“It can be satisfying to know that other people do go through the same experiences and it’s not just you,” Chizi says in an exclusive interview with Happy Mag.
Chizi isn’t all that concerned with music trends. Still relatively green in the music industry, the Leeds-based musician has carved a lane not based on the trappings of traditional formulas or fads, but by simply “doing what you want to do,” she explains in an interview with Happy Mag.
This passion-first ethos, which Chizi says is borne out of “what makes me happy or excited,” is certainly felt throughout Drive, the singer-songwriter’s recent debut EP which arrived last month.
While the five-song project is undoubtedly bound to pop music — from EDM dance drops to piano-led ballads — Chizi avoids the formulas and traditions that usually dominate the genre.
“If you’re just trying to follow a trend that’s popular, you can quickly make your music sound out of date,” Chizi says, and it’s a sentiment that echoes on the timelessness of Drive, which reads like a love letter to pop in its purest form.
Fresh off her debut release, Happy Mag caught up with Chizi for an insightful chat about Drive, the so-called ‘Melodic Math’ theory and the influence of Charli XCX on her work. Below, the singer-songwriter dishes on songwriting as catharsis, and music as a way to “to empower myself.”
Catch our full interview with the singer-songwriter below, and head here to comb through her five favourite UK bands. You can listen to Chizi’s debut EP Drive below.
HAPPY: Drive marks your debut EP. Is there a certain level of trepidation that comes with releasing your first-ever music material, or is it more of a relieving process?
CHIZI: Because I have been working towards this moment of what feels like a long time to release this EP, there was more a feeling of excitement to release new music for people to hear instead. I started working on this EP in February 2021 and have now released it in April 2023.
Of course, there would be a small feeling of trepidation because after holding onto all this new music for so long, you do realise a little that new people that you have never met or seen before apart from the people you have just encountered throughout your life or that follow you on social media are going to hear it too.
Writing and making music is very much a relieving process. You are writing music from your own experiences, although it always doesn’t have to be this way; you can write from someone else’s experience too. When you turn this perspective into music, it helps to get over whatever experience it is that you had gone through or one that you are still tackling.
HAPPY: The key takeaway from Drive seems to be one of empowerment. How did you arrive at these concepts to include on the EP?
CHIZI: I would say the main theme of the EP is empowerment. At first, I didn’t realise that it was and that it was a running pattern in a lot of my songs until someone told me. I seemed to have come up with these themes based on what I was going through in the past or trying to navigate in the moment.
I was writing these songs to get a lot of stuff off my chest and just things that I felt that I was unnecessarily holding on to and doing nothing about it. I guess that I just wanted to empower myself without fully realising it at the time when I was writing these songs.
HAPPY: What did a typical day look like when recording Drive?
CHIZI: When we started recording the EP in the studio, back then I was still living in London in Cricklewood. It would start off as a 1-hour journey to get to Star Lane/Canning Town in London. Adriano Desire and Louis Takooree who are two producers on the EP shared the same studio, but they work on different days.
A typical day in the studio at the beginning stages consisted of listening to the demos that I had worked on to get a vibe and point of direction that I wanted to go in for the track. We would start working on the production of each track and keep fleshing it out until the track sounded ready.
After the production was done, we would record the lead vocals along with some harmonies and ad-libs. The ad-libs are usually very fun because it’s typically just myself listening back to the track through my headphones. This was usually the same process for all the songs on the EP.
HAPPY: Drive explores the reaches of pop music from dance- ready production to catchy hooks. What is it that draws you to the genre of pop?
CHIZI: I just really like pop music. I listen to a lot of different genres of music, but pop is one of the main big genres that I listen to and write music in the format of. What probably draws me to pop is the infectious hooks and catchy melodies. Depending on how it’s done, is really what tends to catch the attention of my ears as I like having something to hold on to when I’m either listening to music or trying to sing along out loud or in my mind.
Structure wise, a pop song can be very simple in the format, I guess also that the type of pop music that I tend to gravitate to also happens to be songs that are upbeat rather than ballads. If it makes me want to move, then it’s great but not all pop music necessarily has to do that and can still be great too.
HAPPY: Would you say there’s a certain formula to writing a pop song? How do you use or steer away from this formula?
CHIZI: There seems to be many opinions on how to write a great song including Max Martin’s ‘Melodic Math’ theory, which seems to have been very successful for him and other songwriter/producers in pop music. This is where you write the melody first, keep it simple, fit the syllables to the notes and then the lyrics are added into the equation.
I think it helps to have resources like this to get ideas and find a starting point. For me as an artist I would just focus on what makes you happy or excited when making music and go with that feeling rather than trying to follow a trend or a formula just because it’s popular at the time and that everyone else is doing it.
Doing what you want to do makes your artistry more unique and different; that’s more interesting and respectable in my opinion. I just do what feels right to me when writing or making music. Trends only last for a certain amount of time and then there’s usually something else that proceed it. If you’re just trying to follow a trend that’s popular, you can quickly make your music sound out of date if you jump on that bandwagon at the wrong time.
HAPPY: Who are some of your musical inspirations and why?
CHIZI: Some of my musical inspirations currently now include Charli XCX in the way she makes herself different from what is happening around her, how she does her own thing and makes the music that she wants to make instead of what is popular and mainstream (although she can do mainstream pop music).
Another artist is Dua Lipa. I have compared myself to her and have said that I sound in some way like Dua. When she released her self-titled debut album called ‘Dua Lipa’ It just sounded fresh and fun. The production on her songs is great. She felt like a pop star that I could relate to and wanted to be like. This was in the way of how I wanted to dress like and fashion wise, what I wanted my music to sound like.
HAPPY: Are there any exciting projects in the wings that you can tease for us?
CHIZI: Currently now, I’m still in the stages of trying to write new music. My main goal for this year is to be able to play some live gigs and shows as I haven’t managed to do that in my career yet. I want to be able to perform the new tracks from my recently released EP and even my previously released singles. I’ll be releasing the next music video for the last track off my debut EP called ‘In My Mind’ within a couple of weeks from the release date of the EP, which will be available on my YouTube Channel.
HAPPY: What makes you happy?
CHIZI: I would say just being able to make and write music makes me happy. I always find it astonishing and exciting that you can make something that hasn’t existed in the worldbefore you made and wrote it. Going to watch live music from some of my favourite bands and artists also makes me happy.
There’s something about being in the same space and room full of lively strangers (although I usually go to gigs alone) and just enjoying the music and having fun. The anticipation before the show starts is just a nice adrenaline rush feeling. Being around friends and family also makes me very happy.