Story by Michael Seguin
Chelsey Danfield’s life changed forever when her grandfather bought her a bedazzled jean skirt with a matching vest.
“He went down to Florida with my grandmother and bought us these country star outfits,” Chelsey recalls. “They’d be like these puffed up jeans and jean shirts and they were all bedazzled with a matching vest, a little cowboy hat and these little white cowboy boots. And he got me this microphone from an auction sale that didn’t work at all. It was all caved in, someone had dropped it a bunch of times. But that was my thing. I’d stand there in these stupid jean outfits that were all bedazzled—I looked like Toddlers in Tiaras—and I’d get this microphone and I’d sing this song called ‘Till You Love Me Again’. I don’t even know who it’s by, but I’d just belt it out. I’d be like, wow, I’m fancy. I’m going to be famous. Meanwhile, I’m five and I don’t even know how to tie my own shoes.”
Chelsey Danfield is the stage name of Chelsey Damphouse, a 26-year-old country music singer, songwriter from Maidstone, Ontario.
While growing up on her family’s cash crop and hobby farm undoubtedly influenced her, Chelsey admits that her grandfather played a particularly important role in both her music and her life.
“My grandfather was the one who first got me involved in music,” Chelsey says. “I’d go on these truck rides with him all the time. He was involved in buying and selling antique trucks, antique cars and stuff. So, we’d get up at five in the morning and we wouldn’t be back until sometimes seven at night. We’d drive from Maidstone to London or St. Jacobs, and we’d just poke around. Sometimes without even any real destination. We called it wheelin’ and dealin’. We were always wheelin’ and dealin’. But he had all these Roger Miller, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline cassette tapes that we’d listen to. Or just static AM Radio 580. That was what really sparked things for me.”
Since then, Chelsey’s spark has become a flame. While attending St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School, Chelsey formed a punk band called Even Better. (“It’s was just horrendous,” Chelsey recalls, laughing. “It was so awful.”) From there, the band began playing venues in downtown Windsor at bars like the Blind Dog and Chubby Pickle.
“They were really gross, in like a good way,” Chelsey recalls. “In the nasty punk figure-yourself-out kind of way. It was the first time you got to go somewhere by yourself and say, ‘Yeah, this is where my people are.’ Everybody was so lost. We’d do that, then we’d do little cafes and stuff.”
Afterwards, while embarking on her undergrad at University of Windsor, Chelsey returned to her rural roots, performing solo country shows around Windsor. While in her second year of university, Chelsey began working at the now-defunct Music Zone in Belle River, providing music lessons out of the back.
While at the Music Zone, Chelsey was introduced to Stacy Heydon through one of her older clients in 2012. A musician, former professional golfer and David Bowie’s lead guitarist for his North American tour, Heydon began working as a music producer in the 1980s, discovering bands like Hamilton’s Teenage Head.
After hearing some of her self-described “silly iPhone recordings,” Heydon became Chelsey’s current manager.
Since then, Chelsey and Stacy have been a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Under Stacy’s guidance, Chelsey produced her first album in 2017. In addition, she’s also written songs for Canadian country legends like the Brian Good of The Good Brothers.
Chelsey has performed in numerous festivals, including the Cavendish Beach Musical Festival in Prince Edward Island. She opened for Blue Oyster Cult at the Fort Irwin National Training Centre.
Despite her numerous successes, Chelsey maintains a strong sense of morality for her younger listeners.
“I like stuff that kids can listen to, that they can be proud of,” Chelsey stresses. “You know, like the tough girl message. A lot of my stuff isn’t super vulnerable, I don’t think. Because I like that, I like being that positive female role model, especially in a male-dominated industry. It’s hard for anybody to work in, let alone a small blonde female. It’s hard, and it’s really important to have solid morals, especially with everything that’s going on now.”
However, when asked to elaborate on her on-stage persona, Chelsey has difficulty.
“Chelsey Danfield is very bold, compared to the Chelsey that I am in my personal life,” she admits. “Very bold, very unapologetic. Very raw. I think that it’s been very nice for me to have that, because I don’t like to be sad. So, through music, I can be more vulnerable. Chelsey Danfield is a way for me to better understand me. So, it’s a nice kind of release for me. It’s almost therapeutic. It’s different than I ever thought it would be. It’s weird! But it’s such… I have a hard time verbalizing it! You know, music just helps me understand how I feel. Like, this is it, written in three verses and three choruses. This is how I feel.”
However, when asked to describe her greatest accomplishment, Chelsey returns to those lazy truck rides, wheelin’ and dealin’ with her grandfather.
“My grandpa had a brain tumor,” Chelsey says. “He’d had brain surgery to try and remove the mass. So, I’d have a lot of time to spend in the hospital with him. He used to call me Toad—because we had a pond behind our house I was always swimming in. He’d say, ‘Toad, go get my boots. We’re gonna get out of here.’ This was right after the surgery. So I’d say, ‘Papa, we can’t take you out of the hospital, you just had brain surgery.’ So we’d be trying to talk him down from this ledge and he’d say, ‘No, go get my boots and we’ll get a wheelchair and we’ll get out of here.’ So then I wrote a song about our fictious escape from the hospital.”
The title track of her first album—“Cowboy”—was dedicated to her grandfather. She played it for him a couple weeks before he passed away and at his funeral.
Chelsey’s second album, “At the Time”, was released April 7th, 2019. She currently resides in Kitchener, dividing her time between music and a PhD in Neuroscience.