Since first featuring on the old LozzaMusic site back in 2011, Chris Richardson has gone from strength to strength and now poised to become YMCMB’s next pop sensation, we got the chance to speak to the man himself. In the midst of a US radio tour promoting his brand new single “Joy & Pain”, the 28 year old Virginia native gave us a deeper insight into his story up until today, singing with Cash Money, the ins and outs of his debut album and a whole lot more. Check out the full interview below!
Taking it right back to the beginning, I heard that your first break into the music industry came through Teddy Riley?
Yeah that’s right, that’s how I realised that what I wanted to do career wise. When I was 17, I did a local talent show back in Virgina and Teddy Riley happened to be in town as a guest judge, to show his support to Virginia music. I came second in the competition and he ended up inviting me to his studio the next day, where I recorded my first song in a real studio and I was just like “wow”! I had been a fan of Teddy Riley and the whole Jack Swing movement since I was a kid and at the time, I was forming myself, trying to discover who I really was and that was a real turning point for me.
He then left for LA but we kept in contact and made some more music but nothing mega festered from it. From there though, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and kept working within the Virginia scene, making the right connections and moving in the right direction which led to me getting the chance to work with Timbaland when he was putting together the first “Shock Value” album. I’m such a huge Timbaland fan, I grew up listening to him and when Ginuwine’s “Pony” came out, it was like a turning point in this whole hybrid radio to me. I was so amazed for some reason.
Anyway, I was going back and forth to Miami to work with him but still living here in Virginia, working my 9 to 5 and that’s when I tried out for American Idol because I just felt like I should, especially as things were in driving distance.
I tried out two years running and didn’t make it and then the third year, I made it past the first level which was a big thing for me but at the same time, Timbaland had just asked me if I was interested in being on the “Shock Value” album and me, being a local boy from VA trying to make it in music, I was like “of course, are you kidding me?!”.
When you faced the ultimatum of carrying on with Timbaland or with American Idol, how did you come to that decision, as some might might have seen it as a bit of a strange choice?
It was definitely a personal ultimatum that was hard for me because I’d worked so hard to get to that spot and wanted to capitalise on the opportunity of working with Timbaland and keep grinding to get that one song with him to catapult my career, especially as I was such a mega fan of his work growing up and had always hoped to work with him one day.
On the other hand, Idol could get me on a massive platform where people can see me and granted, it wasn’t the way that I envisioned making it in this career, but I turned back to Timbaland and said I have this opportunity to be on this big television show. He was just like “yeah man, kill it” so I went and I did it and I happened to end up coming fifth, which was a great experience just as a crash course of the entertainment business.
When you were working with Timbaland, did you make any songs that we may know of today?
Oh man, you know what, we collab’ed a couple of times but I can’t think of any songs we got finished, which was unfortunate.
He was solidifying the “Shock Value” album and it was my opportunity to be on the album to make my intro but unfortunately we didn’t, which would have been a great story to tell.
I still love the dude to this day and we still see each other in the studio all them time when I’m down in Miami and maybe one day we’ll have one.
What was the steepest learning curve and what shocked you the most about being on a show like Idol?
For me, it was having to get into this whole mode of playing the cameras, talking to press, smiling, presenting ourselves, choosing the right songs, all of which gave us a little insight into the entertainment industry, which I was really grateful for.
Like I said, I ended up coming fifth and the top 10 got to go on tour. We got introduced to another realm of the entertainment industry and that’s a mega tour where mega people come out and support you. It threw us into this superstardom real quick but once the show’s done and they’re moving onto the next season, it’s like you’ve dropped off the face of the planet so you have to capitalise on that fire while its hot.
That was probably what shocked me the most: looking back, I thought it was crazy that I never got any type of offer or interest after the show was done. Just the way the show was run and it being such a mega show, I thought “wow, millions of people are watching this thing” and you’d think that one or two labels would approach you but that wasn’t the case for me, so I took it as motivation to work harder and it really pushed me to get it.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2012, how did you first hook up with Cash Money and how did that escalate to you signing the deal with them?
It was actually the connection between me and the A&R at Cash Money, who is now my manager. For the 4 years after Idol, I was writing with multiple writing camps, multiple producers, the whole rigorous grind within the music business. I started a publishing company and I just was out there promoting the résumé and from that, he was trying to get in contact with me and I was trying to get in contact with him.
He happened to be from Virginia as well and he eventually came up here and we met up at a bar. I’m the type of person that carries my music around in my backpack and he’s the same kind of guy, so we just clicked it off real good from there. I showed him my music and he was like “man, I love your stuff, I’d like to get you down to Miami and introduce you to Birdman and Slim”.
Two weeks later, he called me up and literally booked me a flight down there on the spot and introduced me to the team. When I presented my stuff, they really loved it and not only that, they seen how hard I worked and I felt like they genuinely really wanted me to be a part of their brand. I just stuck down there for weeks at a time just grinding in the studio, they let me work every single night and it was just a cool family camaraderie like they wanted me to succeed.
I told them the whole story, not in depth like how we’re talking right now, but they knew that I had worked really hard from my manager and they value that over at Cash Money, people who work hard enough to not stop until they get it.
They’re just down for you being you and your individuality and they actually genuinely love the music, which is really rare in the music industry.
As an outsider, Birdman is one of the most intriguing characters in the music industry to watch. Has he ever said or done anything to you that has particularly stuck in your mind?
I can’t remember his exact words but I remember a year ago he told me something along the lines of “you come out for the first time and that’s your only first time so make sure you give the best you possible”.
Granted, I’d been introduced through Idol but they were giving me another opportunity to be introduced, without that tag on me anymore. They were giving me my individuality, my own brand.
I put what he said into every context, whether it was eating well, living healthier, working out and of course, always being in the studio taking and making sure my music was the best it could be. I really did pay attention to it because I knew that he just wanted me to give all I had and if he was interested in signing me, that was exactly what I was going to do.
Being around the likes of Birdman and Wayne who are all about their money, what’s been the most eye opening or extravagant display of money that you’ve witnessed as part of YMCMB?
Oh man, there’s been many! Birdman, he shows up in different cars all the time so it’s not even surprising anymore to see him pulling up in a new Bugatti. Baby always carries around his bags of money. He’s a businessman, he knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s just a joy to be around it and witness. They really do make a lot of money.
Besides that, the money didn’t really intrigue me as much as the business intrigued me. The business of success. The business of actually moving forward and making a lifestyle out of their career.
Still on the subject of money, what would you see the best ways for upcoming artists to make money in today’s music industry?
You always can make money through shows, touring, songwriting for other people, doing production for bigger acts, smaller acts, there’s always a way if you stay interconnected.
If you aren’t on top of your financial situation, that’s the stuff that will weigh on your mind whilst you’re doing music and hinder your creativity. You’ve got to make sure that you get yourself in a cool balance so if that means getting a day job, that’s not the end of the world.
Once you start to make a bit of money, it’s all about what you do with it and how you manage it until you get to a certain point where you can pull up in a new car every other day. I would always suggest not to portray a lifestyle that you don’t actually live but Cash Money lives it, it’s ok!
From being on American idol, working in a big production camp and now being a part of one of the most prominent labels, what has shocked you most about the music industry as a whole?
I always tell people that the music industry circle is so small, everybody knows everybody. You could be in LA and just talk about some random person, random producer, random songwriter or random label representative and 9 times out of 10, the person you’re talking to is going to be like “oh yeah, I know them, I completely know them” or “me and him used to do this together” or “my brother is good friends with his brother”. What it means though is that if you get out there and put yourself in the right place at the right time, things are going to happen a lot quicker than if you just sit back and wait for it to happen.
You have the new single out right now, “Joy & Pain” with Tyga. What inspired you to write that song and how did it all come together?
“Joy & Pain” was about the tug and pull and contrast of love. Even in the video, the part where she’s getting a tattoo is a metaphor in the sense that it shows the literal pain of getting a tattoo but at the same time, putting something on your body that you love.
You’re going to go through joys and really hard pains in relationships sometimes but it’s that really solid love in the middle that keeps you together.
It was crazy because I ended my session one night with Detail. Detail did this record, he also produced “How To Love“, and I came back and he just had this awesome awesome idea of joy and pain. We just built around this whole concept and ended up making a great record.
It wasn’t all me on that record by any means. It was definitely a collaborative effort between Detail and I where it definitely had that tug and pull effect of a relationship where sometimes you feel like you’re done, ready to give up and it’s just not working but at the same time, you wake up the next day and were like what were we even fighting about.
On from the single, how is your debut album coming along and what can we be expecting from that?
I feel like I’m on album 7, I have so many songs it’s unreal! Right now though, I’m still working on rounding the corners and finishing this album that we’re going to put out in 2013 and making sure that I take all the songs that I want to include and make sure they blend and that is flows as an album.
There are ballads, there are songs by urban producers but with the guitars and live instruments blended in. I’m a a big fan of all types of music and have always been on the search to create this blend or hybrid of music which at the end of the day, turns into pop music but if I do it how I want to do it, it turns into my kind of pop music.
You can put Rihanna on any track out there, whether it’s a live track, a processed track and everyone’s going to recognise Rihanna’s voice and adapt to it and respect it as a Rihanna song, whatever type of music you’re usually into. That’s what I want within the pop world, where you know the voice but it doesn’t just have to be on one style or genre of record.
Personally, I bring this blue eyed soul and mix it in with today’s pop music. There are some off tempos, some ballads, some deep storytelling songs that get into a deep metaphor storyline and then there are some songs that are very open ended, melodic and catchy and I feel like people like a blend of that.
When it comes to features, there are some people I am trying to get on it but not so much in the typical sense where you’d think a feature would be a rapper or something like that. I’ve been trying to get Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to play on this song forever now and I’d also love to do a collaboration with Amy from Evanescence, something off the wall.
What would you say is your favourite track on the album so far?
Ah man, I have a couple of them. There’s a really big big big ballad that me and my buddy Keith Ross down in Miami did and it’s called “Big World”. To me, it’s a very timeless record and I feel like you could listen to it today or twenty years down the road and it would still have the same effect. It has a timeless feel to it. There’s a live orchestra on it and it’s a real impactual song and I always like those type of records, the big anthem music.
I know you were talking about trying to get some really cool features onto your album, obviously because I’m from Britain I have to ask this, do you listen to a lot of British music at all?
Who are some British artists that you’re really into and if you could, you’d get featured on your album.
Oh man, if I could, I’d definitely get Adele. There’s so many different ones, from Jessie J to Craig David. I grew up listening to Craig David. I was such a huge huge fan, I loved the whole scat mixed with R&B and to me, I feel like when there’s a little bit of difficulty to it, it makes it intriguing to listen to a couple more times to learn it and that’s what I thought about Craig David’s stuff sometimes.
Paul McCartney, that would be awesome. Amy Winehouse, if she was still alive, because I was such a huge fan of hers as well. The list could go on and on and on and on but I think it just really would have to be the right timing in the certain situation or if we could link up and do anything.
Aside from yourself, which artists do you think are really going to shine in 2013?
I think the artists that stay consistent are going to stay great. I think Karmin are doing great in the pop world and I think that their songs are perfect for their brand and they’re constant with it (check out LozzaMusic’s interview with Karmin HERE!). I want Jessie J to come back out and take it to the next level. Adele, I don’t know if she’s going to come out with any more stuff because she’s having a baby.
She just did the Bond theme tune!
I’m sure she’s doing what she’s doing while she’s pregnant but if she were to come out with an album, I think it would make an even greater impact than “21” because going from a woman that talks about heartache and going through trouble in relationships to someone who looks from the outside as if they are settling down but in reality, are going through the fame, the pregnancy and a whole bunch of new troubles would make for some amazing music.
When you’re talking about things that you actually went through, that’s what people want to hear and if your music can sound good on the radio but once people get down to listening to it properly, they’re like “wow, that’s a crazy story”, then that’s perfect.
Any final words and shout outs?
Definitely shout out to y’all for having me on here, my label and everybody involved in what we’re working on. Check out my new website ChrisRichardsonMusic.com for updates, we’re going to put some new covers up there, people have been asking for certain things and we want to give them to them and deliver.
Also, for the past 4 years I’ve been recording a documentary of everything that has happened in my life and career and once I’ve got to a certain point, that’ll be posted as well. Definitely follow me on twitter @imchrisrich, on instagram @imchrisrich and pick up that single “Joy & Pain”!
Thank you to Chris Richardson for taking the time out to speak to us, Michelle George from All Access Fans and to Tiffany Calver for doing the interview! Be sure to check out the rest of LozzaMusic.com for all the hottest new music, videos, new artists and exclusive interviews and say hello on twitter @lozzamusic!
Previously: Kid Ink Interview