Posted On 14 Mar 2018
WINTERS IN BROOKLYN, the new EP from rising rap artist Felly, is out today. Produced entirely by Felly himself, this marks his seventh release. A booklet with his original art and writings related to the EP, exclusive merchandise and vinyl are available for purchase—see here for more info and here for album purchase. His video for “BLANCO,” from the new release recently debuted and can be viewed here.
The video was shot in Brooklyn by Adam Ardekani in collaboration with Dalton Price. Felly notes, “‘BLANCO’ represents the epitome of what winters are like in Brooklyn: dark and eerie with a wild life to it. This is the first track off the EP and carries the energy of what the album is like.”
The new track and video come on the heels of Felly’s 20-city Strawberry Season Tour, which was preceded last fall by two nights supporting T-Pain for sold-out performances at San Francisco’s The Independent and Los Angeles’ Roxy Theatre. Last month, Felly debuted a new video for his track “Love of Mine,” also directed by Ardekani—watch it here.
While studying music as an undergraduate at University of Southern California, Felly built an extensive, dedicated fan base with five albums, one mixtape, 10 million Spotify plays and multiple tours (with a number of shows stretched across weekends away from school). What began with creating beats on a laptop in his basement evolved into a full-fledged touring act and an ever-expanding following. Prior to graduation, Felly performed at SXSW and embarked on a 20-city headline tour culminating in a sold-out 1,200 capacity show in Chicago.
Last year, Felly released his sixth album, Wild Strawberries, which Hot New Hip Hop hailed as, “a complex, enriching aural ecosystem that you can get lost in if you’re not careful.” His first EP, titled Young Fel, arrived in 2016 and featured hit single “Desert Eagle,” garnering 4.7 million streams on Spotify and over one and half million YouTube views. The release of his first two projects in 2014—Waking Up to Sirens and Milk and Sugar—featured collaborations with Dreamville signee Ari Lennox and frequent collaborator GYYPS. After his final fall semester of college, Felly embarked on The Mermaid Gang Tour playing nearly 40 dates nationwide, including the historic El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.
Learn more about Felly in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time. We know musicians are busy people so we appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions about yourself! So where does this interview find you today? Has it been a good day?
Yes it has. Roughly 2pm here in Brooklyn. 2pm is usually when I really try to get my shit together and focus on something into the night. But everything’s good, have my friends here who do modeling and photography.
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career? What are you most excited about for this year? What is one big goal you have for 2018?
2017 was cool. It felt more so as walking up another step of a big staircase—so not too overwhelming or underwhelming. Just kind of felt right on track and that I need to keep doing what I’m doing but at a higher rate/degree. In other words, I could use a higher dose of what I got in 2017 in 2018. This year I’m most excited for getting more official about my artistry. I want to embrace being a professional more. Obviously I still want to have fun and all that—but I want to really lock in my discipline to finish records, make amazing, timeless music, and lock in spiritually with myself and my vision. It feels like something has been stuck inside me for years. I’m hoping this is the year that I really capitalize on letting my true being out into the world and really make a change. But from a non-abstract view, one big goal I have this year is to have a “hit” song. I want something that everyone can recognize.
Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would have? Has music always been a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
Yea, I feel like I always had a knack that I could do this stuff better than a lot of the people I’ve seen do it. When I started first selling out shows and stuff that was the weirdest part to get over. Now it’s like, ok, you know something is there, you know you can do this, but can you really do it on the massive level you’ve always dreamed of? That’s kinda the point I’m at right now. Definitely exciting and pressure filled, but my expectations are high. Music has been a part of my life since about the 8th or 9th grade. I think it had something to do with my father’s passing and me just kinda searching for something bigger that feels good. My first musical experience was I saw this guy hosting a contest on YouTube for a Nintendo Wii and it was sorta like a content competition like submit something dope (singing, dancing, whatever) and the best project wins the Nintendo Wii. So I made a song in my bedroom with my three friends and we submitted it and won, and sold the Wii and split the profits. $100 off the first song…quick, easy, and fun. lol. I was like, ok maybe I don’t have to go in to the family business that I hear my mom complaining about every day. Maybe I have something here.
How do you think growing up in your hometown has influenced your sound and who you are as a musician?
It’s definitely contributed to the organic side of my sound. Connecticut is filled with trees and quaint rivers and shit. The Winters are long and eerie. You can’t really make surface level music in a place like this in my opinion cause everything is not sweet. Had I grown up in LA or some other places I’ve visited, I think my perspective would be totally different. CT induced a sense of seriousness and rawness to my sound. Being at the bus stop in the cold and dark at like 6am—the music I reached to was like spiritual/life-saving. I wanted to make something that had a similar effect on people and could make them feel good during tough times like this. That’s where I learned the true effect/power of music…it was like, this shit really can save people. It’s a precious art form.
How did you come up with your rapper name? Why do you think it fits your music and who you are as a rapper right now?
My name is Christian Felner. My brother’s name is Matt. His high school friends when they would free style/joke around would call him M Felly. I little brother’d that quickly and called myself C Felly. Then just Felly.
Let’s talk about putting your recent EP “Winters In Brooklyn” together. What was the process like for you? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Why did you decide to produce it all yourself?
WINTERS IN BROOKLYN was a coming home to myself album. I wanted it to be raw me. I wanted it to not succumb to like pressures of pop music/pop structure/what was currently trendy. I knew the shit would not go viral…I was making jazz music and having a blast doing it. My voice teacher would tell us every night that “Jazz is dead!” and we were studying top 40 records. The indie side of me was like yea this type of music might be dead but this is my shit. I grew up sampling jazz and making jazz hip-hop and a lot of my fan base really loves that side of me…as do I. On the project before WIB, Wild Strawberries, I took some chances outside of myself to make music that would do better in today’s marketplace/sorta followed a trend (with an exception to a few of the songs). WINTERS IN BROOKLYN was more so like, let’s remember what you come from and who you are…an East Coast, creative, jazz influenced, thoughtful musician who doesn’t follow things because they are trendy. So yea, it was me in a penthouse in Bed Stuy living with my girlfriend and me locking myself in my room like every day smoking fronto leaf trying to combine old intricate jazz chords with modern drums and technology that my friends and I all go crazy to. Sort of like Jazz meets Trap. A combination of two worlds, but not really compromising because I love both sounds. I produced it all myself because I believed I could do it better than a lot of the people I previously worked with—not to mention I saw a side of the music industry where like kids would come in and add one sound and then be after you for hundreds of dollars. I was just like, leave me be on this one.
As your 7th release, how do you think the music on “Winters in Brooklyn” is different than anything else you have released? Do you find that you make a conscious effort to have each album of yours show a growth?
I think the growth will appear naturally but I definitely try to offer a different side of me with each project. For example, This Shit Comes in Waves, was like my chill, California influenced, almost beach vibe. WINTERS IN BROOKLYN was a darker side of me—a more serious and thought provoking side of me. Reading that I’ve released seven projects is definitely crazy to me (lol). But I honestly still don’t feel like I’ve released one album yet. These all feel like preparation for my first real album, which will live forever. WIB was definitely different in the sense that I controlled and created every sound and every visual…from the videos, to the merch, to the book I wrote and illustrated. It was an artsy time period for me.
While this is difficult, can you pick a couple of your favorite tracks on this new album and explain how they came to be? Generally, how do you go about writing your music?
I like “DOING WHAT I LIKE” cause the beat is crazy beautiful jazz chords, and it combines mean mugging trap drums. I don’t think anyone has combined these two vibes yet ever. I’m serious. This jazz-trap wave I was working on felt totally brand new and refreshing…and then the bars to “DOING WHAT I LIKE,” it just has a carefree vibe. I think people are so scared to do/say what they really feel. This track broke from that. I go about writing my songs usually by making the beats first, coming up with a melody, and then thinking about what I really want to say.
What was it like shooting the video for your track “Blanco”? How creatively involved were you with the making of it?
“BLANCO” I worked with a kid who I really believe in as an individual who hasn’t made all too many films. I wanted something simple and eerie. I think we coulda done better to be honest. But yea, that was completely me in control of what was getting shot so I can’t really have any regrets. I’m just happy I didn’t feel like I was doing something somebody else wanted me to do as I’ve felt a couple times in the past with directors and other creatives having a stake in the work.
How was your recent 20-city Strawberry Season Tour? What were some of your favorite venues and/or crowds?
These shows were all amazing I got to really see how real my fan base is. It was cool cause everyone at these shows seemed like they were really like, die-hard fans almost. In the earlier tours you had people there because I was like a new trend and their friends were going. On this one it was like people knew the deal and knew what this vibe was about, so it was cool to come back to certain cities and see that my vibe actually infiltrated a culture. My favorite shows were Vermont and Chicago. I love big shows that feel small/intimate.
Where can fans see you perform next? What do you think makes for an ideal concert for you?
I’m playing a festival in Arizona, Pot of Gold. Other than that it’s a bunch of college/private shows that I’m just pulling up to. I’m kinda taking a breather from tour right now to make new stuff.
Where do you find that you have the most fun- on stage performing, making music videos or recording in the studio?
I definitely have the most fun making the music in the studio—that is like my all time high. I love “cooking.” The process continuously thrills me. I love walking the line of “this could be a demo/throwaway” or “this could be a song that completely shifts the frequency of the nation.”
How active on are you on all of your social media platforms? How important do you think it has been to your career so far? Do you find that it’s hard to update all of them all of the time?
I’m definitely “good” at social media. But I think it’s stupid. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t even worry about being good or keeping things constantly updated because that’s like…looking at the small picture, you know? To me, the records are the important part, not the picture of you in the studio making it look like you’re working. How does the actual record sound? I think social media is a lot of people convincing themselves that they’re a certain type of person doing a certain type of thing. I’d rather just do it. I do understand that social media is important though, so I’ve definitely been active on it. I just have my eye on the big picture.
We are living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? How do you think that music is going to reflect these challenging times?
I think it’s the most important time to be an artist, and yes, being a musician definitely gives me the most joy. I feel like I have a lot of power to really impact the world. My music will be a direct reflection of the time.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Bob Marley has always been my biggest inspiration cause of his spiritual side and his timelessness. I like things that don’t go out of style. Today though Anderson Paak, Daniel Caesar, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Atmosphere, Lil Uzi—all inspire me to push the envelope.
What do you hope your fans take away from your music?
Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself or your music?
Regardless of what happens, I’ll be back at the studio tomorrow creating and working toward my goal. Even if it takes decades I believe this is what I’m here to do. I trust that God will take me wherever I’m supposed to go. Thanks y’all.