I had the opportunity to interview Toronto’s own ChrisJay, who is an amazing writer, rapper, spoken word artist, mother, wife and friend. Her debut EP The Day She Ran Away is a beautiful mix of stories that resonate and sounds that you can’t help but bump to. ChrisJay is a natural; her voice just does something to you and brings you back to a vibe we’ve been missing in music. I would definitely recommend checking out her EP The Day She Ran Away! My interview with Chris Jay on inspiration, creativity and TDSRA is below.
What was the catalyst for this album?
It’s a line in the sand type project for me. I don’t feel on most days that I wrote it for anyone but myself. It’s honest, transparent, it feels like a giant exhale and it makes me feel weightless. It’s pretty much everything I aspire to be in this life. It’s looking for change, it’s welcoming growth, it’s fostering creativity and even the production for the most part is mellow, highly listenable and intrinsically good.
It was written when I was not in the most ideal places. My mental health was absent and when it wasn’t absent it was very late for class, my outlook on life, finances, relationships. I was poor in my estimate. Like really low and in dark places. It was written in points of contention and even defeat. It’s my release and dreaming. And on the outside you can be like “she’s just talking about everyday regular life stuff” nothing complex, nothing show stopping or world changing, she’s only talking about living…but that was my goal with this…to change and live. I think that this project is righteous in the fact that so many have related and loved on the full package. It’s reassuring that as humans for many of us it’s our goal to just be happy and live right and that’s a high call.
What’s been your most important lesson in your creative journey/evolution?
That the perfect time isn’t a time it’s a feeling. The Day She Ran Away, for me has been in my heart and in front of my eyes for more than a minute. I’ve set dates and been interrupted. I’ve made plans and cancelled them. I’ve set goals and retracted. I’ve moved forward, thought positively and had my mind entirely quit on me. As great as my desire was to get it rolling there was always something that triggered a stop, not even a stop and regroup but just a dead stop.
Missing goals you have made can be discouraging. Somewhere in my walk I found the commitment in me to finish. #TDSRA completed in it’s entirety. Recorded, mixed, mastered, pressed, units in my bedroom. I said I’d finish it with no pressure, no perfect timing. Pressure has a tendency to break me. I agreed to be satisfied in that even if not one other soul had heard what I poured myself into, So I finished and put it aside.
So I committed to listen, dream, get well and truly stand by. For me the way life is happening is almost entirely on time but I could never have planned it in my own esteem or regard. The perfect time in my experience is a time that you can’t calculate or wrap your head a round. Putting away my desire to be in control of my ideal time in order to await the perfect time caused me to be ready. I kept my ear to the ground and unknowingly became ready to move when the feeling was right. The feeling was right, recently so I dropped it and here we are. I guess this speaks to preparation, patience and really faithfulness to commit to a thing and stand by it. Almost like your child, care for it nurture it raise it and be ready to release it when it matures, could be 18 could be 30. That’s pretty heavy.
What are you most proud of?
Regarding the album…
I’d have to say the sound. The way The Day She Ran Away all came together, from the production to the engineering and the lyrics and the time and place. A lot of it was a hell of a battle to get to completion but it’s good when you can create something and are able to wholeheartedly stand back look at and it and hear it and unapologetically push it. When you hear verses you record and you don’t cringe at the sound of your own voice, that makes me proud. When you’re not pushing it for cash, or pride or stature…but for the love and the fact that you actually dig it and you feel like there is life attached to it and you just want others to hear that, it’s a moment of pride.
Who/What inspires you and what is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote at this moment in time is by a prophet named Jeremiah who spoke on behalf of God. And this one time he told the people that God in the 29th Chapter and 11th verse of the book he wrote “I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a a hope and a future.” I feel like I heard this back in 95 when I was in high school. It gripped me because I’m not good with plans like we discussed. I don’t really recall parents or people around me having plans for me either, like college and life and future like just basic direction…you know? It was lacking for me. So this stuck and was cool that I heard the voice of God as a reassuring one like “even when nobody else does, I got you!”
What helps you keep going on days you want to quit?
My kids. Their future. My responsibility for them.
What advice do you have for someone like you… who is thinking of putting themselves/their art out there or advice to your younger self?
Love yourself, remember that no one owes you a thing, work harder, give yourself a break sometime, kid you’re doing great!
How do you balance life and your creative work?
What’s working for me is removing what we figure is “life” from one end of the scale and “art” from the other end and mixing them together and just doing it. I need what we call art to live. It’s part of me. It keeps me healthy, it gives me peace, it makes me relatable and helps me to communicate. There can be a separation. So my idea of balancing the creative and live is making sure that they exist as one.
What do you hope that people take away from The Day She Ran Away?
I hope people are encouraged. I hope it turns people on. I hope it filters into hearts and minds as raw and unadulterated , intrinsically important and not one woman’s story rather a model of how to breathe and live better. I’d like people to take forgiveness, I’d like people to take activism from it I’d like people to take and be encouraged in love, commitment and meaningful relationships with it. I’d like them to take independence and this thing that sparks them to be themselves unashamedly. I’d like them to take an attitude or perspective of the importance of their worth and the fact that they are significant and needed in this generation.
Listen and purchase Chisjay’s music here https://chrisjayonline.bandcamp.com
Thanks to ChrisJay for taking the time to share with us.