Christian French is the definition of Alt-Pop soaked in laid-back melancholy, with a healthy tinge of heart-ache. At 22, he already has a growing catalogue of fresh bops for the nostalgic individual, laden with simple catchy hooks and a tactile yet experimental EDM-infused rock-pop sound world. It’s perfect for when you need an afternoon pick-up.
His latest release, second EP bright side of the moon is the catalyst for his first solo US tour. Accordingly, his aesthetic and stage is tinted with references to the crescent moon symbol.
As I am guided backstage, his laid-back presence is immediately enveloping. He is sitting in an oversized bohemian chair at the Sonia Lounge, at the Middle East in Cambridge, Boston, on the Sunday afternoon pre-show. There is a line winding around two streets leading to the venue.
Gaining popularity via release ‘Fall for you’, he recently shot to fame, opening for Chelsea Cutler’s 2018 North American tour and Quinn XCII earlier this year. Originally studying to become a doctor, his career has taken a full 360, as he tells me how he has followed his passions ‘every single day’ to make his dreams ‘come to fruition’.
Congratulations on your success and your first headliner tour! How does that feel?
It’s a completely different experience than anything I’ve experienced before, as this past year I was just doing opening shows, for Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler. Those were 30 - 40 minute sets. On a solo tour, it’s way different as you get to play as much music as you want and get to organise your whole set exactly how you want. You’re not trying to cram in as much music as you can and you’re also not trying to convince people in the crowd that you’re cool, so they look you up after the show. It’s like these people came to see you. That’s a new experience for me. And it’s really crazy hearing people sing words to my music.
What did you learn from touring with Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler?
I sat out there most nights with a mental pen and paper. I would watch their sets and take notes on everything that they did really well. They’re both insane performers and know just how to get the crowd activated and engage with the crowd.
Was there a moment that particularly inspired you?
Quinn does this thing in ‘Fool for your Love’ where he has everybody lock together and move left, then move right all together. And then at the drop everybody jumps and it’s the most people I have ever seen jump at one time. So I try to incorporate stuff like that in my set. Little surprises here and there keeps it interesting. Watching them every night was just really, really good. My performance this year compared to last year is crazy different.
What has inspired you on your own tour, interacting with your own fans?
I would say I’m most inspired by the people that come up in my free meet and greet. The people that come up after the show and talk about how a certain song has impacted their life, on a very personal level, and has really helped them get through a rough time, is all I could ever ask for as a musician. Seeing that come to fruition, experiencing the ideas and thoughts
that I have brought to the world, is really cool. And it’s really inspiring. It makes me want to keep doing it and keep growing. So I’m writing about what I’m learning on the way. I think that’s why it’s so relatable, as we’re all just in this together and learning together. So I just want to keep learning and keep spreading the knowledge that I have gained.
Who inspires you?
John Mayer (who studied at Berklee) has consistently been, since the beginning, one of my biggest inspirations.
One of John’s main mentors was Pat Pattinson, a Song-writing teacher at Berklee. If you could ask him anything about song or lyric writing, what would you say?
Wow, that is a really good question. I guess how to consistently put yourself in the exact moment with the exact feeling that you have. If you’re writing about a certain experience, I find it’s sometimes really tough to get back in that same emotional state in order to write the very best that you can and get the most out of it. So I’d ask how to put yourself in those state of minds, especially those flow state of minds, more often. Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes you’re sitting there with a pen and paper and you’re just writing in circles. I think every one of his songs has a lot of meat to it and has a lot of meaning behind it.
You also studied many artists on YouTube. How did that influence you?
I used to more than I do now. I should keep doing it. I used to watch Jon Bellion videos where he explains how he makes his songs. Those really got me inspired. When I was watching those in high school, I would end up messing around on my keyboard afterwards for a couple of hours. I wanted to learn how to do what he was doing. That had a big impact on me.
I’ve been really interested in watching interviews lately, to see how other artists think. I watch music videos as well, to try to get the full scope of what everybody else is doing - just to stay up to date, see what’s cool, and see what ideas I can pull.
Your time studying your inspirations was essentially your training for what you do now, but would you change any of that journey?
No. I’m a strong believer that everything was meant to happen just the way that it has. Everything in the past has led to this current moment, exactly how it is. This current moment is perfect. I don’t want to change a thing. This is how life is supposed to be.
So, imagine you’re stranded on a desert island. You’re only allowed to take three things with you, in various categories. Let's start with three YouTube videos.
Sh*t (laughs). Oh man! I don’t even know where to begin. I feel like I’d have to study for a day to answer this question the right way. If I didn’t have like an iPod or anything to listen to music on, and the only way I could listen to music was youtube, I’d probably do 'The Heart of Life' by John Mayer or 'I Don’t Trust Myself' by John Mayer, which are my two favorites. And then just a goofy-ass video to keep me entertained - or a video like “How to make a fire from scratch”. I think I’ll have that one!
Okay. Assuming we’re not in survival mode, I’d have an acoustic guitar. If you could find a way to put a whole-ass piano on the island and a drum set, I’d have that, unless there was a recording studio on the island!
Up to three artists.
You know, I’m just going to have to go with my cliché first pick: John Mayer. For number two, I want to bring my mentor/producer Dru Decaro. He’s one of my favorite dudes ever. He’s just hilarious, but I’ve also learned more from him this past year than ever. He’s showed me how things are supposed to be at a top-notch level. Can I just leave it at two?
Read books, go adventure and hike around, and music!
What advice would you have for your 14-year-old self?
Going to high school I wanted to be a hockey player. That was what I was working hardest towards and what I was most passionate about. Then after high school, I started taking medical classes and really wanted to be a doctor. In college what I wanted to do was a pre-med major. Then while I was at college I fell in love with music. I was a sophomore in college when I decided that music was what I wanted to do and then by the end of my junior year I had dropped out. It’s crazy how quick passions can change and how quick things can happen. So my advice would be to just relax. It’s okay if you don’t have your life figured out yet. You’ll get it one day. Just work your absolute hardest every single day towards what you are passionate about and things will come to fruition.
How do you #getinthegroove?
Reading books has been number one. I’ve been reading a lot of self-help type of books. Don Miguel Ruiz is my favourite author right now. Listening to podcasts is another way to consistently be refreshed with new knowledge and continuously learn. That’s the most important thing for me right now. Continuously learning. Because the more I learn, the more I can incorporate it into my life and the more I can spread it.
Similarly, writing down in my journal about what is going on helps. I can’t really write music on tour that well, which gets me frustrated. There is this analogy that Dru Decaro, my mentor, told me, that I really liked. He said, “A tour is like collecting all these things and putting them in your pockets. You collect all these experiences and all the things that you go through. Yet after the tour, it’s like pulling everything out of your pockets and laying it down on the table to make sense of it all. Making sense of all the experiences means you can put it into your music”.
So, getting all those things down in my journal has really helped me. It’s like getting sh*t off my head and down onto paper. Plus eating right, meditating, sleeping, exercising and just treating my body well has helped me so much. If my body is feeling good then usually my brain is feeling good too.
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