You heard her at FallFest; you want her to perform at your next campus event; and admittedly, you can’t get her song, “Break My Heart,” out of your head (hey, it’s better than Rebecca Black’s “Friday”). How many UNC students can say they spent their freshman year recording an album? I know only one, and she is this week’s campus celebrity, Priscilla Townsend. Priscilla knows how to leave her fans wanting more, and her debut album, Chasing Sleep, is now available on iTunes. A sophomore from Waxhaw, North Carolina, Priscilla loves meeting new people around campus. So, if you see her around, don’t be shy! No need to ask for an autograph; just have her play you a song on her ukulele, Niles.
HC: How long have you been playing the guitar and writing your own music?
Priscilla: So, I’ve been playing guitar since I was nine. Someone gave me a guitar and I started picking it up by ear. I played on and off, but I didn’t really get into songwriting until last year. I started writing songs and playing the ukulele last November.
HC: The Bench Studios discovered you at a recording contest. What was that experience like?
Priscilla: It was really exciting. It’s still mind blowing, because I wasn’t even going to enter the contest, but my mom made me. After I won the contest, the prize was free recording time in the studio, which was a first for me. Being asked to sign a recording contract with the studio was surreal, but it has definitely been something really exciting for me to do. Participating in the contest was an unforgettable experience.
HC: Your EP is entitled Chasing Sleep. Did you have a specific inspiration for this album?
Priscilla: Being a first year while trying to start up my music career was very challenging. I learned quickly that there are many sacrifices you have to make when you pursue a dream or a goal. I was juggling class, going home to record, performing and working two jobs. So, that’s where sleep deprivation comes in, but it’s a cycle. In order to chase your dreams you have to sacrifice things, but in order to dream you have to be asleep.
HC: My favorite song on Chasing Sleep is “How Did I Know.” Do you have a favorite song and why?
Priscilla: That’s a hard one because each song I write is like a child to me. I would have to say “How Did I Know” is my favorite song because it’s the first one I wrote. I wrote it without the intention of it ever being recorded. It ended up foreshadowing the sound and feel of the album. Every time I hear it, I get chills.
HC: Everyone is asking, why is your guitar named Raz, and how do you know it’s transgendered?
Priscilla: I have a habit of naming things. If you’re my computer I’ll name you or if you’re a friend I may give you a nickname. The name of my guitar is Raziela and I got it as a graduation present from my wonderful sister, Elaine. When I figured out what to name it, I decided to call it “Raz.” At first, I was referring to it as a male, but the full name, Raziela, sounds like a girl’s name. The guys at Bench Studios were like, “Is it a guy or girl?” I said, “I don’t know I guess it’s transgendered,” and they ended up putting it on the website.
HC: You perform at a lot of campus events. Do students ever recognize you around campus?
Priscilla: Yeah, I’ve had some interesting encounters with people coming up to me. I love meeting new people and getting to know other students, so it’s great being able to connect through music. It’s really rewarding to see that my efforts at getting my music out there are working even in the slightest. I try to perform wherever I can, so hit me up if you need someone, what what!
HC: When you’re not performing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Priscilla: I love love LOVE to hang out with my family whenever I can go home. They are a huge part of my life. I love sleeping, hanging out with friends, and Latin dancing. Also, I’m a huge fan of food, especially Peruvian food.
HC: Okay, what is your favorite Carolina memory?
Priscilla: I would have to say my favorite Carolina memory is the first time I performed on campus, which was at an Achordants a capella concert, because it truly connected me to UNC. I was super nervous, but once I went on stage it was a light bulb moment for me. It was so fun and the audience was very supportive! I thought, ‘I could do this on the regular.’
HC: Your major at UNC-Chapel Hill is dental hygiene. Where do you see yourself after graduation?
Priscilla: I would love to be able to play my music, but I can also see myself as a dental hygienist or a dentist. So maybe I could do both at the same time? If I can be a traveling musician and dental hygienist that would be great. There are so many things I want to accomplish in life but music is definitely on the top of that list. My number one goal for my life is that I stay very passionate about everything I do.
HC: What advice do you have for other aspiring artists?
Priscilla: Don’t ever try to be somebody else or to fit into a genre or image. Find what makes up who you are as a person and use all of that in your music. I find those things that make up who you are make you more relatable as an artist. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there in your art!
HC: Time to sell yourself. Tell us, why should our readers purchase your EP?
Priscilla: First of all, The Bench Studios and I put so much work into making it and I really want people to be inspired by it. If you like music, I really hope you will be able to appreciate this album. Music is a huge part of me. It’s not that I want fame or popularity; it’s just enough to be able to do what I love on a daily basis. The best jobs are the jobs that you would want to do even if you were not getting paid, and that’s what my music is to me. To check out my music go to www.priscillatownsend.com or visit my YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/priscillatownsend.
All photos provided by Priscilla Townsend.