Chris Lago Talks Happiness

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Producer, songwriter and singer Chris Lago has been setting the Toronto music scene on fire recently with his thundering dance beats. His single, “Runway Model”, became a success online, and his album Popkiller showed off his chops as a R&B crooner. BALLnROLL sat down with Lago to discuss his upcoming album Happiness, Where Are You.

BALLnROLL: Tell me about your upcoming album.

Chris Lago: Well, the album is called Happiness, Where Are You, and, I mean, it’s a lot different from my first album. My first album [Popkiller] is very R&B sounding and this album is definitely more indie rock, indie amp kind of style. So I‘m kind of going in a way different direction.

What made you change your gears like that?

It’s the fact that I wasn’t really happy with the first album, music-wise. I just wanted to do something that I really, really like, not just appeal to certain top-40 standards.

And so I just made that album and I tried writing stuff that was meaningful to me. So it’s a more personal album because of that. I find it’s hard to perform live because of that, because it’s more personal, but I think it’s worth it, though, because once it’s done, I’m going to be happy with it, instead of feeling like I’m holding back on my musical talents.

What do you mean by that? How were you holding back before?

Well, I just—I don’t know. I kind of did what I thought music should sound like, if it was for the radio. Now the difference is that I now make the music because I really want to make it.

Before, I was just trying to make what people were expecting of me, and the difference now is that I’m trying to do something a bit more artistic and a bit less commercial. The style of music changes because, if you listen to Top 40 radio, there’s a lot of very, very similar songs on the radio and I think that model of songwriting I find can become really mundane and unoriginal.

And I just wanted to make something that was more original and that actually meant something to me.

What kind of themes are in the new album?

Well, the title of the album is Happiness, Where Are You, and I think that the whole album is kind of a pursuit of trying to find what makes me happy—discovering it, through experience and seeing multitude facets of my own personality. I think what’s really important with this album is that it actually shows my personality, and it actually shows my writing ability. I’m not just writing for the sake of writing.

I just wanted to write for the sake of giving a certain message out there and showing that happiness can be found, and that the only way that happiness can be found is inside.

It’s not going to be found on the outside, in material things. It’s not going to be found by having a lot of money. Obviously, there’re a lot of people out there with a lot of money who are very unhappy. And this album is just showing how you can really be happy by making reflections, reflect upon life and understanding what’s really important in life.

Have you performed any of these new songs live yet?

I’ve actually performed a couple songs on stage. I find it’s very hard emotionally to perform the songs, but I find at the same time it’s very rewarding.

I think there’s a big difference between what’s on my first album and what’s on this album. I feel like I really want to perform these songs, and I feel much happier performing these songs instead of performing cliché songs that aren’t really relevant to my life.

The song called “Misery You Find Me”—and this song will probably be the first or second single—this song is about someone who’s really pessimistic about life and just—he thinks that everything revolves around him, and he thinks that he’s doomed to fail, and just writing the song, it made me realize that this kind of mindset is really destructive, and because of that, it just re-evaluates your mindset of life.

The next song of the album, called “Sugar, Sugar”, is really about, you know, you’ve found yourself really unhappy in life, but the chorus says, why do you feel unhappy; you’re always dreaming of the life you’ve never had and you have everything you have to succeed in life, so why are you blaming all these external factors; why are you blaming them for your own mistakes, why is it that it has to be everyone around you who’s destroying your purpose in life, when really, you’re the one who should be making your own path.

So it’s about how people externalize the problems they have in life?

Yeah, I mean—that’s probably one of my main problems, that I was trying to externalize everything, and I realized that life doesn’t go that way. You can’t say that someone else is giving you a chance and that’s why you’re going to succeed or not, or nobody’s giving you a chance, or people are blocking you. The only person who’s blocking you from self-realization is mainly yourself. You really want something in life, you just go out there and get it; there’s no other way to do it.

I mean, I see that a lot in people who are in that mindset, who blame everybody but themselves. I personally think you’re the person who’s steering the ship, you’re the guy who’s going to determine a lot of things. And you know what, what you put out, you’re going to receive it. If you put out this negative energy, then most likely, there’s going to be negative energy coming back at you. Action-reaction.

I’m just realizing that if you go out there with a positive mindset, you free yourself from worrying, which mostly has to do with your past or your future. If you start worrying too much and not live in the present—that’s going to make you unhappy.

You have to live right now. Now is basically the only time you’ll ever have. The past is done and this future, well, you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, so the only time you have is right here, right now.

At what point in your songwriting did you start writing about these themes?

I don’t—I think I started writing about these themes—I mean, I was very unhappy, I was very—I was suffering depression and because of that, it’s just realizing—I was trying to blame everything for me not succeeding in life, or not succeeding in whatever I wanted to do, and being worried about other people over what I should do.

I think all this unhappiness channelled and fuelled this album and—just—and just made me write so many meaningful songs that I personally can relate to, and I think a lot of people can relate to.

You know, everyone in life wants to succeed, but they think it’s only a game of luck, that you go out there and it’s, you know, you’re only going to succeed if you know this one person who knows this other person. For me, I’m talking mostly about the entertainment industry and how competitive it can be, but at the end, there’s not really any competition. There’s only yourself, and how determined you are at accomplishing your goals.

And I think this philosophy can be used everywhere in life. You just have to be persistent. I was putting myself in a very depressive mindset, and I just feel like through that kind of mindset, it just fuelled so many songs that I think it’s really because it’s self-therapy for me.

Is happiness found at the end of the album, or by the end of the album, is it still out of reach?

I think every song kind of answers that question, and I think there are obviously some songs that answer the question more, and I do think it ends up more a positive end.

You end up realizing that this negative mindset can be destroyed, with love and compassion and hope and courage; I think that’s what I was trying to express through so many of these songs.

Some songs question that kind of happiness and some focus on some negative aspects. I don’t know if the album resolves that notion, but I do think me finishing the album and writing all these songs and doing all that stuff, I think personally it gives me closure, which is very important for myself. I feel personally that other people who listen to the album will feel closure as well. It all has to do with how far you want to go. I hope that this album gives hope the same way.

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