By Tiffany Lam
Conversations with Cris Cab
Back in Toronto from Miami to play Canadian Music Week’s CHUMfm FanFest was none other than pop-reggae-soul artist Cris Cab. Mentored by Pharell and Wyclef Jean, the young musician has gained much recognition within the last few years across North America, as well as Europe. We met up with Cris and chatted about food, Europe, cover songs and his upcoming album release, Where I Belong.
Cris’ success was surely not defined by his age. Though he may only be 21 years young, it was quite clear he is years ahead with maturity, wisdom and knowledge for music. He still manages to stay grounded despite his early and continuous success, fame and traveling around the world. A young-hearted gentlemen, Cris was nothing but a pleasure to converse with and we have no doubt his future will continue to shine bright. Check out the full interview below!
Rewinding back a couple years, there was the Foreword EP, then you had a couple more, and now you finally have your full length debut album, Where I Belong. How have they all progressed since the beginning?
CC: You know the whole time I’ve just been growing, you know, I started so young – playing guitar since I was 10, started recording when I was 15 so, just from then until now there;s just been a lot of growth. Working with so many amazing producers and songwriters… The process is getting more intricate, but the music is staying the same; I’ve always stayed true to what I started doing, which is like positive and reggae. I’ve stayed true to core things that I started making my music with.
Do you think you’ve settled into your sound and songwriting yet?
CC: Nah, I’m still settling. I’m definitely really happy with how the album came out, but the way I am is like, as soon as I’m finished something, I’m onto the next. My favourite song is always my next song. It’s my favourite for the moment, and then I’m ready for something better. I think I’ve just started to [settle].
Difference between releasing mixtapes and EPs and the full length album?
CC: While we were making the EPs, we were putting aside some of the best tracks, and when we were putting together the album, we had something like 40 or 50 tracks to look at. For this, some of it is older music. It was hard because a lot of them were with great producers – had so many tracks with wyclef, had so many tracks with pharell. So we released the mixtapes to get some of those tracks [out] and keep everything going. All the while, I was working on my first album, but at the same time I wanted to stay in touch with my fans and play shows. From when I was 16 to now, I’ve been on 10-11 tours so the whole time I’ve just been growing and growing and growing… kind of working out to this point of [the] first album.
I know you like to do a lot of covers. I remember years ago you did an amazing version of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” in which you got a lot of recognition for. Do you have any songs in mind you think you might want to cover next?
CC: Hmm, I’m not really sure, I mean I guess it’s going to be a little bit before I cover something [again]. During the live show, we always pick cool songs to cover, but as far as a full production like what I did for those other covers, it’ll probably be some time until I do that. For me, covers are so cool because you learn what the other artists were thinking when they created it… each little piece to the puzzle. It’s so cool just to get inside someone else’s shoes and where they place certain instruments. Doing covers is such a great learning experience, you know, especially when you’re looking at some of the bigger songs. It helps get you familiar with that catchy sticky formula and you can throw it into your own music. For the covers during live shows, I have a bunch of Bob Marley songs we always do live… we do the Slightly Stoopid, Shaggy cover of “It Wasn’t Me”, etc. We just started doing “Return of the Mack” by Marc Morrison, so that’s a really old one. We’re always throwing covers in that any given night, we have so many in our pocket.
So you grew up in Miami, born to Cuban parents, picked up music really young. What do you think would have happened if say you never picked up that guitar… If you couldn’t be doing music for the rest of your life what do you think you’d be doing?
CC: I think right now I’d be heavily involved in art cause I’m a pretty good artist as well. That was one of the paths I had, I was always drawing but you know, once music came into my life, I kind of dropped a lot of what I was doing to spend hours and hours of doing that. I think I’d either be into art, or movies. I really like movies and I really like writing.
What is something you’re really looking forward to within the next year?
CC: Continue touring, continue staying on the road, promoting this album… It’s just the beginning of this album. It started in Europe first very naturally and now it’s kind of working its way to North America. Europe picked it up so fast and the growth was so quick over there that we kind of had to release it there first. The songs have already lived a long time over there, a few months. The single “Liar Liar” with Pharell is something like #1 in France and #2 in Germany already, so once that single started going, we were like, ‘We gotta put out the album!‘. The single is just starting over here in North America, actually Canada’s first to pick it up, so what’s going to happen is it’s going to come here and while that’s happening, the second single is going to start in Europe, which is a song called “Loves Me Not”. We just filmed the video for it too. It’s kind of weird, it’s like two separate things going on in two different worlds, haha.
So you post fairly often to your Instagram and I noticed over time there’s a lot of cameos with your dog, Frankie, who also has an Instagram account (kingfranklin26). Is there a special story between you two?
CC: Oh, you know, it’s actually an interesting story. Well, sad story. I got that dog with my ex-girlfriend, and when we split up she took the dog because she took care of it a lot. I’m traveling a lot and I live with my brother, and honestly I really don’t trust him with the dog as much as I love him, haha. She’s with her and takes such great care so it’s the best thing for the dog.
Now since this isn’t your first time in Toronto, have you gotten to explore around the city yet and what have been your favourite spots so far, if any?
CC: I really love King St. I usually always end up staying around King St. just because it’s centrally located to what I’m doing. I haven’t really found a favourite little bar or anything yet, but I’ve eaten at so many of these amazing restaurants on King St., like Weslodge – It’s newer, I think it’s like tapas mixed with barbecue. So many good places.
Biggest music guilty pleasure?
CC: I listen to a lot of Norah Jones, I love her. Stuff like that, I guess that’s a guilty pleasure. I wouldn’t listen to that riding around with my friends, but if I’m chilling having some wine or something, I’ll listen to Norah Jones, haha.
Biggest pet peeve?
CC: I guess, my biggest pet peeve is people who are selfish, you know what I mean. People who act superior. I hate that. Cause it’s like, we all have different roles in this world, regardless everybody’s a human being. Seeing people treat people poorly, that’s my biggest pet peeve.
Last book you read?
CC: Oh man, that was probably in high school. I read a lot of magazines and the news and stuff, but as far as books… I mean, I read a few books in high school. One I really enjoyed was Catcher in the Rye. It’s kind of a standard one I guess. I read a book that my mom suggested called The Road when I was in high school; I’m not going to say it’s my favourite but it’s pretty intense. It was a good book.
Best meal you’ve had this year?
CC: Hmm, I’ve been all over Europe in the last 3-4 months… I’m a huge Italian food guy so when I was in Italy, the food was so fresh and they don’t use any of the pesticides and stuff they use in the states or elsewhere.
Do any of you have any secret talents, or a random surprising past?
CC: Well, I was a meterologist in high school, for fun. I didn’t really tell accurate weather, it was just funny and I kind of just did whatever I wanted, you know, haha. Sometimes I wouldn’t even say the weather, haha.
And last question, any fun plans lined up for the summer?
CC: I think I’m coming back to Canada to play some festivals out here, I’ll be in Europe playing festivals as well, playing the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo, and then we’re also going to Cannes Film Festival next weekend. It’s festival time.