Van Chiso’s “Onyx,” a soulful gem.
For music to evolve, we need creators to push boundaries. This includes breaching musical borders and rigid ideas about what belongs, and doesn’t, in a particular genre. I’m frequently drawn to the story of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” and the label’s hesitancy to release the album because it wasn’t in step with the day’s themes within R&B. Four decades later, the release, as a whole, continues to define not only a moment in time, but so much of what plays out in today’s social struggles.
Van Chiso is an artist that provides high hopes for movement in today’s urban music to new spaces and expectations. His album “Onyx” is a sonically and thematically refreshing work of art. The first video from the album for his song “Nostalgia,” depicts chilling visuals that often play out within society’s tragic failings, however, not within the context of most R&B music. “Onyx” offers much more than dark edginess. It provides depth and variety within its lyrical content. Van Chiso’s delivery offers satisfying range and is thoroughly complimented by the album’s impressive production. Only time will tell if this release is the beginning of a statement that will resonate with future generations. However, for now, it’s certainly a powerful and cohesive work that’s worthy of attention from anyone compelled by music that soothes souls and dismisses norms.
Van, can you discuss how you first started making music.
Well I’ve been singing all of my life. I think I started truly focusing on music when I was in the military. At times I found it difficult to be away from family so music was my gateway to keep me calm focused. That’s what I was my passion.
I believe you’re pushing the boundaries of Hip Hop and soul. How would you describe your sound?
The way that I would describe my music, if I had two words to describe it, would be current and classic. Since I am an 80’s-90’s baby, I’ve been able to see the transitions of music and how I feel it’s eventually going. With that being said, the way I create my sound is smooth, yet emotionally grungy.
Your video for “Nostalgia” is intense. Can you discuss the song and how the concept for the video came together?
Thank you. “Nostalgia” is the type of emotional grunge I was talking about. I felt that the emotion released is what builds up around relationships I’ve been through in my life. Writing this song branches off of the feeling I felt after being cheated on.
Can you discuss how you first met and came to work with the amazing Ayo the Producer (Lil Wayne, Kid Ink, Bryson Tiller)?
The first time, [when] Ayo the Producer was at a art pop up show in Orlando. Since that day, every time, I send suggestions that we work [together]. Of course, I got the runaround because, as a Platinum Grammy nominated producer, artists tend to cross his path every day asking him to work. It wasn’t until he had a meet and greet that I attended with the goal to show him that I wasn’t just the average artist, but had something different to bring to the table.
Please share the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far during your journey within the music industry?
The biggest lessons I’ve learned so far in the music industry are:
One, never burn a bridge with the ones that help to build the bridge you got over. Meaning, the relationships that you build in this industry can take you far once you get past [a] stage, it’s time to remember the ones that help to get that. In this industry it’s not what you know, but who you know that’ll get you to next level.
Two, remain humble. Everyone wants to be around someone that is gifted without a big ego.
Three, timing is everything.
What music marketing tactics have stood out to you in recent times?
Recently have been focusing on how Dj Khaled markets himself. DJ Khaled brings a style that unifies artists to one track, with a primary goal to gain maximum exposure to their audiences, while creating a hit at the same time.
Clearly, an important aspect in marketing music today is connecting with audiences. Which social media outlets and online tools do you prefer most?
I’m a lot more visual when it comes to social media, so I tend to use Instagram primarily, but I enjoy Snapchat and Facebook as well. I haven’t had a lot of luck on Twitter. I feel that I could’ve possibly jumped on the Twitter bandwagon a little late, but a lot of my fanbase is tied to Instagram, Soundcloud and Facebook.
What’s your workflow like when creating, including songwriting, recording and collaborating?
My workflow usually is a lot of morning sessions. I feel night is a good time to network. When it comes to my songwriting, I walk around with the recorder every day. [When something] comes in my head, I record it so that way when I get back in the studio I can either write from it. I’m very open to collaborations. I feel when it comes to collaborations, that is a time for artists to show equal potential to make a great song.
What’s your definition of success?
Success for me is accomplishing every goal that I’ve set for myself in life. Being able to express to our future generation that anything you dream, you can achieve. Not having regrets later that I didn’t do everything that I wanted to do in life.
What’s next for Van ChiSO?
Well I’ll continue knocking down walls in this music industry. Focus on building loyal relationships with the right people. Continue producing great content that will translate through all genres of music. Win some Grammy’s and Billboard awards. Continue building ChiSOMovement.
Story and interview by Israel Vasquetelle.