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Music Journeys: Chris Stills

Jul 19, 2018

This spring, musician Chris Stills released his first new material in more than a decade. With his parents finding fame in the music industry in different parts of the world, Stills developed multicultural influences and carved out his own sound. 

Stills will perform Live From Studio A Friday morning at WCBE. In the latest installment of Music Journeys, Stills tells Mike Foley about the inspiration for his new songs.

In Love Again plays...

The love of music has returned for Chris Stills, not that it ever really left. It just took time and as he says "a lot of life to happen" to complete his third release. Born in 1974 in Boulder, Colorado to the parents of American rock musician Stephen Stills and French singer-songwriter Veronique Sanson, Chris Stills spent his younger years in Paris and Los Angeles. Even though his parents were rising stars in different parts of the world, it was this song that made Stills the most curious about music.

Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix plays...

"Coming home from school and I heard Little Wing on the radio literally pulling into the driveway," Stills recalled. "The guy that was driving me was about to turn off the car, and I said no don't stop the car, what is this?"

Stills couldn't believe it was Jimi Hendrix because all he had heard were the hard rock tunes.  

"I discovered the spectrum of music," Stills said. "I started to dive in. For years in my life, music was just there and it was fun and cool, but I got obsessed with wanting to play guitar. I grew up playing piano, but when I discovered the guitar, that was fantastic because I could take it into my bedroom with me."

Stills gained insight from his dad, but also drew inspiration equally from his mom.  

"One of the most powerful performers I've ever seen," Stills recalled. "So I got just as much of that from her as I did my dad. Obviously I love what I do. Even if my folks weren't in the business and had these big careers or if they did and never made it, I'd still be doing what I'm doing."

Stills recorded albums in 1998 and 2006. He released the 11-track Don't Be Afraid earlier this year, calling it "a self-reflective, atmospheric spacewalk." 

This Summer Love plays...

"I spent like 30 years in Ibiza with my mom and that side of the family," Stills said. "The whole time I was married, we never made it there. Then all of the sudden I'm divorced, and it was my first time back, and I'm all alone. Everything about that island and summer vacation came back to me. Summer, the sun, meeting the girl of your dreams, but the funny thing is that it never happened to me."  

Lonely Nights plays...

"I like to tell stories," Stills said. "The most honest stories if I'm doing good to myself are about me. There's therapy in there for me. There was so much that happened and so much going on that I thought it would come out as an authentic piece of work. Hopefully, someone can relate to it." 

During the time away from music, he acted in films and television, including Showtime's Shameless. But he also needed to be as present as possible for his daughters while going through a divorce. One of the most personal stories comes in the track Daddy's Little Girl.  

"I cried my guts out when I wrote that," Stills recalled. "I've never cried while writing anything, and that was the first time I literally had tears flowing. I could barely even sing it. They were like five and six or six and seven when I wrote this. As a dad, you know that your daughters look up to you in a way and that you're their guy. It was very special in that way. I made this great video of all their pictures. If you take 43 pictures and put it into a movie over that song, your entire family will just weep tears."

Thankfully, he kept the song on the shorter side.

"I know, that way you can just get those tears out and be done," he agreed.

Daddy's Little Girl plays...

There's also a collaboration with his old friend Ryan Adams on the song Criminal Mind.

"That was super fun," Stills reflected. "Ryan was very supportive of me when I was going through my divorce and trying to get back into writing and finding a direction and voice. He just kind of blew into the bridge of that song, and it was so simple and perfect and cool. He definitely helped make that song what it is." 

Criminal Mind plays...

For now, Stills remains focused performing this new material and seeing what people think of it. His only live session in central Ohio will be here at WCBE Friday morning with Mike Taylor. 

Hellfire Baby Jane fades out...