'Maiden Voyage': San Antonio native Chrystabell debuts electrified new music at Paper Tiger Sunday

click to enlarge Chrystabell will debut music from her forthcoming release Midnight Star at Paper Tiger Sunday. - Mathieu Bitton
Mathieu Bitton
Chrystabell will debut music from her forthcoming release Midnight Star at Paper Tiger Sunday.
After spending more than a year exploring the cosmos, Chrystabell is bringing it home this weekend. The San Antonio native will debut music from her latest album at Paper Tiger on Sunday.

Midnight Star, slated for release on Jan. 21 on Love Conquered Records, tells the fantastical story of a benevolent being who wants to intercede on behalf of humanity stuck living on a troubled Earth.

Chrystabell describes the album as a soundtrack to a sci-fi television show that hasn’t been made. It follows the character of Midnight Star on her hero’s journey across multiple lifetimes.

“These songs are — they're not what the episodes are necessarily comprised of. They're just the songs that accompany the episodes. So there's several layers of narrative,” she told the Current.

The synth-soaked science fiction soundscape is a departure for the oft-described chanteuse, who's best known for her balladry. However, it may not be so far a leap for fans who know her from her turn as Tammy Preston in longtime collaborator David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return.

Coming home, traveling far

Though Chrystabell describes the album in lofty, often spiritual terms, the writing process was grounded by a return to her roots.

At the onset of the pandemic, Chrystabell moved back to her family’s property east of San Antonio in La Vernia, which is also a cemetery that she runs — Countryside Memorial Park.

While living back at Cemetery Lane, she and songwriting partner Christopher Smart created Midnight Star’s interstellar story, crafting music that merged Smart’s space-faring digital soundscapes with the warmth of her voice.

The germination and blossoming of ideas during the creation of Midnight Star was a spiritual process for her.

“All of these ideas — what I now term as ‘thought flowers’ — they were blooming, and I was just really just receiving them very gratefully and celebrating, like, the fact that I had no idea where any of it was going, but it was feeling so good,” she said.

“Midnight Star has this existence, and she's like, she's writing her story. And Chris and I are basically just, you know, bringing it to life.”

Hometown hero

For Chrystabell, it’s particularly fitting to debut the album and its sci-fi superhero in her hometown. Though the debut was originally set to be at a festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, in January, she had a moment of clarity and realized that she needed to come perform in San Antonio first.

“I just get these hits, you know, sometimes. And another thing I learned from David [Lynch], like, when you have intuition, you have to strike — like to flex the muscle,” she explained. “Like if you get a hit, if you get a voice. Just see it through. Just see it through and then see what happens.”

The result is Sunday’s show at Paper Tiger, where she will debut music from Midnight Star onstage with Smart on keys and vocals, Jon Sanchez on guitar and Jennifer P. Fraser on bass. Though she promises past material from her canon is also on the setlist, the new lineup — sans drumset, plus an electrified, synth pop feel — means that everything will seem new.

“Essentially, when I started this new phase of my life and career and music, I wanted to kind of make a full circle, and started in San Antonio, where I was created. So that's what this show is,” she said.

“We're definitely going on a maiden voyage in a lot of ways as well.”

$12-$15, 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary's St., papertigersatx.com.

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Kelly Nelson

Kelly Nelson is a digital content editor for the San Antonio Current.

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