In celebration of Black History Month 2022, Arts Help is partnering with Canadian music non-profit Waveland to highlight over twenty up-and-coming artists as part of our Black Artistry Series, a year-round initiative showcasing Black talent. Each artist featured in this year’s event is performing in Waveland’s Black History Month Virtual Music Festival and giving an exclusive interview with Arts Help.
Alternative R&B artist Chris Oday made a quick start in the music industry with his single "Complicated", and has since gone on to share his smooth, vintage sound with tens of thousands of listeners. Never one to take himself too seriously, his performances are marked by his good humour and a warm atmosphere where he can share his life and experiences through song.
In the following interview, Chris Oday discusses what inspires him, the causes he is passionate about, and how music can make the world a better place.
What inspired you to get into music?
I was always involved in music growing up. I started playing piano when I was five (absolutely hated it back then) and later played drums, trombone and did choir in middle school. But everything really started when I picked up guitar in my first year of university. That’s when I become obsessed with song writing. I was skipping classes and using whichever empty music room or stairwell I could find to pen a song.
It’s hard to say what inspired me exactly. I’m sure growing up playing instruments always gave me an inner confidence that I could make music if I wanted to even though now, I know that the skills I learned through lessons could never teach me anything about creating art.
I’m inspired by my artistic heroes like Childish Gambino, James Blake, Alicia Keys and John Mayer etc., but I think any music I listen to that really speaks to my heart inspires me to make music. I know how good music makes me feel and I want to be able to give that to others. At this time in my life there’s nothing else I’d rather do than to build my life around making and sharing good honest music. Overall I really can’t pin my motivation to any one specific thing but I do know I have things that I want to say and music is the best way I know how.
Do you have a go-to song or artist that you’ve been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to "Happier than Ever" by Billie Eilish quite a bit.
Why do you think music is such a powerful tool for creating positive change?
Music speaks in a language that’s deeper than reason. It can be a powerful tool for ushering in positive change in the world because it speaks directly to the human heart. When a song hits you, that’s your soul telling you that it just heard something that is true to you and important.
I think many of the problems we have societally and globally are really the consequence of people largely being out of contact with what’s going on inside of their own minds. Not all music inspires us to be more conscious and present, but when it does, I believe it is promoting positive change in a subtle way.
Music also unifies us. We’ve all been in a crowd of deeply entranced concertgoers and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that when everybody is that immersed in the performance it’s a spiritual experience. There aren’t many things that can unify thousands of strangers like music can, and of course positive change can’t come without people coming together over a shared sentiment. Music will never be the main driver of positive change, but it is definitely a tool that can spark or strengthen positive change.
Guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Arts Help believes that art is a vehicle for social change. Out of the 17 SDGs, which one are you the most passionate about?
Goal 5: Gender Equality
What steps can we take to make the music industry a more inclusive space for everyone?
The thing that has democratized the music industry the most is technology. Grammy nominated artists have produced songs on their iPhones, and anyone can learn how to make industry level music with resources found online. Digital streaming and social media platforms give artist and fans a more direct connection between each other that isn’t controlled by labels as much as it used to be. That has allowed for people to find the music they want even by artists who haven’t been chosen by the gatekeepers to receive a multimillion dollar marketing budget.
The music industry becoming inclusive starts the industry becoming more accessible, so any step that we take that keeps the music technology revolution going make will help make the industry a more inclusive space.
[if applicable] Check out Chris Oday’s video for the LYRICALLY x Waveland series on the Arts Help YouTube channel, and follow the Black Artistry Series on social media with the hashtag #ArtsHelp365