“Being my authentic self—that is, openly gay—frees me to be more creative; it allows me to write and sing about things other than love and parties. I believe I have a duty to be visible.”
Poignant and sagacious words from the androgynous and openly-gay/SGL African-American musician known as Crisean (pronounced “Cris-Shawn”; born Christopher Snowden). Innovative and uber-talented, he’d been singing Disney songs around the house and putting on shows for family members since the age of eight. Crisean also dabbled in writing lyrics and creating topics for songs.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, this exciting and emerging musical talent sat down with me last week to discuss his new album, Opus: I,which drops this summer. The singles, “Blow Speakers” and “Light A Match,” have just been released.
EVANS: Crisean, welcome to WYATTEVANS.COM. You’re such a busy guy!
CRISEAN: I am, indeed—and loving it! I’m blessed. It’s good to be with you, Wyatt.
EVANS: Crisean, before we discuss “Opus: I,” the new album, let’s chat about you being an openly-gay/SGL (same gender loving) artist. I commend you for that! What was your coming out process like?
CRISEAN: Well, for a long time, I’d just basically lived how I wanted; I just didn’t tell my mother that I liked guys. Then one day, my mother was telling me about a co-worker’s daughter whom she was planning to hook me up with. So, I had to reveal my true sexual orientation. After I told her, I went out to dinner. When I came home, I found her in disbelieve!
She asked how she could have two gay sons, what did she do to “cause” it, and how did she go so wrong. I told her that she did nothing wrong, and emphasized that she’d been blessed. I ended with, “It’s just life.”
I’m having to overcome the fact that I’m feminine and androgynous, and that some people have something negative to say about it. However, I’m handling it much better.
EVANS: Crisean, how does being your authentic self—openly gay—free you to be more creative? Isn’t it psychologically and emotionally draining when one covers up his/her true sexual orientation?
CRISEAN: Yes, being your authentic self definitely frees you to be more creative. It truly is an emotional and psychological drain and burden hiding who you really are. It was such vindication for me that I could actually be the artist I always knew I could be. I believe that I have a duty to be visible. Now, concealing things just won’t work.
EVANS: You’re an independent talent. What does that mean, exactly?
CRISEAN: It means that you currently don’t have a record deal, or a company doing everything for you. For the most part, you’re doing everything on your own. Though in this way, you can get a keener and fuller understanding of the business.
EVANS: Your music is pop, dance and soul/R&B infused. Quite the intriguing and eclectic mix! What prompted you to immerse yourself in those genres?
CRISEAN: I grew up around R&B, so that was just my upbringing. I came out a little commercially, so dance music was at the helm of that. (LOL). Watching Logo TV and really getting into gay history, dance music saved a lot of lives and it just pulls on my heart strings. I got into soul during my music classes. I just have a deep appreciation of the music and where soul comes from. It’s the pain and the heart that are poured into the genre.
EVANS: What are your musical influences–and why?
CRISEAN: Beyoncé is my biggest. I have a lot of influences from Monica, Lady Gaga, and Adele to legends such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, The Temptations and Prince. They are my inspirations because they have painted their own lanes and they sing with so much soul in their voices. M.J., Bey, Gaga and Madonna just will shut down a stage in seconds!
EVANS: Crisean, before we jump into “Opus: I,” let’s talk about your previous album, “Sound Approved—EP,” which dropped in 2014. What topics/issues did it explore and address?
CRISEAN: “Sound Approved—EP” addressed a lot of relationship problems, and me knowing my self-worth in every aspect of my life–from relationships and being a Black gay man.
EVANS: You wrote and produced each track?
CRISEAN: Yes, I wrote and produced every single track on “SA – EP,” as well as my upcoming “Opus: I.” When you’re an independent artist, you do a lot of things on your own.
EVANS: I see. So, how well was “Sound Approved—EP” received?
CRISEAN: It was great exposure! And, it provided amazing opportunities to do things that I’ve always dreamed of, including preforming and getting press.
EVANS: Now, let’s delve into “Opus: I.” What inspired you to record the album? What was your muse?
CRISEAN: This album is a labor of love and forgiveness. My muse was my life and what I’m going through. I’ve been through so much since the last project, and I have “war wounds” and heartbreak. I’ve developed thicker skin and have grown.
EVANS: As with “Sound Approved—EP,” did you write and produce each track?
CRISEAN: Yes, I’ve written and produced each track. I even did some of my own mixing, and learning some techniques of engineering.
EVANS: Crisean, describe the album—what topics/issues are addressed? In general, what emotions and feelings do the songs convey?
CRISEAN: “Opus: I” explores the pain and heartbreak that I have gone through in the past couple of years–dealing with bad relationships, being on my own for the first time, and even having friendships fall apart. I’ve been inspired by what’s going on in the world and with people of color, where I stand as a gay Black male, my regrets, and forgiving myself and others for a lot of things.
EVANS: Crisean, I find your work to be romantic, innovative, clever, and bursting with energy! At times, it can be both playful and serious. And, it has that “Prince-esque”, The Purple One vibe going on! Is that pretty much an “on-point” assessment? What qualities do you ascribe to your work?
CRISEAN: Why thank you, Wyatt! I will take that. That’s a compliment for the Gods (LOL)! I have to write about serious issues because I have to get them off of my chest and not let my pain get bottled up. I also have to have fun and just live life. If you dwell on the bad, you can lose yourself or who you want to be. And, I have to get on that stage and burn shit down! (LOL)
EVANS: “Blow Speakers” and “Light a Match” are the new, just released tracks. What are the meanings behind them? What are they all about?
CRISEAN: “Blow Speakers” is just a fun song. I wanted something that I could just have fun with. It’s my first song that I didn’t have to think hard about. I just had fun making it. It’s becoming an anthem! (LOL) My single friends love it because it’s liberating. It’s very much inspired and influenced by Baltimore club music. Growing up, I loved club music.
“Light a Match” is a pop/dance and EDM (electronic dance music) inspired song which makes you want to fall in love. It’s about my many nights going out to clubs and falling in love on the dance floor. Those relationships never amounted to shit for me, but were fun times.
EVANS: Describe, if you would, “The Crisean Brand.”
CRISEAN: The Crisean Brand is composed of my talent. Ever since I had the thought to want to become an entertainer, I have believed in myself. Determined and hardworking, I have spent long hours on my craft–countless open mics, talent shows, etc. I will keep persevering until there is nothing left in me; and then, I will have yet another go at it.
EVANS: What unique obstacles and struggles confront openly gay artists—in music, and in other fields of entertainment?
CRISEAN: I believe it’s the lack of support and visibility. People just can’t or don’t want to support us. Then it’s the lack of money: we don’t have the financial backing. So, it can be extremely difficult to have the chance to see if we can make it. Even though we’re living our lives and it’s very much real, we’re still an underground community.
EVANS: Crisean, what advice do you have for young people trying to break into the music business–particularly those who are LGBTQ?
CRISEAN: I will tell them the truth: that there is no lane for us, and they will have to be a part of a bridge that is not yet finished. It will take time, and it will be hard! There are so many gay musicians and artists out there who are talented and driven, who inspire me each and every day. I feel as gay people, we allow society to tell us what we can and cannot do. Hopefully, I can reach such heights that young and old gay like can say, “It’s possible, because Crisean did it.”
You can connect with and follow Crisean in the following ways: