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The same year Chance went viral, he would go on to sign a recording deal under Degeneres’ label, releasing his first single “Waiting Outside the Lines” — produced by legendary A&R and producer Ron Fair — which was shortly followed by his debut studio album, Hold On ’til the Night. All of that before he could even call himself a teenager.
Being an internet sensation at such a young age was no easy feat and came with its many challenges from outside voices, as well as Chance’s own. A whole lot has changed since Chance experienced overnight success, including coming out as gay in July 2017 and taking a break from music shortly afterward. While necessary for his journey, the break luckily wasn’t permanent.
Chance returned with the release of his 2019 album, Portraits, an endlessly gorgeous 12-track collection of emotive pop gems that are equally impressive and personal in their own right. Each track showcased a different side of Chance and married together all of his influences, many of which he discovered right at home.
“The people who were showing me music and first presented the whole spectrum of what an artist was to me as a kid were my parents, but it was also my siblings,” Chance says.“I grew up as the baby in my family, so I never really had a choice about what we were listening to. I wasn’t allowed to do that. That was my older brother and older sister.”
So Chance’s influences “evolved over time,” picking up on his parents’ love for icons like Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. “It was a ton of soul music from my dad’s end,” he continues. “That was his jam. I was listening to a lot of male vocalists growing up, from Frank Sinatra to The Temptations, like really getting a lot of inspiration from that world.”
Portraits made it clear that Chance was destined to make great songs. “It was how I navigated through my life,” he says of music-making. “It’s how I figured out how I would feel about certain things, certain people and certain situations in my life. I would go to a piano and write about it. I started to look at it like, ‘I had this crazy thing that happened to me as a kid, but now let me actually show the world what I can do when I’m here with a purpose and intention.’ That’s when I realized I’m going to be an artist for the rest of my life. Whether or not I’m super successful for the rest of my life, who knows? But you just keep on going. You keep writing music.”
Over the past year, Chance has kept fans fed with his songwriting through one-off tracks “Boots,” “Dancing Next to Me, “Honeysuckle” and “Bad to Myself.” These releases have all led to his brand new full-length body of work, Trophies, set to be released on June 25th.
“Now that I am an artist myself, I want to give that back to my fans. I want them to be looking through, trying to find the secrets.”
“I was always very interested in lyrics as a kid and a teenager,” Chance says. “That’s what really separated different artists for me in terms of how much credibility they had in my mind. You could have the best song, but if it didn’t seem authentic then I was a little skeptical.”
But Chance really loved artists growing up who laced “personal sneak peeks” throughout their music. “That would be so interesting to me as a listener,” he says. “Those are the lyrics that I’ve always found myself gravitating to when I was a kid. I want to feel as if I’m a part of the artist’s world. So now that I am an artist myself, I want to give that back to my fans. I want them to be looking through, trying to find the secrets.”
The easter eggs are very much there if you listen closely. From the jump, “Holy Feeling” follow-up “Hellboy” lays out a more fun and carefree side of Chance’s personality, all while embracing a darker alter ego with lyrics like, “Hands tied, bite your lip/ Green light, flip and twist/ Dark magic, red boot kick/ I’m a hell boy, I’m a hell boy/ Your eyes on my hips/ Damn right, you want this/ All night, yeah, I might give you hell, boy/ I’m a hell boy.”
The slick, seductive throb was created alongside producer Mike Robinson, who perfectly captures the slightly sinister vibe Chance delivers on. “I think all really good artists know their strengths and their weaknesses,” he says. “I am not a great producer, but I’m great at finding producers. I try to surround myself with people that understand me as an artist and can take me saying that I want to hear certain moods or vibes. In certain moments, I’ll talk about the way a color makes me feel. I need to work with people that can keep up with that.”
It’s not the easiest task to completely understand where an artist is coming from, but Chance has found that winning formula for his music with purpose. “The place where I want my fans or any listeners to really be absorbing my music is windows down in the car,” he says. “That’s what I’m so inspired by when I’m in Oklahoma, when I’m driving around backroads and not really caring about anything.”
In that moment, Chance feels “the most inspired” and “comfortable in myself,” he says, “so if you can put on the record in that setting, you should absolutely do that.”
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