Born and raised in Alabama, LA-based singer songwriter Chandler always loved music, growing up listening to everything from classic rock to Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, and Sia. Whether it was performing for his family and their friends or in plays and talent shows, he enjoyed the attention it brought him. As it started to feel “uncool” for him, though, he retreated to his bedroom and performed for no one, rather playing his keyboard until the early hours of the morning and started writing songs to express the things he was feeling inside, becoming an escape and form of therapy for him. While in college, he decided that music felt more meaningful for him than what he was studying, leading him to drop out and move to LA to pursue his dreams. Although he initially lost himself for a bit upon moving to LA, trying to be something he was not in order to “make it”, he thankfully circled back to himself, finding a team of producers, musicians, writers, and visionaries that helped him bring his dreams and music to fruition. While many artists struggled with the pandemic shutdowns, Chandler says it was amazing for his mental health, allowing him the time to refocus on his art, make more music, sit still, and cook. Being forced to be present because there was nothing else to do. It also also allowed him to collaborate with artists from Los Angeles to New York and everywhere in between, including Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, who produced his single “Mixed Signals” last year; Grammy award winning producers, Jintae Ko, John Greenham and Femke; and Nashville’s top hit songwriters, Rob Persaud, Deanna Walker, and Will McBeath, as so much communication was being done via Zoom and Facetime. He’s also recently been featured on Tokyo Smoke’s latest single, “Lie to Me” and will be releasing an EP with them later this year.
On May 7th, Chandler released his new EP Brent, the first of 3 EPs he plans to release this year. Brent represents the return to an honest identity previously shoved aside and artificially altered by the standards of the music industry and all things “Hollywood.” Highlighting beautiful insecurities from skin imperfections to sexuality, the EP liberates any inadequacies and celebrates everything that was once deemed unacceptable. With his 3rd EP, to be released later this year, he plans to combine his love for music and food together and create an immersive experience for the listener, creating a tasting menu to pair with the EP. With plans to continue to bring his worlds of food and music together, as well as release more music, make sure to connect with Chandler via the following links in order to stay up-to-date with all news, music, and live dates!
You were born and raised in Alabama. What can you tell me about your childhood and discovering your love for music? Did you always know you wanted a career in music and who were some of your musical influences growing up?
I always loved performing as a kid. I used to stand up on chairs in restaurants or on the hearth of a fireplace and put on a show of impersonations and random songs I liked. My parents and all their friends loved it, and I loved the attention and the look on their faces and the spare change and dollar bills they’d give me as tips after the fact. I was in a multitude of plays and talent shows, but at some point all of that started to feel “uncool” so I retreated to the quiet of my bedroom and started putting on shows for no one. I’d sit at my keyboard til 3 and 4 am playing music and writing songs and storylines that hinted at the truth of what I was feeling. Words I couldn’t say but somehow felt ok to sing. It became my therapy and my escape. That started around 15 or 16. It wasn’t until I was in college playing a beautiful grand piano in some abandoned conference room on campus that I decided the music felt more meaningful than anything I was studying in the classrooms. I dropped out, saved not nearly enough money, and moved to LA. Growing up I listened to a lot of rock. My dad loved classic rock and I was into Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance. The opposite side of that spectrum was me nearly in tears laying in my bedroom floor blasting Breathe Me by Sia.
You have collaborated with many different artists over the years, from musicians, producers, and songwriters, from LA to NY and in between. What do you feel you learned from these collaborations that have helped you in your career and in navigating the music industry?
The pandemic actually opened a world of opportunity for collaboration. Previously, no one would take a session via Zoom or Facetime: an in person session is definitely more connected emotionally and easier to get all the parts to come together more quickly. Since that wasn’t an option, people in Oregon and Nashville and LA could all “get together” in a new way and create something that otherwise never would have happened due to distance and travel availability. The biggest learning experience is just getting to hear someone else’s perspective. We all live a similar life but think we’re all so different. Meanwhile the writer in New York relates to a Nashville producer and they’re both fully invested in the storyline of some kid from Alabama who moved to LA. In that, I realized that the more specific the storyline, the more artistic it actually becomes. Give me names and places and real shit and not just some surface level concept you think people will like. They have a MawMaw Jean like in “Family Drama” or someone similar and they have a love they once lost who goes by a different name, but “Molly” will personify the same emotion. Be real. Be honest. That’s the best songwriting.
You have said that you have struggled in the past to let things be as they are and have tried to tweak things in order to find perfection, but that you are done letting art die in the pursuit of perfection. Why do you feel you struggled so much with perfection and what was the catalyst for you in letting go of that mindset? Do you feel it has helped you to be more creative?
I grew up a little OCD. My mom and MawMaw (who lived with us) were definitely clean freaks. I think that rubbed off on me. I also was involved in sports from a young age and performance always mattered. I needed to not only be the best on the team and win the trophies, but wanted to be the best in the classroom. I sought perfection in everything from the hair on my head to the way my laces were tied on my shoes. I needed to say the right thing at the right time. I needed validation that it was all good enough because that meant I was good enough. I don’t even know why or what for, but that mentality definitely translated to the music world. I have and am working to let that go. At some point you have to stop. You have to say ok this is it, this is enough. I could tweak every instrument or overthink every word of every song to the nth degree and never put anything out there. That’s what I’m done with. I’m done sitting on my art and waiting on myself to be perfect. I’m also done expecting perfection. Maybe the crack in the pavement doesn’t need to be filled: maybe it’s a perfect place for a weed to grow and maybe that weed is beautiful.
What can you tell me about the song you wrote last year for the film Technology Minded about technology addiction and how it affects our vision of the world around us and how you came to be involved in the project? How would you describe your relationship with technology and is technology addiction something you have struggled with?
A crazy talented friend of mine, Michael Thomas, whom I’ve worked with on several projects (including the upcoming music video for “In The Movies”) was the cinematographer and editor for the piece. He and Joey James Salehi, the director, reached out and asked if I’d write a song for the film; and, as soon as I saw the footage, I jumped on it. The project is a beautiful and scary representation of what seems to be happening with technology around the world. We’ve all become so dependent upon the thing in our pocket. It’s required for communication and travel. It’s our source of media and information – true or otherwise. It’s our connection to the rest of the world through music and art. Though it has so many positives, it obviously has a toll on our mental well being. Balance is something we should all be working on in all aspects of life, and I think especially in the realm of technology and social media specifically. Bombardment with people’s highest highs and lowest lows is a poor representation of the actual state of the world. It shapes our worldview to think everyone and everything around is either far better than our own existence or far worse and both of those things are dangerous. I definitely struggle with this myself and am constantly working to be more present in a moment.
Having been a fan of Mike Shinoda/Linkin Park since the age of 12, what was it like for you to have the opportunity to have him produce your song “Mixed Signals” last year?
Incredible. He was my idol in a lot of ways as a kid. An incredible writer and producer and performer. An artist. I stumbled upon a post of his where he was advertising a new concept and was going to live produce people’s songs on Twitch. It was a whole hashtag competition thing on social networks to “win” the opportunity. I didn’t want to play, so I just reached out directly. I sent him a couple of songs and pretty much told him I was a huge fan and would be honored to work with him in any capacity. I truly didn’t even expect him to respond. A week went by; and, when he did, I sort of panicked. I called one of my best friend’s back in Alabama who was equally obsessed with Linkin Park growing up, and we were both beyond stoked. Fast forward several months, and I just released “Mixed Signals” that’s already a clear favorite on the EP. So, so, so grateful for the opportunity. Need to meet him in person.
You will be releasing your new EP Brent on May 7th, which highlights beautiful insecurities and liberates any inadequacies and celebrates everything that was once deemed unacceptable. What can you tell me about writing and recording the EP, as well as the story behind it?
The writing of this project spans a couple of years and several different writers and producers. I just wanted to put something out that felt authentic. I didn’t know it would be so therapeutic. Molly is a real person – a girl that I dated for 10 years on and off starting at age 12. “In the Movies” is exactly what I was dealing with when I wrote that song and a storyline that so many people have or are struggling with at the moment: feeling stuck where you are, not where you want to be, but all the while just trying to enjoy the present moment. “Mixed Signals” is about an ex – we went back and forth a million times and sadly still are playing that game of call it off, talk again, hook up maybe, call it off. It’s exhausting honestly. “Family Drama” sort of put some of my family on blast, but the whole thought process was we’ve all got issues. We all need work. And at the end of the day, “No Matter” says I love you anyway. Despite all your shit, all your past relationships, your current struggles, your mixed emotions, and family drama, I hope at the end of it all, love wins. It’s the thing that matters most. It’s the thing that could heal you and mend the world. If we all zoomed in on our imperfections (like I decided to do with the cover art) and said here I am and that’s enough. If we all did that for ourselves and looked at the person next to us with the same eyes and the same forgiveness, how much more beautiful the world would be.
What has your experience been like in moving to LA and finding your place in the music industry? What do you like to do for fun outside of music? How do you stay grounded and protect your mental health?
LA is vastly different than small town Alabama. I initially lost myself. I dyed my hair blonde and wore pretty dumb looking clothes that weren’t me at all. I was trying to be someone or something I was not in order to “make it.” I eventually, and thankfully, circled back to myself. A facade is a hard thing to maintain. It took several years to find a team to consecutively be able to make good content. It’s not just me. I need a producer. I need other musicians and writers and visionaries to influence and shape and bring things to life. That team is a hard thing to find when you move to a new city and know no one and have no money. So thankful for the progress of it all and the talented friends I’ve made along the way. Quarantine was amazing for my mental health. I had the time to refocus on my art. To make more music. To sit still. To cook. I was forced to be present because there was nothing else to do. That presence is my grounding for mental health. I want a quiet morning. I want to cook a small breakfast and make coffee and sit at a window in the sun. I want to go for a walk and stop and watch a bee on a flower. I want to be still enough to hear the birds and really look at them and the rest of the world. One quote that I came across over quarantine totally changed my trajectory. “A bird is a bird until you call it a bird.” As a child we’d see a new thing – a bird, a plant, a cloud, etc… – we’d look at it with wonder and awe. As we grew up, we started naming things and they became just a bird or just a tree that you pass every day or just another cloud bringing rain. We label it all until we become numb to it. Be present enough to be in awe. That is living more. That is art. That is inspiration to live more. That is inspiration to create a more beautiful world.
You were recently featured on Tokyo Smoke’s latest single “Lie To Me”, and will also be releasing an EP with them. How did you meet and come to collaborate with them and what can you tell me about the song, as well as the upcoming EP? Do you have any other collaborations coming up?
I was introduced to Blake and Elijah (Tokyo Smoke) by another talented artist, Katie Donnely (Kate the Dreamer), I had worked with in the past. I really hit it off with them. They made music I had been wanting to explore but wasn’t necessarily in my genre or “brand” so to speak. The upcoming EP was an opportunity for me to explore a different part of my brain and a different form of art. That’s all I’m going to say for now, as it’s coming out soon, and I don’t want to give too much away. I’m obsessed with it though. Very Rufus Du Sol vibes. Take me to a desert and lose myself.
You will be releasing 2 more EPs this year! What inspired you to decide to release 3 EPs this year and what can people expect from them?
The first EP, “Brent,” is a declaration of who I am and an embracing of all of me. The second and third EP’s are journeys into self talk and awakening and a transition that hopefully breaks out of the typical molds of pop music and into a realm of art that feels more authentic to me. We are all multifaceted individuals. We are many things. I think music should reflect that.
Your final EP this year will be paired with a tasting menu, which I find so intriguing! What led you to make that decision and what can you tell me about the pairing? Have you always enjoyed cooking and what do you love to cook? Any favorite dishes?
I have always loved food. It meant family and friends around a table. It meant storytelling. It’s an opportunity to create art relatively quickly. Fresh food grown and washed and cut in a specific manner with a forethought of how it will be cooked and then plated. I’ve always loved cooking, but really got into over the past few years. It’s a thing that forces presence and forces you to finish a task. If you want to eat, you have to get it done. I’m Italian and love food as a means to connect with that side of me. I make a lot of pasta and eat a lot of carbs. I view it as a sort of act of love with the anticipation that the people joining the table will be fully immersed in the joy of textures and flavors. I thought, how cool would it be to bring my worlds together – food and music. They play together anyway – there’s quite an interesting science behind how sound affects flavors and vice versa. I want to create a fully immersive experience. I want you to hear the music and see a representation of it on a plate in front of you. I want the smells to create nostalgia and force meaning into the sounds. I want the textures and flavors to explode with the chorus. That’s a world I want to live in.
You seem to love traveling and exploring! What are some of your favorite places you have traveled to and where do you want to travel to that you haven’t been yet?
I’m obsessed with Italy. I have to spend more time there. When I first started exploring the world, I honed in on Europe. Something about it calls me. Though I’ll hopefully make it to London and Prague and Sicily, and up and down Spain and around the globe to all parts of Asia (the list could go on forever), there’s a beautiful world right here. I just got back from a friend’s birthday weekend in Yosemite and was truly blown away. There’s something beautiful to explore in our back yards and just minutes and hours from places we travel every day. I’m learning that I don’t have to take a 12 hour plane ride to be stunned, though I’m obviously here for doing that as soon as possible.
In wanting to continue to expand your artistry and push yourself creatively, what are your goals going forward? What’s next for you?
I want to continue to bring the worlds of food and music together. I think the next step for me, is gathering my small team and booking an extended stay in the mountains somewhere. We’ll make some music and experiment with some food and wine. I’ll explore the area and my heart and mind and we’ll bundle it up and call it art and call it an album and then take it around the world to every stage we can in hopes that people come. In hopes that just for a moment, in my world, they are fully present and free to be whomever and whatever they want.