Chel Strong is a Hip Hop artist originally from Detroit, MI, but is now based out of Los Angeles. Chel has been in the music industry for over 12 years, starting his musical endeavors as a young teen. Coming from a strong musical background, Chel’s father is Grammy Award winning Motown singer Barrett Strong. He is also a career songwriter, having penned records for Faith Evans, Fonzworth Bentley, and many more. He is now working on his upcoming album, ‘Walk Like A Giant,’ that is scheduled to be released at the end of April.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
My father. I grew up in a musical house hold where it seemed there was always a nick name or a random song made up for the tiniest things. My dad was a songwriter but I never seen him as the big songwriter he was as a kid, He was always just dad to me, but he always make up the silliest jingles over stuff and I never quite understood why haha. He would always notice something that catches his attention and say "Thats a Hit record right there" and make a mental note. It could be the slightest thing like a squirrel dashing across the street, he would make a rhyme or lyric for it. I thought it was crazy back then but it explains perfectly why 20 years later my son looks at me crazy for doing the exact same thing.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Is this the question Im supposed to say I've had some crazy orgy in the back of a tour bus after trashing a hotel and ordering champagne like water? haha No that certainly didn't happen. The craziest thing I would say is in my former group, we wanted to perform at a yearly Art festival they held in Pontiac Michigan called Arts Beats and Eats for years but never got selected. We went one year, and after a band went off, we ran on stage and began performing improv with out any mics even on, and we drew a audience so big that instead of arresting us (which they probably could of) they actually cut our mics on and asked for our CD and then let us perform on the spot. We were actually invited back the following years to come as featured artists. haha talk about luck.
What has been the high point of your music path?
Ive had high's from performing on BET's 106 and park to almost inking a deal with FUBU records, and universal back in my teens to having lows as watching it all vanish with the break up of my former group Crazy Youngstas. However, I would say where Im at now in my career is my highest point. Ive learned so much and gained so much. Last year I worked with my partner Hilton Wright (Credits:big sean, drake, rick ross, mike posner) in writing a song for Fonzworth Bentley and Faith Evans for the indie film "Restored Me". I also had numerous songs placed on TV shows such as Black Ink Chicago, Love and Hip hop, as well as the box office movie Growing Up with other Lies.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
It happens in different ways actually. There's never a formula. There's been times I write after hearing something someone says that I find intriguing or there's times when I think of scenarios that I jot down to re-visit. I love to write in the moment of emotion for my best works. If there is something Im feeling, I like to write it, complete it and record it all in that order at that very sitting because it captures the most authentic approach to a song. When I wrote Cinderella story, I wrote it instantly after hearing a really disturbing story on a child hood friends sister and I envisioned a perfect world for her with a perfect significant other but knowing that would never happen for her because of the path life took her on brought up the question, What if she had met her prince charming? hence-forth Cinderella story. This is How I write.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I would say the biggest challenge is keeping faith in yourself. Being an indie artist takes self-motivation and confidence. Unfortunately, the confidence aspect is often altered with the come up due to so many people, services and outlets taking advantage of the indie artist. This ultimately effects self-motivation and a lot of us give up, or supplement the hustle for real life things such as a new means to make money to support ourselves. This is good yes, but with being an independent artist, you must be willing to give it your all and at all times. There's nothing to ask the music industry to change other than things that are virtually impossible, instead I would ask all indie artists to NEVER change there vision under any circumstance.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
If I could share the stage with 1500 or nothing as my backing band as well as the legendary roots crew (which I plan too one day! I do believe in manifestation haha) that would be a dream come true! Those guys are some of the most talented dudes Ive seen! I would love to rock with them some day!
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Can't be giving out all my secrets! haha. No Im kidding, I rehearse hard! I tend to start with recording on my phone my entire run through. I generally rehearse my whole set and if I slip on just one line, adlib, hook or phrase, I start over from the top of the entire set! With new songs and lyrics I may possibly be not so comfortable with, I actually start by writing the song word for word as the beat plays until Im successful in writing every lyric word for word without missing one or mis-wording anything. This is my ultimate go to for remembering lyrics, then I practice practice practice to get comfortable with my delivery on stage. I also tie a shoestring to a empty water bottle around my hip to use as my mic so that way I practice Mic control and not allowing the mic to touch my lips but stay in a safe range to project my vocals. This helps me avoid the rapper Muffle and making out with the mic too close to my lips on stage haha.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
I was asked by my father to make a Hip Hop rendition to one of his biggest hit records "Ball of Confusion" by the temptations for a huge tribute concert BMI was holding for my dad in Detroit. This was a lot of pressure not only because it was one of dad's records but it's one of my favorite temptation records to date! Talking about pressure! We pulled it off though and Im really excited to share it during my "Clearing Out The Hard Drive" series me and my brother ES-K has been working on over the past few weeks! Es-K laid the track and my partner Maxton Waller laid the singing vocals and I laid the bars so its all epic-ness there! haha Excited to share soon!
What's coming up in the future?
A lot! I am now 6 weeks in on my "Clearing Out The Hard Drive" series with producer ES-K and we literally have enough material to do this for years! haha. We are releasing a new song on all streaming platforms every Wednesday until further notice. Also, my third album, "Walk Like A Giant" is finished and being mastered preparing for a end of April release. The album's title is dedicated to my stride in my career walking in my fathers footsteps. The album is a well rounded album with alot of cuts people can vibe to. I also have multiple visuals coming from that record that Im really excited to share!
Tell us where fans can access your music.