Interview: Chrissi

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Upon looking for new music, I clicked on Lady Kisses on YouTube. 10 seconds in: I’m thinking “nice!” I’m enjoying the sampled electric organ and lounge atmosphere. 20 seconds in: the beat has dropped, and so has my jaw. 40 seconds: I’m frantically sharing the song with a friend who at the time was experiencing the very thing Chrissi’s soulful husky vocals are describing.

I had to find out the story behind this song.

It was a pleasure interviewing Chrissi, 20-year-old artist from Essex. Gregarious from the get-go, she released her new EP in November. During the interview, we talk about: her background; how her personal experiences inform her writing style; race, relationships, and body image; and… One Direction.

The Indiependent: Tell me about you. Where did you grow up, and what are your first musical memories?

Chrissi: I grew up in Essex. My family is from Trinidad. There would always be music videos on the TV, like Cassie’s ‘Me and You’, and ‘Long Way to Go’, and I was always learning choreography from them. My grandpa would also listen to a lot of Punjabi music.

The Indiependent: Ahh Yes! Of course: Trinidad & Tobago – it’s a very diverse nation, isn’t it?

C: Yes! So there was also a lot of Soca music, too! And my older cousin was listening to Grime. I didn’t find the genre that I connected with until I got to secondary school. I had this unbelievable obsession with One Direction… Unbelievable! Like, next level. I loved them so much. They are my loves.

The Indiependent: [Both laughing] Who’s your favourite? Is that a bad question?

Chrissi: No. I’ll tell you why it’s not a bad question: they’ve really proved themselves in this whole solo venture.

I used to HATE saying Harry Styles was my favourite because people would say “oh it’s just for the looks”, but it’s not. It’s because I can bang out all of Harry’s albums, one after the other… I can’t say the same for Liam.

The Indiependent: No comment.

Chrissi: I’m sorry, I can’t!

The Indiependent: [Both trying to hold back laughter]  I feel that. I was never a One Direction fan and loved to hate them in the way many others did. But now, I absolutely freaking love Harry Styles.

Chrissi: Oh my god! Yeah! He’s amazing! I learnt how to play the guitar, just to play along with them [One Direction]. Then I started singing, then realised “Oh my god! I love writing songs”.

The Indiependent: Are there more artists you look at thinking “Oh: their music! That’s what I want to sound like and what I want to take from it!”?

Chrissi: I’m a bit obsessed with Ariana Grande. She has this sound in some of her songs, not all of them, where it’s more R’n’B with jazzy 7th Chords. I wanted my music to sound like that, but those chords are already so hard to do on guitars. I’m left-handed, and was playing on a right-handed, 4 stringed one and it was f**king hard.

I listen to a lot of Tori Kelly as well and she would do the jazzy chords also. That was a big influence too. Recently, getting in the studio and coming away from the guitar, my influences are SZA, Tame Impala, Joy Crookes, and Tems.

The Indiependent: The EP is coming out next week. Tell us all about that.

Chrissi: I’ve already written my second EP and am about to write my third. But this EP, I wrote it at a time in which I wasn’t really self-aware. I knew I had these feelings. But I feel like I have a really unhealthy perception of love. Some days I feel like I can’t obtain it: some days I feel like I’m not deserving of it, or some days it’s what they show in the movies. Some days I don’t believe in it at all, and it’s just a chemical reaction to help us, humans, to procreate. I have so many ideas of love and I don’t know why! [Laughs] I have no idea what’s going on with me.

This EP in particular, these are songs I wrote 4 or 5 years ago. I was 15.

The Indiependent: Let me ask about that in particular: you already answered my next question in part. What is the story behind ‘Lady Kisses’? How did you bring it out of yourself and put it on paper/recording?

Chrissi: I never thought it would be released. As I said, I was 15 when I created the blueprints of the song and chords. I have a thing that I do – and I told you about the unhealthy perceptions of love – I sometimes tend to write about situations I would get sympathy for, because I feel the pain of that situation.

I’ve been chubby most of my life. I went to a school in Essex, with a load of pretty, skinny White girls, who were my friendship group.

They would get male attention but in a different way to myself. And I had an out-there personality, laughing, making jokes. And the guys would ALWAYS want to hang out with me, inviting me to their parties without the girls there… they would chill with me at lunch, and always want me around. But when they saw the other girls, they’d make an effort, flirting with them.

The real concept of Lady Kisses is “You want me to give you my time, but you don’t want your friends to know about me”. I’ve had some intimate situations with guys who don’t want me to tell their friends about me, won’t want me to post about it, or even write about it. I was like “what the f**K is this? All ‘cause you’re too embarrassed to be with a chubby girl, or a Black girl?!”

So, when I recorded the song and changed some of the lyrics about 2 years ago, I thought, I want every Black girl and every plus-sized girl – or anyone who has been disregarded or made to feel embarrassed because of how they look – to feel this. They need to get angry! Because it’s not on!

The Indiependent: Let’s talk about the music video…  Because I feel like the music video takes directly from exactly what you’ve just told me.

Chrissi: Yes! Absolutely!

The Indiependent: Even down to the fact that the guy you are chilling with is a cute White boy on his phone. He gets a call from his friends, and he’s like “I’m up to nothing” and you’re like “You’re a pr*ck.”

Chrissi: [laughing hard] Exactly That! There were a lot of video treatments but we wanted to be, well, minimal. My first video ‘Back in the Day’ was very cinematic, with my family there, and it does justice to the lyrics.

But with Lady Kisses I wanted the focus to be on the lyrics with a bit of visual aesthetics. And yes, we did discuss it: I said I wanted the boy to be an attractive White boy. And I want him to completely pie me off, disregard me, and then lay back in my lap. Even down to the styling – my hair was done, my makeup is on point, my outfit to be revealed so that there is a sense of insecurity and overcompensation, but doing my best to look like I didn’t try to hard.

It’s the same with my next music video – it’s all very well thought out

The Indiependent: I’m looking forward to the EP, but beyond that, what are your future plans?

Chrissi: In terms of my writing I want to expand on the unhealthy love or love addiction, and codependency, but also have that catty side. Lyrically, I want to have a lot more insight. And I’m doing lots of different genres that fit into lots of different playlists.

I’m also going on tour with Berwyn very soon around the UK. It’s going to be my first tour. I’ve been abroad to South Africa – but not really been anywhere else in the UK. I’m so excited!

You should definitely take the time to listen to the EP. Chrissi is talented, incredibly down to earth, and I’m looking forward to following her while she continues to grow her artistry!

Interview by Lance Casely-Hayford.


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