Chris Standring: Behind the Beats
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Chris Standring.
Tell us about your new single “Whatever She Wants”. Was the title inspired by anyone in particular? Well it probably was. At the time I was in quite a tumultuous relationship and I was torn between two definitions of this song regarding what were going through. Either; 'when you are in love she can have whatever she wants', or; 'can we please stop shouting, you can have whatever you want!' Of course the song could just as easily be about my cat at this point. Becoming a successful solo artist did not happen over night for you. Tell us about your move to LA, nearly 30 years ago and the process it took to become one of the premiere artists in smooth jazz. I will be celebrating 30 years in LA this February 1st. I had visited LA back in 1981 for a few months, before I started music college in London. During those few months the LA bug hit me after spending nights at local jazz clubs and seeing artists like The Yellowjackets, Steve Lukather and Robben Ford, all young cats coming up in the biz and playing at such a high level. When I went back to London I spent the next ten years dreaming about coming back to LA. After several recon trips trying to make some things happen, I took the plunge and decided to book some local gigs in LA. How I did this is a miracle even today but I booked five of the top international clubs at the time, places like Catalina Bar and Grill, The Baked Potato, At My Place, Bon Appetit and Le Cafe. And a seminar at Musician's Institute. Some of these clubs of course are now gone, but once I locked in some dates I booked my favorite players I had been listening to on records for years. Then a friend said to me, "How did you just do that? You now have more gigs in LA than you do in London!" And with that epiphany I decided to sell up and move to California. It took about ten years to really get a foothold. Life was not always easy in the beginning but I was pretty diligent and driven and the rest as they say is, well a mystery. 2020 was definitely a challenging year in so many ways. Talk about releasing a new album in the midst of the pandemic. 2020 was indeed a bizarre year for all. But for us musicians who have recording studios, life didn't change too much. It was simply an excuse to stay in our studios and play with our toys longer. Of course we miss touring. I also think that because folks have been at home trying to figure out what they should be doing, they have had more time to discover music, so in some strange way it hasn't been necessarily a bad time to release an album. Of course money has been an issue for many consumers, but with music consumption becoming more focused on streaming, I'm not sure if that's too much of an issue now either. I'm probably too much of an optimist but I have always believed that artists just need to find their people, and in this particular format, fans have been extremely loyal. So for me it's mostly about releasing music that people want to hear and add to their collection, in whatever way they will. It's extremely important for me that I stay inspired and that the music is fresh. Rehashing music will have me reaching for the delete button every time. Those songs don't make it to the finish line. Other than that, there seems to be some luck and timing involved. The video for “Whatever She Wants” features some amazing dancers, perfectly fitting the vibe of the tune. How did you come up with this concept and tell us about pulling this together. The song is pretty funky but quite dreamy all at the same time. I'm not quite sure how that happened but when thinking about a video it took me a while to figure out how to represent that. I have made many videos with dancing as the central theme, whether somewhat comedically or in some retro way. So I was a little reluctant to do another video focusing on dancers. But the dream like quality of the song kept coming to the fore and ballet dance kept coming into my head. What about graceful ballet dancers beautifully lit in slow motion? I thought. I wondered if a whole video of that might get old, so I included some kaleidoscopic images to tie it together. The video footage believe it or not was stock footage I licensed. Filming those dancers in that beautiful light in different scenarios would have cost an absolute fortune! But during covid, I ain't going nowhere so we need to get resourceful. In the end I think the video came out really nice.
How has social media helped you to stay in touch with fans? Facebook has been a mainstay for a longtime even though I feel I don't really engage enough. Instagram has also been useful and I even started a tik tok account recently but still trying to figure out how to use it without feeling like the old guy. One thing I have found successful is live streaming. Facebook's algorithm seems to kick in and people love to interact. It's fun but I'm reluctant to do it too often. I'm just not sure I want to give away the farm, but it is also quite intense for me and time consuming making sure all the technical issues don't get out of control. There is just so much that can go wrong. But it's a new day and a new world and I should embrace it.
You’re also a guitar teacher. How is your jazz guitar course going? I have a number of guitar instructional programs that have done very well over the years, but I haven't given a one on one lesson for many years now. My flagship series is "Play What You Hear" volumes 1&2. I am always updating the programs. Maybe I'll teach personally again at some point. It's finding the time really. What are your plans and goals for 2021? I have a passion project I am working on which is a jazz trio album with a London orchestra. I don't have the title yet but it's all standards from the great American songbook and includes one song I have written. All the rhythm tracks are recorded and it features some of my all time favorite musicians including Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Harvey Mason and more. We will be recording the orchestra at Abbey Road studios in London next month, it's all very exciting. I hope I can be there for the session. Other than that recording, which will come out this summer (all being well), I am starting to write for my next more commercial album for next year. But to answer your question more specifically, my goal is to try to stay sane in a world of insanity right now. But as I mentioned, I'm quite the optimist.