Chris McClenney is a Baltimore born song writer, producer, artist and all around virtuoso who had previously worked with Vinylmnky alum Khalid in the the Grammy nominated track "Location", and with the breakout hip hop artist D.R.A.M. Now, he's recently released his double EP Portrait in Two. With songs grounded in R&B, soul, jazz, electronic music and funk, Chris is diverse in sourcing inspiration for his eclectic and emotionally gripping music. We caught up with Chris to talk poetry, inspiration, collaboration, and which others artist's he recommends we pay our attention to.
[ Vinylmnky ]: Congrats on a Portrait in Two. What can the double EP's title tell us about the music that's on it?
[ Chris McClenney ]: Portrait in Two is a moment in time for me, and also, I believe our society. The music is very personal to me, but also expresses feelings that maybe others can relate to in this world we live in. Music sometimes comes easily to me, but often times I’m stretching myself as an artist, and visualizing where I want to go to go is easy, but the execution can be a challenge. But that’s how I progress and grow.
This is your first solo project–what was the process like creating this EP?
[ Chris McClenney ]: I was detail oriented and focused. I had fun, but also had to wear a lot of hats from producing, writing to mixing, etc. It was tough, but rewarding. The most exciting was writing lyrics and telling stories throughout.
You incorporate poetry in your music. What inspired this?
[ Chris McClenney ]: To me, songwriting is poetry combined with music in a relatable form. It felt natural to include the poetry.
You’ve said that Portrait in Two was meant to be listened to on vinyl– tell us more about why that is.
[ Chris McClenney ]: Portrait in Two is meant to be a listening experience. The kind of one you don’t skip through. One you choose to actively listen to because you know you’ll have to change the “side” halfway through. When you’re streaming, it’s so easy to skip through songs, but when you’re listening on vinyl you make sure you listen because you know you’re going to have to get up in 15 minutes and change the side, haha. It’s truly a double-EP. Two sides combined into 1. A lot of these tunes were also inspired by older music that was meant to be made on vinyl. The art direction for the project was also detailed and meant to be held in your hands. I’m so happy we were able to bring it to vinyl.
Your music spans across several genres, what music influences you the most?
[ Chris McClenney ]: Music that tells a great story. It could be any genre, but the sounds and words that are used if they inspire me, I can craft colors from and that will always encourage me to create something I enjoy.
You’ve worked with a number of other artists– producing and writing– what have you learned in your past experiences that helped you create your own music?
[ Chris McClenney ]: Patience, trust, confidence and perspective are so important. You walk into a room with someone and you’re each bringing in something special. It takes time to understand each other, but when you do you get that you each are able to bring out something special in the music. The trust has to be there, but you have to be confident and decisive in your own work to bring out the best in the other people in the room.
We’re all about new and upcoming artists. Who do you think we should be listening to right now?
[ Chris McClenney ]: Check out Marco McKinnis, he’s a very talented singer, I believe he has a very big career ahead of him. Another artist, thatshymn who sings and raps, he’s got melodies for days, he’s very very talented. A friend of mine, Elujay who also raps and sings, he’s talented as well. There’s so much great music out there!