Photos and words by Stephanie Nardi
If Christian French isn’t on your radar, he should be. This 23-year-old, Indiana native and LA transplant is making waves and carving out space for his music in the alt-pop world. His optimistic lyrics and irresistible melodies create a bright light and invite a sense of warmth. We had the pleasure of catching up with Christian before his sold-out Denver show to talk about his music, mental health, and growing up in the Midwest.
IM: Your latest single Crowded Room just dropped today. How has it been having it out in the world?
CF: It’s already hit 100K streams which is just crazy to me. I literally used to be really stoked if my record got a 100 streams on the first a day and it’s just crazy to see all the growth. From what it seems like, a lot of fans really are connecting with this one and I’m just so especially excited about this record.
IM: What makes this one so much more special than other ones you’ve released?
CF: I started this song really frustrated with myself and just had a lot of inner turmoil going on. I couldn’t ever really find peace with myself. It was only after I started writing this song that I had this epiphany that it was really up to me to change my relationship with myself and really try to make amends with all these thoughts that were going through my head and accepting them as they are rather than pushing them away. That just had such a crazy impact on me that it happened midway through the song and that it turned into what it is. I think a lot of fans can feel that as well.
IM: When you’re having these negative thoughts, and you’re battling that inner turmoil, what helps you get out of that mindset?
CF: For anyone, if you’ve been through it, it’s so hard to think and see things clearly when it’s going on. It’s just through the experience of going through it that I’ve found ways that have helped me off the ledge and that’s just been taking time to be by myself. Going on a walk and listening to music with no words so I can just sink into my thoughts and really start to unpack all this stuff that’s in there that needs to be heard. That and I’ve started to meditate a lot more, I’ve started to write in my journal really consistently rather than just once every week or two weeks, and then reading is another good way to put my mind in one place.
IM: You started to get more into reading after Chelsea’s drummer, Gavin, gave you a few books on the Sleeping With Roses Tour. What book are you reading or have read recently that has really resonated with you?
CF: I’ve read a good couple of books lately. My favorite books of all time are The Alchemist, The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love. Those just really hit home with me, but another book I just recently started is called Quite. It’s a book that talks about introversion and how our society has started to really praise somebody whose extroverted, and this book just talks about all the hidden power behind being an introvert. I definitely consider myself an introvert just the way that I process things and reading this book has helped me feel more comfortable with who I am and not feel like I have to be somebody who’s over the top outgoing or super funny. It really just helped me realize that I can be myself and that’s alright.
IM: So you’re in Denver tonight and you’re starting to get into your Midwest run of shows. Growing up in Indiana, how is it passing through states you’re more familiar with and remind you of home?
CF: You can just feel the energy. I don’t know really what exactly it is, but every time we play Chicago, every time we play Ohio, every time we play Michigan, I’ve only played Indiana once, but every time we play there it’s just a different feeling. I just feel so at home. The Midwest does a really great job of making people feel welcome and making them feel loved. I feel the energy so hard every time I come through there, and I get so excited I get to have my friends there and my family. It’s just kickass every time!
IM: How do you think growing up in the Midwest has influenced your music?
CF: I would say I’m a loving and positive person, and growing up in Indiana with parents that really made sure I portrayed those values has been such a huge help. I don’t want to put a stereotype on LA, but there are some people that don’t give a shit about anybody else, and I think having that empathy has been a huge part of my career. I respond to DMs every single day on Instagram, and I try to keep up with everybody and make it feel more like a family thing rather than some separated artist/fan thing. I think growing up there has just helped me so much with who I am, period.
IM: Do you find yourself missing Indiana now that you’re in LA full time?
CF: I didn’t realize that I would miss Indiana when I first moved away, but after moving away I started to appreciate what Indiana is. I come home and I miss it so much and I’m happy to be home, but then after being home for a week, I’m pretty ready to go back to LA. I love living in both places so much. I feel like most of the draw to Indiana are my best friends and family that are still there. And my dog.
Is there a favorite spot that you have in Indiana? Your favorite restaurant with your go-to meal you have to have whenever you’re back home?
There’s this little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant across the street from my house called El Camino and it’s just super gassed every time. All through high school that was where you scraped some money together and just went there to hang out with your friends. My parents always take me to Texas Roadhouse when I’m home. Super normal restaurant, but they love it. Those are the couple places that I go to a lot with them.
IM: I know you got your start covering songs and releasing them on SoundCloud, but where did your interest in music come from? Was there someone in your family that was musically inclined?
CF: So my sister was in a touring band called Typhoon and they played some festivals like Lollapalooza. They did some really cool stuff, but that wasn’t until I was a senior in high school and I was already kinda deep into music then. My uncle was in one of those bar cover bands and I’d be over and they’d be rehearsing and they’d let me mess around with their stuff, so I would strum around with the guitar and bang around on some drums, and I just loved smacking the drums around, so I started doing drum lessons. That was actually my very first introduction to music, but I only did that for a little bit before just doing the whole piano thing. Yeah, I would say that was the very first spark.
IM: You’ve previously talked a lot about your process and how you construct your lyrics to a song with a story in mind. Do you write a lot of the time from a personal experience/story or is it more based on an emotion and you go from there?
CF: It’s never really the exact same thing every time. There’s definitely times where I’m just feeling a certain way and really feel like I need to get something off my chest so I’ll sit down and start messing with melodies and lyrics and then a whole song might come out. Then there are other times where I’m listening to a podcast or reading a book and a line comes up that really strikes me and I’ll write it down and try to build off of that and find ideas that fit in that. Sometimes it’s literally one word, like the title of a song, and I’ll start building off of that. Honestly, I’ve been going into a session a lot more lately with people that I’m really comfortable with, like Amad Royale and Sam Fisher, and kind of going into the session with no expectations and just feeding off the energy in the room and seeing what we come up with. That’s something I’ve been trying more lately and it’s been more and more successful just finding the right people.
IM: You’ve also talked about how your process has changed a little from only focusing on one song at a time to multiple at once. Do you find that it helps create a cohesive sound? Does it help to be able to switch back and forth between songs?
CF: With the pace that we’re going, I definitely can’t be doing one song at a time or I’d be so behind. I might start a super sad type of song and really be feeling that energy, but writing the song really gets it out of my system. So that song can be in the process of being made and a couple days later, I could be feeling a lot better and want to write a happier song. It really just allows that freedom of writing whatever the hell you want. Everything that I write fits into a certain time zone. I take an objective view at that time of my life and really find the main themes of what was going on. There’s definitely always cohesion with it. It’s not something I think about too hard because to me it just happens naturally.
IM: With writing so many songs, how do you work through creative blocks when they arise?
CF: It happens all the time. I get these crazy, the worlds gonna end if I don’t write this song or if I don’t finish it by this time type feeling. Just taking a step back and looking at what’s happened, how much has happened, and what there is to be grateful for and just being like “alright dude, you can write a song, don’t act like you can’t write a song just because you can’t write one now, it’ll come out”. I’ve just been shown repeatedly that good things take time, and it’s worth the wait to get something meaningful rather than to keep forcing things. That’s something that I’m still consistently working through. Artists just go through these dips where you’re on tour, you’re releasing music, and all this stuff is happening and then you go back home and nothings going on. You’re just in the studio every day writing music, and it doesn’t feel like you’re making any progress, but really that’s the time when you’re growing the most. I just try and stay consistent with that, go on walks like I mentioned earlier, just do all those things that really help me clear my mind.
IM: You’ve had a lot of notable successes over these past few years. With all these big successes is there something that’s happened that you consider to be a big win, but other people didn’t because it wasn’t a stereotypical success?
CF: I’ve never defined my songs as, “the ones that are streamed the most are the best”. To me, the least popular song on the record could be the most meaningful to some people. Reading those messages and going through those DM’s every day has allowed me to see all the impact it’s had on people and every song has had its own story and had its own meaning to people that have listened to it. That’s what means the most to me; having a positive impact on the people that have listened to it. I started learning about mental health and self-care pretty much when I was 21 years old, and I’d never really heard of anything before that. It’s crazy to me that so many kids are going through so much anxiety and don’t know what to do with it. It’s been a huge mission of mine to help people going through that stuff and just letting them know it’s going to be alright and they’re not alone.
So you’re at about the half-way point of this tour. Is there a favorite memory you’ve had so far or something you’re looking forward to?
Well, my last show in Salt Lake City was I think the craziest show I’ve ever been a part of. Oh my gosh, they were just chaotic in the best way. They were so tuned into the music, and it allowed all of us to be ourselves up there and try new things. You know when you’re all tightened up on a stressful show, you don’t really try new things. You stick to the basics, but we were just genuinely having a fantastic time up there, so that was just a really really great experience. I do this thing where I ask people “by a show of hands how many people have seen me perform before” and “by another show of hands, how many people have not”, and about 90% of the crowd had not seen me before. It’s just crazy to have new fans and all those new connections. Every show has left people ready to come back to the next one. That’s been a really cool feeling.
How has it been getting to have a drummer with you on this tour? How has it been having that added sound live?
It brings double if not tenfold more energy to the show. It’s really actually wild. It’s helped so much and has allowed for so much more energy that I can give and so much more energy that the crowd feels. Last show somebody in the crowd yelled drum solo, and on a whim, my drummer Nick just cranked out the craziest solo I’ve ever heard and it just lit the whole place up. It’s just been so awesome. I got a lot of cohesion with my band.
That’s awesome! How did you and Nick meet?
There’s this big community of musicians and friends out in LA that I’m fostered into by my manager who was fostered into by another one of those guys from St. Louis. There’s a huge house called the LP house where everybody lived in Studio City, and there was a studio downstairs where I used to work every time I was in LA. Nick used to live at the LP house and was just part of that same group, so once it came time to pick a drummer it was a no brainer. Same thing with Warren my guitarist. We met the first time I was ever in LA. In my very first studio session, he was there as a producer’s assistant. He was getting me tea for my session and everything and it’s just hilarious how it turned out. Now we’re on our fourth tour together and just rocking shit ever since.
Do you feel like your team that you have on tour and back in LA is rounded out and you found the right group?
We found it. 100% we found it. Last tour was my first tour with all these dudes, and that was just so much fun. I can’t even express it. There’s a lot of dips that happen on tour.
You’re just feeling like shit some days or you start to get homesick and tired of being around the same people every day, just being honest, but I never felt that way with this crew. It was just so much fun. So many good characters, and we made it a point to bring the exact same crew this time and it’s no different. We’re still having a kickass time. This will totally be the crew for the foreseeable future until we need more people on the team.
IM: Do you find a lot of inspiration on tour and take what happens during that time into your writing once you’re back?
CF: Yeah! Like I’ve said It’s kind of hard to write in my journal on tour and with that, it’s hard to write music because you’re using your voice to perform and it’s hard to sing after that, at least for me. I’ve got this analogy that tour is like your collecting all the experiences and all these things, and you’re putting them in your pockets. You keep them all in your pockets, so you’ve got your pockets all the way full at the end of the tour and then you kind of dump out your pockets and see what’s up and try to make sense of it all. That’s kind of how I see tour. With that, I have the most time now more than ever to be in the van and read books or listen to podcasts that really start to jog more experiences and get some more meat to write about. It’s just collecting all those experiences so when I do go home, I’ve got some shit to write about.
Christian’s talent and ability to connect with his fans, has propelled him into a successful career that will only continue to grow, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for him. With a new EP expected to drop sometime this summer, we luckily won’t have to wait long. Until then, stream his latest releases crowded roomand time of our livesnow!