cross Roads, which was a great blues bar, but is long gone now. I played at The Saint often and some art galleries and cafes: Be Gallery, The Pink Note and of course the legendary Fast Lane.I formed musical relationships with some great folks and about eight years ago figured, “if I don’t make this record soon I never will.” At that point my vision for the record had changed and much of what I’d written didn’t fit within the scope of what I’d originally planned. However, I remained committed to the title since the book had such a huge impact on my life.Finally, I enlisted the services of Ms. Joy Vay of “Tight Lipped” to sing lead on the song “Don’t Talk to Me” because it’s a mean song written about a woman. And it worked out perfectly —Joy is our very own
local Wendy O. Williams.
I think the gay movement tried to latch onto the women’s movement and the black movement as early as the ’50’s and ’60’s but those groups didn’t want anything to do with us either. It’s no wonder really —women are still the “Niggers of the World” to quote John Lennon & Yoko Ono, if I may be so bold. Their fight has been ongoing since day one. It was Eve who picked the apple. Men never had a glass ceiling to break. (White) men could always vote, be clergy, have power, make decisions for everyone and everything—generally speaking. This was not true for the women folk and the world isn’t much different today. I think that as a culture we may have to stop asking: “what would Jesus
do?” and change the bumper sticker to: “What would Wendy do?” That’s why Joan of Arc is tattooed on my bicep and burns in handcuffs on the album cover. Because it needs to be said. It needs to be acknowledged by men —even if it’s a homosexual holding the torch. I think the world would be a much better place if it were run by empowered sober women. The “old boys club” has been setting up the rules and regulations for the “little ladies of the world” for far too long.
Prayer to the Black Madonna
The Road (sang duet with Abby Straus)
Psychology of Waiting
Cremcaffe. Second Avenue near Third Street, East Village. Acoustic music lovers are under table umbrellas applauding Carl Chesna. Suddenly some dude falls from the sky, crashing through an umbrella. Seems he’d been chilling out on a rusty fire escape overhead and it gave way. Only in New York kids, only in New York. Cindy Adams – The New York Post
From the uplifting “You’re Gonna Shine” to the rockier “New Orleans”, singer-songwriter Carl Chesna captures the moment and takes a look into the future with “The Psychology of Waiting”… Chesna’s distinctive vocal gives the album its continuity. He seems quite comfortable with the folky “You’re Gonna Shine,” but also shows he can do the blues-rock thing with songs like “Dream’s Wake”. In an interesting twist, Chesna delivers a Bowie-esque performance covering Chrissie Hynde’s “Up the Neck.” Staff Writer – PGN
Add Chesna’s name to the growing list… songwriters snagging attention… “You’re Gonna Shine” – a nicely structured tune – seek it out on the fine album, “The Psychology of Waiting.”
Larry Flick – Billboard
As a young boy growing up in Tarrytown, N.Y., Carl Chesna would go out on family outings in their boat along the Hudson River. “One of my favorite things to do was to sit in the back of the boat and watch the trail of water. My parents said, ‘Well, that’s the wake. It’s our path where we’ve been,'” says Chesna from his home in the East Village. For the past six years, Chesna has plied his trade as a singer and songwriter in the fold of his contemporary, Daniel Cartier, performing at East Village spots such as The Spiral, the now defunct Cafe Sin-e, CBGB Gallery, Under Acme, Brownies, and more recently The Baggott Inn…. “When I write songs, it’s not so much about telling a story as it is expressing a feeling,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in the environment, equal rights and humanitarian concerns and I do sometimes address these social issues in my songs, but I don’t want to be too preachy. There’s a certain folk esthetic and rock sensibility to my stuff”, says Chesna, whose “Psychology of Waiting” (Regular Records) varies from the upbeat, happy “You’re Gonna Shine” to the psychological dream world of “Dream’s Wake.” “I try to express a positive energy,” he says. “Our society as a whole focuses entirely too much on results and not about the process towards success and defining what success is. So much of it is about status and I have a big car, a mortgage and a big house in the country. Whatever these little prizes are that people are running around with. Most things don’t just happen. Each process is a struggle. How did you get there? I see people waiting a lot in their lives before they start to live. People place a lot of conditions on their happiness”, says Chesna. Chesna, 29, found himself trapped in the same cycle as he struggled to make ends meet and pay college tuition working at corporate sales jobs in Manhattan while studying, first as an electrical engineering and business major and then shifting to the more artistic side of English Literature and creative writing at Pace University. Chesna decided to give up the corporate dreams for life as a musician and songwriter, and just two courses away from finally getting his B.A. in English Literature from Pace, he’s upon the wake of his dreams. “That’s where life happens,” he says. “Once you get there, you can always change and say, ‘Now I want this,’ because the idea of success in life is really fluid anyway. My idea is to be happy in the struggle, because that’s where life happens.”
Robert Hicks – The Villager
In Review – Carl Chesna – The Psychology of Waiting (Regular Records). There’s a lot of empowerment in this album. From the positive message in “You’re Gonna Shine” to the revelations in “New Orleans.” Carl seems comfortable with exposing deep feelings and memories in his sensitive songs.
Staff Writer – Songwriter’s Monthly
NYC singer/songwriter Carl Chesna’s song “St. Anthony” was recently chosen over 200 other songs to be included on The Acoustic Rainbow Sampler, Volume Four, which will be released to over 1,000 radio shows. “St. Anthony” is from Chesna’s self-released debut The Psychology of Waiting.
Staff Writer – Songwriter’s Monthly
The Asbury Music Awards annually bring together the Jersey shore’s music community for a night of congratulations and camaraderie. But more than the trophies, the night’s performances — carefully chosen to represent every genre of music being played in area clubs — provide a rare chance to take the pulse of the Asbury Park music scene. This year, it is beating strong.
Produced by Adam Weisberg and Scott Stamper, co-owners of the Saint nightclub, the AMAs show started as an intimate gathering at the old T-Birds Café and has grown over the years until finally finding a home at the Stone Pony. On Saturday, the 18th annual Asbury Music Awards filled the Pony with an enthusiastic audience that ranged from gray-haired old-timers to fresh-faced youngsters who hadn’t been born when the first awards show took place.
Radio personality “Rockin’” Robyn Lane (of 95.9 the WRAT-FM) emceed the event graciously and briskly, keeping the award presentations and performances flowing so smoothly that the show ran ahead of schedule most of the night.
Lane remembered moving to New Jersey to work at her new station and said the first question she asked was: “How far is Asbury Park from Belmar?” When told it was “just down the road,” she made her first trip to the city and instantly fell in love with its history and musical traditions.
In the past, local performers such as April Smith, Val Emmich, Rick Barry have benefited from their exposure at the Asbury Awards ceremonies while launching national careers.
This year, as always, the show presented an eclectic array of local talent, showcasing the sensuous orchestral folk of Carl Chesna, the upbeat power-pop of Almost There, the laid-back grooves of Quincy Mumford and the Reason Why (who won the award for Top Young Band), hard rock and metal from Scott Liss and the 66, and the theatrical pop of Capt. James and the Pain, whose 10-piece band and campy persona suggested the early B-52s.
But the standout performance of the night came with the inspired pairing of local chanteuse Eryn Shewell with the young blues-rock combo Outside the Box, who simply tore the room apart with sizzling torch songs powered by Shewell’s impressive pipes, guitarist Jeff Cafone’s blistering leads and keyboardist Mark Masefield’s soulful organ.
The combination of such inspiring musicianship and Shewell’s fiery vocals proved that the blues remain alive and well in Asbury Park. Even with all of the Stone Pony’s vaunted history, this was a performance that people will remember years from now. Masefield would later win Top Keyboard Player, and Outside the Box was awarded Top Rock Band.
Veteran folksinger George Wirth was named Top Male Acoustic Act, Asbury pop-rockers Status Green won for both Best Local Release and Top Live Performance, and River City Extension earned Top Americana honors.
In the “Beyond Asbury” category, saluting performers who have moved on to national careers, the Bouncing Souls won for their January “Ghosts on the Boardwalk” album, whose title track was inspired by Asbury Park. (The Souls will present their annual “Home for the Holidays” charity concerts at the Stone Pony, Dec. 26-29.)
Staff Writer – Asbury Park Press
Porchfest Asbury Park 2018
For the second year in a row, Carl Chesna & Co. are playing Porchfest at 3:00 p.m. on the porch of the Hotel Tides on 7th Avenue in Asbury Park.
August 28th, 2018
Local Musician Films Internet Commercial with “Soup Nazi”
A local musician finds himself in a national internet commercial featuring the famous Soup Nazi from the “Seinfeld” television show. Carl Chesna of Carl Chesna & Co. was known around Asbury Park not only for his performances at The Saint and the Stone Pony, but as someone who does a good impression of the late comedian Andy Kaufman’s character, Tony Clifton. Chesna and his band also have a new album coming out and are scheduled to perform at this September’s Porchfest in the city.
Source: The Coaster
August 2nd, 2018
Carl Chesna & Co. Get Asbury Centric
Carl Chesna & Co. recently released its debut album, “Prayer to the Black Madonna” as a testament of sorts to the Asbury music scene. “People ask if it’s a religious album-because of the title-but it’s not. The original concept was generated as a result of my research when I wrote the song ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. I was reading a book about the Black Madonna and exploring the femaile archetype throughout theological history including Joan of Arc, the Whore of Babylon, and Demeter & Persephone – all of whom are touched upon in this record. I strayed from the theme here and there, but ended up keeping with the original plan. Women are underpaid, undermined and exploited in practically every culture on the planet, and meanwhile they’re represented with power and dignity in most religions since the beginning of time. They bring life to our world for crying out loud.”
Source: The Aquarian Weekly
July 18th, 2018
Asbury Park Rising Star
A few years back, I revisited a project that I had abandoned more than 10 years ago: my first full length album, “Prayer to the Black Madonna.” I’m still working on it and have finished a dozen songs already with six more to go. I’ll continue to record in Asbury Park’s amazing full service studio, the Lake House… Working with a diverse crew of talented Asbury Park musicians like Tanya Peterson and Keith McCarthy, and others as far away as Burlington VT has been an amazing creative experience. I think the eclectic nature of the final product will reflect this.
Source: Asbury Park Zest
December 11th, 2016