Chiiild Finds Himself Through His Music
Written by Vocalo Radio on April 12, 2023
After opening for artists like Emotional Oranges and Leon Bridges, Canadian singer/songwriter Chiiild embarked on his own headlining tour this spring to showcase his eclectic sound in support of 2023 album Better Luck In The Next Life. While stopping in Chicago on April 1 for a sold out show at Schubas Tavern, the artist got the chance to explain the meaning behind the music on Vocalo with afternoon host Nudia Hernandez.
Fresh off the release of his new album Better Luck In The Next Life, multi-talented Canadian artist Chiiild shared his sound across North America on his tour of the same name this spring. Seamlessly blending inspirations from artists like Linkin Park, Coldplay and Kanye West and TV shows like 106 & Park, he has crafted a signature style over the years – but isn’t worried about being “cool.” Instead, he wants his music to express who he is as an artist.
“‘Cool’ these days can just look like the same thing,” Chiiild explained. “’Cool’ has become synonymous with cringe in my book… Isn’t being yourself and being, like, unique, cool?”
After leaving his hometown in Montreal, Chiiild faced many uphill battles in the music industry. Better Luck In The Next Life shares his journey to get to where he is now in his life and career, and he feels the single “Bon Voyage” grew to be a representation of the album as a whole.
“[‘Bon voyage’] in French means ‘have a good trip,’” Chiiild explained. “It just felt like the best representation of where we were going with this… an album that talks about leaving Montreal, going to L.A. and… chasing your dreams [and] all the things that you’re faced with.”
Over the years, he’s created a name for himself as a producer and is now a singer/songwriter who has collaborated with top names like Lucky Daye, Emotional Oranges and Mahalia. In a conversation with Vocalo’s Nudia Hernandez, he broke down several singles off his new album, collaborating with Lucky Daye and preparing to write again after the tour.
Nudia: Look, I know it’s Saturday. I know we’re never in here. People are like, “What is she doing? Isn’t she sleeping in with her cats?” No, no, no. I’m here because I have a very special guest in the building. Multi-talented artist Chiiild is in here, hello!
Chiiild: Hello, hello. Thank you for having me.
N: Okay, so we’re here today, we’re broadcasting live, breaking up the music right now, because you have a show — sold out, actually. Congratulations on that! At Schubas tonight. So we wanted to bring you in, we wanted to talk about the album. I love the album. I was super excited to get you in here, to get your viewpoint on making the album, because, as a listener, I think we interpret it one way and I’m sure you write it one way, especially being a songwriter, so I was excited to have you come in.
I know two weeks ago you were stopping by SXSW, and so now you’re here in the Midwest. Going to be at Schubas tonight, show is at 7:30 p.m.
N: It is sold out, but if you could get your hands on a ticket somehow, some way, that’s where it’s going down.
N: So how many times have you been in Chicago before?
C: So I’ve been to Chicago like two other times, and maybe, I think, once when I was a kid. Once at the Metro opening for Emotional Oranges, and then Schubas last time. And now we’re here once again tonight.
N: How was it working with the Emotional Oranges? Because we play them a lot, too, here.
C: Oh, yeah, it was cool. I mean, we have, like, a musical relationship and a personal relationship… We’re just friends and we always get together and go out, grab food and also make records together, so it’s cool.
N: I love that. I also wanted to talk about this article because, you know, I got to do my research a little bit. This one’s the Toronto Star. I wanted you to clear this up a little bit.
N: The headline is: “Chiiild Doesn’t Care If You Think Their Music Is Uncool.” And I feel like that was a clickbait! Is it a clickbait?
C: You know what? … This is going to sound funny, but it’s like… “cool” these days can just look like the same thing. Like, everybody’s version of “cool” is like the same thing. And so where that came from was just, I said, “cool” has become synonymous with cringe, in my book. Because, if you’re out wearing all the same thing, and if you’re into all of the same thing, then that’s not really being cool. Isn’t being yourself and being, like, unique, cool? I don’t know. That’s just my definition.
N: Okay. I like it. So it is true. It wasn’t just like super…
C: Yeah, it was a little clickbait-y, because I read it, too, and I was like, “Wait, did I say that? That’s crazy.”
N: Your PR team is like, “Excuse me?”
C: I was like, “Wait, what do you mean?” Nah, but it’s based in the truth. But nobody came and said something’s uncool. Like, I’ve never got that, yet.
N: I love that. And also, I was going to say, we talked a little bit before we jumped on air, and we’re an urban alternative station, which is a new, different format. And I was listening to your album. I was like, “If there was a way to define urban alternative, I feel like it’s you…” How do you define your music?
C: I think when you grow up in the 2000s, it’s like you’re exposed to bands like Linkin Park, Coldplay, you’re exposed to [the TV show] 106 & Park, you’re exposed to Kanye, all these different things. And, you know, being a byproduct of that time, I think you’re automatically blending genres and you’re automatically just — yeah, just finding a version of you that comes through all of those influences, and that’s urban alternative.
N: I love that. And so let’s get into the first song, this is the first official single off the album. Can you tell us a little bit more about “Bon Voyage” and making it, and what your thought process was?
C: Yeah, “Bon Voyage” was one of those songs that came up kind of closer to the end, like right before having to share the music with the rest of the team. You know, when you’re creating an album, you just kind of go in isolation, and you start thinking, “Okay, what do I want to do? What… where we going?” And you travel a little bit, and you just try a bunch of different things.
And then, at the end you find yourself asking yourself, “Well, what song do I want to lead with? What song is going to represent, and kind of tee off this next chapter?” And “Bon Voyage,” which, in French, means “have a good trip,” it just felt like the best representation of where we were going with this, an album that talks about leaving Montreal, going to L.A. and chasing your dreams, all the things that you’re faced with. And so “Bon Voyage” … it just felt like it made the most sense, and so that’s what we went with.
N: That one is the first single off your new album, Better Luck In The Next Life. What does that mean, exactly? Who is that for? Who are you wishing better luck in the next life?
C: You know what? It’s kind of… trying to prophesize that for yourself. I think you open yourself up, that was the ambition with this was like, “How can you be the most honest and tell your truth?”
It’s just like, if I told you that I loved you right now, you would either love me back or… that would kind of create, like, a fracture in our relationship. It would go one or the other way. And so we would enter that next life. And that’s kind of what it was. And, you know, pretty dramatic. So, “better luck in the next life” …
N: I was going to say… I feel like everyone’s felt that way a little bit. We’ve talked about your journey… in 2019 is when you first started kind of really poppin’, showing up a little bit more. Then the pandemic happened.
So I was going to say, I always like to ask songwriters, did you write a lot of material during the pandemic? Because I know, like, for me, it was difficult to find creativity… A lot of this material, when was it written?
C: So a lot of this material — let me take you all the way back, to kind of how it all started.
N: Take us back!
C: Yeah, let me take you back. So at the time, I had moved to L.A. and then I was working with my friend Pierre, and we were just kind of writing songs to other artists and just trying to find, you know, you just kind of find your voice through the music, just instrumentally. And what ended up happening was, there was just all these barriers and all these opinions that would get in the way, and certain timelines. I mean, which, totally understandable, but that’s just kind of what happens with music.
And you end up with all these songs on your hard drive, and that’s not very fulfilling. It’s like me trying to tell you something, and the message just goes out on mute because you don’t ever get to hear it. And one day, we sat down and we said, “You know what, let’s just put this music out and see what happens.”
And so we created a whole new set of music. I was encouraged to find my voice. Prior to that time, I wasn’t really singing and it was just… kind of one mountain after the other mountain that you have to kind of go over and get through. And then we came to writing the song “Count Me Out.” That song started to carve a path, and it was just really clear that, “Okay, this is something that’s fresh.”
N: Great song, by the way.
C: Thank you. Appreciate it. “This is something that’s fresh, and this is something that speaks to something that felt like it was missing.” I was obsessed with Sam Cooke. I remember, I was watching Being Mary Jane, and there was this moment where [Sam Cooke’s song] “(Somebody) Ease My Troublin’ Mind” started playing and I was freaking out. And all that to say, you just kind of find yourself through the music and just grow into it all.
And then the pandemic hit, so that… song gets released at the end of 2019. We get to tour a little bit and, boom, you’re in the pandemic. So then Hope for Sale gets written. That’s an album that speaks to being in isolation, trying to be the light when you’re all just kind of bogged down and locked away.
So then, now we’re about to enter the third chapter, where, Better Luck In The Next Life, and Hope for Sale was a product of that time. Just ended up being a… in some ways, like a pandemic-ish, kind of… like, “Let’s be the light.” Better Luck In The Next Life is, “This is what it took to get here. Nice to meet you. This is… what I’ve gone through.” You know, leaving Montreal. It feels like that moment, that first song “Better Luck In The Next Life” to me, visually, is getting on that train and just going. And that’s the visual that I get. So that’s what this album is about.
N: I love that. And I mean, it’s so funny, I was telling Daisy, who is… in the room, part of your team, that when I was, a couple of days ago — I’m getting Wi-Fi put in my house, okay? So I need to go… to the library to get the Wi-Fi, okay? But I was listening to the album, because I knew you were coming through, and I kept putting this song on repeat as I’m walking through the city in downtown, and I was romanticizing my life heavy. Like, the romanticizing was happening. I was playing “Good For Now,” featuring Lucky Daye… And, I don’t know, I’m a big fan of situationships right now, so it was hitting me really hard.
So I just wanted to know… a little bit more about that song, because there’s, you know, the way I received it. But I always love to hear the way that it was actually written… by the person who made it.
C: Yeah. I mean, so my view on love and relationships — any relationship, friends or romantic — is, I’m not against commitment, but my commitment shows up by choosing you every day. And so I kind of have like a 24-hour cycle with all my relationships. It’s like, “Tomorrow morning, I’m going to wake up and decide if I’m in it with you or not.”
But what happens is, you keep committing to the same people over and over and over again, because you love them … but you also want to live in the moment and know that everything isn’t forever. So that song really shows up and says, “Whatever it is, it’s good for now. And I just really want to be here with you right now. I’m going to go to the lengths of wherever we go, and hopefully we have tomorrow. But let’s kind of both understand that it’s not promised.”
N: I’m a Gemini, so I could never. It’s day by day for me. I could never make up my mind. So what was it like working with Lucky Daye? Or did you already have a relationship with him?
C: Yeah. So I had worked on Candy Drip as a producer, and we had also collaborated on “Compassion” on that… album. And just, you know, being a fan and living in Los Angeles, I feel like you meet people in passing and that relationship turned into just kind of a last-minute call, like, “Hey, I have this idea. I think we should make this song and see how it goes, no pressure or whatever.” And a few hours into it, “Good For Now” started to emerge itself. And that’s probably the song that took, arguably, the least amount of time. It just wrote itself. And I think maybe two weeks later it was printed and ready to go.
N: I love it. And I mean, we’re talking about it a lot, because you don’t have that many features on the album. So it was noticeable when I saw that feature.
I was… really feeling that song this morning while I was getting ready to come and do this interview. And so we’re talking about your new album, Better Luck In The Next Life. How long did this album take you to complete?
C: I would say probably just over a year. You know, it’s… songs like “Hell and High Water” — funny enough, that song I had written pretty much days after writing “Count Me Out.” So it was one of those where it’s probably the only one that kind of came over from previous work. I mean… I had this idea of just bringing in some trip-hop elements, and listening to Portishead a lot as listening to Tricky, Radiohead, all these different things.
And I tried to immerse myself in those soundscapes and extract some of the musicality that they were doing. There’s a bit of a dissonance that they had in those records, and I was like, “How can I make that dissonance, but a little sweeter?” So that was just… the little nerd in my head talking.
N: I love it. Going through the track list, it’s really cool because you could definitely listen to the album from top to bottom, beginning to end. And I don’t know, as a listener, I feel like that’s becoming a little bit more rare these days. People put so many songs in there and… you’re like, “Did you really want this on there?” But this album, you can just listen in, top to bottom, and it flows pretty well… And you didn’t have that many features.
N: In the album. And so, in the future, is there anyone you would be dying to work with or have featured on your next project?
C: I mean, a lot of the features, up to this point, have been features that were personal relationships. You know, Lucky Daye, Alina Baraz, those are people that I had collaborated with before. Charlotte Cardin on this record was someone I met at the Juno Awards and we just came to a show and we had just built that relationship rather quickly.
And so everyone that’s on there, including the producers that I collaborate with, are just friends. People I’m happy to go to dinner with. In the future, I mean, I do want to kind of spread the vibes and I do want to collaborate. So I’d love to collaborate with Tyler, the Creator. I mean, he would be incredible, that would just… I feel like we’d be able to create something really mad.
N: Did you listen to the — I mean, it dropped yesterday, but [CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST:] The Estate Sale version?
C: Yeah. I mean, he’s just one of those minds. There are people that, you know, from people that are GOATed, like the Pharrells, the Kanyes, all these people like that. But then also in the dance space, like the Rüfüs Du Sols and The Odeszas. There’s… something there that – Cigarettes After Sex, oh my God.
N: I would love it. I would love to hear a track like that from you.
C: It would be… I’m a big fan of artists that don’t sing at me. Just… are really chill. And that’s just the type of voice that speaks to me, personally. I have enough anxiety in my life. [Laughs]
N: And so you are playing Schubas tonight. That’s why we have you in here doing a little takeover, playing some of the album. It is sold out. Congratulations on that, by the way.
C: Thank you very much.
N: And so tonight, what could people expect that are coming to the show, or trying to still come to the show?
C: I would say it’s a lot more energetic than you think. You know, there’s edits, new edits, new versions of songs. I like to really explore the musicality in the music. So if you’re a fan of music, a fan of live music, you’ll definitely enjoy the experience. And also, we’re going to play all your favorite songs, so pull up.
N: And I saw there’s a few dates left. I mean, it looks like you’re at the tail end of your tour.
C: The last stretch.
N: So what comes after the tour?
C: So after the tour, I have my family coming to hang out with me at home in L.A. and then — that’ll be really cool, for about a week — I go to Europe and then start writing again. You know, this is what I love to do. I’ve gotten so much energy. Being a creative… you’re a sponge.
So everyone that’s just feeding you all their personal stories and their relationships with the music and getting to perform and all that energy, you have to kind of put it down somewhere, before too much time passes. So, get back into new music.
N: I love that… Do you consider yourself a singer, by the way?
C: Yeah, now I do. [Both laugh] I’m just such a fan of music that I respect… I have my own voice and I think that that’s what I’ve learned. And not everybody is made for American Idol, but I have a tone, an intention, a story. I have something that is worth offering and, through that, through accepting that, yeah, I’m definitely a singer.
N: I love that. And you write your own music, and I love that you were able to tell us the thought process of some of these songs. And if you listen to the album, it does center, I feel like, around a lot of romantic relationships and things like that. And so, I always like to ask artists, does anyone ever hit your line like, “Is this song about me? Is this number seven? Track seven? That’s me, right?”
C: I always… I would never tell you who the song is about. Never. Yeah, I’m not… blurring that line.
N: No, no, no. Who, like, if the person hits you up.
C: Oh yeah. No, even that person. I won’t tell them.
N: You won’t tell them?
C: Absolutely not. The art is for interpretation… I’m more interested in what you think it’s about.
N: I love that. Okay, look, you gotta keep them guessing. So you’re going to write more music…
N: I was going to say, do you ever give yourself time to live? Because I feel like, coming off of tour, to write new material, you have to go through new things, right?
N: So how much time do you usually give yourself for that?
C: Well, so what happens is, before you release music, it’s like you hand in the music, kind of… months and months before it actually gets released, in order to develop an actual kind of plan in impact. So you know, doing the videos and all these different things. So you have time to live within that time, and then traveling, getting to see all the fans in all these different cities.
Yeah. And then I’m obviously going to travel a little bit. I like to travel while writing, so I will find myself, probably, in Japan and Paris and Berlin. There’s a lot of living that’s going to happen. The difference is the songs will be written, probably, later that evening or a couple of days later
N: While you’re looking out at the Eiffel Tower. Well, we’re looking, penning down, writing some bars with the Eiffel Tower shining.
C: Yeah. I spend most of my time writing outside of the studio.
C: Because that’s where it happens.
N: I love that. I love that. That’s really cool to envision, too, when listening to the songs, as well. So again, Chiiild in here, where could people find you if they want to follow you? Things like that.
C: So on Instagram, TikTok everywhere, all the DSPs, just write C-H-I-I-I-L-D, and you will be able to find Chiiild.
N: Perfect, and let’s leave them with one more song. This one’s “Antidote.” And so what was the inspiration behind this track?
C: So I wanted to do something that had energy, that was also relaxing and chill and… ambient, as a fan of Coldplay, as a fan of U2 and all these different things. And then grunge and The Cure and all these sounds, “Antidote” kind of manifested itself. So, that’s “Antidote.”
Keep up with Chiiild on Instagram and Twitter, and listen to Better Luck In The Next Life on Spotify below.
Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller
Interview by Nudia Hernandez, audio edited by Omi Salisbury
Photography by Joshua X. Miller, edited by Omi Salisbury
Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca
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