Chris Surreal’s contribution to music has been two fold, both showing young aspiring producers that location and setup doesn’t matter, and helping push some of the decades most renown artists to glory. I had the chance to talk to producer Chris Surreal recently. We talked about being from Connecticut, his early inspirations, and working with Chief Keef.
Lonny: Where are you from?
Surreal: I am from Trumbull, Connecticut. Fairfield County.
Does being from there inspire your work in any way?
For sure, a lot of my music taste was influenced by the variety of people I’ve become friends with over the years.
Being from such a small state, what are some struggles you face? Do you ever feel slept on?
I think there’s definitely struggles as a musician that can be linked to your location for sure. Being from Connecticut, I knew when I started making beats that the local scene had no reason to support me at all. Plus, as a kid in high school 6 years ago, nothing local was really catching my ear. So, I decided instead try to bring my music to a global level first. With the power of the internet these days, you aren’t forced to build yourself up locally. As a matter of fact, my first song to do a million views on YouTube was in Poland.
But, the internet only goes so far. If you’re not located in ATL/LA/NYC etc., linking up in studio sessions with big and involved names can seem nearly impossible. I think that’s what kept people sleeping on me for awhile. Being in the studio at that right time or meeting that one person can change your entire career. Once you get your foot in the door though, these opportunities become more available.
What was the first song you remember that made you think “I wanna produce”?
To be honest, Graduation and 808s-era Kanye is the one who had originally sparked my interest in music production even as a young kid. But, the first time I really got immersed in the craft and forced myself to do research was when I watched Chief Keef begin his 2012-takeover we’re all so familiar with. That original drill wave mixed with the trap sounds of Atlanta in that time period (Gucci/Waka) were massive inspirations for me when I first started (in 2013). I’ll never forget watching that Lex Luger Secret Formula video and studying it, seems like just yesterday.
Out of the extensive list of credits you have under your belt ranging from artist such as Belis all the way to Chief Keef. A lot of people may know you for your production on “Lonely” but may not know how deep the Chris Surreal rabbit hole of production truly goes. What are some of your favorite beats to get placed?
Something I’ve prided myself on since the beginning is working with a wide range of artists and producing a variety of different sounds. Sure, those big album placements are definitely fun to get placed ($$$) but I love working with independents and new talent. Crafting a new sound working along side a developing artist is huge to me. With everyone doing so many different and unique things musically now, I think building with new talent is where some of the greatest music is founded upon. When I make a beat specifically for an artist and they use it, it’s always a nice feeling.
What does the ideal Chris Surreal setting to create look like?
If you asked me this question 2-3 years ago I’d probably say sitting in darkness late night with the glow of the laptop screen just cooking up for hours. But nowadays as I’ve gotten older, I really like working on music in the morning/afternoon. I think being able to look outside your window and grab inspiration from nature and constantly moving world is really refreshing. In terms of equipment, I’m never picky. Give me a laptop and headphones and I’m good.
Where were you when you made the “Off With His Head” beat? What was going through your head while making it and how did it feel to hear Sosa on it?
I made the beat for Off With His Head summer of 2014 at my house. OTWG had sent me a pretty hard melody for the beat, and we were making it with the intention to send it to someone in Glo Gang off rip. I remember approaching it like, “I want it to match what Sosa’s working on now. But I want it to catch people’s ear.”
Seeing that first snippet we had was crazy. I already had a song with him out by then, but it wasn’t credited properly and barely promoted. It had been a couple months later when I thought he probably wouldn’t ever drop the song (like he did with a lot of music during this time).
Then, I’ll never forget waking up from a nap a couple days later to like 200+ Twitter notifications from Sosa tweeting the song dropped with my @. Still being pretty early on in my music career, it was probably my first experience of that kind.
What would you tell a young producer trying to make his way into the game in 5 words or less?
I’ve learned a lot of lessons from this business since I’ve started, and I know a lot of the struggles you can face especially in a time where everything is so over saturated. There’s a lot of things that can be said, but it’s important to remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t burn yourself out. And also, get a damn good lawyer! You won’t regret it.