10 Questions with ... Chris Lane
July 31, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
North Carolina native Chris Lane is recognized by many for his signature falsetto. His debut single, "Fix," is currently climbing the charts, and he will release his debut album, "Girl Problems," on Friday, August 5th. Raised in Kernersville, NC, Lane played football and baseball throughout college. He tried out for "American Idol" on a whim with his twin brother, and then eventually formed a popular cover band in North Carolina. Lane joined the family at Big Loud Mountain publishing and management before becoming the first artist on the newly-created Big Loud Records and is currently on tour with Rascal Flatts and Kelsea Ballerini. He recently sat down with All Access to discuss his new album, what it was like working with producer Joey Moi, and his love of Keith Urban.
1. Your debut single, "Fix," is climbing its way to the top of the chart. Did you expect that sort of reaction from radio from your first single?
I mean, I certainly hoped for it, but you just never know. I felt like we had something special, and cool, and different, and unique. At the same time, you just don't know what's going to work. I worried in the beginning. Is it too progressive? Is it not enough "this" and too much of "that?" I think once it got into the Top 30, I started noticing a difference in shows. More people started showing up; people knew the words. Then it got Top 20, then Top 10. Then it just got to a whole new level. Seeing people show up at the shows night after night, singing along where I can hold the microphone out, and they know every word - that is something special, and I love that. It makes me excited. You're just seeing Snapchats, and Instagram, and Tweets, and whatever it may be of people hearing it on the radio and saying it's one of their favorite songs. It's really cool.
2. You've just finished your debut album, "Girl Problems," which drops on August 5th. When you listen to this album - when you're done singing it, playing it, and mixing it, does this to you say, "I am a Country music album?"
Without a doubt. Hands down. I mean, certainly I drew off of other influences, but as Country music continues to change, there's so much room for a little bit of everything. I purposefully wanted to be a little progressive, because if you look back over the history of Country music, the people - Garth Brooks, and Waylon Jennings, and all those guys - were a little progressive for that time. I mean, they got a little bit of push back, from what I understand. Now you look at Florida Georgia Line. They stepped in, and they were a way different sound at that point than what most people were used to for Country music. I feel like that helped catapult them. Sam Hunt - same thing. He brought a different flavor to it, and people latched onto it and loved it. I feel like I sit in the middle of those two with a similar sound. I don't have the stand-out vocals that are going to get me noticed if I'm straight down the middle. I felt like I needed to do something different, and hopefully something fresh, in a way that hadn't been done before in Country. I don't' feel like I'm re-inventing the wheel with these songs. We kind of talked about that with the whole falsetto. I don't know many people who do that in Country. I was just trying to find a way to separate what I do and what other people do.
3. What was it like working with Joey Moi on the project?
It was awesome! At first, I didn't know what to expect working with someone who has had the success that he's had. It was a little nerve-wracking for me, because I'm just a guy from Kernersville, NC who was doing landscaping. I had a buddy of mine record songs that I had written before. I didn't have someone telling me, "This is what you need to do," or "This is what it should sound like. This is how you should sing this part." So it was a learning process for me in the very beginning. Joey is good at finding ways at doing different stuff to make it sound cool and interesting. The day that I was singing Usher in the back of the studio just nonchalantly, I guess it just clicked in his mind, "Yes! That's what we should be doing!" I wouldn't have thought anything of it, to be honest with you. It was Joey - he's just got that mind for that sort of thing! "That's our lane!" - No pun intended - "That's our lane; that's what we should be doing!" That's the day that was born. I didn't grow up singing music. I sang along with the radio, so I had a lot to learn. I would go take vocal lessons, and there were a lot of things early on in the studio that Joey would tell me to do. I just didn't know what he was asking me to do. I would try my hardest, but I just couldn't understand what it was he was asking me to do. Like these little flip-down notes that drive me out of my mind. But, he would go to the vocal lesson - after I would go to the vocal lesson - and learn what I would learn, and then we would get into the studio an hour after that. I'd get to a part that he would tell me to do something, and I'd be like, "Uh, I'm not sure exactly what you're asking me." He'd be like, "Remember when she said to do this? I need you to do that right here!" Then it just clicked, and I was like, "Wow, this isn't as hard as I was making it," which is cool. He took the time - he's that invested - to actually go through that. I love that.
4. Your album includes a cover of Mario's "Let Me Love You." How did you end up cutting it? Is it just a favorite song of yours?
I enjoy singing it, and I really loved it a lot. I brought it to a set with Joey and said, "Hey, what do y'all think of me recording this song? Lyrically, this song is a Country song." Hands down, it could easily be a Country song. And they were like, "Well that's actually not a bad idea. We should cut it, see what it sounds like, and go from there." And that's what we did. Everybody loved it. I was like, "Yes!" I was pushing for it hard. I personally feel like it could be a good single for me. I think it would do great. It's a tie this song between "Let Me love You" and "All The Time" for my favorites. I got "All The Time" from a friend of mine who is a big Pop writer. He's written a bunch of Justin Bieber songs, and I said, "Hey man, have you got any songs?" I was looking for one more song for my record, and it didn't have to be a single. I just wanted a fun one that I could do. He sent me a handful of songs, and that was one of them. It only had like a verse, half of a second verse, and a chorus to it. There was something about the song that I really loved. I played it for Joey, and Seth, and everybody else. I was like, "I really, really love this song. There's something about it. I wonder if we can take it and re-write a whole bunch of stuff to it and make it a song." And so Joey and I got into the studio, re-wrote a whole bunch of stuff to it - basically re-wrote the song. It already had good parts to it that we kept, but this turned out to be one of my favorite ones. It's got another all falsetto chorus. Definitely the most progressive song on my record. I think this will be one of the most fun songs to perform.
5. Like you touched upon, you didn't grow up singing. How did you transition into music?
Well, I grew up playing football and baseball, and I went on to play college baseball. I always assumed that was what I'd go on to do after college. But with a lot of knee surgeries, that hurt my chances. As bummed out as I was, I'm really glad it didn't work out now. The Lord has a way of working things out the way that they should be. At that point, I moved back home to Kernersville, NC where my parents lived and where I grew up, and I started helping my dad with the landscaping business. I was inspired by Keith Urban to want to learn how to play the guitar, so during that time, I was trying to figure out how to play the guitar - and sing and play at the same time, because at first you're just like I...can't...sing...while...I...play...guitar. I got good enough at doing that, and I started a cover band in North Carolina. A couple years into that, I decided to write my own music for the first time - which wasn't very good, but you've got to start somewhere and go from there. It led to all of this, which is crazy.
6. What was your awareness of radio growing up?
That's all I listened to. Every morning on the way to school, it was always the Country station. As I got into high school, I got into Hip Hop. I listened a lot of Christian music growing up - and I still love all that now - but that's just what my parents wanted to listen to, and that's what they had on in the car. It was either that or Country. I fell in love with Country at an early age and could sing every song on the radio. As I was getting into high school - we didn't have a lot of money growing up - I didn't get iPods and stuff like that. I believe when I was in high school or college I got my first iPod. That's when I was like, "Man, you can have all these songs on one little thing!" All my friends had it, and I was like, hey I would love something like that. So I think Santa Claus brought me one year.
Was radio always kind of the goal when you were playing the clubs? What was the goal?
Heck no. I'll be honest with you; it took me away from having to do landscaping. It was a way to get away on the weekends. I didn't realize I had the passion that I have now. At that point, I really started going, "Wow! This is cool. This many people showed up, and I'm having a blast every weekend." It got to the point where I was playing five or six shows per week. I built up such a following, but acoustically. I could play five minutes from my house for a couple thousand bucks by myself on a Wednesday night. I was making good money by doing that every single week. People showed up every time. It wasn't until people started flying out to watch me play - I was like, wow I feel like something awesome is about to happen. I didn't realize that it could. I didn't know what to do. I felt like I was having too much fun to up and leave everything to come to Nashville. That's not really my thing. It was just tour, tour, tour, tour, tour and having fun.
7. How did the record deal with Big Loud come about?
I was playing a lot of shows in North Carolina at that point. I was playing all of the bigger clubs and selling them out every weekend. I built up a big following, and at that point I started branching out into Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and all that. I built up a following there, as well. At that point is when Nashville took notice. It seemed like every single weekend somebody new was flying out to watch a show, and then I had a whole bunch of different situations at the table to choose between. I kind of just felt most at home there, and it wasn't even a label at that time. It was just a management, production, and publishing kind of thing. It sold me, because they had so many big writers over there, and I was like, "I'm going to get to write with them if I sign here! I'll get to work Joey if I sign here!" I didn't know a whole lot about Seth [England] at that point, other than I knew he managed Florida Georgia Line, but there was just something about that place. I felt like it was something I needed to do.
8. You signed with Big Loud before you knew that a label would become of it. Obviously you wanted to be an artist. Now, there are many artists who are getting some traction and attention without a big label - I'm thinking about Steve Moakler and others. Was that in your mind? Were you aware of that movement that's happening in music right now where artists can make things happen without a record deal?
In a way, yes, and in a way, no. I told myself if I want to take it to the next level - that's what I felt like I needed to do. But at the same time, I was playing all of those shows in North Carolina - and I was booking my own shows, writing my own songs - and I was making a really solid living on my own before I got here. I thought about it like, I can always come back and do this if it doesn't work out. But, I felt like if I wanted to get songs on the radio - and this is like pre-SiriusXM - I just thought, this is the next step for me if I want to have songs on the radio and a legitimate shot at that. If it doesn't work out, I can always come home and be a cover band and write my own music, and put it out myself, and do it that way. At that point, I realized if I want this, I'm just going to go for it. I guess I wasn't really thinking that I could get myself to the next level - I needed the help of a bigger being. [Big Loud] gave me the option [to shop me to the big labels], but I talked to several other artist friends of mine who were like, "You're stupid if you don't do this. All the attention and focus is going to be on you." I was like, I'm going to do it then.
9. Did you have any idea of what a radio tour was before any of this?
[Laughs] I knew what it was. I looked up artists [on social media], and I'd see them doing acoustic shows inside of a radio station, and I thought, "Wow, that's so cool." I didn't even know what it was. I just thought that they were at a radio station playing. I thought it would be cool to do that one day. Then I got out on the radio tour 21 weeks in a row, and I was like, "Good Lord, let's let this finish up quick."
What would you say has stuck with you the most from your 21 weeks on radio tour?
I guess just the friendships. Talking to everybody every single day. It's been cool to stay in touch with people as this thing moves along. Just to say thanks for support and what not. I learned that every station is different. You could play to a PD in his office one day, and then the next you're playing to a bunch of listeners.
10. You're on tour right now with Rascal Flatts and Kelsea Ballerini. What kinds of things have you learned while being on tour with them?
I've learned that the Flatts guys love playing golf. I'm obsessed with golf, so I play golf with them every day, for the most part. I go up front every single night and watch the show, and they're so funny on stage. I want to be able to have that much personality when it comes to talking to people and the way that they banter back and forth and with the crowd. That is just so funny, and I want to be able to incorporate that into my show. I just have to get to that point. Out there right now, I don't have a chance for that. A 20-minute set is literally song after song, and I'm talking over the intros of the songs. A lot of times I think, the less serious - you have to be serious in moments, but - the less serious you take yourself, the better. I mean, look at Luke Bryan. He doesn't take himself seriously on stage, and people love that about him! I act like I'm 13 years old. I definitely don't take myself too seriously.
That's a good lesson to learn, though, isn't it?
Absolutely. Just like, I've watched [Florida Georgia Line] Brian [Kelley] and Tyler [Hubbard] do this over the years, but I've watched them do phoners. I would get nervous if I had to do phoners and talk. I wasn't good at that. I didn't realize that it's all about just having a conversation rather than me being uptight and worrying about saying the right thing or something dumb. I watched them do phoners, and all they did was cut up the entire time. They didn't take it too seriously. I was like, I need to be like that! That's how I want to be. So now when I do those, I just took that right out of their book. All I do is joke around.
1. We hear that Keith Urban is your idol. When you go back and think about the "American Idol" audition, do you wish Keith had been a judge at that time?
Certainly, though I would have probably been a letdown to him. I had really never sung in front of anybody at that point. My brother and I did it on a whim, and kind of as a joke, to go be funny. That's basically all there was to it. I wasn't bummed that I didn't make it. I wasn't expecting to make it as far onto the show as I made it, which was interesting. I had fun with it.
If he were a judge, which song would you sing?
I actually sang a Keith Urban song! I sang, "I Wanna Be Your Everything."
Okay, so would you do it again?
Heck no! I would not walk into a room singing a Keith Urban song to Keith Urban. I talked to Keith not long ago, at a big festival, and the first time I ever had the chance to meet him, I walked up to him. All I had to say was, "Man, you had an awesome show," or something along those lines. But I shook his hand and ran away. I got so nervous. The last time I saw him, I told him that story, and he thought it was hilarious.
2. You auditioned for "American Idol" on a whim with your brother, but when you decided that you seriously wanted to pursue music, what did your family say?
My parents have always been really supportive. They were at every football game growing up, every baseball game growing up, even all my college baseball games - they traveled everywhere. They were very supportive. Lord, my dad drives me crazy at shows. He shows up and thinks he has to talk to every girl out there. I'm in the meet and greet line, and girls will come up to me and say, "So we just met your dad, and he's calling us his daughters-in-law. What are you going to do about that?" I tell my mom, "Tell him to stop doing that! It's so embarrassing," and she'll say, "Well, it's your dad." I say, "I don't care!" They're super proud, and I love that, but my dad just walks around to random people saying, "My boys are in a band," and I'm like, "Dad, nobody cares."