Los Angeles-based artist Chris Hutton released his first project Oxygen, Pt. I on August 17th.
The first part of the EP explores heartfelt subjects like healing, heartbreak and loss. “I wrote a lot of this music to help me process different negative situations or bad periods of life – Pt. II moves into a space of hope and positivity. This EP is the darkness before the dawn,” explains Hutton.
Pt. I includes the lead single “Oxygen” for which he unveiled a music video directed by Jacqui Casey.
Chris Hutton introduces a brilliant first project portraying his feelings through remarkable vocals and personal stories.
Oxygen, Pt. I is now available worldwide.
Introduce yourself - what's your story?
My name is Chris Hutton, I’m a music geek from LA. I grew up doing music, started writing songs when I was 14, and moved to LA from Colorado to study commercial music at Biola University (No, that’s not writing music for commercials. Yes, the name is confusing. Let’s just say that I did lots of music things and leave it at that.) I just graduated this year and have been working on my project “Oxygen”. For me, music is the way I try to figure out life. I love telling stories and creating moments for people to feel and connect to something beautiful, and I’m so excited to get started.
What did you grow up listening to?
A really weird mix of EDM, Christian rock, jazz and Broadway scores. My mom was a music teacher and my sister did musical theater, so we always listened to a broad mix of music.
Do you remember your early musical memories?
I think my earliest memories are of violin lessons when I was 5. When you start playing violin, they put colored tape on the fingerboard to tell you where to put your fingers, and I remember picking out what colors I wanted (I think they were red and blue). I also remember I would pretend the bow was a sword – I’m shocked that I never broke anything or anyone back then! I’m also shocked my parents had the wherewithal to endure the god-awful screeching noises I made for years before I actually started playing recognizable music.
When did you start singing?
When I was 8 years old in choir.
Growing up, what were your favorite records to sing along to?
Disney movies and musicals.
Do you remember a specific moment where music made a huge impact in your life?
There have been more moments than I can count, but my first memory of music having an impact on me was listening to the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North. That song came out when I was (I think) 13 or 14, and whenever I was lonely or sad I would put it on and cry, but I always felt better afterword. If my music helps just one person the way that song helped me, then I’ll be a successful songwriter.
What gave you the confidence to be an artist and release your original music?
A combination of supportive family and teachers and an internal drive to create. Honestly, I think I would be making music even if no one supported me – it’s been the only thing I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. But, being born into a family of musicians definitely helped with my confidence.
Who was the first person to ever believe in you?
My mom. She put me in violin lessons as soon as she saw that I had an ear for melodies, and after that she and my dad took me to piano lessons, singing lessons, theater rehearsals, choir, and pretty much anything creative or artistic I wanted to do, even sending me to study music in college. I will never fully appreciate how much they sacrificed for me to follow this dream – they’ve blessed me so much.
You recently released your first project Oxygen, Pt.I - could you describe us the songwriting/production process?
I started writing for Oxygen late last year – “Mine” was the first song we made, Adam and I produced it for my music studies at school. After that, I sat down with a bunch of different songs and figured out which ones went together and what the outline of the full project was going to be. This record is special because it’s the first music I’ve written that I have production credits on – usually, I’ll take something to Adam and he’ll do all the production, but for the songs on this EP, I just felt like I needed to track and produce more for myself. “Burn” is the first song I’ve ever written and produced entirely on my own. “Oxygen” and “Crossfire” were songs I did the tracking for and then sent to Adam to do drum programming, “Bathroom Floor” was a collaboration with Enoch Yang, a friend of mine from college. Looking back on the writing/production process, it was kind of all over the place – lots of different studios, mixes, etc., but it all managed to come together. I couldn’t have asked for a better final product.
What are the different topics you are talking about on Pt.I?
Heartbreak, loss, and healing. I wrote a lot of this music to help me process different negative situations or bad periods of life – Pt. II moves into a space of hope and positivity. This EP is the darkness before the dawn.
What's the story behind the song "Oxygen"?
“Oxygen” was a unique song for me because it actually started with the sonics of the track before writing the melody and lyrics. I was messing around and stumbled upon the pluck synth patch you hear throughout the song and made that initial loop. I slowly started adding to it, and once I had the basic track, I started experimenting with melodic ideas and lyric fragments. Normally when I write, I have a specific experience I’m trying to describe, but this song was different – I played around with words and ideas until I landed on something that felt right. It seemed natural to use it as the title track of the EP since the other songs look back on sadness, heartbreak, and anxiety, and this song looks forward to hope and healing.
What can you tell us about the music video for "Oxygen"? What was the inspiration behind it?
For some reason, I was hearing the color blue when I listened to the song. As I was thinking about making a music video, I thought it would look really cool to be singing on a white set with splatters of blue paint, and when I took the song to Jacqui, she came up with this beautiful vision of interweaving a storyline into the white set sequence. While we were creating it, we wanted to have some kind of conflict to give dimension to the story – life and love are not easy, and we didn’t feel like a simple fairy-tale ending would be as compelling. When I saw the final cut for the first time, I got chills when I saw how she edited the final scene. It leaves you wondering what was real – I felt like it reflected the atmosphere of the song and the story so well.
What did you feel when writing your song "Burn"?
A deep sense of loss. I wrote “Burn” while the cathedral at Notre Dame was on fire earlier this year. Seeing such an iconic place go up in flames hit me incredibly hard – it’s one of those things you don’t really think about until it’s gone, but I kept thinking about what a timeless token of beauty Notre Dame had been – it weighed on my soul that the world was losing a place with so much beauty and history, and we were watching as it happened. I remember that the song came out so fast and didn’t require a lot of revision – that’s usually the mark of a good song for me: if it writes itself before I have time to think about it. My heart spoke before my mind got in the way. I still cry whenever I sing it.
What did you learn about yourself after finishing "Oxygen, Pt.I"?
I learned that life is hard, but we make it through, and we get stronger. Oxygen is a project that moves from darkness into light – Part I starts out in a very heavy emotional place, and Part II, which I’m currently working on, becomes a lot lighter and more fun. Part I represents a period of my life in which I experienced a lot of really hard things, but being able to put them all into one project was so freeing – I was able to look at everything I had felt, and say “It’s all there. That season is finished, I made it through, and I’m moving forward. The darkness didn’t last forever, and now that I’ve written about it, I can start healing.”
What does singing make you feel?
Feeling makes me sing. I make it my goal to embody the emotion and the story of whatever song I’m singing – being able to express any emotion in its purest form gives me the best sense of release and clarity.
Why do you make music? What keeps you motivated?
I’m never sure how to answer this question. For me, music is something I can’t not do – music and songwriting are my coping skills; the lens through which I live my life. I don’t need motivation to keep doing it because it’s something I do naturally. Yes, I have seasons of more output and less output, but it’s all part of the same journey. I’m never really worried that I’ll lose motivation or run out of ideas.
What does it mean for you to be an artist?
Being an artist is experiencing the fulness of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and expressing that experience in the most authentic way possible. Being an artist is about attaining excellence in your craft without idolizing it. It’s about feeling every emotion to its deepest and highest points, on and off stage, so that other people can see your heart and feel your expression to their core and know that they are not alone. An artist mirrors life’s darkness and light for the sake of knowing, feeling, and understanding truth about the world.
What are your thoughts on today's social media?
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. As a musician, I wouldn’t really be able to function without marketing myself on the internet, but I’ve also gotten sucked into the false validation you get from Instagram likes. It can wreak havoc on your perception of yourself and reality. One of my favorite songs right now is “The Internet” by Jon Bellion; there’s a lyric in it that goes: “Life became dangerous the day we all became famous, no one cares if you’re happy, just as long as you claim it.” – that hit me so hard when I heard it for the first time because it’s so true.
I don’t think people should just stay off social media, although I respect people who make that choice, but I do think we need to have a balanced way of sharing the things we care about and the exciting things we’re doing without basing our self-worth off of how many likes something gets. Real friendships need to happen in the real world, and as much as I love a good Instagram filter and caption, it doesn’t put real joy in your heart.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
If people stopped acting like they knew everything and started listening to others’ perspectives without judgement.
What biggest life lessons have you learned so far?
God knows what He’s doing – it’s better to trust Him than to worry about things I can’t control. I still worry sometimes, but I’ve learned that life is bigger than my anxieties, even when I don’t feel like it, and learning to trust God gives me hope and keeps me grounded.
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