Keshia Chante’s Night and Day Grind [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – Since bursting on the scene in 2004, Keshia Chante‘s star has been rising. With two albums released, a collection of awards – including a Juno – six Top Ten singles, television and movie roles, an emerging place in the fashion scene and numerous endorsements, this girl is blowing up everywhere.
Her ascension continues – Keshia’s back on the airwaves after a five-year break from recording with her new double album Night & Day. HipHopCanada sat with Keshia to find out what the new album’s about, what she did while she was gone, and her transformation from a child into a successful woman with a growing empire.
HIPHOPCANADA: You got in to the business at a very early age – 14 years old- how hard was that, balancing school with your work, especially maintaining that A average?
KESHIA CHANTE: It was really hard. But it comes to a point where you have to make the decision, how bad do you want it? I wanted to graduate an A student and be successful in music equally and I liked the challenge. I like the feeling of having no time in the day and getting no sleep and just grinding. It feels good – I can’t lie. You kind of get addicted to the pursuit and you wanna win. So, I just made it happen.
HIPHOPCANADA: How would you advise young people that are sort of coming up in your path? What should they look out for? How did you avoid some of the child star pratfalls?
KESHIA CHANTE: You can’t let any type of success get to your head. Sometimes you are around people who compliment you a lot. You might do a show and it might be great, but that was yesterday, and now it’s tomorrow, and you can’t believe your own hype. A lot of people get stuck on their own juice and I’m not about that at all. If I’m gonna be about anything, it’s gonna be my business. Not the hype, or you sold this or you did that….that’s all great and dandy but that’s not what you’re in this for. I got into this to be a singer and to make music ‘cause I love it. That has to always remain as the underlying reason for what you do. Those are the trappings. Obviously you gotta pay attention to accounting, you gotta pay attention to the music business and how things work. You just gotta be savvy. Everything is a business at the end of the day so don’t forget that.
HIPHOPCANADA: Stay alert.
KESHIA CHANTE: Yeah and stay humble. Keep good people around you. Sometimes there are certain artists, and their crew is messed, so you gotta keep a humble crew around you.
HIPHOPCANADA: Right now you are like a quadruple threat; singing, writing, modeling, acting. What is your favorite? Is there any limit in to what you will be expanding in to?
KESHIA CHANTE: I honestly love everything, but songwriting is my absolute favorite. I like getting to write for other people and I like to write my own stuff, of course. Just being creative is fun, so that kinda carries on to everything. I mean it carries on to your acting it carries on into your shows, in designing your show, in presenting to and jamming with your band and figuring out what you wanna do. Really, just being creative excites me.
HIPHOPCANADA: Recently you have mentioned that you started out as a singer but you feel like you’ve progressed to where you now consider yourself an artist. What is the difference between the two to you, and how did you get there?
KESHIA CHANTE: I think being a singer is someone who, obviously makes music, but I think it’s the minimal example of just making music. I think an artist is someone who pioneers a project and knows what they wanna do from top to bottom and knows how to put their own touch to things. If it’s a music video, a show, if it’s the way that you handle things, business-wise or just being. To me, Kanye West is an artist. And I won’t list any examples but I think people know who are singers and who are genuine artists that go in the studio and create a song, even production-wise, and just make it happen ya know?
HIPHOPCANADA: How do you feel your sound has evolved and is evolving? What is the mark of Chante the artist?
KESHIA CHANTE: I don’t know how to explain it. With this album one half of the album is dance music and the other half of it is R&B soul acoustic. Even though the genres are completely split and the music is literally like night and day, when you listen to it there’s definitely a strain that’s cohesive. I don’t know what the word is for it exactly, but I know that for me, if I had said five years ago that I wanted to make a half dance, half R&B album, record companies would have said “you’re gonna confuse people”. But people who have listened to the body of work thus far will say even though all the songs are so different from one another, there’s still this underlying strain. That can be just the way I’ve delivered it vocally or the way that we’ve stacked harmonies. I don’t know what it is, it might be the vocal arrangement, but there is something in there that is mine.
HIPHOPCANADA: Speaking of the double disc album: it’s hard to sell albums nowadays, so why the decision to make a double disc?
KESHIA CHANTE: I really feel like music, and the industry of music, is going back to the fans being the priority. There was definitely a time where I felt the fans weren’t a priority anymore, it was just a machine. I feel like right now the listeners are the power. For me, I get upset if I buy an album for like two songs and the rest of them you can tell they don’t care. So I wanted to make an album where you’ll get those radio songs, the dance music especially, you’ll get it and feel good. But I still wanna do something of substance, so the B side is raw and it’s hard for people to understand what I’m saying because of the existing idea of me, Keshia Chante, and the music I have made. Before, the music has been in respect, young music. Bubblegum-pop, R&B. I mean I was fourteen and sixteen years old, so I was writing about being in the parking lot and meeting a boy, wanting a bad boy. I’ve always stayed very true to what’s me and what’s my age, and I never rushed to grow up. So, I think right now, while it’s hard to sell albums, once you know that an artist is truthful in their music and that it’s real, that’s where things work out, and a good example of that would be Dre. Everything that he writes is authentic and that’s what I do. Whether it’s dance or raw acoustic, it’s gonna be authentic.
HIPHOPCANADA: You’ve mentioned Dre and Kanye West. Who else are you listening to these days? Who should we be looking out for?
KESHIA CHANTE: I’m a total hip-hop girl. I love Kid Cudi and stuff like that; it’s all I listen to. I like Coldplay. I like Eminem. I like Alanis Morrisette. I like a lot of different music.
HIPHOPCANADA: Yeah, you have mentioned Jagged Little Pill as an inspiration.
KESHIA CHANTE: Yeah, that was the original inspiration for this album. Then once I got over the dark, edgy and twisted phase, I was like “I wanna make good fun music”. So I changed it to dance music and that’s why it’s split. You just have to go with the flow of your songwriting.
HIPHOPCANADA: It’s been a few years since your last album but you seem to be coming back strong, back in the Juno’s and all that. Congratulations.
KESHIA CHANTE: Thank you.
HIPHOPCANADA: What were you doing with your time away from recording? How has it helped strengthen you?
KESHIA CHANTE: I wanted to figure things out. I wanted to figure out what to say and get better as a singer so I could step it up. I didn’t want to come back and do the same thing,. So I was in Atlanta, working with Ne-Yo and Ne-Yo’s crew and Blue Williams and the Outkast crew. Then I ended up in L.A. working with Brian Kennedy who did all of Rihanna and Chris Brown. Then I was off to New York with the Missy Elliott crew and I was just really bouncing around, studying how people write songs. I just wanted to find mentors, so I found the best two entertainment lawyers in L.A. and I sat in all their lunch and dinner meetings. I just wanted to learn. I wanted to know, top to bottom, music. I took time to do that and then I just re-fell in love with it and started working on the album.
HIPHOPCANADA: Goes back to what you were saying about just trying to be savvy and knowing your ins and outs. Who are you still looking to work with?
KESHIA CHANTE: You know what, I worked on a song with Ne-Yo and to this day I really think he’s talented, and I don’t know if he always gets the respect he deserves as an artist for his own music. But his songwriting and the way he works is unbelievable and it’s amazing to watch. The way he wrote Rihanna’s “Russian Roulette”, which is a totally twisted kind of song, but just his process is pretty awesome. So, Ne-Yo, and to work with, I’d say Kanye. I love him – he’s my favorite.
HIPHOPCANADA: You say that you are always trying to express who you are at the time and that people might have a hard time understanding who that is. Tell us right now in a bullet point: what are you trying to get across with your new album?
KESHIA CHANTE: Ah that’s tough. The Day side is definitely my diary and it’s very private. There’s some songs on there, like “If You Say” and “Girl Talk” that are very raw and uncensored, but at the end of the day I’m a small town girl who had a big dream and wanted to make it happen and I get to do that today. So, that’s who I am. Music is just being in love, being heartbroken, and being in love again. That’s what it is to me – 22 years old and a female.
HIPHOPCANADA: Being a Canadian, is there a barrier for you to break through? Or is the world popular music scene more open and accepting to Canadian talent nowadays?
KESHIA CHANTE: At the end of the day, no matter what you’re doing, it’s really about when you sit on a stool and you can sing, no show, no lights, no smoke – you can sing it. You’re better live than you are on the album. And I think that’s what’s most important. So I fight for that every day to be up-to-par and great in that sense and I think that will be what will break any kind of border for me.
Interview conducted by Natch Crumbly for HipHopCanada
Photography by Chris McKibbin for HipHopCanada