Interview with Chris Grey
What do you do after contributing a few tracks to 88GLAM’s Juno Nominated album?
You go back to writing killer tracks for your own project.
Today is the release of the acoustic rendition of I Should Be Happy.
Chris was producing at the age of 11, so his origin story begins quite a few years prior.
Being raised in a household where his dad was a famous DJ from Kingston Jamaica, while his mom, from Kingston Ontario, would expose him to Canadian Rock & Pop.
The song that really hit Chris differently was Man in The Mirror by Michael Jackson. “My dad was a huge Michael Jackson fan. He had all the CD’s and albums.”
Maybe it was his dad’s music, but that song resonated with him: “What is this? This is so cool.”
Young Chris would listen and try to sing along.
“I was just a kid at the time. I didn’t understand the meaning, but I could feel it.”
Then he saw We Will Rock You, the Queen musical. “That totally inspired and resonated with me.”
Another “wildcard” song that really struck a chord with Chris was Crazy Train.
“I was maybe 5 or 6 and I was obsessed with Ozzy Osbourne.”
Such a breadth of musical genres can only mean that Chris I willing to open himself up to new musical experiences.
He will sometimes dig into his father’s collection, which he now has in his home studio, and will put a random record on.
Being that the collection consists of many DJ only version with a capella, instrumental and full songs, Chris was able to deconstruct the sound and get an education into how a song is put together, something that would serve him well in the future.
Early on, Chris liked to sing, but he admits: “I was super shy about my voice.”
Even the vocal coach his parents got for him did not hear his voice for the first 4 lessons.
“I would play at the level of the piano” so no one could hear him.
He then stumbled into a genre that didn’t require a voice: EDM.
He found a production teacher, and for a few months, worked kick starting this new passion project.
He then watched YouTube videos and University lectures on the subject, and gained the skills needed.
He would create the tracks, but didn’t want to put his voice on them, so he hired others to sing, like Mikalyn, but it “wasn’t satisfying. I have to sing this. This is about me, I can’t have someone else sing it.”
So began his solo project, where he finally let the world hear his voice.
I Should Be Happy
“You can’t really be happy all the time because you then start to become numb to that.”
If our life was an EKG, then only being in one state, like happiness, would mean a straight line…and in the Electrocardiogram world…we would be flatlined…dead.
“It’s the lows, and the negative stuff in life that makes the good stuff…good.”
The video for the song captures a state of emptiness, during life’s happy milestones, which aptly describes a social norm we have created as we live in the shadow of the Instagram highlight reel of influencers.
The one-shot video took “eight to ten full takes.”
To reset the scene, they would have to vacuum the confetti and clean up, but it was the pre-filming where most of the time was spent rehearsing and teaching everyone their roles.
They even had a secondary cake, in case the first was dropped. That’s planning.
Watch the video…knowing it’s one-take.
Although they ran out of time, the owner graciously just left them the key and told them to lock up, once they nailed it.
You might have noticed a strange menu with “Dancing Donuts” for instance.
“I have to admit that the menu is a little tease of my EP track list.”
The Writing Process
Chris usually writes as it flows on the mic instead of writing it down beforehand like a traditional songwriter.
“There is something about doing it at the mic where I get that vocal take as I came up with it.”
He might go over and re-record it, but “there is something about that vocal take when my mind is in the story…in the world…in the song.”
Chris doesn’t look at a song in terms of a vertical line of lyrics, but a horizontal project, probably stemming back to his EDM days looking at the wave forms in a timeline.
The Writing Process
“Reflect on yourself or other people.”
Chris might go on a walk and see others and think: “I wonder what they are talking about?”
Sometimes, “it’s getting into someone else’s world, like a movie.”
Chris will look around and let stories develop in his imagination.
The danger is that we are bombarded with a firehose of data, and to have an original thought, we need silence.
“Letting yourself get bored is valuable sometimes.”
Chris can’t say: OK…I have a block of 4 hours, let me write a song.
It has to come naturally, and sometimes…planning a day of nothing, can be that creative spark to start a song…”letting it ferment in the back of your head.”
Since 2020, Chris has challenged himself to say yes to opportunities, whereas he used to say NO to many opportunities.
“It’s been huge. I noticed a big shift in more stuff coming my way.”
When you say YES to the universe, the universe has a funny way to reward you with more opportunities.
Being a self-proclaimed introvert, what allows Chris to perform as an extrovert on stage?
“I separate Chris Grey and myself. I will talk about Chris Grey in the third person sometimes. Chris Grey is an extrovert.”
When Chris is on stage, he’s is Chris Grey, the extrovert performer. When he is off stage, he is Chris the introvert.
That is a superpower, which is transferring to the mere mortal Chris Grey “making me gain that confidence. I caught up with that. Kind of that fake it till you make it.”
Because Chris can do that deep dive into his emotions and bring that into the songs he writes, it creates these deep connections with fans.
One recent DM that really stood out was someone who loved his music so much that they shared it started them on a path to want to make music.
Chris shared some of his tools and the very next day, he received an email with the MacBook Pro and list of gear that was purchased with the note: “I’m going to make music.”
A month later, Chris received the first beat. “That’s so cool.”
To inspire oneself is one thing, to inspire others is a whole other level that only comes from staying true to yourself.
First Insta Post August 8th, 2018
There is a picture of Chris, three years younger promoting the EP When I’m Gone.
“2018 Chris didn’t have much to actually sing about. At that time, I was really creating stories, but it wasn’t my stories, it was fictional stories. Now, this is my story. I’m thinking of an emotion and turning it into a song.”
On his next EP, Falling Apart, he strays away from that early sound, but returns to it, in a way, “finding a balance between these two sounds that I enjoy.”
You never know what you will get from Chris Grey, with is wide range of influences. Shall we expect a Crazy Train of new sounds? Maybe.
Regardless, it will be infused with R&B and as Chris sings “It just feels right, yeah there’s no denying”
Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their day jobs with out-of-the-box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives. He created the Rock Star Today MasterMind Experience for musicians. Randal also is a collector of signed vinyl.Share this :