An Interview With Well-Known Singer-Songwriter and Guitarist, CHRIS STILLS!
Posted On 20 Mar 2018
Singer songwriter, guitarist Chris Stills will release his new album, Don’t Be Afraid, on March 23 in North America. Rolling Stone France calls the album a “A new opus…he sails cheerfully between pop, folk and rock.”
Stills’ first album in over ten years, features three co-writes including Ryan Adams, Natasha Bedingfield and David Saw. Stills, the son of American rock musician Stephen Stills and French singer-songwriter Veronique Sanson, has toured the world performing as well as acting starring in the top-grossing French musical, Cleopatre-The Last Queen of Egypt and guest starring on seasons 5 and 6 of Showtime’s Emmy-winning, television hit, Shameless.
Stills will perform on release day March 23 in New York City at The Standard Sounds Annie O Music series as well as on April 21st in Los Angeles where is he is co- producer and musical director for “Light Up the Blues”, an annual concert to benefit Autism Speaks at the Dolby Theater.
Recorded over the last few years, Don’t Be Afraid, is an evocative collection of eleven heartfelt songs. Chris Stills exudes a pure authenticity as he writes about his personal life and experiences over the past decade. With an endearing and honest intimacy he crosses a wide range of ups and downs through love and hardships that Chris calls “a self-reflective, atmospheric space walk”. His first album in over ten years, the collection features three co-writes showcasing new and old friendships. Two with David Saw on “The Weekend” and “In Love Again” and the other with Ryan Adams on “Criminal Mind” while jamming it for the first time at his studio, Pax Am in Hollywood. Chris makes good use of his influences, wearing them like a heart on his sleeve – Pink Floyd in “Don’t Be Afraid”… Queen in “I’m Frightened”… Harry Nielsen in “This Summer Love” and Tom Petty in “Criminal Mind”. Yet, with Chris’s very personal touch and stellar vocals he ties it all together making it undeniably a Chris Stills record. Stills, the son of American rock musician Stephen Stills and French singer-songwriter Veronique Sanson, was raised between Paris and Los Angeles. His multicultural influences are infused in his work as a singer-songwriter and actor. Since his debut album 100 Year Thing (Atlantic Records, 1998) and follow up album Chris Stills (2006), Chris has toured the world performing and recording with a variety of brilliant artists including, Don Was, Leanne Rimes, Ryan Adams, Government Mule, Smashing Pumpkins, Don Felder, Richard Ashcroft, Lucinda Williams, Paul Weller, Ricky Lee Jones. His songs have been featured in numerous movies and television including the hit Showtime series, Shameless and films like American Hustle directed by David Owen Russell and most recently I, Tonya directed by Craig Gillespie where Chris sings the Bee Gees classic, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”. Stills made his acting debut in 2009 as Julius Caesar in the top-grossing French musical, Cleopatre-The Last Queen of Egypt. His film roles include a critically acclaimed performance alongside Melanie Laurent in the French film Requiem for a Killer, which Elle magazine called his performance, “Sublime… a revelation.” He also guest starred on seasons 5 and 6 of Showtime’s Emmy-winning, television hit, Shameless.
Learn more about Chris Stills in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
Just got back from watching my daughters choral sing all the way in Anaheim. They were competing with other schools for the opportunity to be invited to perform at Carnegie Hall. And yes… they rocked!!! Killed!!! I was crying like a baby…
Now I’m back at my computer with my Musical Director hat on getting organized for Light Up the Blues which is April 21st at the Dolby Theatre. The line up is sick!!!
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career?
Well… I’m still here!!!!!!
What are you most excited about for this year? What is one big goal you have for 2018?
To make my kids proud of their dad.
Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would have?
Kind of exactly the life. I never really wanted to do anything else. Love the arts. But the thing that really amazes me the most are my kids.
Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
My earliest memory is eating tomato soup in what I think was the kitchen in Colorado…I’ve described it to my mom and she agrees, which blows my mind cause that would make me an infant. My next memory is playing piano on my mom’s lap… the next would be banging on some drums… I have pictures of both. I think those were when I was about 2.
How do you think growing up in your hometown has influenced your sound and who you are as a musician? What about having musician parents?
Yes yes yes. Definitely have a kind of So Cal vibe to me… but there’s some frenchy in there too from growing up in Paris.
My folks were def an influence on me. Like many others I absolutely love their music.
Later this month, you are releasing your first album in over a decade! How does that feel? How do you feel that the time away prepared you to make new music?
Feels a bit surreal. I got butterflies in my stomach. Waiting to face the press… judgement… all of it… but I think we made a good one and I’m very proud of it. And so far so good.
How do you think you changed as a musician in the time that you were away raising your daughters and doing some acting?
I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to cross over to different mediums like acting. Every time I do though, when the work is done, finding my guitar, my piano… its home.
What was it like getting back into the studio to record “Don’t Be Afraid”? What was the inspiration for the songs on it? Did anything surprise you about the overall process?
When I dig into a song, I imagine the Nasa guy with the jet pack floating away from his ship looking down at his world and trying to think about what got him to where he is right now. The songs on this record are about love. Finding it. Losing it. Then finding it again. I think what surprised me is when I finished it and looked at the whole of it, my story was there.
How did you go about choosing the songwriters to work with on this album?
I’d like to think that we found each other. Chance encounters followed by mutual admiration fueled the pleasure of a great hang. David, Natasha and Ryan are all that.
What was it like working with David Saw and Ryan Adams? How do you think they elevated your songs?
David is without a doubt my favorite person to write with. Everything is easy. No stress. All the fun. Ryan you gotta keep up with. He’s a machine of stellar ideas and can be quite intimidating sometimes. But they both push you in the right direction and follow wisely in support too. I’m blessed to know and work with em.
I am curious to know if you find that you enjoy acting or singing better? Or are they both interchangeable and enjoyable to you equally?
When I did my first movie, my very first scene was a tête à tête with Melanie Laurent. I’d come from the stage game and hadn’t felt the vibe of a movie set yet. And I admit I was absolutely terrified for the first 10 minutes… a total mess. I’d come into the thing with the idea that having the ability to capture a crowd of 17 thousand people with just my Guitar would help me. Boy was I wrong.
How did you get to be involved with the “Light Up the Blues”
About 6 years ago I came to a point in my life where I wanted to find a charity to work with. Was time to give back to the world. Right at that point my step mom Kristen met with Matt Asner from a great organization called Autism Speaks, and they came up with the idea of Light Up the Blues. It was perfect timing.
I’m musical director and co produce as well. We’re on our 5th Annual now. This year at the Dolby Theatre with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Burt Bacharach, Sheryl Crow, Judy Collins and yours truly plus 2 VERY special surprise guests, all backed by The Monster House Band which includes Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Steve Ferrone and Kevin McCormick. Jack Black is our MC.