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A chat with Christian French

From a hotel in Kansas City, Christian French is on a poignant road trip across America. “I recently bought a vintage Rhodes keyboard,” he mentions, “I just don’t trust anybody shipping it, so I drove all the way from LA back to Indiana to pick it up, and I’m now taking it back to Los Angeles.” Christian’s commitment to his craft and his omnipotent optimism is evident throughout our discussion. “I’ve already written like 4 songs on it. That’s in the little time that I’ve had with it so I can’t even imagine what’s about to happen,” he continues. The multi-million streamed artist has recently achieved great success with the latest EP ‘good things take time,’ released in the later part of 2020. The seven-track release is a journey of self-belief and thinking on your feet, themes he has passionately referenced since releasing his debut EP ‘natural colours’ in 2018. 

The title track from ‘good things take time’ sees Christian’s smooth vocals adjoined with a string section mixed with an overarching soulful feel, punctuated with keys. “Breathe in, breathe out” he advises upon a texture of street light-trailed scenes in the music video for the track. The care-free, almost everyday life visuals in the video pair with the lyrics almost identically, in a relatable collage of daily encounters. Positive advice isn’t an uncommon trait within Christian’s material; his lyrics focus on reassuring the audience and is undoubtedly a valuable outlet for fans during this pandemic. “I wanted to have a good mix of pulling out that emotion of going through some struggles but also the upbeat feeling of moving past that struggle. It’s not that big of a deal, it’s just a wave and it will pass. I really tried to capture both sides of that in there,” he explains. “It’s me putting into words what I’ve gone through. Hoping that people who haven’t gone through it but who are going into that space and guiding them so they don’t make the same mental mistakes that I did. They’re able to then walk through that situation.” 

Throughout the tracks on the record you’re almost invited to experience these past mistakes with Christian, but inevitably encountering a path to a solution. Speaking about ‘time of our lives,’ he explains, “that song was written before quarantine but it has a new meaning now. It’s just about getting out of redundant cycles of your life. Staying in a comfort zone all your life because when you’re in the comfort zone, you aren’t really pushing yourself to try these new things that really make you feel alive. [They] make you realise that the fear was way worse than actually doing it. But it definitely applies now in the sense of sitting at home and not using this time in a productive way. Not using it to figure out who you are and how you work. I know some people who have been playing video games for the past year which is totally all good, but I just think there’s a huge opportunity for growth that I’ve tried to take advantage of. To have all this time to write a crazy amount of music that I never would have had the time to write before.” 

His evolution since the first EP has developed at such a rate that even he can’t keep pace with. Speaking about his upcoming project, he tells us, “I’ve written I don’t even know how many songs; it’s got to be over a hundred at this point for this project. I’m making the best music of my life and I feel like I have a full twelve song album pretty much ready to go.” This process is in stark contrast to his latest EP, ‘good things take time’ which Christian references the process as “less [about] making sixty songs and bringing it down to 6 or 7, it was more selected sessions that worked out. We wrote really good songs that day, but I really feel like we’ve earned it this time around.” Pencilled to arrive in late 2021, his full length will be an accumulation of over a year’s hard work and long writing sessions. “As I’m writing more and more songs, I’m seeing the story develop for itself,” Christian describes, “I decided to take that route rather than try to have a whole album concept and a name in my head and then make the music from there. I just thought that would be way too hard. So I’m taking this route and it’s really coming together like a book.” 

After dropping out of school as a pre-med to arrive at his current musical destination, Christian has had to learn from the ground-up in regards to the live performance. His successful Fall dates in 2019 saw him perform his first headline tour, which he references as a daunting experience. “There’s so much work that’s been put into getting me into a place where I’m comfortable for a live show. Doing vocal lessons have helped me out a lot with the live show. Dance lessons, which me as a white ass kid who can’t dance at all, that was probably the toughest thing for me – getting past that fear of not being able to dance. Dancing by myself in front of the person who’s teaching me, that was tough on me but really taught me how to move better.” Following this the pandemic began, leaving his Spring tour cancelled after a single show. The removal of the live experience therefore prevented him from showcasing the EP. “It’s been really tough,” he explains. “I didn’t realise how big a portion of my life touring was until it was taken away. It’s literally half of my life as a musician, like half of your energy goes towards making these records. There have been days where I’ve been questioning who I am as an artist and it feels really weird. I’ve been able to do these Instagram live shows and some of these more produced-out shows, they’ve worked out great. [Doing that show] honestly kind of scratched that itch for me and even people just sending comments, it felt real again.”

Over the holidays he discovered that his parent’s bathroom is the ideal recording venue, a place he utilised to deliver some vibrant covers. “I was there for two and a half weeks and the second to last day there I figured out that their bathroom had a crazy reverb chamber in it, that I could just play covers in all day and sound great in. I recorded that first cover two days before I left and then the day before I left, which was two days ago. I sat in that bathroom all day and recorded covers so I have like a stockpile ready to go.” He continues, “I recorded four that aren’t even on TikTok yet but ‘I Don’t Trust Myself’ by John Mayer is one of my all time favourite songs. I learned how to play it on guitar and it’s so fun to play.” 

On his YouTube it reads, ‘powered by mindfulness, inner peace and relaxation,’ a quote that features on his physical merch. “They’re everything to keep me grounded rather than just often some anxious storm all the time. Life as a musician, especially right now, there’s no amount of work that you can do that feels satisfying for a long period of time. It’s always go, go, go; there’s always more to do. There’s always more fans to acquire, more music to be made. It’s really important to take that step back and just enjoy your time and enjoy yourself, rather than pushing to some horizon that you’re never going to reach.” This perspective has been crucial for the singer-songwriter during the pandemic; a time where so many feel powerless to their circumstances. He advises, “we’re all going through a situation that none of us have ever experienced and none of us know how to handle it. It’s important to be light on yourself, not be so hard on yourself all the time and just keep it positive. Realise that you’re just trying your best, that’s really all you can do.” 

The EP is an homage to Christian’s endearing spirit and positive outlook on situations that you may not be able to control; a relatable message during this difficult time. He references meditation as a source to keep focused. “I started out on my mindfulness journey and a spiritual path through books. Reading a whole bunch of self-help category books really brought to awareness a lot of things that I wasn’t thinking about before. [I journal] every single morning on my laptop, and get all those thoughts that are swimming around in here onto paper. Meditating has been another big one.” Keeping zoned in has allowed Christian to explore new realms within his new material. “You have to go a little too crazy and you can pull back from there,” he tells us. “We’re not trying to stay inside the comfort zone of what’s already been made, we’re trying to push the boundaries and push the limits. It’s combining genres in ways that we haven’t before and we’re coming out with some really cool shit.” There’s no doubt that his new material will continue to be a guiding voice within a mist of uncertainty within today’s climate. As with everything, good things take time.

 

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