The restrictions brought about by the pandemic have been a thorn in the side of every musician. The inability to play shows and meet up for practices sent the careers of even the bigger national acts to a screeching halt.
As cliche as it is to say, however, necessity is the mother of invention, and the artists and groups that have persisted through this hell year are the ones that have found ways to adapt and succeed in a world that was more isolated and divided than ever. Recording albums remotely and Frankenstein-ing them together has become a rule rather than an exception over the last year or so, and the artists who have become adept at this process are reaping the benefits of being flexible to this abrupt transition. They are the pioneers of this era of music production.
Chris Hill, a.k.a. Chill, is one such pioneer.
I spoke with him over the phone this week about his upcoming single. “Magnificent” was written and recorded entirely remotely and stitched together expertly. To be able to write a cohesive song without even being in the same room as your collaborators is a keen skill, one that songwriter/drummer/producer Chill has mastered.
“It was all remote, pretty much the same as with my [previous] EP,” he said. “I did not step foot into any studio. I recorded pretty much everything in my home studio/bedroom. I had the song essentially finished and arranged as far as my part goes. Then as I’m finishing a song, I have artists in mind that I can hear on it. I’ll reach out to them and see if they’re interested in playing on it. I’ll send them the track. They’ll record their part and send it back to me. It’s kind of like putting a bunch of puzzle pieces together and trying to make it sound like we recorded it all together.”
Recording a song with other people takes trust. To put a song together remotely means trusting your fellow artists and collaborators times 10. “Magnificent” has the organic smoothness of a track put together in the studio in one afternoon, although Chill says that one of the major benefits of recording at home is not being restricted to a studio slot.
“I had gotten my recording set up at my house, so I could record stuff for people,” he said. “If they didn’t wanna book studio time, I still wanted to be able to give them good-quality drum recordings. It’s better for me because there’s less pressure, and it’s better for them because they aren’t under a time constraint and having to worry about having it done within a couple hours.”
Like many musicians adapting to the streaming age, Chill has found that dropping singles several weeks apart is more beneficial to the artist than releasing an entire album all at once. In a world that moves at a breakneck pace, the need for constant engagement means that if artists want to stay relevant, they’re better off having something to put out every couple of weeks rather than once a year, even if that content drop is relatively smaller. This change in culture has musicians scrambling to find new ways to stand out from the multitudes of artists trying to be great.
His “Magnificent” digs deep into what it’s like to observe that greatness in others.
“It is about seeing beauty in someone else that may not see it in themselves,” Chill said, “recognizing that beauty that they may not be willing or able to acknowledge.”
An army of musicians contributed their talents to “Magnificent.”
Apart from the hook, the lyrics and vocals were provided by Taylor Pace. Chet Stevens (a long-time collaborator of Chill’s) contributed backing vocals and rhythm guitar. Other contributors include Tim Macon (percussion), Byron Crenshaw (bass), Cedric Draper (piano), and Jake Rothschild (lead guitar), with mastering by guru Dale Brunson.
The single itself has a Peter Gabriel-inspired sound that is absolutely tasty and rhythmically dense. It’s ear food.
Chill stays busy. He’s looking forward to playing more gigs and cutting more music in the future. “Magnificent” doesn’t have an exact release date yet, he said, but listeners can look for it to come out within the next couple of weeks.
Fri w/BJ Stricker at The Flying Saucer, 111 E 3rd St, FW. 817-336-7470.