Christon Gray Talks Leaving Collision & ‘The Demos’ + Drops New Freestyle
Earlier this week, Christon Gray confirmed what many had speculated, he was leaving Collision Records. Immediately, the questions of “what’s next” and “why” began to pop up online. Is Chris trying to blow up? Will there be another W.L.A.K. project? What will his next project sound like? Why is he releasing it the same day as Alex Faith and Dre Murray’s Southern Lights EP?
I had a chance to ask him those questions and more yesterday. What follows is our conversation and a new Christon Gray freestyle.
In a short period of time, you and the guys at Collision made great music. W.L.A.K. was amazing, School of Roses was amazing. You and Swoope’s chemistry on the Northern Lights Tour was amazing. Why are you leaving now?
First, thank you bro. I agree with all of the things you said about the team. Collision has a roster that is full of talent, so there is no concern that they’ll be able to repeat what we did before hand. I think signing Corey Paul was a great look; he brings something totally different to their team. Dre is one of the most creative artists I know and the sky is the limit for Alex Faith. And Swoope, I mean, what can I say; he’s the top true emcee in the game if you ask me, and I cherish our musical chemistry.
As for me, it was an extremely difficult decision, but came down to two things; direction and my family. There’s no need to go into all the finer details, but they know what it is and I know what it is, and it’s love.
As a fan of all of you, I’m glad to hear that. Why did it take you and the label so long to make a statement, though?
Well, I don’t want to group Collision into the blog post, because they were not a part of it, it was just something I felt I had to do. When I started dropping these new songs, my timeline began filling up asking all these questions about why I wasn’t on the label. People were hitting me up saying they noticed I wasn’t on their site anymore, which is understandable, but all the people that support me are extremely important and didn’t want to leave them hanging.
In your statement, you mentioned that you and Collision were going in two different directions. What does that mean?
Well, again, I’m a private person and discussing this stuff is not always comfortable for me, but I can say that both musically and personally we were not on the same page. And to keep it 100, that’s okay! You’re not always going to be on the same page as everyone. I have a great team I work with, I have my family, my church, my accountability partners, I just felt, at the end of the day, I needed a record label and nothing in addition to that.
I thought it was interesting that you led your statement with some thoughts on School of Roses and then mentioned that it has become clear that you and Collision were going in two different directions. Was School of Roses a different direction than Collision Records wanted to go in?
You know, I’m not sure if it was at the time, cause I felt like I had full support when it dropped. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding as to what it was about, I’m not sure. I spoke about real issues in my life and laid a lot of painful truth’s that had me making sure my wife, family and close friends understood I was about to open a can of worms. Everyone was okay with it as long as the focus was using it to encourage and uplift people that might be going through the same things.
Look Wade, you know as well as I do that sometimes our genre has a reputation for, let’s say ‘corrective tone’, within our songs, so my goal was to be more empathetic and embrace those that felt left out in their struggles. As I told people in the video clips I released before the album came out, if I can remind people that we are human, then my job is done for this one.
Chris, I love how you put that: “corrective tone.” It’s so true. The assumption I see a lot of people making about your situation though is that you are either looking to sign with Reach Records or a big mainstream label. Are either of those potential options your ultimate goal at this point?
My ultimate goal is to use the gift that God has given me to bring Him glory, to encourage His people and to bring those lost closer to Him. If the Lord can use a sinner like me, He can use anybody.
That’s good man. I see that Wit has produced some of the recent music you have released. What is your relationship like with him and the artists on Collision? Would you still work with them and more specifically, would you participate in another W.L.A.K. project?
Yea, Wit and I have a strong working relationship and I am grateful for that. He’s really reasserting himself as one of the premier producers in the game, so it’s been very cool to watch him grow.
The other artists on the label are always going to be my boys. Where I sit today, I would never turn down an opportunity to work with the fellas. We have a lot of history and have all shared a lot of personal things with each other, so I can’t do nothing but love them.
How have you been dealing with the temptations and struggles you expressed on School of Roses? Your new song with B. Reith suggests there has been some growth in that area of your life.
Bro? Do you have a therapist couch for me to get on? (laughs) I think I’ll be dealing with temptations and struggles forever; I’d be lying if I said different. What I can tell you is that my family is thriving and we are grateful for the ups and downs the Lord takes us through. To me, family is the most important thing that God gives us and we have a responsibility to serve and protect them. That’s what I’m about.
As for the song with B, he sent that over with the chorus already in it, so it was simple to craft the story around the topic. School Of Roses was a theme album, so it would have been tough to put a song like “Light On” in the mix, but believe me, I’m grateful for the timing. What you heard was the remix, we may have the original on the EP, you’ll have to wait and see.
Well, it’s always good to see you and B. Reith working together. How did you guys initially link and when did you discover you guys had this chemistry?
When we first starting getting ready to put School of Roses together, Wit got on the phone and hollered at B. We were looking to bring another writer and creative mind into the sessions and he was willing to come up from Nashville to Wit’s crib and work with us for a few days. We spent the first little bit kind of feeling each other out, all music writers out there know what I’m saying. But then all of a sudden, we bang out “Burning House”, “Nostagious”, “Moving On” and “Hello or Goodbye.” Dang, I mean he was all over School of Roses. After that, it was a slam-dunk. I said the other day, ‘we’re like the new Hall & Oates’, but I just want to change his last name to a color so we could be like ‘Gray & Blue’ or ‘Gray & Purple’. I haven’t mentioned that to him yet; so I see him reading that and shaking his head! (laughs)
That’s funny. The new EP, that drops April 28th, what’s the title of it and how many songs will be on it? Is this all new material?
The EP is titled The Demos and will feature the 3 songs you’ve already heard, along with a few more additions. Everything on it is new. I can tell you it wasn’t planned and that we firmed it up with The Overflow literally days ago!
Wow. So, the project will be released exclusively thru The Overflow App. Will it ever make it to iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify or even Tidal?
Well, to be honest, as I mentioned earlier, this album was never supposed to come out. We got a call from Stephen at The Overflow and he asked if we wanted to drop something exclusively through them. They have a big push planned to multiple markets on April 28th, so while that timeline is crazy to get this done, we’re going to go hard to make it. They offered us a very cool package and we’re grateful to be a part of what they’re doing. As far as where it goes after the exclusive window closes, that will most likely be up to whatever path we take next.
That April 28th release date. It’s interesting that it’s coming out the same day as Alex and Dre’s Southern Lights. On purpose or coincidence?
On purpose? Heck nah! First, let’s be clear, my EP is not for sale as it’s only available to be streamed on The Overflow. Second, when Stephen came to us, he said their big promo push is happening on April 28th and that the major labels are committed. We weren’t really in a position to ask them to bump it a week!
From what I understand, there are at least 3 or 4 other exclusives they have that day, so we’re just grateful to be a part of it. In the meantime, go pre-order that Southern Lights EP right now.
Who did you work with on this project?
I worked with all my peoples from the CBUS: Marlo, Bradley and Baker, I worked with B. Reith and Wit, a young cat from Toronto named Jaden Chada, Tom Drawer, some other people. We’re still finalizing it all now.
Nice. Speaking of Columbus, you mentioned on “Open Door” that you are the youngest member on the elder board of your church. You also mentioned that the church is a merger of a black and white church in one of Columbus’ toughest neighborhoods, Linden. What has that experience been like?
Ha! It’s always nice when people listen to your lyrics (laughs). Well, my father is a pastor and we had a congregation in Columbus that was mostly made up of black folks, and about a year ago we merged together with another church that was predominately white. Our church is right near the Ohio State Fairgrounds, so yes; we fall in a tough neighborhood. All in all, it has been a real blessing and also, full of challenges. Being an elder means I have a responsibility to bring peace and understanding during our difficult discussions. I’ve learned from music, you can’t please everybody, but we do have to love everybody, so that is the posture that I take on the board.
Here’s my last question and obviously I know the answer to this because I am one of those people, but why do people from Columbus have so much pride in the city?
I see Columbus as a breeding ground for success. We are a city full of opportunity, but no easy handouts. We don’t have a major NBA or NFL squad, so we root heavy for the Blue Jackets, Columbus Crew and, need I even mention the Buckeyes? Entrepreneurship is quite present and work ethic is a must. I’ve seen the city fall apart and rebuild itself in my short 28 years here. I take pride living in a place where I know I’m a contributor, not just a bystander eating off the fat of the land. You gotta work to build your dream, but when CBUS has your back, they always have your back. OH-!