One thing is readily apparent when it comes to singer/songwriter/musician/producer Chris Walker, he is definitely a man about the music. An industry veteran who has done stints as a bassist in the bands of such Jazz Luminaries as Ornette Coleman, Art Blakey, Jimmy Heath, and Cassandra Wilson as well as serving as musical director for Regina Belle to his own solo work on First Time(which produced the top 5 hits “Take Time and Giving You All My Love”) and Sincerely Yours.

We recently chatted with Chris about his latest project Zone which contains the single “I Got That Love” that is currently doing very well at radio and online. Also there is a great cover of the Luther classic “If Only For One Night” on the set that I definitely recommend that you checkout.

In reading your bio there’s an incredible story about you leaving your home in Houston heading to New York City with a one-way ticket and $40 in your pocket to make your way into the music business. Take us back to that time period.

Basically during that time I was attending The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. I had been reading about various colleges across the country and the one school that everyone kept talking about was The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. So I sent out an application and the school denied my application because I did not have the funds to enroll. I was still determined and actually school was already a month in progress and so one day I walked into my parent’s kitchen with my bags packed and I said I’m moving to New York and my parent’s were like you’re doing what? They thought I was crazy but I told them that I’m going to New York and the only way I’m coming back to Houston is in a bodybag. So I get to New York and I know one guy named Justin Page and he allowed me to stay with him until I found a place to live. So I went down to the school the very next day just to check it out. I poked my head into the auditorium and it just so happened there was some guys on stage playing and they didn’t have a bass player, so I walked in and they saw I was carrying a bass and they said would you like to play with us? I said sure and so I get on stage and we’re playing and the Dean of the school walked in and gave me a full scholarship to go to the school.

That’s an amazing story and no small feat… I mean The New School for those who may not be familiar with its reputation year after year produces some fantastic musicians and for you to make your way into the program the way you did…

I was pretty amazed myself it just showed me that God had his hand on me and he was watching over me the entire time. So there was really no need for me to worry. He orchestrated the steps and opened all the doors and put me in the right place at the right time and from getting the scholarship at The New School, that was the springboard into everything else I’m doing today.

My Father wanted me to go to Seminary School, that was the path that he saw for me, we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so they couldn’t afford to send me to college. But I told him: “I have to take my own direction, Dad and God is leading me over here to New York so I have to go.”

I wanted to ask you specifically about your time doing double duty in both Ornette Coleman’s band and Regina Belle’s band. That’s definitely some different musical territory that you were covering.

Well, I’ve always been open minded when it comes to music. A quick story… When I was in the eleventh grade there was a class assignment that we had to go to Miller Outdoor Theater and watch this concert and write a report on it. It just so happened that it was Ornette Coleman and Michel Petrucciani. So Michel Petrucciani came out first to perform and I understood and I was in the groove and then Ornette came out and he played his first song which I didn’t know then but I know now “Song X” and then he went into something totally different… of course I think he lost me and everybody else in the audience. So I go to school the next day and I ask my teacher “What was he[Coleman] doing?” he couldn’t give me an explanation he said “I don’t know?” So ironically the first two people that I record with when I move to New York were Michel Petrucciani and Ornette Coleman. See I was the house Bass Player with the Gil Evans Orchestra and Michel Petrucciani came in one night and sat in. After he sat in I went over to him and I said I really enjoyed playing with you and he said “I enjoyed playing with you too, what are you doing tomorrow?” “I’m recording my record and I want you to play on it.” Just like that. So I show up at the studio, we didn’t rehearse or anything and played on his record… it’s just been a rollercoaster.

That is an amazing amount of preparation that you had to be able to play and record on those projects and at that level of musicianship at such a young age.

Well you know I used to practice seven hours a day on the bass when I was in high school. I said to myself if I ever get in a situation to where I have to sight-read music I want to be ready. You know you go to New York and LA you only get one opportunity. So I wanted to make the most of it and I wanted to be ready. I used to practice and my mother would yell at me all the time “Put that thing down and clean your room.”

The new single is “I Got That Love” tell us a little of the history behind how the song came together.

Actually, I co-wrote that song with a gentleman by the name of Jamien Arvie young up and coming writer, actually has never had a song placed before. I wanted to give him an opportunity because I think he’s a very talented guy. I actually wrote the track first and played all the instruments and I gave it to him and said “Let me see what you come up with.” Man he came back with some stuff that just blew my mind and I said “I like it!” We tweaked it a little bit here and there and basically it’s just a song that’s telling fellas “You better step up to the plate and take care of your woman, if you don’t Chris Walker will.” All the things that we do to get a woman, we typically stop after we get them. I’m sending a message to brothers that “Hey we have to do that and more to keep them.” Of course for the ladies it’s reciprocal too.

What are some of your go-to programs for music production?

I go between three programs: I use Logic, Digital Performer and Pro Tools. Basically those are the three I go between. It depends on how I feel that day, some days I’ll just launch Logic and see what comes out or sometimes Digital Performer. It just depends but those are the three I use. It’s amazing sometimes I can sit down at the piano and hit one note and before I know it it’s a song. The inspiration just comes and I don’t believe that I write the song, I think God uses me as an instrument to get it out. When I sit back and think about all the songs that I have written and the catalog of songs that I’ve produced over the years I say “Man, how did I come up with that?” But then I think no way it couldn’t be me, I can’t take the credit.

The title of the new project is Zone. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind choosing that title. Are you speaking about a creative zone a spiritual zone or a love zone?

Actually all of the above. Anytime you’re trying to complete a task you’re focused on it. Outside forces or sources are gonna come in and try and take your focus and put it somewhere else. You have to just zone in and put all those other things on the outskirts so that you are able to get to what you need to. For example, you can spend eight hours on a song and it’ll go by like it’s twenty minutes. But most people don’t understand that and they are like “What’s going on?” especially family. “Why does it take so long?” “What are you doing?” all those sorts of things but luckily for me I have a very understanding family and they give me the room to do what I need to do.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

One of the things that I would encourage up and coming songwriters, producers, singers or anyone for that matter… not only take care of your craft, always strive to be better and realize in your mind that you’re never there. The minute that you think you are there, your journey stops. I’m always striving to better than what I am. It’s not in an arrogant sense, I know I have such a long way to go as a musician as a singer a songwriter and as a producer. As long as I’m always striving to get there the drive will always be there. I don’t ever want to relax and say “I’ve done this… I’ve done that… and that speaks for who I am. “ No, that’s yesterday. Today’s a new day. One of the things that I also like to encourage everyone to do, make sure you take care of your paperwork. That’s one of the things in this business that I find most producers and writers and people like that they typically don’t take care of paperwork. They put it off, and put it off. After writing your song, registering it with SESAC, ASCAP or BMI because of course you won’t receive any royalties if you don’t. Most people don’t know this but companies in the U.S. are only responsible for paying you royalties from the U.S. outside of the U.S. you have to get a sub-publisher to collect on your behalf. Also, know what you’re signing, please. I help so many people with contractual issues and now a lot of people bring it to me because I’ve been in the business a long time I know legal stuff and how it all works, in fact I write my own contracts now. I believe in helping people that’s just who I am. I mean it’s not about money. I don’t chase the money because if you chase the money you will sink quickly.

The sound of Chris Walker is?

Passion, love, feeling. I try to make people focus on the tone of my voice. Not only the lyrical content but from a melodic standpoint as well. For example in “I Got That Love” when it goes to the bridge the changes take you on a journey. For a musician you can listen to it and say “Oh he went there?” but it still works in the vein of R&B. It’s like Jazz type changes it’s just how you hook ‘em up.

Keep up with Chris at:

chriswalkermusic.com
pendulumrecords.com
Facebook
Twitter

To pre-order Zone on Amazon go here.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.