Q + A with musician Christian French

Photography by Christian Sarkine

Local songwriter Christian French started composing music in high school. After taking a short hiatus, French had a chance encounter with a music producer who helped take his music to the next level garnering over a million streams on Spotify so far. French chatted with PATTERN about his recent success, creative process, and advice for people trying to make it in the music industry.

Allie Coppedge: What inspires your songs? Do you use personal experience or is it broader than that?

Christian French: After you write a certain amount of songs, you start to run out of personal experiences to write about. But those are also my best songs by far. ‘Fall For You’ and ‘Dying Alive’ are both about personal experiences, which is the most personal out of all of them. All the songs I’ve made so far are very personal. Writing right now is difficult though because I’ve already written so much.

AC: What does the process of creating a song from start to finish look like for you?

CF: I start out with a small idea in my head and start messing around with it on the piano. I keep adding more and more words  and then have a complete song. I record an acoustic version with just the piano and the vocals. Then, I send it to McLean, a.k.a. Triegy, who I work and go to school with. We piece it together from there. He’s an insane producer. It’s been really nice meeting him and getting close with him because he’s made my music so much better.

AC: What is the most challenging part of making music?

CF: Having the patience. You have an idea in your head and you’re so stoked about it, but then you have to go through making the rest of the song. All of the little things to make it perfect. But it’s worth it in the end.

Photography by Levi Reece
Photography by Levi Reece

AC: What were people’s reactions when you decided to pursue making music?

CF: I started sophomore year in high school, recording on voice memo and posting it. So it started off sort of low-key. There were a couple of people who were telling me the music was cool and that I should keep doing it. When I got to college and was going through rush, I got really nervous about what people would think about me doing music. So I separated myself for awhile, which was stupid of me. I don’t know why I thought that. Then McLean and I decided to make a song together, which was just alright, but it became a hobby for us at that point. After making another song together, it suddenly took off on Spotify. It got on viral top 50 in the United States and neither of us knew it was happening. There wasn’t really a point where people were against it or for it until after that.

AC: Is there any artist or person that inspired you to start making music?

CF: Probably John Mayer. He’s been my favorite for so long and I started off with his type of songs. Also Jeremy Zucker, he’s my absolute idol. Our styles are similar, and as I’ve gotten deeper into it, I’ve tried to model my music after him. The artist EDEN is up there as well. Those two are my favorite that I model my music after.

AC: What’s it like collaborating with other people musically?

CF: With Triegy, he was actually my pledge brother but we both had no idea that the other made music. A couple months later [after meeting each other], I saw he had posted a song online and I was blown away; where had he been? I asked him if he wanted to do a song together and since he had no idea that I made music, he was weirded out. But after he listened to me he said yeah, let’s do it. After working with other artists, there’s a connection that we have where we know exactly what we want. So working with him is great. I’m also working with a couple of other producers right now; TELYKast and Justice Skolnik, but they’re in California and I’m half way across the country so it can be difficult to find the perfect sound and convey that to them.

Photography by Sara Sigman

AC: Your first single, Fall For You, has over a million streams on Spotify alone, what’s that like?

CF: It’s hard to pinpoint a feeling. It started off when I was about to leave on a family trip, and it went it up by around 25,000 streams in one day and I was wondering what was going on. I didn’t do anything about it because there I was in Oregon with my family and there was no service anywhere. Then, I woke up to a picture of a screenshot of the Spotify Viral Top 50 from somebody and I was so confused. It was such a shocking, exciting feeling. I had been working on music for so long, and finally something was happening. I really don’t know how to explain it. It wasn’t a feeling of ‘this is it’, as much as ‘okay, I’ve got to keep working now’.

AC: I also saw for that first single a fan made a music video for it. What were your thoughts on that?

CF: This is going to be a bummer, but apparently the person who made the music video used other people’s video footage and just put my song to that footage, but that aside it looks pretty cool. Initially I was confused because the views of my song on my youtube channel went up pretty drastically for a day or so, but then I realized that the fan video got posted to a channel that promotes music, and that a couple of other people had re-posted to their own channels. I remember thinking, wow! this is absurd.

AC: Would you say it’s harder or easier producing music here in Indy instead of somewhere else like LA or NYC?

CF: I don’t know, I’ve never been to LA to do music there. I know when I’m at school, it sucks because I can’t work on it all of the time, because I have school. But at the same time, it motivates me to make every moment count when I’m actually doing it. McLean also goes to school with me there so I think that makes it easier. But being home here [in Indy] it’s very hard to stay focused  and motivated. I work two days and make music the other days. It’s hard to sit at home and say alright, I need to focus and write this song or record it.

There wasn’t a feeling of ‘this is it’, it was a feeling of, okay, I’ve got to keep working now.

AC: Right now, what’s the most rewarding thing about making music?

CF: Honestly the reactions I’ve gotten. I never thought that the lyrics that I’ve put down and the whole feel of the song could affect somebody the way it has. I got a comment a couple of days ago on Youtube from somebody saying that they were crying to one of my songs. That’s cool that my music can make someone feel that deeply.

AC: How has the Indianapolis community responded to your music?

CF: There’s been positive responses from people I’ve gone to school with, people from the Carmel area and around there, and just younger people. But I feel like most of the reaction started in Bloomington and spread out from there since Spotify is worldwide. I feel like people around here [in Indy] don’t see me as a music artist, they see me as Christian French. But people that don’t know me treat me as an actual music artist, which is just weird to me.

AC: How can fans best support you in your musical career journey?

CF: If you like it, spread it. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Word of mouth is really the best way to spread my music.

AC: What advice would you give to someone around Indy or in a small suburb wanting to pursue music?

CF: Just never give up. That sounds super cliche, but in high school I made music for awhile and it didn’t catch on, so I said screw this, I’m done, I’m not wasting my time. Then I started up again a year later. You never know what you’re going to run into. I ran into McLean, who helped my music skyrocket. And along with that, never stop messing around with garageband. It’s a great tool for sharing ideas, and giving creative partners a gist of what you’re trying to create.

AC: What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

CF: I’m working on a lot right now. I have a song with Justice Skolnik, another DJ artist. I have a song coming with TELYKast. I’m also working on three songs with McLean, one of which we’ve been working on for a very long time. We were looking for a feature and couldn’t find the right person, but we just found somebody who reached out after I got posted on SwagyTracks, a music promotion page on Youtube. After they posted it, he heard it and reached out and he sounds great, his name is Justin Stone.

You can follow Christian on his Youtube, Spotify, and Instagram.

Photography by Christian Sarkine

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