The Trillectro backstage experience at Merriweather Pavilion was an entirely different world. The performers, their friends, various journalists, a few internet celebrities, the Trillectro staff, and an array of other people congregated in the midst of an area that felt more like some sort of isolated village than a premiere concert venue.
While backstage, I was fortunate enough to connect with Soulection artist and Maryland native Chris McClenney, via another talented Maryland-based producer named KidGhost. What started as a chill conversation became insightful, and eventually transitioned into the interview that follows. Chris has a very calm and collected demeanor, but his passion shines through as he talks about his artistry and goals. Learn more about the multi-instrumentalist, producer, and vocalist in the interview that follows.
Are you a classically trained pianist?
I’m not trained classically. I do play piano. My story is a little weird. My parents put me in piano when I was eight years old. I had no interest in it at all. I stopped playing, and played clarinet for a while. Maybe nine years later, I decided to start playing again. I never had classical training, but I went to college and applied for the jazz piano program, not really knowing much about jazz piano. I just wanted to play. It was a little weird, because I didn’t have the training. I didn’t know how to sight read, and all that. I made it work.
Did not having that background help you in certain ways?
It did. I’ll be the first to tell you. I’m not the best reader, but I can get by. If someone puts a piece in front of me and tells me to sight read, I probably won’t want to. Before I got into piano, I was teaching myself guitar and bass, so I had to really go with my ear.
So, you went from playing around with a self-taught hobby to becoming part of Soulection. How does that feel?
It feels great. It’s still kind of new to me. For the longest time, I was sitting at home, literally learning songs on my guitar from YouTube. I really got into production in 2011, and took it a lot more seriously in 2013, and within months I was doing Soulection. It’s kind of crazy. A year later, I’m at a venue in my backyard. It’s a lot to take in. I’m very grateful and I do my best to remain grounded. I’m humble, but confident and really excited about my stuff. I’m excited about what I’m doing.
Did it feel surreal to be on the Merriweather Pavilion main stage today?
A little bit, because this is home. I don’t get to do a lot of shows around Maryland or D.C. I don’t get nervous on stage, but it was interesting doing it here. I live here.
If you could work with any artist, past or present, who would it be?
Probably Herbie Hancock. Also Pharrell, I’ve always been a Pharrell fan, but for whatever reason, I’ve been watching these videos on the making of Justified. It’s like fifteen hours of him in the studio with Justin. You really get to see how talented he is. I’d love to work with Pharrell and learn from him. I want to be able to work with him in three years. I think it’s possible if I just keep working hard.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Probably making and writing music, but also doing business things. I want to have investments, and my own businesses. It could be entertainment or something totally different. I don’t have tons of ideas now, but I have interest in doing other things outside of music. Hopefully I can act a little bit, write some film scores. I want to be a positive role model.
A Manifesto is a declaration of intents and principles. What is your Artistic Manifesto?
As a person, stay true to yourself. Know your own sense of morality. Know yourself well. Try to exploit your strengths, but also understand your weaknesses and stretch yourself. One thing that I’ve always prided myself on as an artist is that I came on the scene in 2014, and switched from trap to house, and now I’m on my singer-songwriter mode. I’ve always made it a point to stretch myself. I’ve always aimed to do something different. Understand that there’s always room to grow, and challenge yourself to grow and meet your goals. Remain humble and grounded while you’re doing it. Have fun.
Listen to more of Chris’s music via his SoundCloud, and check out our full Trillectro 2015 recap here.