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Singled Out: Chnnll's Waves

04/04/2016
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Multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer and producer Chnnll, a.k.a. Chris Davidson, recently released his first single "Waves" and to celebrate we asked him to tell us the story behind the track. Here is the story:

Ultimately, Waves is about letting go of insecurities that will hold you back in life. Whether they show up in a relationship, or are holding you back in accomplishing a goal you have, or a passion that you want to fallow. The waves (emotions, fears, bad circumstances, people, etc..) bring me down, they bring you down, f*** the waves. You got this!

This is what I take from the song as the writer, but on a different day in a year, or ten years, I might find another meaning in my own song and I really want my listeners to do the same. I would like them not just to take my perspective of the song, but for them to put themselves into the music and find their own meaning so it becomes personal to them. Here is my personal story, which lead me to writing Waves:

I was in a relationship that wasn't really going anywhere. We broke up all the time and it was kind of a mess. Things would settle and then eventually arose another fight. At the same time I was trying to get this new music project, Chnnll, off the ground and it was something I have been wanting to do for so long that I just needed to do it, to put all my energy into this new project and to be blind to whatever subconscious insecurities were holding me back.

Before this project I was mainly a jazz drummer and was successful at it. I didn't make the switch to Chnnll because my jazz career wasn't going anywhere. It was just that I really wanted to write my own music and I didn't feel like the jazz idiom was the best vehicle for that. I still love playing jazz, but it is not my main focus at the moment.
Not only was I feeling stuck creatively, but I was feeling stuck in this relationship and decided it was done. Hence the lyric, "And with you it will always be the same, and I know a sunny days gonna bring the rain on down." Meaning: every time things started going well in this relationship, some argument, or something would always fallow.

Then there is the lyric in Waves, "You're way too scared of nothing, I know I can see you shed your skin". This is really me speaking to myself, saying, "Don't concern yourself with the what if's and whatever other negative scenarios of why you shouldn't switch to this new project. You want to do it, so just do it!"

Most of the time I will write down lyrics with out fully even understanding what the song is about. I have a general idea, but the meaning is never pinned down completely. Then weeks, months, even years later I will look back at my lyrics, or listen to the track and be like, "damn… So that's what was going down at that time in my life." Or, "That's what this song is about"! So right now, while I am writing this, is probably the point that I understand the song and myself the most so far.

An emotion triggers a thought and then you write it down. So the lyric really reflects you and your subconscious at that specific time and unless you give what you have written some time to breathe, you may not fully understand what it's about. At least that's how I work.

I am constantly writing down single words, phrases and sentences that describe what I am feeling, or observing and they are all geared towards writing a lyric(s). So when I look back on what I have written after a while, it really gives me some insight into what was going on with me at the time.

On the Sunday morning I wrote this song, I went out to get a coffee and on the way home I had a bass line in my head. Once I was home I immediately went to the piano and started playing the bass line. I then started writing down the lyrics. Some of the lyrics I already had written down weeks before I had the idea for the bass line and they didn't have a home yet, but most of them were completely new lyrics for that bass line and I just kind of Frankensteined them together. I worked on them after that day, but for the most part all of the lyrics were written then and there. I think you especially have to get the lyrics and melody out fast, or you forget the original intention that lead you to write that song and it becomes flat.

After I wrote the melody and lyrics I spent some time practicing phrasing them with the melody over the bass line. Once that was good I added a pulse in my left foot, started slapping a 6/8 rhythm on my right leg and played the bass line with my left hand, so that I could perform it live on my own.

When I finally went into the studio to record the song I was thinking of going in that direction, a more acoustic version with the 6/8 rhythm that would be played by the bass, drums and percussion. Emulating the foot tapping and knee slapping that was going on when I was performing it solo. But then, after weeks of performing that song in it's original version, I turned away from that whole feel and recorded the drums more simple and made the whole tune more electronic and dark by using a heavy synth bass, which I immediately loved, along with some other darker elements.

I discovered this new instrumental direction after recording the song with my original, more acoustic instrumentation, but something didn't feel right, so I took everything out of the track except the vocals. I then played the vocal track on it's own and started writing a different bass rhythm underneath with a Moog synthesizer and that's how I got Waves!

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself here and learn more about Chnnll right here!

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