When she was 21, Helen Chance moved from her native California to Seattle with a piano and a boyfriend she’d picked up in college, but no idea how to handle either of them. Five years and approximately five heartbreaks later, she’s returning home…with the very same piano, but some very different material. And while admittedly still unsure how to handle her relations, Chance has decided how she’d like to handle her instruments: with a firm hand. Pairing melodies reminiscent of ragtime and classic soul with heartfelt wordplay, she steers a soft alto and jangly keys through worlds built out of metaphor. From a circus fairground, to a mystery novel, to the scrawls on a logician’s chalkboard—Chance peeks into each one and attempts to piece things together, assuming whatever role suits her purposes.
It’s no coincidence that many of these roles draw upon traditional ideas of femininity, whether it’s as a short-changed waitress or as a short-term mistress. Chance has personal experience with many of them. Others she simply connects with her own perspective, one that she describes as, “constantly battling doubts with hopes. In other words, female.” Whether she narrates from the cave of a primitive man or from his penthouse, Chance prepares for the best but suspects the worst—usually in a pencil skirt.
But Chance is uncharacteristically optimistic about her future in California. She returns home with much more than she left it with, and that includes an accordion, a full-length album, “Reservations,” and an increasing broader collection of influences—although Elliott Smith, Fiona Apple, and Stephen King will always top the list. She is currently working on her second album, “Helen Chance and the Hidden Factors,” learning how to play the bass, and considering trapeze lessons.