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Meet Chris Lively

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Lively.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I began songwriting in 2012, but that year was really a culmination of another story. My first obsessive musical ‘phase’ involved the hairband music of the eighties, and Bon Jovi was my first rock star idol. In fact, I remember pretending to be him while lip-syncing to my ‘Slippery When Wet’ cassette in the garage using a broom as a mic stand. To accommodate my newfound hobby, my loving parents got me my first guitar lesson at eight, but my instructor was an older lady with whom I couldn’t relate. She was too authoritarian for my taste and made me learn basic scales before mastering the guitar solo to Sweet Child o’ Mine. So, I basically quit in rebellion and didn’t take another lesson for ten years. That is my only regret in life, and a lot has changed since then. I am still pretty obstinate as well as perhaps overly idealistic to the detriment of my own good but am thankfully less inclined to abandon things I love. And people too. Looking back, she knew what she was doing and gave me what I didn’t realize I needed at the time. I am still working on learning that damn solo though.

I’ve always been deeply moved by good songs spanning the genre spectrum, and I think I learned early on that music had the power to transcend the limitations of ordinary language and help communicate things that were otherwise difficult to get out. You see, I’ve always been a lucid dreamer, which is great for love stories but sucks during nightmares. I’ve always been cluttered and disorganized, obsessive, and concerned with things that most people my age thought were weird. I actually remember battling with existential issues and questioning the meaning of life around age four. I was pretty intense. Whether more by nature or by nurture, my artistic temperament is at least as old as my first word. With it has come to a deep desire to connect and be heard but I’ve often found myself lost and trapped within the confines of a highly imaginative and chaotic inner world that has at times led to numbing out as a way to cope with the confusion and over-stimulation. In turn, I always ended up turning to music as it was a reliable sanctuary for when I needed to detach and reconnect with myself.

I started writing my own songs around 2012, which was an era of pivotal transition in my life. In the few years leading up to then, a period that involved playing a lot of music and also overindulging my inner hedonist, I found myself increasingly trapped within familiar dark elements of my mind, but for the first time, began to feel overwhelmed by fear and like I couldn’t get out this time. Fear of what exactly I’m not sure. But I know the fear of being my true self and of taking total responsibility for my life and evolution were involved. Whatever it was fueled a lot of obsessive thinking, addictive behavior, and despair. I’ll spare you the war stories and just say that I had to make several pivotal life-changing decisions which led to a need to start connecting with others through my experiences. I was able to tap into a new form of power and self-actualization through the process and realized I could turn the experiences of my life into stories contained in songs. I discovered that I could also make a contribution to a living and breathing body of work that had been so reliably healing and transformative for me over the years.

Since Bon Jovi, I’ve gone through a ton of ‘phases’, from Dwight Yoakum to Matchbox Twenty to Radiohead to Damien Rice to Jeff Buckley. I’ve never really fit in a box and no longer try to. I just like what I like, and take a little piece of everything I experience with me. I’ve recorded three compilations since 2012, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of some amazing folks I’ve met walking my path. Today I balance my time songwriting, performing, and teaching. I also dabble in cooking and holistic health. The neurotic parts of my mind are still there, but now they simply help drive me to be more mindful and social. They are also a good fuel for my creativity since I’ve learned how to more effectively harness and channel them.

Today, I’m able to see the relevance of every place and situation I’ve been in my life, either good or bad. It’s clear now that even my ‘bad decisions’ and the times or relationships I once thought were wasted failures brought me to and primed me for everything and everyone meaningful in my life today. My song “Taking Time” is about exactly that. I feel blessed to have been able to walk my path, and though I’ve done and continue to do many things that help enhance my life, songwriting is and will likely continue to be my most natural and therapeutic habitat. It is my ‘bliss.’ I also know that’s where I’m supposed to be because when I do it everything else seems to gel together, and when I’m not everything else sort of feels unnatural and occasionally falls apart. I also know that because I have yet to experience any greater joy thus far in my life than when someone I don’t even know comes up to me after a show to tell me they connected with my music.

Please tell us about your art.
Put simply, I create songs. But actually, the songs seem to create themselves if I just give them space and time to emerge. Sometimes I have to chisel away at lyrics, arrangement, and other details for a while to get a song exactly where I want it to be, but the initial inspiration and overall feel of a song are more of a spontaneous event that often seems to come from a deeper unconscious space. As a matter of fact, two of my songs, Mountains, and Distance, both started as melodies that I heard in dreams.

I pull heavily from the folk-Americana traditions, though I draw inspiration and incorporate elements from artists and sounds spanning the genre spectrum. I listen to literally anything with a soul that makes me think or feel, and it all at least in some form makes its way into what I produce. I tend to write about existential and relationships with people, though I also have a song about a plant, one about Aldous Huxley’s book ‘Islands’, and am currently working on one about my childhood dog.

My primary motivation is to capture fleeting moments I’ve observed or experienced in the hopes that someone else will hear it and relate to it. I think that my mission as a human is to awaken as well as to genuinely understand and be understood. Music facilitates this process for me, and I want to share what I’ve discovered with others.
What do you think about the conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
I think conditions are good, though the reality is that some of the best art and ideas throughout history have emerged in response to less than ideal conditions. That being said, I see upward trends. Generally speaking, the most important thing is to have space for community and connection, both physical and digital. There is a lot of that, which is good. I think publications such as this one as well as new models for show booking and promotion like Sofar sounds are proof of good things that will inevitably help artists. Also, the recent passage of the Music Modernization Act and it promises to increase artist payout for music streaming is also a very good sign of an upward trend for musicians nationally.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
The best way is to come to a show. That’s where the real magic happens, as each one tends to have a uniquely different flavor and spontaneity that doesn’t really get conveyed on recordings. Sometimes, I also do live streams so people can tune in from wherever.

All of my music, as well as links to various platforms and upcoming shows, are all found on my website. My studio albums are all on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc. You could even create a Chris Lively playlist on Pandora if you wanted.

I play at various local venues throughout the year (McGonigle’s Mucky Duck, Dan Electros, Axelrad Beer Garden and everything in between), and occasionally make it out to neighboring cities such as Austin, Dallas, and New Orleans. I’m looking to expand further in the near future.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alida Bonifaz

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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