The musician and sometime performer has often been referred to as David Lynch’s muse: one of her ballads appeared in his 2006 movie Inland Empire , and since then they have recorded an album and an EP together. She has been making music in various guises for 20 years, and in 2017 released her first solo album , We Dissolve , produced by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish. She goes by her full first name, Chrysta Bell, a southern-inspired spelling of Christabel, the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem she was named after( fittingly, it deals with mysterious women and the supernatural ).
When we fulfill at a hotel in Paris, she has just released a self-titled EP– a wistful, languid affair full of water imagery and symbolism- and is about to perform at the Philharmonie de Paris with French singer Christophe( guess a more bedraggled Johnny Hallyday ). She has flown in from the Country the night before but explodes into the room full of energy, immaculately turned out in a 40 s-style dress. While on screen she emanates a cool gothic beauty-” I thought she was like an alien, the most beautiful alien ever ,” Lynch said of first seeing her perform- in person she has the air of a southern belle: unfailingly polite, warm and upbeat, with the sort of posture that makes you instantly sit upright.
Chrysta Bell first fulfilled David Lynch in 1999, introduced by an agent who thought they’d get on. They hit it off right away, talked for hours, and wrote a sung together that day.” Before you meet David, he’s this icon, it’s kind of impossible to believe he actually exists. Then you insure him, and he’s real ,” she recalls.” We figured out that day we’re complementary as artists and as friends. Everyone was really happy .” They started making music together- he’d write the lyrics and she the melodies- resulting in their haunting, dreamy 2011 album This Train .” It became a regular thing: I’d come to the studio and we’d build music we both loved and we’d have coffee- a lot of coffee .” She laughs.” Man can drink coffee .”
On one level, it may seem obvious why the director was initially drawn to her- with her waist-length dark hair and femme fatale red lips, she looks like she’s been beamed in from the David Lynch cinematic cosmo- but it’s more than that: they have a compatible artistic sensibility and a shared interest in mysticism and spirituality. In the studio, she tells,” we’d have these great conversations- we have similar intrigues: esoteric subjects, the great unknown “. She’s partial to digressions about the imagination and destiny, but it’s hard to be cynical about it: there’s exuberance and openness in everything she says, and a beguiling lack of irony or malice. When she utilizes phrases such as” cosmic beyondness”, she apologises with a little smile.
The day before the interview, I send an email to Lynch via his assistant, asking for a couple of quotes explaining what he admires about Chrysta Bell’s work. This is the reply:” David loves Chrysta Bell. Here’s what he has to say about her:’ Chrysta Bell is round and fully packed, and what comes out of her reminds me of a light blue songbird with extended wings, and a shining beak .'” I read this out to her;” Wow, that’s really sweet ,” she replies, and wells up.