Interview: My Name Is Chance

Let’s go ahead and get some of the cliché questions out of the way. How did the name Chance come to fruition?
Easy!  First name.

Who are a few of your musical influences?
Varied. Grew up listening to Cheap Trick and ELO, The Cars; add to that U2, Tears for Fears, Pavement, Superchunk and more recently TV on the Radio, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Ting Tings. But I could probably also say that Billie Holliday, old big band music (the worse it sounded sonically, the better), Sade, Peter Murphy, Peter Gabriel round out my corners.

Speaking of Peter Gabriel, who was better as a Genesis frontman, Gabriel or Collins?
I hope you don’t find it to sad when I report that never the twain shall meet. Collins.

I was really only a PG fan as a solo artist. Something about Genesis (certainly during PG’s time) never sat right with me. I can’t even name a song to be honest.

I prefer bands with a prog influence rather than outright prog, and his genesis always struck me as a little goofy. Just my taste. I find Peter’s solo work to be like a different artist completely, on nearly all levels.

Having said all this, for whatever reason, I now have “Just a Job to Do” stuck in my head. (I gotta name! I gotta number! haha)

What other genres or artists/bands do you enjoy?
Well, like I mentioned earlier, I think big band is a lovely thing. It’s so sincere and fun. And I think the 80s were a great time for music. Especially the new romantic era and the early MTV. It’s funny how so much of that music was critiqued for appearing contrived, but I think a lot of it—if you strip it down to its basic melodies and lyrics—was very authentic and simple (usually about love, of course, granted).

‘All Wrapped Up In A Bow’ is a great song and video.  What inspired the record and the almost behind the scenes video feel?
Thank you. This song was dedicated and written for one of my closest friends and mentor, Ron Feldman, who was a vocal coach in the Orlando music community. He started out as my manager, teacher, but became an uncle in some ways, and strangely as I got older, like an older brother. Out of nowhere, he died from brain cancer two years ago and two days ago (yea, I know.)

I wrote the song a month before he died, with the essence of the song being, “if you only have a minute left in this life, what are you going to do with it?”

The video idea was spawned by the simple notion of the space in which every musician works on his or her craft. It could be their studio, their rehearsal space, their family’s living room where the piano sits, a band room at their school…It invites community because of the obvious commonality in these spaces.

I asked musician friends all over the country to video themselves playing my song as if they were practicing it. And while doing so, if they knew Ron, think of him. If they didn’t, then think of the people who inspired you or drove you to become musicians. And don’t look at the camera, or perform in that sense. This should be a fly on the wall feeling. Simply hone your craft. I imagined it would be how he wished: to see his students, and the people he influenced, to achieve their own strives toward greatness through hard work. Like he said, “Don’t dream. Do.”

I think it turned out really nice. The musicians involved were so helpful and really turned in some beautiful footage. Many of them I have known since I was a kid however some I only just met, so that was lovely to experience. Given the number of times (you can imagine) I poured over the footage, a lot of tears were shed making the final piece.

The day before he died, he was already pretty much out of it (non-communicative). My friend Matt was in the room with him, and he knew I wanted one last time to “be” with him (I was in California, he was in Florida). Via Facetime on our respective iPhones, I played the song on the piano for Ron as he slept. It was our last form of communication: music.

You make a powerful point with your last statement. When talking about music as a universal language, Psychologist David Ludden says “…It not only crosses cultures, it also reaches deep into our evolutionary past. And it that sense, music truly is a universal language.” Would you agree?
No doubt about it. If not universal, then certainly earthly.

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Your new album is ‘The Glitter and The Glue’ What’s the meaning behind the title?
I actually had the title before much of the music. Eventually the phrase ended up in the song “All Wrapped Up in a Bow” because that song gave me an opportunity to flex the thought behind the phrase.

Essentially, it means this: In every partnership, friendship, relationship, there many times is someone who shines, and someone who keeps the trains running. Someone who glitters and someone who is the glue. I loved the meaning behind that. The album’s material revolved around 15 people I had lost in about 3 years. It was a rough go, and I needed the glue in my life so I could shine. I am lost without those kinds of relationships (and they know who they are!)

How has your sound since you began?
I think my allowing restraint to be heard in my voice and my writing. To not have to bloody scream all the time. It’s hard though, because I still want to.

This industry is not an easy place, what made you want to pursue this career?
This always comes back to the same old story I tell: I put my record player on top of my piano when I was ten. I was playing piano for about 3 years at that point and was at least “ok” with it. But then I somehow realized, “wait, the music that is coming out of that thing I can play on this thing?” and that was it.

It’s been a long love affair ever since (or dominatrix; one or the other, something like that!)

There are a lot of independent artists and bands going at this business alone, with the understanding that not only is it tough, but jaded in some ways.  What is your outlook on the music industry today?
Eesh. Gut Wrenching? We could probably do an entire interview on this one question. I think John Oliver recently joked to someone who was getting out of jail for the first time in 20 years that “oh, by the way, we’ve also figured out how to make music and porn free. Go figure.”

Assigning blame is more difficult that you can imagine (many snakes in this bin.) I think though that there is this common thread of complaint where people say new music is not like it used to be. But I don’t think that’s the reason. It’s not the music.

It’s the nurturing.

In the old days, you had limited channels, limited access, and limited checkbooks. So labels (or whoever) were more apt to be curators. Listen, labels are pretty fucked in the head, so this is no defense. I’m just saying that now with so many options, the listener is overwhelmed. There’s a reason that GnR, or The Go Gos, or Paul McCartney, or whomever are still viable in this market: people cling to what they know.

There is no natural ascending to the throne because the old music is still muscling out the new. It’s like if Pro football players were able to still play in college. Does this phrasing of words imply unfair? Perhaps. I don’t think that’s my point as much as new music is unable to flourish because it is so difficult getting the attention of the listener.

Example that illustrates without using labels or bands or fans as a punching bag: I’m a huge fan of a station out here in LA called KCRW. When I turn it on though, I can listen to a lot of music without ever hearing a repeat. And….AND… I have no idea what they just played but a lot of it is riveting (Sure, I know it’s on the app; I’m talking generally). If I’m driving or not the obsessive type (who writes down the exact time and then goes and checks out the app), then all that music…all that good music…just vanished. No opportunity for me to revisit and become a fan. And I love this station! But without some sense of limited curating it seems you can easily drown in the “next.” You are essentially listening to a mass of music instead of a particular artist.

What advice can you give those artists and bands just getting into this industry?
Simple. Only do it because you love it. Otherwise, get out. I mean this. Don’t take this poorly. If there’s a voice in your head saying, meh, then say no to music. You gotta love it.

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What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned about this industry?
That these kinds of questions are hard? haha Honestly, the hardest thing is that so few care. And I don’t mean that bitterly, but the truth remains: you can only take care of yourself.

Everything is so fleeting, whether they be the compliments or the critiques. You can only watch out for yourself. it’s no surprise that musicians quite literally “band” together to take this life on. It almost requires it.

Which one of your records are you most attached?
Well, Glitter and the Glue means a lot to me because it’s the first time I recorded in my own studio live drums and live guitar/bass amps. So there was this cohesion that I couldn’t quite accomplish on my other records. But individual songs/singles of the past would be Man on a Mission, Over My Head, and Independent. I think Over My Head is one of the best songs I’ve ever written. I just love singing it, performing it.

During this past weekend, you said that the muse was calling you back into the studio. What are you currently working on?
My writing creativity really sparks in the fall. It just happens like the birds flying south. And it was just a song I’m working on called True. I ran into a little road block because the song is in 6 but I wanted to put a 4/4 drum beat over it that didn’t feel right. Well, it’s not that it didn’t feel right, it’s just that it was SO unusual to what I thought I was going to do. So I left it to sit while I mull.

I hope after I listen to it again later this week maybe it’s still workable. Otherwise, I’ll just scrap the drums and go with what I originally planned.

That said, I have a lot of germs in the que!

Some of the songwriters I know have some crazy writing traditions. They almost ritualized the process.  Is there anything you do to prepare for a new song?
I light a candle, say a prayer for the morning after…wait. I think that’s a Duran Duran song.

There is no process apart from just sitting down and pushing through it. Pick up the guitar, every day, and just strum, or sit down at the piano and just start playing. Usually the first thing I play is the best. Weird but true! I also have what I call Studio days where I just know way ahead of time I’m going to work on at least something.

I will also say this, and I maybe should have put this under advice: having problems writing a song? Read a book. Seriously. If you’re suffering from substantial idea or lyric blockage and just nothing is coming out, then pick up a book. And it can’t be a magazine or the Internet. It has to be a novel or story of some kind. I’m telling you, books bring out the creativity.

What milestones have you reached in your career or otherwise?
Hmmm. This is tough, because I don’t really view music as a series of milestones. I view myself more like a shark that has to keep swimming. I just move forward on to what is in front of me. I’ve done things that people would regard as milestone (signing a record deal, playing Woodstock 99, releasing multiple albums of solo material independently), and that’s all groovy. But I just want to improve as an artist and a songwriter.

And I will confess to not being afraid to mention failure: I haven’t done nearly enough of what I hope to do. I haven’t played Saturday Night Live. I haven’t played Radio City Music Hall. I haven’t played in Europe or Japan or India, or South America. I don’t make enough money at music to do music for a living. I haven’t yet written that one song that seems to transcend and lift the masses.

I could go on….!

With hectic schedules for writing, recording, mixing, and mastering, What do you do in your down time?
Family. Plain and simple. I wish I had room for other things, but having a 7 year old and a lovely wife means a lot of dedication to keep the balance proper. The good thing is this stuff fulfills me on another level, and I’m grateful for it. It inspires me to be something for them, to one day look down at them through smiles and tears when I’m accepting some goofy award at the Grammys for “Best Artist who took a fuck long time to do something award-worthy”, or shouting their names from a microphone whilst on stage at Wembley. It would mean everything. (Whilst. I never get to use whilst in a sentence).

So the why I do this isn’t just my own personal drive anymore. It’s them too. It’s just love, at the end of it all. Life can be really simple if you don’t let it get the best of you. I say that knowing I sometimes do let it get the best of me. But the answer often is right there.

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10 years ago it seems you were into photography and quite good.  Is this something you’re still passionate about?
Definitely! I could nerd out on photography for a while, if you ask me. I think that’s what I brought to the table with my “deluxe” version of The Glitter and The Glue.  I set about with this challenge:

Every song would have its own piece of art. It was a lot of work because it couldn’t just be a photo I took of a duck when the song was about a chicken. It had to make sense to the song.

One of the more eclectic pieces, for example, was for my song speechless. I had this idea of a man with a snare drum for a head, and inside the snare drum was huge eye. Compositionally, at least in my own head, I wanted the word Speechless to be denoted by the eye and the fact that there was no mouth. So I had to photograph myself holding an actual snare drum in front of my head and get it so it made proportional sense (at least to me; I realize this might be odd to most).

I wanted the guy’s hands to be holding his head as if in awe of the world (the whole point to the song is that the world is beautiful in spite of how awful it is or can be. That it’s both.)

So I had to get the hands just right as if he were holding his face in awe. THEN…I took a macro photo of my wife’s eye. Super up close. Crazy all the colors her eye has (they are hazel). Then affix the eye into the snare drum head as if it’s viewing the world singularly.

AND THAT WAS ONE PHOTO!

So, if you buy the deluxe, it comes with 10 nicely printed 4×6 postcards: the image of the song on the front, and the lyrics and liner notes on the back. (9 songs plus album cover). It was a blast of a project.

We don’t have to talk about it, but I got to ask.  Kelis’ ‘Milkshake’. What brought that cover on?
HAHAHA! I’ll never live down that decision, and there is no reason for me to because it was hilarious.

At the time, I had a message board called the Friends of Chance. For a hot minute there, people would socialize on my board (before FB obviously). It was a lovely way to interact with fans and friends.

I posted a thread for songs I could cover. People would post songs and I would select a few and make a poll. Whatever won…I did. So I covered Radiohead’s Creep.

Then I got a funny idea to ask people to post their least favorite songs for me to cover. The responses were wide and varied, and I was definitely glad I decided to curate because some I just simply didn’t want to do.

It came down to Milkshake and I think a Britney Spears tune. Milkshake was huge that summer and people were absurdly over it. Even I thought how the fuck am I supposed to…

Then it hit me: What if the singer of the song kinda sorta hated the song too? (I actually groan “oh god” before singing the first chorus)… And what if it were sorta angry, thrashy, metal or punk or hardcore…something like that?

I did the whole thing in an afternoon. And people lost their minds. What was funny too is that it sort of got a ton of play on Satellite radio. People would email or call and say, “Dude, I just heard your version of Milkshake on this metal channel I listen to.” It was very funny.

Live, people went nuts for it too but what I don’t think they knew is I felt the whole thing was kind of my version of a trojan horse. That is to say my version revealed to me that people deep down sorta liked the song.

And that makes me giggle.

How can fans follow you and where can they pick up your music?
The usual.  One the website http://mynameischance.com/

Here is the only place you’ll find rare albums, and my latest, “The Glitter and the Glue” in a deluxe package. I still believe in the tangible, hand-held art.

You can also get my music from most downloadable music stores (iTunes, Amazon and the like). BUT… no Spotify or other streaming. Nope.

Follow on FacebookInstagram, and I rarely tweet, but if you insist, Twitter

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4 thoughts on “Interview: My Name Is Chance

  1. Two things:
    1) “I haven’t yet written that one song that seems to transcend and lift the masses.” Disagree. There are many… Waiting for the masses.
    2) Q: Is music a universal language?
    A: If not universal, then certainly earthly.
    Me: haha!

    Like

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