Great Britain based Chris Reardon is a unique genre blending one-of-a-kind. He incorporates strands of dreamy psychedelic soundscapes, rich indie 80’s synths, electronic rhythms, alternative rock feels and incredible pop melodies.
We had the chance to ask him a few questions. Read along:
Tell us about your journey as an artist. How did you find your style? What’s inspiring you?
I feel like this is the music I’ve been working towards my whole life. With each project, band, whatever you want to call it, you learn along the way and figure out your own footing as you get there.
In my early teens I was in punk, hardcore and emo bands and was always writing and arranging the music and was the guitar player. I remember when I had just turned 13 and had started a new school and there were a few bands, all older than me and my friends, and there was this one guy, Theo, absolute killer guitar player and was known as the best guitarist in the school, he was in the top year and was playing real shows, was in a touring band, he had his own Marshall stack, played a Gibson SG…this was just the coolest guy. Me and my mates would see him around school and point him out, “Bro that’s him, that’s Theo! He’s the guy” Haha! I remember bumping into him and his band at this communal rehearsal space we shared, a place called The Shack, and he invited us to come hang out whilst they rehearsed. They played their brand new song and he was just shredding the guitar, completely blowing our minds, the band was so tight and the song was absolutely killer! He gave us a CD for free and it was like we had just met Bowie or something haha! That was hugely inspirational for all of us. The idea that we could actually go and record our own music and go out and play shows. That moment was huge and I remember deciding at that point that I was going to be the best guitarist in school and wanted to make music and play shows. I was already obsessed with listening to music but that moment gave me direction and drive. I think for all my friends that afternoon was special and we were all inspired.
And that’s what we did, we went out and started playing gigs in the local scene. At first recording just on our laptops using the crappy built-in microphones to proper recording studios and trying to learn as much as possible along the way. I was immediately taken by how the recording engineers were setting stuff up. What kind of techniques were being used, why these microphones were used or put in this place, how to get different sounds etc. I remember the recording engineer saying to me, “Okay great, once we comp that, we’ll double track it and maybe use a different pedal.” I was like “Woah, do what now? Why?”. I was just fascinated by every part of making music. Why you did this or that, and the more you learnt, the more questions you’d have and I would just want to learn more all the time (and still do!).
School became bit of a blur. Music, guitars, being in a band became number one but interestingly none of us ever dreamt of it ever going anywhere, or doing this as a “career”, it was just something we all loved and nothing was bigger than that. By the time we all went to university, we all went our separate ways but I was always going to start something new.
There was a guy I went to school with who started at the same university a year before me and I remember he just got back from seeing this busker called Ed Sheeran live and called me, “Mate do you mind playing guitar and I’ll sing, we can do a video and put it on Youtube”. Then we did a couple more, and what started off as just two guys doing a couple covers suddenly turned into us playing on the same bill as Rizzle Kicks, Maverick Sabre, Lewis Watson, Chase & Status, Charlie Simpson, Bastille and many more. Its hilarious looking back because it was all a complete accident. It all happened so quickly we didn’t even have a name for the first bunch of shows. We went from strength to strength and started touring and gaining bit of a following. I was writing the songs and also singing for the first time. We recorded an EP and got featured on BBC Introducing and even managed to wheedle ourselves on BBC Radio 1. It was exciting and it was the first time it became clear that this was the thing I wanted to pursue and it could actually happen.
It was a cool thing, we had two singers but after a while it had lost its steam. I had started discovering artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Waits and other artists like Gregory Alan Isakov, Laura Marling, Bon Iver and Alexi Murdoch; and this was the direction I wanted to explore; story telling and songs stripped back to their barest form and fell out of love with the pop/indie thing. After a few months of trying to make it work I left and moved to London to pursue a music career as a solo artist.
It’s quite daunting starting again but also very freeing; I was in my early to mid twenties, had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, living on couches and crashing with friends but it was awesome. Quickly songs were flowing. I reached out to a few people and started working with producer/songwriter/mixing engineer Dave Oliphant and recorded a bunch of songs in his tiny loft recording studio in Brixton. This was a great time. It was great to be out on my own making music and proving to myself that I could do it. I started releasing the songs independently and playing gigs everywhere I could. I remember in that first summer I moved to London I played a gig or open mic night every night for over two months and just tried to get out there as much as possible. Surprisingly I quickly started gaining some attention from BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music, got some good press and then record labels and the like.
This was a very strange time. Its funny looking back now how impressionable I was. I’d have a meeting with an A&R guy and he would say such and such, “I love this, you gonna be huge. You’re not just going to have a record deal, you’re going to have a huge career. Write another six of these!” Then I’d go away and try and re-write that song, over and over, and over, and over, and over again. Losing all heart and soul in the music and just trying to get signed and tick a bunch of boxes for A&R guys. This whole escapade, as well as getting offered various terrible deals, all went obviously nowhere haha! And I’m glad it didn’t! I knew that I hadn’t found my sound or direction yet and I needed time. I also needed time to learn more of the business side, so I set up my own label, Strange Comfort Records and started putting out my own music, booking my own shows, organising music videos, doing merch etc. and was also writing a lot of music.
I wrote and recorded an album and made sure I sat in on every mixing session. Trying to soak up everything. That album never came out, and never will haha! Its not the best but a few singles I’m massively proud of and did quite well. After a while I started gravitating back towards rock and made a natural progression through folk and singer/songwriter into blues, then back into rock.
I wrote and recorded another album (again another album that will not see the light of day haha!) and it was around this time, around autumn 2018, that I went on tour in Europe and met my manager. Everything started coming together around this time. I had just built my own home studio and I was getting pretty good at recording and producing my own music. After that tour in late 2018 I started working on new music and experimenting with synths and electronic elements. After a several months, it was like something clicked. It all felt truly natural and right; and very exciting.
And here we are! We’ve put out a few singles now, “Drifting”, “Elephant In The Room” and “I’d Give It All Up” and a new one on the way!
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard your music before?
Ah that’s a difficult one. No artist ever finds it easy to describe their music but I’d say it’s an amalgamation of alternative/indie/rock with electronic elements. Some stuff is pretty progressive with 2 minute intros haha! I love hooks and catchy melodies so they’re all over the music too.
2020 has been a busy year for you so far – you’ve already released 3 singles. You’re going to release your next one soon. Can you give us a little background story on how this song came to life?
Yeah, this track I’m particularly excited to put out purely because it’s so different to what people have heard me do so far! My music is very eclectic but all has my own signature, which is something I’m really proud of. But “Give A Moment” leans more towards a more indie/dream-pop vibe.
It’s written about realising that I need to change a few things if I want to be with the person I love. It’s in my nature to be very driven and sometimes this can suck you in and it’s not that you love that person less but you sometimes lose your head in it all. It’s all in the lyrics haha! A lot of the time I write very metaphoric and somewhat cryptic lyrics but with this song I had something pure to say and it just came out like that.
“Give A Moment” was a song that I kind of forgot about actually. It didn’t have a chorus, it was very short, it was more of a ballad really, but my manager one day said, ‘remember that soft synthy dream song you wrote, there’s something special there, you should relook at it, maybe get a chorus in there’. So I did! I revisited the production and ended up re-recording the whole song twice over till the vibe was right. I mixed the song many, many times but just couldn’t get it popping enough. Normally I mix and master all my music but I just couldn’t get the song to where I wanted it. So we worked with Fonty (T-Pain, Lil Wayne, Pusha T) which is quite an unusual collaboration but it really worked! The track now bangs, hard!
Do you have a songwriting routine or ritual?
It’s hard to explain making music or songwriting, because I feel the songs kind of write themselves when it happens in a weird way. Once I start working on music, the whole thing seems to envelop and unfold. You’re flooded with images, ideas, melodies, sounds with some control but you’re so sucked in its not something can be explained easily. It all happens at an almost sub-conscious yet completely conscious and intellectual level, because there is an element of working out the puzzle, particularly the aspect of composition and production. This is why I make all the music on my own and also mix and master most my work, it all happens simultaneously and I’m kind of just crazy losing my mind grabbing instruments wildly in some weird trance. Where the lyrics come from are very much inspired by what’s going on in my life, books I’m reading, movies I’m watching, what’s happening in the world, everything. But again, this is very much on a sub conscious level because I never set out to write a song about this or that, it kind of just happens, the song sucks you in as soon as it starts to unfold. It’s a very strange thing. But it’s definitely a discipline. I’m not the kind of guy who just sits around hoping to be hit by lightning or something, it’s about ensuring that you can open that door when you want it and need it, emotionally I mean, as a cathartic outlet. When I haven’t written anything in a while I get very frustrated; almost like I can’t speak anymore so its something I need to do as much as I love doing it.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an up-and-coming artist in the digital age?
Haha! This one is easy…streaming royalties. The digital age is great in terms of getting your music out there, the ease of it all and the access to so much music, but in a way I feel it has devalued music and has affected the importance of it and the deep connection many people feel towards artists and bands. It’s all a bit too easy in my opinion, a bit too throw away, a bit like disposable fashion with Primark and all those discounted cheap brands. It’s good for that moment but underneath its destroying the planet and taking advantage of the vulnerable in the world.
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Could you sum up some personal milestones in your artist development?
Yeah I think I mentioned some of the most significant earlier on but I think my top one is when I wrote a song called “Cornerstone”. It was the song and moment where everything clicked. I was no longer trying to take ideas and sounds from other artists but was just doing my own thing. We’re working towards my debut album and this track will definitely be on it and is an important moment on the album. Another millstone I haven’t mentioned yet is a song called “Acid Rain”. This was a song I wrote when I just went solo and discovering more folk/singer-songwriter artists. I had just gone through a breakup with someone I had been with for many years and it was the first time I felt I truly captured something. It was with this track that I started talking to various record labels etc. and I felt like I had something different.
How do you feel about the evolution of music streaming services?
Yeah it seems like every 6 months there’s something new happening. With Joe Rogan now exclusively on Spotify I think we will see a lot more of these exclusive deals. Big artists could eventually bypass the traditional record label model and be doing exclusive deals with the streaming platforms. Wether good or bad, it’s an Interesting time!
Name your top 3 software tools for engaging in musical content. Why do you think they’re awesome?
Well I really think what you guys are doing at ForTunes is really great! It’s an important platform for us. I also run a record label called Modern Soul Society here in Hamburg with my business partner Gonza and to have a software that collates all the data across so many platforms including social media makes our jobs so much easier! When making strategic decisions, analysing artist/song performance, opportunities in the market etc. it is a very powerful tool. The other one I would say is the Spotify for Artists is really great, a lot of great analysis that is laid out very clearly. And lastly I’d say Facebook Ads Manager. The platform is really great and far easier to use than Google Ads for example which can be an absolute minefield to navigate.
How important are data insights for your decision-making?
What’s next for Chris Reardon?
“Give A Moment” dropped on 7th August, its the first single from my five track Self-Catered EP. We’re obviously living through a strange time at the moment with coronavirus so unfortunately touring is off the cards for now but loads of new music to come – I can promise you that! 😀
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