The phrase “Going Pro” is a phrase that drives aspirations for young athletes around the world no matter the sport. It is also a phrase that could to be used to describe one’s aspirations for whatever field they are in and their goals to master it. But that being said, while many have the aspirations, few reach that actualization of those dreams. Our latest Female is Football feature has done just that in not one, but two separate worlds. Chelcee Grimes is blazing a path less traveled and has reached the pro level in both the beautiful game and with the music she creates. From signing professional women’s soccer contracts in the UK to writing music for global pop stars, Chelcee is definitely setting an example for young women all over. Check out our conversation with Chelcee below, as she takes us from where it began on the pitch in Liverpool to being in the studio with the likes of Dua Lipa and many more.
Make sure to follow Chelcee @ChelceeGrimes
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got introduced to football.
I’m Chelsea Grimes. I’m a singer, songwriter, and footballer from Liverpool, the best city in the world.
That’s quite a list Singer, Songwriter, and Footballer. Let’s take them one at a time. Tell us how you got into football.
Yeah, it’s honestly, I think it was one of those things that I fell into. I grew up with no brothers and sisters until I was 16. So when I was a kid if I wanted to play outside, play in the street, there was only boys who lived in my street, so they only wanted to play football. So it was kind of just one of those things. Unless I wanted to stay inside, I’d have to go and play football with the boys. I got good quite quickly and I just fell in love with it. And then the first club I played for was Liverpool. My granddad saw article in the newspaper for an Ian Rush soccer school. To be honest, I think the only reason he wanted me to go is so that he could meet Ian Rush, the legend. So I went down and I was the only girl and it just so happened that way. Where we played for the soccer camp was the same place that Liverpool ladies trained on. Someone just scouted me there and asked me down for trials and I went the next week and then I signed for Liverpool and I was there ’til I was 17. So it was crazy and very fast. I think I didn’t even own a pair of football boots when I went for the trial, I was in a pair of trainers but it all worked out.
What was the women’s game like then when you were playing for Liverpool?
You know, I spent the whole summer for the World Cup living in France and that was super emotional for me because there were 45,000, 30,000 people per game in a stadium. And I what I was used to was like, you know, parents on the sideline and the coaching staff, but I think they were quite voluntary when I grew up and it was completely different to now obviously, but you know, it still gave me a place to go. It was still there. It was still available. But yeah, it was, it was definitely 150,000 miles away from what the game is now.
So that’s pretty incredible you were in France for the entire Women’s World Cup. How did that happen?
I was doing BBC Television. I think it was about two months before the World Cup. I had a three episode show commissioned from the BBC, which was online much of the day. And it was a small segment, where they basically said, “Hey, you like football and you like music, why don’t you come and make a show about it?” So I was taking my music friends to football games and just trying to get them more into the game. And then the heads of the BBC said, “Listen, we want to take you out to France. You get to live in France for a month for free and travel the whole country. Watch the women’s tournament on basically just shoot what you want and we’ll put it on at half time.”
Which was obviously amazing because back home it broke records. I think it was the most watched sporting event in England ever. So even though for the women, you know, I was speaking to a lot of the England team and they couldn’t believe it, because their support back home was just incredible. I didn’t know really what to expect going out there to France, you know, having so few women’s games I thought maybe, you know, 50% maybe 25%, hopefully like 75% of the stadiums there would be sold. But it was a sellout each game. And it was honestly a super emotional experience for me because I didn’t think that as I’ve got to experience that, you know? And it was, yeah, it was just such a proud moment for me to know that I was there and it’s a story that I’ll be able to tell my grandkids one day, hopefully.
So you have already told us the other thing you do is music, When did you get involved in making music?
People often ask me what came first. It’s kind of like chicken or the egg, was it football or was it music. And it was 150% football first. Now it’s mostly music because that’s what pays the bills for me. And I make a lot more money and music rather than female football right now. I always wanted to be a footballer. And I played, like I said, from the age of 10 to 17 for Liverpool and I went on to play for Tottenham as well as Tranmere center of excellence with the most capped English female footballer ever, actually men or women. Fara Williams. She was a Tranmere with me and Izzy Christianson who went on to Manchester city. Now she’s at Lyon. And that’s all I wanted to do.
But then very quickly, at the age of 17 you know, people are starting to think about longterm careers and there was just no money in the game. You know, we were at the age of 15/16 and the male team, the boys, they would get a salary then and we would get nothing. We were lucky if we even got a team bus to a game and away game. So I had to very quickly think of something else and I just loved music. It was kind of like, whenever I wrote a song it kind of gave me the same feeling of scoring a goal, when I knew it was really good. It was the only other thing that fulfilled me. So you know, I’d done it for a minute and within a year I got a record deal and a publishing deal and I made a lot of money and I went from having no money with another passion of mine, which had done for seven years, eight years. Then this other thing which gives me the same fulfillment and I was getting paid. So, you know, I had to leave football behind unfortunately for many years, for like four or five years and I focused solely on music and songwriting and creating a name for myself in the industry until I literally could not not think about football. I just had to play again.
So are you self-taught or a classically trained musician?
Yeah it was self-taught. I just did it in school for GCSE(General Certificate of Secondary Education). So you pick three options and I picked PE for football. I picked science in case I had an injury. A lot of girls would go into physiotherapy and stuff like that around the game. And then there was one more option and it was between like history, geography, or music and I was rubbish at the other two. So I was like, “Okay, I’ll give music a go.” Within like the first few music lessons in school I picked up the piano really quickly and my music teacher, Mr. Quinn, shouts out to him, he just really liked he championed me a lot and told me, “You’ve got a gift, you’re talented, you should stick on it.” And so it did. And I play every single open mic night that was available every weekend. I’d play in bars and just doing small gigs until more and more people started coming down and then the record labels came and yet it just grew and it was super organic. Yeah. I never really thought that I’d end up doing it. It was just another thing that I really loved.
That amazing you got signed pretty young then and essentially made it to the pros in music. Tell us about your first record deal.
I think it is every kid’s dream when you pick up an instrument or you make a demo or when you go into a studio for the first time; the one thing that you want is a record deal. It’s like signing for a club in the Premier League. It’s big news, but then as people say, hard work happens and you know you kind of need every star to align at the right time. And I use football analogies constantly throughout my music career and people can’t shut me up about them, My first record deal, I always say it was kind of like Paul Pogba signing with Manchester United and then he got let go and then he becomes something, then they resign him back.
‘Cause the first record deal I was signed to was Sony and I was only signed there for about a year maybe. But I didn’t really know what kind of album I wanted to make. They were trying to make me like an Alicia Keys, because I was young and I was playing a piano and I was British and they were like, “okay, we don’t have anyone like that.” It was quite contrived and I just hated the record I was making. I absolutely hated it.
So I didn’t release any music, but I got paid, you know, a nice advance and it kept me living for a good two years. And then I traveled and I got to just really find the person and I wanted to be. Because at that time I was 18, 19, and you know, I don’t even think I had fallen in love before properly or anything. It was a massive learning curve for me. And we parted ways and then I was like, “I’m just gonna write songs for a bit.” So it’s kind of like I went out on loan for a while. A year later I made a name for myself with songwriting. Right. I wrote for Kylie Minogue and Dua Lipa. Then they resigned me back for even more money. So it was kind of a weird place. And then I released the first single with them, which did really well. And then I just, yeah. And then I got back into football obviously at that point. The past two years have honestly just been crazy. It’s just been nonstop about prioritizing football and TV and songwriting and then for my own album. So it’s just, yeah, it’s nonstop.
So tell us how and why you got back into football after starting a successful music career.
So it was not this World Cup, but the World Cup before that, I think, Fara Williams was the captain and I was sitting home, I remember it clearly. I was watching pretty much half of the team on the England squad and I played with them on some level and I was just sitting on the sofa eating Doritos and getting chunky. And I was just like, “What am I doing?” I picked up my laptop then and there and at halftime I looked at teams that were close by.I contacted clubs and and told them, “I played for this club and this club, and you know, I’m not really that fit, but technically I think I’m still good.” And I got to trial at a few Sunday League teams who wanted me, and then I got a trial for West Ham, Tottenham, and Wimbledon but then I didn’t travel for Wimbledon, but I did travel West Ham and Tottenham and they both offered me contracts, which was crazy because I didn’t expect to be at that level. That was just one league below Super League, which I felt was quite high considering I hadn’t played for the past five years. And I signed for Tottenham and played two seasons there, which was amazing. And then they went up to super league and got promoted. And at that point it was too much. It went full time then. And I also had this other career. I was gigging most nights and I was in the studio. This is the difference with all the people that maybe have a nine to five job they can leave and make training. But if I’m in the studio with Dua Lipa the Grammy winning best new artist in the world, I can’t just pick a bag up and go, “Sorry, Dua, I’ve got training.”
Because you know, that one song could make me $1 million, it could make me 300,000 pounds. And you know the women’s game still isn’t at that level; one season you’re not going to retire off that money. It’s such a difficult decision always will be. It’s about priorities and you know, I’m at Fullham now, which is two leagues below the super league, but it gives me time to balance a little bit better. You know, if I miss training a few times, then I’m definitely not in the squad, and the manager makes a point that no one’s better than anyone and you’ve just got to keep training and get yourself back in the side. So yeah, it’s a lot, but I love both.
At KTTP we talk a lot about the intersection of football, fashion, and culture. What are your thoughts about how the game has grown off the pitch?
One of the leading guys right now in English football, I think for fashion, is obviously Hector Bellerin from Arsenal. That guy is in Vogue now. And you see Mbappe and all these guys in front, when I was in Paris. He was everywhere. Not only in sports sections, but also in like high end fashion places. And I think the of the fashion world maybe being a little bit snobby over the years and also British football was saying, “it’s too flamboyant for our sport.” But I also think the fashion world has awoke and they’ve thought, “You know, actually those guys, they’ve got fashion and they can offer us something that we don’t have.”
And I think there’s new crowds being built through music, fashion, and football all coming together. It’s opened this whole new level of what even fashion is, I think. So it’s super inspiring when you see all the football shirts now. that The way PSG have done theirs, with BAPE and stuff like that. It’s super exciting for everyone whether you’re in sport or you’re in fashion to be able to go out now on a night out and you can actually rock a football Jersey being designed with adidas or someone else it’s just sick.
What do you think about Nike partnering with you hometown club, Liverpool?
I’m ready to go obviously because I’m a fan and Nike anyway, but I just think in our squad now we do have some flare players, you know, Virgil van Dyke in anything looks like a supermodel so imagine him when Nike and Liverpool come with some fire new releases. He should just do his own runway show for the whole thing.
What are your thoughts on the future of the women’s game in England and abroad?
On a personal note, I’m just super excited to see what happens. Obviously hopefully the growth keeps going. I’m now a Barclays ambassador with Kelly Smith, who is an Arsenal legend, and Ian Rice. They’ve put, I think, seven years of money now into the women’s game, into the WSL. So that’s amazing because they’ve never had someone jump on with that funding before, and it’s the same as the men’s. So Barclays run across the premier league and now the WSL. So that’s super exciting to see where they can take the game.
Thanks so much for your time. Maybe you can leave our readers with what you got going and what you are looking forward to in 2020.
Liverpool, my club, we’re world champions now, after that win, and we are looking very good for the Premier League. So hopefully that will be the first time I’ve ever seen my team win the Premier League, which will be unreal. For me on a personal note, career wise, I’m super excited. Match of the Day is back on the BBC in March. And so that starts again every Thursday night in England, which is just a dream come true for me to even be partnered with the BBC and have an anchor role is just crazy. I actually can’t keep a straight face when I talk about it. Songwriting-wise, I’ve got a new song on the new Dua Lipa album coming in the summer and two on the new Kesha album, which lands in January, I believe. A lot more music for myself coming. I’m just back in the studio after Christmas. I’m at Fullham and we’re on a Christmas break right now, but I’ll be back playing for them. So there’s a lot going on, but just hopefully 2020 brings more good stuff.