We had the opportunity to talk with and learn more from Alexis Records Recording artist, singer and writer Chanell J. Wilson and about her newly released single, Draw Near To Me.
Check out our conversation below!
RNBHits.com: Hello Chanell J. Wilson, thank you for taking time away from your busy schedule to talk with us today, to reach out to your fans and let them know a few more things about you, your music and most importantly your current single, Draw Near To Me.
Chanell J. Wilson: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about my projects.
Q. Who is Chanell J. Wilson?
A. I am an animated intellectual thinker. I am an observer of life and I am always studying human behavior past, present and future. I am an innovative creative soul and I am a people person. I have a very fun, compassionate and approachable personality. I am very peculiar and at times quirky.
Q. Tell us a about your childhood and growing up.
A. I grew up in Northern California- East Oakland. I am a true East Bay Girl and growing up in the laid back, chill BAY Area Environment has kept me humble and is very reflective in how I approach people and situations. I am the oldest of five girls, so I am always looking out for others. I have always been creative. I was heavily involved in dance, various choirs, theatre ensembles, poetry groups, writers clubs and music groups. I was always described as the artists and treated as such. My quirkiness at times made me stand out in certain settings as the odd ball and we'd crack jokes- but I was always loved and supported even when misunderstood.
Q. At what age did you first notice your love and passion for music and poetry?
A. I have always loved music. I took piano lessons in elementary and would doodle melodies on the piano a lot. In my elementary years, I'd sing anything on the radio and perform it with passion for my family. My Aunt tells me stories of how I would sing lines from New Edition songs to the top of my lungs or sing Prince songs in the bathroom or Anita Baker in the back seat of the car. I didn't always know the words but would remember the melody and would add words quickly to finish the interpretation of what I thought I heard of the song. That's what made me disciplined in songwriting- being quick on my feet with lyrics. I have always loved prose and written animated thought and the Art of storytelling. I journaled a lot in my youth and that's where the heart and passion for the expressive thought and word and melody came from for me. Tracy Chapman's debut album really shaped my idea as a singer songwriter. My dad introduced me to a lot of music. On his week for visits (my parents had joint custody), we commuted 45 minutes from Oakland to Fairfield and we'd listen to all sorts of music. Those listening moments and reflecting on lyrics and arrangement approach really sparked something in me. I got serious about songwriting and storytelling around thirteen. I was really into Tony Toni Tone and also Bill Withers. I loved the live band sound and the soul folk singer songwriter sound. And that's when I started writing concept ideas. I have been a songwriter ever since.
Q. Artists these days use different aliases and stage names, why are you different?
A. At thirteen, I was apart of a girl group I created called "Not Ladylike". This was the early 90s when TLC was really popular so we had a tomboy concept built on a lyric from Yo Yo's debut song "Don't Play with my Yo Yo" where she describes her flow style personality and she says "I'm just Not Ladylike. ". My stage name at the time was Nelzy C. I was the songwriter and rapper. I had a pretty good flow because I was already a poet. As I got older, I became more ladylike and grew out of the tomboy phase. When I thought about my brand, I came up with all sorts of ideas Chanell Jontay ( my first and middle name), my uncle wanted to call me Sistah C, and even Just my two initials CJ and even my family nickname Nelly...it just didn't feel authentic at the time. I consider myself a writer first then an artist and with my pen name there was something about Chanell J. Wilson. I remember as a kid I would sign every report, assignment with my full name and my dad suggested I use my middle initial when attaching my name instead of the full name Jontay. That meant something to me. It felt prestigious, like it belonged on a business card. So as I came back into my artistry I felt the best way to represent me, my art and even my family support.... I had to be represented with all of my names Chanell J. Wilson....Chanell being my given name....and representation of who I am and then my surname Wilson.....I think of my late grandfather that's his last name and I carry it.
Q. Musically who are your influencers?
A. Prince, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Ledisi,Tracy Chapman, Tony Toni Tone, Janis Joplin, The Clark Sisters, Yolanda Adams, India.Arie, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Eric Benet, Maxwell, En Vogue, Kris Kross, The Boys, Boyz II Men, Babyface, Quincy Jones, No Doubt, D'Angelo, Esperanza Spalding, Janelle Monae, Tamar Davis, Take 6, Missy Elliot, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Sheila E, The Tony Rich Project, Toni Braxton, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5 and Tina Turner and Ceila Cruz and Patti La Belle..I think I have studied these artist records several times and the way they perform. I glean ideas and am inspired by their passion oh yeah and Beyonce too..I really appreciate her work ethic and evolution and how she carved out her career...that is a true artform in itself and great business moves. I observe and shadow artists business and artistic moves a lot. I respect their management teams and really look at their business plans and business models. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Q. As a poet, who are your influencers?
A. I like Jill Scott's delivery as a poet. I love Maya Angelou she influenced me... I also I like Shel Silverstein , "where the sidewalk ends' that really got me started in poems as a kid and I reflect back to that from time to time in creation. Others are....Taalam Acey, Saul Williams, Sunni Patterson, Flo'etry...I also like a lot of Bay Area poets too...like Shawn Williams
Q. As a songwriter, where do you get your inspiration from?
A. I get my songwriting inspiration from life, observation and my journals. Also from things I have read and have questions on. Social Media...I give myself permission to write down every idea and microaggression or joy within my art.
Q. As a poet, where do you get your inspiration from?
A. Literally from how I am feeling in that poetic moment. I write it down and walk away and then when I want to hear it....for delivery I record it and I literally delve into the feeling of the delivery of the word. Some words get added in those moments and some are edited out...and what lands in that delivery is what I declare the poem not what I wrote down previously. That's where my poem "Identity?" Came from and Hater's Prose....I give myself permission to unapologetically reflect when I write... but the delivery for me is what creates the inspiration of the piece..I then listen and tailor as needed....I write a lot stories, poems and proses.
Q. Your current single "Draw Near To Me," What Is The Story Behind It?
A. Draw Near to Me was actually written about a guy I was in to (nothing came of it ) but I decided to capture the idea of what I was feeling at the time. I wrote the song almost a decade ago. I wasn't even a mother yet nor had I experienced good mature love. When I first recorded it, the inexperienced girl is still present in my voice. As time progressed and I grew up and had more experience the song has taken on different meaning for me. In our recording now, I sing the song as a grown woman and my producer and I approached it from a mature place and not a puppy love place. The song is definitely about love, grown up love, mature love and the wide array of feelings that happens within when the sparks fly and good unconditional reciprocity takes place. The sonic sound and even song arrangement has evolved too. I brought lyrics and chords and shared it with Roy Graves, a friend and music classmate of mine. He gave it the solid bass line and even the darker sonic elements it has in the ending build. My original run was like a fade down. Then a few years later I passed the track to Hank "Poetiqbeetz" Marshall and he rebuilt the drum sections, all those drops and other chord elements. Then a few more years later, my executive producer Christopher Patton worked with me on the delivery of my lyrics and melody and had guitarist Franklin Miller add some licks and Violinist Mark Johnson provide the violin sounds. The song went to the next level and I knew it was time to release it.
Q. Are you currently working on any new music at the moment?
A. Yes, right now I am recording songs for my EP. I have already written two concept albums of music and poems. Narrowing down the song choices and concept was hard. With this EP, I wanted to tell a story about conditional love and how it impacts humanity. I wanted to talk about out in snapshot form our Black American Conditioning in regards to love and how it shapes us as humans. I use myself, become transparent and use vulnerable confessions from my journal to tell this EPs theme and story. I will reveal the title as we get closer to the release date. But the tracks are nice...it has an eclectic r&b meets neo-soul with rock and trap elements vibe and has both an acoustic and electronic arrangements. I describe this project as a thought-provoking contemplative mood. Something to think about and later act on.
Q. Your Favorite Artist and song?
A. My favorite artists is Prince...I never have one favorite song...it depends on the day....today...my favorite song is.....Chocolate Box ft Q-Tip....on Mplsound....last month I was on a 3121 mood...the whole album....and the unreleased companion album Milk and Honey. Especially Sunday in the Park by Tamar Davis...those arrangements are amazing....one month it was all about Parade and the song Do you Lie? With Prince it is never just one favorite song....more like moments, time, arrangements and mood. Lol...I hope I answered the question.
Q. What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?
A. Learning the changing industry. I didn't know we lived in a streaming society and I am adjusting to that because I am a Gen X Xennial ( a microgeneration between Gen X and Millennials born in 77-83 we grew up analog and were thrown into a digital world and have to adapt quickly to the grandfathering out of what we were taught)...I love the record store and holding the product in my hand.....but I understand the convenience of streaming and the download. So I am adjusting....
Q. How do you define success as a poet/musician?
A. Success for me as a poet and musician is two fold. The first is creating quality art, being disciplined in my craft and also respecting my gifts and talents by working them and exercising them and sharing them. It is my peace offering to humanity. I believe that is me doing my part. The other half is carving out a sustaining career path. As an indie Artist signed to an indie label; I have the opportunity to craft a career and create a business model and compete in the business side of the music industry. It is a business. It is show business. My Music Business teacher always talked about the art of the deal and that everything is negotiable. So success for me is working and crafting smart business deals and bringing in reasonable revenue for myself and the label. I am a business minded woman and am always studying industry deals.
Q. Outside working in the studio and making music and being a poet, What do you enjoy doing most?
A. Spending quality time with my son. Cracking jokes or laughing at cartoons with him. And also drawing....I draw to calm down, destress and learn a new artistic outlet/ medium.
Q. Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
A. I would like to see at least 3-4 music projects done with successful tours. I would like to have secured various licensing opportunities for my music and by that time I would like to see some of my script ideas turned into a series for netflix or hulu. I also want to do A&R with other Artist.
Q. Any advice for the younger generation aspiring to become musicians?
A. Keep your perspective clear. Study your craft. Learn the business (either take a class, watch youtube or read, or intern if you can) and really study other artists business plans and most importantly always refine your work...seek to make it the best it can be according to craft, pitch and composition. Respect your producer's opinion and also trust the creative process. Work smarter and not harder and don't lose your authentic self. Always protect yourself, read your contracts seek advisement. Copyright...( I learned that the hard way) and carve out a good career. And seek out a mentor.
Q. Where can we find you online?
A. At my website www.chanelljwilson.com and also facebook and twitter, @chanelljwilson
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RNBHits.com: Thank you much for your time Chanell.
Chanell J. Wilson: Once again, thank you for taking the time to interview me on my projects.