“Football and music go hand-in-hand, for sure – and they show no matter where you’re from – especially being from the best city in the world – you can do anything you want. Just go for it.”
It’s fair to say life is busy for Chelcee Grimes right now.
The 26-year-old, who hails from the Aigburth region of Liverpool, is somehow having to find the time to combine her successful singer-songwriter career with her other vocation – playing professionally for Fulham FC Women.
Oh, and she’s recently been commissioned to host her own bite-sized show via BBC Sport.
But no matter what her schedule, there’s something she’ll always make time for: her passion for Liverpool Football Club.
“It runs throughout my family, we’re all big Reds,” Chelcee tells Liverpoolfc.com, utilising a gap between a day of meetings, studio time and an evening of training with Fulham to chat.
“I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so growing up my uncle would take me to the games because I was into my football.
“I really fell in love with everything about the club. And I suppose because I’m from Liverpool – and my family are all big Reds – it was kind of in the blood from an early age anyway.
“I always try and get up to watch a game as often as I can, but it can be difficult with living in London now. I was at the Newcastle game recently, the 4-0, and loved it. And I was at the Watford game earlier this week.”
It wasn’t just on the terraces that Chelcee’s Liverpool love affair blossomed.
A trial at an Ian Rush soccer school in the city lead to the opportunity to don the red jersey for the club she adores, further cementing its place in her heart.
“I began playing for Liverpool U10s, so I was in the women’s team from the age of nine up to 16. I did go to Everton for a season, but we won’t talk about that!”
It was at Anfield, though, where magical nights captured the imagination of the starry-eyed young Scouser.
“I always say, one of the first – and best – memories I have was being at the Olympiacos game in the year we won the Champions League,” she explains. “I was about 13 then and it was the best time of my life. I remember from then on, there was no way I could not love us.
“When Stevie scored, oh my god, it was magic. We went 1-0 down and had to score three goals, but I could tell – I knew we were going to do it. Then he stepped up and hit that volley… absolute scenes! It was classic Liverpool; making it hard for ourselves but getting there in the end.”
Those sentiments certainly rung true five months later, when Liverpool defied the odds – yet again – to clinch their fifth European Cup, coming back from three goals down at half-time to defeat AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul.
“I was on Lark Lane with my nan and grandad, my mum and a few family friends. My uncle was there in Istanbul and I remember him texting us at half-time… I was crying in the pub and all the Evertonians in there were giving us stick. Fast forward a bit, extra-time, penalties, and I was crying with happiness in the end. I remember it all clearly.
“I went to the parade the next day. I think everyone in the city who is a Red and wasn’t at the game was there, weren’t they? It was absolutely mental.
“I actually played at the FIFA Women’s World Cup draw in Paris recently. I didn’t know who was going to be there, FIFA just gave me a call because they’d seen I was in music and played football. When I was just about to go on stage, I saw a bit of a kerfuffle and wondered who it was and then Kaka walked in, so I got to perform for him.
“He ran rings around us for the first half in Istanbul, so I told him, ‘I remember crying at half-time because you were killing us!’ He laughed and said he loved the club and he never played at Anfield, but he was excited to play in the legends game at Anfield.”
Chelcee and her teammates in her days of representing LFC
It was 2009 when Chelcee was given her first break in the music industry – and again, Liverpool FC was a prevalent part of her opportunity.
It’s one of those strange quirks of fate she now represents the same club as the man partly responsible for it, former Reds forward Ryan Babel, who joined Fulham during the transfer window last month. He had run a competition on local radio station, Juice FM, with the prize a six-month recording contract.
“I sent him a note when I heard he had signed for Fulham and said let’s catch-up when you’re settled in. He said he’d love to. I am wishing him all the best and hopefully they can get a few results to stay up. He’s a great guy.”
A record deal with a major label was to follow, but Grimes’ career didn’t take off in the way she’d hoped.
Nevertheless, the mentality exhibited by the aforementioned Liverpool class of 2004-05 – never knowing when you’re beaten, always adopting a never-say-die spirit – is something that had become imprinted on her.
Just like her idols on the pitch, Chelcee has had to overcome setbacks before reaching the highs and soon after being released from her label, she turned her hand to songwriting, ultimately penning Kylie Minogue’s Million Miles track.
“You can apply that inspiration [of the 2005 Champions League final] to what I do now,” she reflects. “I haven’t come from anything, none of my family are musicians, they are all working-class people. I grew up in Aigburth and I started with a dream in my room, hoping that white wall would one day be people at my shows, saying that I’d inspired them.
“I think, even now, I don’t look and appreciate all the stuff I have done because I am always onto the next one, onto the next one. I think that’s what football has installed into me; you’re only as good as your last result – and in the music business, you’re only as good as your last song.
“Like football, music is similar in the sense you get signed by a manager, but before you get to release your single he leaves and another manager comes in. If he doesn’t really like your style of play – in this case your music – you’re let go. So, I was let go early on in my career, but had money in the bank, so I went travelling and learned a lot about myself.
“I knew I was a good song writer, so I decided to have a crack at it to get some clout and respect in the industry because I tried again with my own solo record. The first session I went to write for someone else was Kylie Minogue.
“I have learned so much about who I want to be as an artist by writing a dance song on Monday, writing a country song on Tuesday, meeting all different kinds of people from different worlds and countries. It’s been amazing and I am so happy it happened to me because I am a much better person and artist because of it. And the label that dropped me ended up re-signing me!”
Fast forward to 2017, and Chelcee could proudly boast three writing credits on Dua Lipa’s self-titled and critically acclaimed debut album.
It was, then, with a sense of overwhelming pride she watched the songstress – who she considers a personal friend – provide the entertainment before the Champions League final with Liverpool and Real Madrid in Kiev last May.
A performance that went viral having been aided by Reds fans’ rendition of One Kiss in the stands of the Olympiyskiy NSC.
“She was made up. We were watching some of the videos of it in the studio the other day. She was like, ‘How has that happened?’ She’s really happy about it, she loves it.
“I’ve told her she has a lot of Liverpool fans now. She was aware of them singing One Kiss in the stands and thought it was really funny; she’s not the biggest football fan but she loves Liverpool – and her manager is a big Liverpool fan.
“I don’t think she expected it, but sometimes it’s meant to be! All of us around her, we’re all big Liverpool fans, so it was really funny to see for us when it happened.
“And Liverpool people know good music!”
Dua Lipa performs ahead of the Champions League final in Kiev
When Chelcee isn’t writing new music or producing her own tracks, she can be found operating as a striker for Fulham FC Women.
There’s one obvious question, though: how on earth does she manage to find the time to cram everything in to a 24-hour day?
“Just then before we started this interview, I got a call to ask if I could go to the studio that night to work with Ella Henderson, but I told them I couldn’t because I had training,” she reveals.
“I had been out for eight weeks because I’d overstretched my ACL – it’s the first injury I have ever had in football. I can feel my body getting a little bit more tired because I am in the studio, taking my kit bag, straight from there on the train going to training. It’s hard when I am out of the country because I can’t be there, so I have missed more games this season than I would have liked.
“It’s a balancing act. The women’s game doesn’t pay as much as I make from music, so sometimes I have to choose that because I have to live and make money. For example, tonight I had to choose the football because I’ve missed it so much. There’s constantly a decision to make; hopefully I can make that Ella Henderson session work another time!
“Right now, I feel I am part of the new generation of women – I don’t just do one thing. People were always like, ‘You’ve got to do this or that’, or ‘You’ve got to be a TV presenter, or just got to be a song writer…’ But I am like, ‘No, I am a singer/songwriter/footballer… and I can do a lot of other things, too!’ I don’t think we have to box ourselves in anymore. If you’ve got it, just go for it.
“I am happy right now – I have never been happier, actually. I have got more things going on just because I am doing things that feel good, and I am not really fussed about what people think anymore. I am just doing what feels good to me.”
Chelcee on the attack for Fulham FC Women
Part of her strongmindedness, Chelcee feels, was derived from her idolisation of Steven Gerrard.
“I grew up when Carragher and Gerrard and the likes of those guys were in the team, Michael Owen. That’s the era I grew up in, but for me it’s Stevie as my biggest inspiration.
“I always say, he is just a hero to me and a big inspiration to people, coming from the city and doing things that you can only dream of. He actually liked something on my Instagram a few weeks ago, so he knows who I am! That’s a start and hopefully I can play a few tunes for him one day.”
In the meantime, Grimes was earlier this year commissioned to host a short BBC Sport series Chelcee Away, in which she accompanies friends from the music world to FA Cup matches.
“I am the only person right now in music who also plays professional football. There was a missing link somewhere and I thought I should be taking all my music mates to the football because when we’re in the studio all we talk about is football, and when I am at football all they want to talk to me about is my music.”
Regardless of her schedule, Chelcee ensures she follows the fortunes of the current crop of Reds.
“When we don’t win, I can wake up the next day feeling like I’ve got a bad hangover because of it,” she laughs.
Still, there haven’t been many of those occasions so far in 2018-19.
“If someone put us in this position at the beginning of the season, we would have taken it. We are up there and we are battling for it. I still believe, I believe we can do it. City are a great team, you can’t take that away from them, but it’s going to be close and will go down to the wire. But I believe, 100 per cent. We can do it.”
Part of the reason Chelcee has steadfast belief in Liverpool’s prospects of success is down to the manager, Jürgen Klopp.
“I just love him, he is brilliant – what a character he is! In fact, if he wasn’t at Liverpool, we’d all want him. He is just a great guy and the character he has suits us down to the ground. He embodies everything about Liverpool Football Club and what we’re all about.
“He appreciates the fans and the club so much, you can tell he really cares. That’s enough for me, but obviously if we can win anything this season, it’ll be the cherry on the top of the cake.
“In terms of the players, Salah… what a guy he is. Talking about character, he is a lovely guy, seems super humble, and I love watching him play. Van Dijk is different class and I think Naby has the potential to become a big player.
“There really looks like there is a togetherness among the squad and when we play at our best, no-one can stop us.”
For both Chelcee personally and Liverpool collectively, the coming months look to hold plenty in store.
She’ll be releasing new music in the spring, while the Reds continue to battle on two fronts to bring silverware back to Anfield.
“What are my aims? For Liverpool, if we can come away at the end of the season and we’re lifting that trophy – because I have never seen us win the league – that’s my hope and what I am dreaming about at night.
“For me, making more music for other people and myself. I have an EP coming out in April which I am so excited about because it’s the best music I’ve ever written. I’ve got some great songs coming out with other artists, that I am super proud of.
“Just more of that, really – hard work, more music, more travelling and hopefully getting back to Liverpool soon to see the Reds lift that trophy in May!”