By Jeramy Pritchett
After breaking out in the R&B world working with artists like Jay-Z, Jamie Foxx, T.Pain, Rick Ross and many others, Chuck decided to leave RocNation. Not for another label in hip-hop, but to follow his true passion, country music. Chuck took some time out of his schedule in Nashville, Tennessee, to explain the move and how people have reacted.
BFM: What is it about country music that has drawn you in?
Audibly. It’s the combination of my favorite music, R&B soul, blues, rock, pop and gospel. Aesthetically, it’s a genre that seems to promote a healthier lifestyle, in my opinion. Keeping faith a priority, along with family, and a more positive overall delivery of messages in music.
BFM: What are the similarities in the lyrics between R&B and Country Music that people would be surprised to know?
When I talk about R&B here, I’m talking about the hip-hop urban R&B billboard, top 40 stuff of today, not the classic. And Besides the obvious use of the English language, and the usually outdated urban slang used in some current country songs, I can’t think of any subtle similarities.
BFM: Growing up, who were your influences in country music and music in general? And what is it about these artists that inspired your current path?
I believe I represent a current majority in listeners today when I say I enjoy most music in some form. I am inspired by everything. As a kid, it was all things west coast from Dr. Dre, Snoop, 2pac to up in Seattle with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. On the east, I listened to everything from Biggie and the Bad Boy era, to Mos Def, Wu Tang, Common or down to Miami with 2 Live Crew or in New Orleans with No Limit. I always think of BoyZ II Men, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, R. Kelly as huge influences in my childhood. And then there was Aerosmith and Guns and Roses or Chuck berry and Elvis that played a big role in my life musically. I was raised in the northeast, country music generally didn’t make it to a black kid’s ear until it crossed over to pop radio already. So, Garth Brooks and Shania Twain are the 1st names that come to mind. Today, it’s that same pop crossover sound that brought me to country music. I enjoy the traditional stuff, Kenny Chesney, the King George Strait, and as a musician, I respect them all. But once those songs hit Z100 in New York is when it caught my attention. Then I went back and would check out people’s discography and do my research.
It’s the lifestyle and live show that pulled me in more so than a particular artist in country.
BFM: How did your friends and family react when you told them you were moving to Nashville to be a country singer?
Not at all surprised. My mom and dad love the fact that I’m a man, making music that they can enjoy and spread love to others that hear the music or cross my path. I made the same move when I moved from Connecticut to New York ten years ago. I told my mom I was leaving, and the next day I was gone…almost two years later I signed a major deal. So they know when I go to get something, it’s getting done. Some of my friends were sad, but they know I’ll see them again.
BFM: Personally, I’m not a big country music fan, outside of a little Willie Nelson. However, I really do like your song ‘A Thousand Tomorrows?’ Have you played it for any of your friends in the hip-hop world and what was their reaction?
Thanks! Yea some of my hip-hop world friends have heard it and like it. I am hip-hop. I am this artist that loves to create. I am what made hip-hop hot, an artist with a message different than other messages. Not different like it’s never been done before, different by way of the vessel. I am this tatted up black guy who gets to introduce a world of music to a different demographic. People who wouldn’t listen to Jason Aldean, based on the fact they feel they have nothing in common with him, will give me a chance. And that’s a beautiful thing, opening minds. And once they listen, they may enjoy it and then go listen to some of the good old boys that I respect so much like Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker, Luke Bryan or Jake Owens. And likewise, I get to go into homes that otherwise wouldn’t allow me in based on the music I’m doing.
BFM: Music plays such an important part in the fabric of our culture and it’s great to see some diversity in the country world. What do you say to the people that might think you don’t belong in country?
I’m sure it’s whispered a lot, I actually had someone at a recent show out here in Nashville get on the mic and say, “Do a song about trucks…” And it’s not the comment that was the low blow, it was getting on the mic that said, I have no respect for you. But being close-minded, like sin, is a human condition. Race, to the fans, isn’t an issue at all which is amazing. But me being black is an issue with labels and certain other agencies in the country world. This isn’t speculation, I’ve sat with some, and they told me. The labels, and this is a universal thing, are generally I’ve years behind. They, for the most part, are sheltered from or imprisoned from what fans want next. Darius has done an amazing job and, from what I heard, had quite a fight as well. To those that say
I don’t belong in country, I would ask why.
BFM: Do you see yourself as a pioneer in the field or just another guy following his dreams? And why are either important to you and for people that look up to you?
I feel like I’m just another guy following his dreams. It’s cool to me that there are few that even get the opportunity to be one of few. Not too many black country artists, that’s dope. Not one country artist that came from a major R&B deal, that’s dope. But I’m not the first to go after something where I’m a minority. Outside of history in general, and just in recent music over my lifetime, I feel like I’m doing what Eminem did. Yes there were white rappers before him, as if music belongs to certain color or culture, but Em came at a time where the game was ready to pay for it. He was on the brink, and I feel it’s my time as well. I think it’s important that people can see a regular guy, going after what he wants, in a positive way.
BFM: You’re sitting around a campfire having a conversation with anyone alive or dead. Who is it and how does that conversation go?
This list is entirely too long. The campfire conversation is the best one. First, I love the woods, and second, I love fire. It gives light, it warms, it cooks, it keeps away certain threats that may be in the wilderness. It’s a power source — amazing. But I’ll keep it music related, I would love to speak with Michael Jackson. In my eyes, the greatest to ever perform. We’d sit there, I’m in shorts and a tank…no shoes. He’s in his full king performance gear. I’m like, ‘What would you change about your life and/or career?’ And he tells me so many stories it’s life changing.