CHIEF. is a 23-year-old producer from Salt Lake City, Utah. His emotional, deep thought music contains sounds ranging from conventional instruments such as pianos, guitars, synths, etc. to everyday sounds that can be heard throughout the world.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A PRODUCER?
I wanted to become a producer since I was around 15-16 and realized how much fun it was. Not until last year did it become a full-time thing but it’s always been something I’ve loved doing just for the sake of my own personal reasons. Picking up piano and messing around with other instruments a couple of years ago really sparked up enjoying the creative process, whether it was late at night or early in the morning. It was always in the back of my head that this is what I’ve wanted to always do. Sharing a story through music and being able to tell people my story has been super inspiring and has kept me going through all of this.
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR ARTIST NAME, CHIEF.?
The name chief. comes from a time in high school with some friends where they started calling me that. The full name was a bit longer but chief. was a part of it. Having Native backgrounds as a part of my family also contributed to it. I just shortened it to chief. to make it easier.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC STYLE AND WHAT, IF ANY, GOALS, EMOTIONS, OR MESSAGES DO YOU USE IN YOUR MUSIC TO EXPRESS YOURSELF?
When someone asks me what kind of music I make, I tend to just say instrumental music. It does 100% stem from hip-hop and to me is easy listening, experimental in some ways, and is still a beat. I feel that it’s completely possible to tell a story with no words. I feel like a lot more emotions can be portrayed with just sounds because in the end, it's up to the listener to decide what they feel when they listen. Even if I make a song with the goal of it being happy, someone else can think the opposite. So for me I just want my listeners to feel anything they think fits and to maybe help them in a time of need to give some sort of comfort in their life.
YOU'VE BEEN DESCRIBED AS A "VERY WELL-KNOWN FIGURE WITHIN THE LO-FI HIP-HOP SCENE, ACCRUING OVER 1,000,000 MONTHLY LISTENERS REGULARLY AND GETTING FEATURED ON A VARIETY OF SPOTIFY CURATED PLAYLISTS" - AS A PRODUCER AND ARTIST, HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF?
Considering everyone has a different opinion of the word, I can only focus on what I think success is. So to me, it’s just being content with what I am making and happy with my day-to-day life. In the end, numbers on a screen don’t mean much if I’m not happy with myself and what I do each day. Setting up a career in music is not easy at all, but for me, I just focus on the music first. If it’s good music, it will spread organically and that’s all I can really say to strive for.
YOU JUST RECENTLY RELEASED A NEW SINGLE - WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS SONG?
This track is one of my favorites I’ve made because I feel like it's a little different than what I usually do. It has piano, guitar, lots of noises I’ve recorded myself, and was made one day while I was just drinking some wine, hence the title “Merlot”. It was a track that came super organically with no intention in mind of what to make. To me, that is rare considering there is a lot of pressure on wanting to put out quality music. Also releasing through 823 and Jakarta Records is a huge, huge goal for me. The artists involved in the project and brand itself are some I’ve always looked up to even in the days where I didn’t have a sound developed yet, so it was a huge honor to work with them.
YOU ALSO JUST RELEASED A NEW ALBUM - HOW DOES THIS RELEASE COMPARE TO OTHERS THAT YOU'VE DONE BEFORE? WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS ALBUM?
I did! It is 100% my most intimate, close-to-heart project I have ever made. It has 3 features from friends in other states/countries, so that means so much in itself because I think it’s insanely cool how I can meet some really genuine people just over the fact we all love making this type of music. The inspiration for the album in its whole was just a reflection on what has happened to me, whether it was recently or when I was younger, hence the title “Time Remembered”. I was really honing in on specific memories for this one, good and bad. I think there’s tons of emotion, time, and thought that I’ve put into this project and each individual song has had influences from all parts of my life. I’ve never spent so much time on a project and actually aimed to find a main theme/goal I want to portray until this one. To me, this is my best I’ve been able to do to this day.
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT SONGTRUST AND HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN SO FAR?
I learned about Songtrust from the Songtrust team emailing me, reaching out asking if I’d like to be a part of it, and telling me what it is. At the time I had zero idea about publishing royalties and how powerful it is to the artist. My experience has been great, everyone I’ve ever talked to has been super real and genuine in the fact that they just want to help the artists get what they deserve.
PRIOR TO JOINING SONGTRUST, DID YOU HAVE ANY KNOWLEDGE OF MUSIC PUBLISHING AND ROYALTIES?
I guess in my last answer I went over this a little but no I had no idea about any of it. It is something I’m so glad I learned about early on because it was super worth the learning experience and helps me gauge my future with music and how many possibilities there are. It is something each musician should 100% know about.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO UP-AND-COMING PRODUCERS JUST STARTING OUT IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
The advice I would give to upcoming artists is to mainly focus on the music. Because without the music, nothing else matters. Hone in on making what you think is cool and not what the majority of people think is cool. I think there are so many talented artists out there wanting to get recognized with their own sound, even if it doesn’t conform to the general consensus of what this genre “should” sound like because it’s constantly evolving. I have spent so much time worrying about what I think other people will like, and those tend to be tracks that I’m personally unsatisfied with. The tracks I’ve made with no pressure or thought of anyone else are usually the ones I’m actually satisfied with on an artist level. After focusing on music, learn about the legality side, uploading music to streaming platforms, publishing and streaming royalties, and essentially becoming your own manager. After 8 years I’ve still got no manager (even though I’d probably benefit from one lol). But essentially, no one to push my music and make it, just me. I think artists in this day have so many options and opportunities to be their own boss and not feel pressured to sign deals and give up rights to their own music. So for me, that is the route I think is most rewarding, even if it’s the scariest and challenging.
HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THE SHIFT TO TRULY VIRTUAL DUE TO THE PANDEMIC IN 2020? HAS IT HAD AN IMPACT ON YOUR MUSIC CAREER AND, IF SO, HOW?
For me, the virtual shift was kinda cool in the sense that I can stay home and make more music. In this genre there aren't many live shows, so I don’t think that hindered anything for me or the community. That being said, I think this has given lots of artists the option to sit down and think about what is next for them and their music in general. I think once this is all over there will be a big boom in the “lo-fi” community and what is to come next whether it be live shows, ways to get fans more involved, or just music in general. The only impact I have noticed is the drop in streams but not just for me, for everyone. Because everyone’s home working, I think most people prefer the TV to be on versus music, especially with what’s going on in the outside world. So to sum it up, it hasn’t been the best but definitely hasn’t been the worst in my day-to-day life.
LASTLY, WHAT'S YOUR GO-TO SONG OR ALBUM THAT YOU'RE LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
My go-to album has been “Little Ghost” by Moonchild for quite some time now. The go-to song right now is “youth” by Toby Schay.