Photo Credit: Ural Garrett for Okayplayer
First Look Friday: Break Through Impossibilities With Chloe x Halle
Say what you want, but this week's First Look Friday are the embodiment of next level dopeness. The teenage Bailey sisters have captured the ears of music lovers everywhere with the certifiable jam, "Drop," which you can watch below. Better known to the game as Chloe x Halle, the Parkwood Entertainment signees come equipped with style, flair, booming bass and a clear focus to make an impact on the game. The Los Angeles-based tandem have already made an impression on the likes of Michelle Obama, Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya and yes, Beyoncé.
Wildly talented, fiercely empowering and so swagged-out that this interview cannot contain the energy that these two emit. Chloe x Halle present themselves as a breath of fresh air in a game that is increasingly becoming formulaic. As writers and producers of their own music, these two teenagers are leading the charge by the new generation to evolve the music we know and love. By combining stylish singing with clever choruses, Chloe x Halle are putting some vibrant paint where it ain't.
With their debut EP, Sugar Symphony, available to stream + purchase today, please open your ears as it is our absolute honor to introduce you all to Chloe x Halle. Get entangled in knowing more about this soulful duo, as the sisters talk about their influences, keeping Lemonade and "Formation" a secret and advice they received from the First Lady, Michelle Obama. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: It is really cool of you guys to spend some time with us. You both have made such an impact with us music snobs, plus people who genuinely love music. Can you explain what people are missing out by not checking out Chloe x Halle's art?
Chloe: My sister and I, ever since we were young, we both loved music of all genres. Whether it was jazz, R&B, rock, alternative — whatever — music played a healthy part in our musical development. We absolutely love to combine sounds and do things that you don't really hear very often. We love to make something beautiful out of all the chaos. Of course, being from Atlanta, we love our 808s, our heavy booming bass and drums, but then we like to layer it with harmonies, really cool backgrounds and four-to-eight part harmonies. We absolutely love doing that! I believe that's what we bring to the table—something that is fresh and new—but it's also packed with harmonies. You don't really hear too many harmonies out there today.
OKP: You raise a very good point... Acts like En Vogue, Boyz II Men and the like — they had those blends and you could hear the merging of everyone's voices. And while it is apparent you both have a passion for music, honed your skills and practiced your craft — who are some of the most cherished influences in music that you both have? Why?
Halle: For me, I have always been a jazz head. I absolutely love Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn. I have loved Billie Holiday since I was five-years-old. I had this pink CD with her on the cover with these beautiful flowers in her hair. She just mesmerized me! So, I would definitely say that my biggest influence is Billie Holiday, as well as other jazz artists that I love to listen to like Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone.
C: Right, some of our influences outside of jazz are influential, too. We really, really love Frank Ocean. We love FKA Twigs and the tUnE-yArDs. Of course, we cannot forget about the legendary greats like Whitney Houston with her incredible voice and, as my sister mentioned, Nina Simone. We're also really into The Internet, and we love Twenty One Pilots. And, of course, Beyoncé, but we listen to music of every genre, so we love everything across the board. It all inspires us.
OKP: "Drop," which is super dope and free-flowing, has captivated the ears of music snobs all over and placed you guys on their radar. Talk a bit about how life was for you two while still developing as artists? Also, how did you both react to the first bits of press that you all received?
H: Us starting our journey of writing, singing and performing began about three years ago. From there it just turned into something wonderful. It really blossomed like a beautiful flower. We still don't really understand how we were fortunate to be so blessed with these words, but we are. We are just so, so, so blessed. When we first started writing "Drop," it was so much fun because we were just jamming out like we always do in our living room. It just came to fruition after Chloe started playing her 808 beat. It was such a cool melody, and we both looked at each other and gave that, 'Oh, that's kind of cool' look. Every time that we do a song, we record a video of us performing it so we don't forget any ideas. When we watch it back it is so much fun just to see how "Drop" came together. It was literally just a blessing thrown into our laps.
C: My sister and I were just so grateful for these ideas because we definitely understand that it is not solely coming from us. It is courtesy of a greater power. We just love what we do and we love making music because it is our genuine passion. It is our heart and soul, and so we do it everyday. It's so much fun for us. We're just grateful that we can continue to grow and evolve as artists and musicians.
H: With all of the press, we were just like, 'Woah! People actually like the song?' We were so excited and happy because everybody regularly just saw us on YouTube. We would be doing our covers and that became the thing that people knew us by. So, as we were writing "Drop," we were constantly thinking that it'll be different for our fans.
C: Like Halle was saying, with "Drop" we were finally giving our art to the world that we were working on for the past two, three years. Honestly, we weren't expecting much from it, but we were really excited to put it out. We were so grateful and happy to those who supported it because they got it immediately. Many times before, a lot of outsiders in the music industry would say, 'Maybe you should just dumb it down a bit because the average ear won't understand.' But our audiences was just really super-supportive and they caught on quickly. It just shows us all that there is a new wave coming into the music, and we're so happy that we get to be a part of it.
OKP: In reading a past interview you two did, it was mentioned that you both knew about "Formation" and Lemonade before the rest of the world. What were each of your respective thoughts about the project? What do you both see as the future of Parkwood Entertainment's brand of original video content?
C: We had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of Lemonade. Filming the project was fun! We began in December and were so happy to be a part of it. We were so honored. All we knew at the time was that we were going to be a part of something wonderful and special. We were partying along to the songs and dancing to the television when Lemonade came on HBO. It was a wonderful treat to us too because we knew what we were doing, but we didn't know how it would come to light and what beautiful impact it would make. We're really so honored.
H: All we knew was that we got the call to head down to New Orleans to be a part of the video. We were very excited. We get there and we're surrounded by all these beautiful, strong black women. It was such an impactful and wonderful scene to behold. We got a chance to hang out with Amandla [Stenberg], Zendaya and all the other beautiful women. It was just such a wonderful experience. We knew that we were going to be a part of something special just being in that setting, so that was very exciting.
OKP: This has been a life that the both of you have wanted since a young age. How did you both know that singing and songwriting was the passion? And now that you both are in the thick of it all — how do you see Chloe x Halle redefining the music industry?
C: My sister and I just grew up having an extreme passion for music. Thanks to Parkwood, our dreams have come true most definitely. We're super grateful. When we were growing up, our dad sat us down when we were ten and eight. He showed us basic song structure. He did a very, very good job of teaching us the basics of songwriting. He taught us our tools like similes and metaphors. [Laughs] Our dad will never admit it, but he is really a very talented writer. I don't know about his singing, but his writing is really good. He taught us those beginning steps and because of that our first couple of songs were interesting to say the least. But as time went on, they [the songs] would turn into something great.
H: From then on, [our songwriting] just grew into something greater, and it continued to evolve. Our love for music has always been there. It is rooted in our DNA. We just continued to learn more about our craft and grow into our skill set.
OKP: What was the first song that you both ever wrote and created called? Can you guys talk about what that song has come to symbolize ever since entering the professional life?
C: It was called "What Makes You Sad?" How we wrote it, it was just a long list of things that can make people sad.
OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you and your sister have overcome thus far?
H: I think that one of the major obstacles we had to overcome was believing in ourselves and what we had to offer and trusting our intuition. Trusting what we had to bring to the table because working in this industry. It's a lot of older people and not a lot of youth. So, walking into a room, those people think all you do is "kiddie, kiddie" music, but we have fun proving people wrong and showing them that the youth can bring something fresh and new to the world. To be honest, I'm really happy that we get to be a part of that. We like to play around with new sounds and stuff that is just different. People might say that it would not be understood, but just learning how to take that and continue to move forward is great because that is what we love to do. It is that fact that we really had to learn. That has been super essential to us and it has permeated into every avenue of our lives. It helped us to become better people.
H: And believing in our ideas, too, because at the end of the day, we aim to be legends. We really want to be legends. In order to do that, we should have new ideas and bring something different to the table.
OKP: What are some elements or traits that you both have learned about the other that comes out in the music?
C: My sister Halle, well, she has always been an incredible guitarist. For the past four years, she has excelled as a performer. But there is something about when we create music from scratch that brings another version of her out. She creates all these wonderful and incredible ideas. These melodies that she comes up with are amazing. As she mentioned earlier, she grew up listening to jazz, so she has these really beautiful, jazzy melodies. Her harmonies are just so cool. I'm really proud of my sister, and it is just really fun working together.
H: I have seen my beautiful sister blossom into a wonderful producer. It has been only two years of her producing like this, but it has turned into amazing music. "Drop" was our real first song that featured Chloe's production. It was just awe-inspiring and I'm still astounded at what she can do. She is able to be that creative, especially with the beats. It is really stunning to me. I've seen her blossom into a beautiful flower of a producer.
OKP: What was it like meeting the First Lady, Michelle Obama, during South by Southwest? Did you guys have any preconceived notions of what she would be like? Did she offer any advice to you two after the performance?
C: Oh, my goodness. She was just incredible. We knew that she was incredible. We knew that she would be kind and gracious. But she just took all of that to a whole other level when we met her in person. I tell you, her aura, her essence is just impeccable. She holds herself like a queen. She's so real. You can feel her light from the other side of the room. Just to have the honor to stand in front of her, talk to her and hold a direct conversation with her was absolutely beautiful. When we were invited to the White House, she personally invited us and introduced us with the most kindest words. She was in the audience, cheering us on as we performed and dancing with them while we just stare back in amazement. The moment felt so surreal that I had to hold back my own tears!
It is crazy how you can just put something out into the universe and have it come back to you. It was such an honor meeting the First Lady, the President of the United States and their cute little dogs, Bo and Sunny. We met Sasha [Obama], and she was super sweet. We haven't met Malia [Obama] yet because she wasn't there, but they are both just the kindest girls. That is because they were raised by such incredible people.
H: [Michelle Obama] told us to just keep going, that we were on the "right path" and that what we were doing is amazing. Those words were so great to hear because she is truly the best role model that you could ever have. She is so gracious. The way she holds herself and embraces life is beautiful. She's incredibly smart and the way she talks to you makes you feel like you've been friends with her forever. Her advice to tell us to don't stop what we're doing was impactful, and I'll never forget what those words mean to me.
OKP: How can you and your sister's music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists so quickly?
C: I, and my sister, are so incredibly grateful that when growing up, we listened to everything. We didn't just listen to what was on the radio. We listened to absolutely everything. I think that helped to break the barriers in our mind, so that's why we have such an open ear to different sounds. I know that there are many people out there who don't really have an open ear like that, but I think the time is coming where hearing new and diverse sounds is inescapable. People are finding the rare diamonds and jewels on Soundcloud, YouTube and the like.
H: We are extremely happy to have the platform to share this art that we have been working on for so long. Alongside the incredible people that we're surrounded by, we're able to have a voice that can be heard. We're really happy for that because for people who make music like we do, who step outside the box, a lot of them don't have the platform to really share their beautiful work with others. We're grateful for the position that we're in because we have the freedom to do something that makes our hearts sing. Based on how everything is going with our first song, the people have welcomed us with open arms because it is something different. A lot of the songs you hear sound the same on the radio, yet I believe what we're bringing to the table is refreshing and I'm happy that we're able to do that.
OKP: As you both become more ingrained in the business, we wanted to know if there were somebody that you guys would love to work with in the future? If so, why?
H: I think I can speak for the both of us on this and say that we both, absolutely, love Frank Ocean. Working with him would be incredible and awesome! We've had the opportunity to work with so many amazing artists who are also on the come-up, but we definitely have love for Frank Ocean!
C: We also really love Kendrick Lamar. His lyrics, his cadences and how he forms the stories that he tells are just... wow. We would really love to work with him one day. A few years back, we met up with him and he was just so kind. He watched our YouTube videos and gave us advice. He just told us to keep our classic sound and to not let anything change it. We would love to work with him one day, which has always been a dream of ours. Someone else who is so incredible would be Merrill Garbus from the tUnE-yArDs. She is awesome! Their experimental stuff is really fascinating and how they create music from just banging on different things is something that we'd love to just go with the flow with and make art.
H: I can't believe we almost for Imogen Heap! She just makes art with her music. The way that she combines things proves that she is a genius. And now, she's getting into creating technology with music with these gloves that transforms one's voice in the air. It is really cool and we would love to work with her on some things as well. She's a genius!
OKP: What is the overall message that you both are attempting to present in your music?
C: Our main message that we want to offer to listeners in our music is this: be comfortable in your skin and be happy with being yourself. We're the generation of the youth and we have something that needs to be heard. In this day and age, everyone is stunting on the Instagram and all that stuff. That makes you look at yourself and say, 'Am I that cool? Am I that great?' What we want to share in our music is, yes, you are that great and you should be confident in who you are. Share that excellence to the best of your ability and never hold back. I think that there are even adults still learning that fact today. We're still grasping that concept and because we're still learning that it is easy to transform that into our music.
OKP: What was the inspiration for the song, "Drop," and how did you both go about creating and producing the song?
H: "Drop" came from a song that was stuck in our heads that inspired us. I can't really recall the song exactly, but we wanted to write "Drop" about a song being stuck in your head without sounding like a beginner or coming off as boring. We thought, 'Why not we personify the song as a relationship?' So, in our lyrics, when we're saying, 'Baby, I get sick of you. You're that same old tune. I don't ever want to hear you again,' it sounds like you could be arguing with a potential love interest. But, to us, we were actually talking about the song itself. We thought that that was a really cool way of just being fun in talking about why the song is stuck in your head without being so straight forward.
C: When my sister and I created this song two years ago at our home studio, we were finishing up another song. Out of the blue, we just wanted to start a new, fresh idea. I pulled up the drum kit and it had these awesome 808s in it, so I started playing those. Then Halle started singing this crazy melody that eventually became the hook on the song. It just happened like magic right in front of our eyes. It was another one of those moments where God just plopped it right in our laps, and it happened right in front of us. It was really fun and the song wrote and produced itself. It was just a fun time.
OKP: In an industry that is heavily male-focused and ran by males, how do you both see yourselves changing the game for the better?
C: I think female empowerment all the way! When more girls and women see others doing something and changing the climate, it will inspire them to do something even cooler. A woman might see that they can become a producer, or that they can excel as a scientist in this room full of men. 'I'm strong enough, I'm just as willing, I'm just as smart and just as talented,' they begin to say to themselves. And I believe that that's how we can help to inspire others to "change the game," y'know? We can help other women to stand up to make their awesome voices be heard.
H: Exactly! Since we have this beautiful role model, Chloe, with her producing and beautiful energy, even I get inspired to be my best self. So, I know that other women would be inspired as well. We're just hoping to push you to think outside of what you would normally do. To believe in yourself to do what others would say is impossible.
OKP: If the reader has learned one thing about Chloe x Halle in this First Look Friday interview — what would it be and in what octave would it sound like?
C: I think that they would learn that we're just two regular girls who love music and enjoy bringing art into the world. We want to inspire others to follow their dreams and aspirations because we've had those same experiences from so many other people. We're just doing what we love and we're so happy and grateful that people are welcoming us with open arms and open ears. We really appreciate what we're bringing to the table because everybody is given a gift. It is your job to share it with the world and inspire. So, we are very happy that we have a chance to do that and I believe that is who we are.