CENTER STAGE: SINGER / SONGWRITER CHLOE DOLANDIS

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 Gabrielle Bill 0 Comments



I first met Chloe when I was in 7th grade and she was in 6th. We were both cast in our English teacher's "musical" -- Scenes from the Old West -- in which no one actually sang, but rather lip-synced to tape decks illegally recorded from old-timey Western albums. From the moment I saw her literally bounce across the room during our first rehearsal, I was enamored. I hand-picked her (as I still do today) as someone I wanted to make my friend, and without fail, by high school we had developed the kind of closeness that stays strong even when years and years pass between conversations. 

She was, and still is, a dynamo, although the boundless energy she possessed as a child has cooled just enough in her adult life to make her appear both on-fire with passion and simultaneously grounded. I was inspired by Chloe's energy as a teen, but what has kept me so inspired all these years is the fact that Chloe is one of the few people I know to truly pursue her passion, no holds barred.

You see, I was a total drama nerd in high school. We were this really tight knit group of performers with a hodge podge of talents, and since we rehearsed five nights a week -- whether for our fall straight play, spring musical or bevy of neighborhood "gigs" (mostly old age homes, but that's what you get when you grow up in south Florida) -- it meant few of us had many friends outside the circle. It also meant that, with a world so narrowly focused on one particular passion, many of us proclaimed loudly and clearly that we would be the special ones to break through the clutter and become professionals in the theatre arts.

Although theatre has, and always will be, my one true love, I was one of the less brave ones who succumbed to the societal notion that being rich was more important than living your passion (I learned my lesson!), but Chloe and a select few never let the sheer impracticality of making a living in the arts stop them from chasing their dreams. 

Of course, for Chloe, becoming an artist may have been destiny. She grew up with musical parents -- her mom was a professional ballet dancer who had done some musical theatre and her dad was a professional musician -- so from the jump, she was encouraged to pursue creativity in its many forms. She took dance lessons, developed a love for drawing, and even started collecting pig stuffed animals (today this massive collection could create a very impressive art installation in a museum, so yes, I consider that to be creativity). 

In high school -- as is the case for many -- thinking about the future of her career got serious, and even her uber-supportive dad urged Chloe to give practicality some consideration. "My dad wanted to make sure I could take care of myself financially," Chloe says. "But I realized that practical and natural, like what feels right, are completely married. If you're doing something you love, everything flourishes."

Even though she felt self-assurance around her performance career, Chloe did take the somewhat practical route and pursued a bachelor's degree at Florida Atlantic University. She chose to stay close to home for school, rather than going away to college, so she could be in the midst of the burgeoning south Florida performance scene. And then she started auditioning. 

She landed a hosting role on a Nickelodeon game show called "SPLAT!" in 2004 -- her first major television gig. (True story: Chloe wasn't the original woman hired for the job! She was hired as a replacement a year after her first audition, a "great lesson in patience" she recalls.) 

"I took a semester off of school to host the show," Chloe says, "and I found myself writing songs during every break from taping." She remembers how she'd beg the producers to let her sing for the cast and crew, although at the time she'd sing covers of other artists' music; too shy to share the originals she'd penned. 

"It was a gradual progression as far as the blossoming of my love for music," she says. "I had a lot of fear around it. I had been in dance class, and I was in musical theatre, but the shy side of me kept holding me back as far as singing goes and songwriting and playing instruments. It took me longer than I expected to develop my voice and confidence, but I just had this feeling that music was the way, that music was what I wanted to pursue as my main focus."


Her work on SPLAT! resulted in being cast on another game show called "Friday Night SlimeTime" that shot in Los Angeles, but interestingly Chloe didn't feel as fulfilled as she expected. Deciding that it was no longer possible to ignore the calling she felt toward music, Chloe left the West Coast when the show wrapped and dove headfirst into the singer / songwriter scene. That's when she met Zach Ziskin, a man she credits with changing her life.

Zach was a Grammy-award winning producer, and after sparking an immediate connection, the pair wrote, recorded and released Chloe's first album, "Bring Back the Fever," a self-funded collection of soulful, jazzy songs with deep, meaningful lyrics. "We just created it, then started figuring out how to market it," she says, "Meanwhile I just continued to audition, trying out for lots of reality shows. When I got past the fear of judgment, I was able to start allowing myself to try things."

Naturally, it wasn't all smooth sailing. In spite of making really great music and having a natural, raw talent that's hard to fake, Chloe's album wasn't the overnight, runaway hit that she might have hoped for. Instead she had to come to grips, not only with the pain of rejection, but also the concept that her music career might be more of a slow burn than a rapidly-sparked fire. 

"It hurt. I let it hurt. To stifle it or to pretend makes it more difficult because then you’re not acknowledging what’s really going on. It’s not that it isn’t hard sometimes, because sometimes it really, really stings, and so I’ve let it hurt and I’ve moved through it. I genuinely from the bottom of my heart do my best to handle things with grace, but that doesn’t mean I don’t cry. Allowing myself to do this and accepting it as part of the process makes it easier. I know those feelings aren’t going to last. Rejection can be redirection."

And Chloe truly embraces that attitude, using the forks in the road to help her continually hone and develop her craft. "My style is always developing. It’s kind of like cooking. I'll listen to a bunch of music and say, 'I like the bass drum from this song, the synth pattern from this song and the groove of this song, and I love the vocal styling of this person.' I take inspiration from lots of things and then figure out how to do things my own way." And her method works.



After performing for more than half of her life, Chloe has become a veritable celebrity in the south Florida singing community. Ask for a peek at her calendar, and you'll feel as though she's constantly working, whether performing live at venues near and far with her band, recording new music in the studio, doing a photo shoot or wrapping up behind-the-scenes production work on a new album she co-wrote. The success she's found is real, valuable and meaningful, even if her face isn't plastered on a billboard in Hollywood.

"I've always had this desire to connect artistically with other people, with myself, with the world," she says. "My career is a huge part of who I am, and I can really say that every day I love what I do."

If you'd like to learn more about Chloe or hear her music, you can connect with her via her website, www.chloedolandis.com or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
 
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Gabrielle "Gabby" Bill is a career coach and consultant who believes everyone should be working in a job that leaves them feeling fulfilled. She coaches groups and individuals through a reflection process, uncovering often hidden motivations, values, goals and skills as they relate to their career. These reflections are then parlayed into concrete action plans to guide clients through the process of finding, creating and landing their dream jobs. You can learn more about her services by visiting www.gabriellebill.com

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