In December 2010, his newest LP Night And Day: Platinum Vol I, sent his career into new heights when it went number one on the charts in one of the most unlikeliest places—Japan. But this presence in Tokyo, all over Europe, Australia and Asia have helped to make this Midwest superstar an international great.
Chrishan is also the winner of this year’s Twin Cities Hip Hop Award for Best R&B Male Artist, and he sat down with Insight News to tell us about his international success, his music, and what it’s like to be in control of his own musical destiny. Take a look.
Insight News: What sets your music apart from these other artists out here?
Chrishan: I create R&B music that is grittier. My uncle was Lyfe Jennings. We basically take after the same thing. If you listen to his album, we have the same style except mine is a little more new-school than his.
IN: Is that how you got into making music; because of you uncle?
Ch: My dad started the group The Dots. That was a group that Lyfe was in. You’ll hear him talk about it in interviews sometimes. My dad had this studio available for me, and I used to practice in it. I would always hear [The Dots] rehearse in the back room, and when I would be in time out, I would pull up a chair and sit outside of the room. I used to always hear them rehearse, so it was like I grew up in that whole music environment.
IN: So you came by it honestly. The talent is in the family, so it’s in your blood as well I see. Well you’re an incredible artist. Are you signed to a label, or still independent?
Ch: I’m still unsigned in the US, but I am signed to a label in Japan, and I am working out my deal with the UK right now as we speak.
IN: So why skip over the US and go straight to Japan?
Ch: Because the US is uncomfortable with what I’m doing right now. I want a good situation; I don’t want to jump into anything really fast. Me signing a deal in Japan is broadening my horizons. I really want to break out in more areas, not just the United States market. I want to keep my mind on the bigger box.
IN: When you say, “The US isn’t comfortable with what you’re doing,” tell me what that means?
Ch: Basically, in the US when you come out on a label, there’s a lot of different politics that play a factor into what comes out, what’s on the radio, what music videos are played on MTV, to what award shows you show up at. I really want to be respected for my music, which is why I’m taking my own independent approach, and doing my own thing. I don’t want to be subjected to people telling me I can’t do ‘this style’ of music, or you have to tone it down a little bit. I like where I’m at, and saying the things that I want to say. I don’t really feel that I would be able to say what I’m saying now if I were signed to a major here.
IN: Why’d you wait this long to move to LA?
Ch: I wanted to wait till I was ready. There’s this saying that the, ‘biggest people come to smaller cities, and they’re Kings.’ I didn’t want it to be a situation where I was big in Minneapolis, and then I come out to LA and now I have to fight my way out of shark-infested waters. I wanted to be fully ready, and fully aware of what I was getting myself into. I wanted to be fully prepared, and I’m glad I stuck around. It really helped me out in the long run. I made a lot of connections from just going out there for months at a time, and let me just tell you that there are a lot of fake people down there. People will stare in your face, and they’ll look at you and say all the right things, ‘we want to work with you,’ ‘we want to do this,’ but when I get back to Minnesota, nobody will call. Nobody will check up, and nobody will see how I’m doing. I only have two real friends, and that’s Kyle Christopher and Chris Ivery. Chris Ivery, if you’ve heard of her, was signed to Ryan Leslie’s Next Selection label. I met them out in LA, and they call me almost everyday to check up and we work together. I’m actually glad that I found those two people out of that whole equation.
IN: So was your family instrumental in getting you noticed, or how did you take the industry by storm and create opportunities like the one with Nelly and Trey Songz by yourself?
Ch: I got noticed off of the web presence alone by just posting myself on BLOGS. The BLOGS helped me a lot because they actually recognize the talent. I would talk to the people and interact with them freely. There was one website in particular, RnBXclusive.com that got me connected with the world. My manager found me off of some blog. He found me at the same time that he found Jason Derulo, and Jay Sean. We were all just like brand new up and coming artists. That same year both of them got signed. Basically the internet just took things to another level for me. I figured out how to utilize the web at an early age. I started doing my own graphic design, my own websites, and my own press releases. I was just basically super active when it came to my career.