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MFY Frequencies Artist Interview: Chiika

Chiika is a young artist from London, writing songs on her experiences and relationships. This year she has released a number of singles and her first EP- Unlearning. She is a part of MFY’s Frequencies scheme and kindly agreed to speak to myself and Deanna for an interview on her musical career so far and how MFY has helped her progress in the industry.

You can also find this interview on the MFY Remix podcast, found on Music For Youth’s Soundcloud.

“Hi I’m Chiika, I don’t have a fancy job title but I am an artist, so my personality is fancy!”

Deanna: How long have you been with MFY?

Chiika: Not long, I joined only this year, which is entertaining as I’m just about to age past the MFY age bracket. I’m going to have to shrink down and not wear heels!

I submitted to the MFY radio show that happened earlier this year, a friend sent me the link and I put my tracks anywhere if someone will listen. Then, one of my tracks got chosen and it was so cool, then I got an email asking if I wanted to do some zoom meetings about some future festivals and I was like “Yes, of course I do!”, and the rest is history.

Meg: Even in your short time, how has MFY helped you develop as a young artist?

Chiika: I think it has helped out a lot with my confidence for starting out as a young artist. It’s a pretty scary industry, but it’s even scarier to make yourself vulnerable to people’s criticism.

 I think MFY has been very supportive in having the camaraderie and meeting other people doing music. I did not know anyone when I started out, it was just me in my bedroom. It’s been good, its been a fun, nurturing environment.

Deanna: In the music industry, you need that look on life, you need to think “ I’m going to do it, I don’t care what you say”.

Meg: Bite the bullet!

Chiika: Exactly, but you can’t do that 24/7, maybe for 18 hours a day, but for those final few hours, when its dark outside, I think you need someone to pick you up a bit and calm you down. I think you need niceness sometimes.

Deanna: MFY’s theme this year is Remix, how would you create music using this theme or how have you already done this?

Chiika: When they announced the theme, I was worried about how to fit into that, because I’m not established enough to have remixes of my music yet. But I think coming out of the pandemic itself and having to change the way you perform is a form of remix, because having to perform on a livestream is very different to performing in person and having the engagement of an audience.

Being an artist is about constantly remixing yourself, making progress is remixing yourself. For me, its about challenging myself like never before. I started working with other people, which I have never done before. I started to explore different genres of music, I’m not cool enough to be mainstream, I’m a different type of cool. I’ve let myself start playing around with different genres, which has been very good for my growth. To sum it up, remix is all about growth to me.

Meg: Speaking about your music, what is your process when it comes to making your songs?

First, I normally obtain a backing track, by reaching out to a friend to send me a sample, even if it’s 16 bars. Then I’ll pull out a pen and paper, or a file, and just listen to the track. I would say 50% of the time I will be able to come up with hook or a one liner and work from that. Those songs always feel the easiest. For one of my songs gr8ful/h8ful, I heard the backing track the first time and just sang the chorus and it was really easy.

But sometimes it comes a little less naturally. That means either sitting and listening to the track on repeat, or I have a doc on shower thoughts. I have a lot of ideas from the shower, there must be something in that government purified water that just hits rights! I’ve got little snippets of lyrics and verses randomly thought up and I will see if any of them fit naturally. Normally there is something, once I have one line that works with I’m normally good to go.

 I tend to write all my songs in a full day period, I don’t like to stop the creative process, I’m the same with essays, I have to write it in one or two goes. It’s all about having the right headspace, right timing, nice cup of tea…or coffee depending on the time of day and just chilling!

 Deanna: If you could create a theme for MFY, what would you make?

This demands immediate thinking power! The first thing that comes to mind is ‘Level Up’, I’m absolutely obsessed with the concept of always doing better and pushing yourself further, whilst still being healthy. There’s something really satisfying about looking at your old work, even work from two months ago, and seeing how you’re so much better. Its really gratifying to see everything paying off.

I think having to go into a project and focus on growing is quite fun. I’m the kind of person to read self-help books, if that’s not obvious!

Meg: I went onto your Spotify and one of the things that strikes me as so cool was you have a freestyle track on there called ‘22’, how do you find the confidence to record a freestyle track and just post it?

Chiika: Where do I find the confidence for anything? Its usually just me saying “why not? No one can stop me!”

It’s a freestyle in that I sat in one sitting and wrote the lyrics with no edits. The first I wrote was the first lyrics in the song. Its more complicated than some previous tracks, as I have been trying to focus on harmonies, rather than just recording my singing in a pleasing manner, but I would say its still quite a simple track.

I wrote the track a month before I turned 22. I was having a lot of angst about being 22, going into the last year at university, I was wondering how to make the music thing work as well as work a salary earning job to fund the music. It’s a vulnerable track, it felt right. I didn’t try to do my own publicity about it, it’s just part of my story and narrative. I wanted it out there in my canon of work. If people stumble across it, that makes me happy and I hope it gives them some kind of solidarity if they’re also in this strange transition from being a teenager to becoming an adult. As for where I got the confidence, I don’t know, it was just an impulse I can’t ignore.

Deanna: In five years’ time, what is your goal, what do you see yourself doing?

Chiika: Time to sound egotistical! I would really like to perform at the Brits, that would be so cool. I’m of two minds thinking “yes I can do it” and also “do you want to take a breath there?” but that would be pretty ideal if at 27 I would have done the brits. Or maybe the top 500 Billboard. You have to make things happen, keep working hard, keep levelling up. I have big dreams!

Meg: Do you have any advice for aspiring young musicians who want to start out in the industry like yourself?

Chiika: Don’t wait around, because the industry doesn’t wait either.to If you want to do something, find a way to do it, there are grants, there are kind people. I think the industry has a lot of scary people in it, but it has an equal share of genuine people looking out for you and wanting to give back. I recorded my first EP for free just by reaching out. Don’t be afraid to just ask for things, as long as you are polite and enthusiastic about your music.

Something I wish I’d done is invest a bit more. You can teach yourself to mix and to master but its not realistic to be good at all of that from the start. Invest in a good sound engineer, even if that means finding someone a little older with a couple years of experience. Music is art, but it is also a product that you want people to enjoy.

Deanna: Last question- if you could choose three guests to have a dinner party, who would they be?

Chiika: Who do I even like having at dinner parties? It’s been so long! I think I like laid back parties, so I wouldn’t choose anyone much older than me, I would want to be respectfully vibing.

I think IMDDB, because she’s cool and I admire her a lot, I think our chat would be impeccable. There is an artist called Dounia, who I respect so much. She inspired me to start doing music, because she didn’t grow up playing an instrument or anything. I also feel like I would want Lil Sims, because ‘Woman’ was incredible that used orchestral instruments on a rap track. I think her come up story is so cool, she started by going on local radio and I admire the grit and determination she has.

From finding the confidence to start out, to hearing her hopes and dreams, it was a pleasure to speak to Chiika! It is exciting to hear she is so determined to make a name for herself in the industry and MFY Frequencies has helped her begin her journey. If you want to hear the full interview, listen to it on our MFY Remix 2021 playlist found on Music For Youth’s Soundcloud.

About the author

Meg Davies

Meg Davies is our Writer-Reporter for our digital National Festival REMIX 2021.

 

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