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Crystal Murray talks her debut EP "I Was Wrong"

RnB artist Crystal Murray draws from her upbringing in a house full of Jazz in her debut EP, I Was Wrong. Having spent her early teens as a member of Paris’s most fashionable group of girls, Gucci Gang, Murray understands the benefits and drawbacks of having the media’s eyes on her.

We talked to Murray before the lockdown about her recording process, having her song in a Dior ad, and her love of disco.

Stream I Was Wrong here.

First things first, how are you doing? How are you staying sane in all of this? 

I’m inside coping. I’m just in my room and I’m making music. 

When did you start making music?

I started making music three or four years ago, I was always kind of a music person. My dad is a musician and plays jazz. My mom was making awesome African and Cuban music. So I was around it. 

I was always writing melodies and top lines in my head. One day when I was like 14, I came up to the studio where all my friends were; we were hanging out there a lot. We stayed late and then the guy was like, “You can actually sing girl!”  And I was like, “Yeah!” 

I came back and actually recorded some music.

Your EP I Was Wrong came out April 15th. What’s your recording process? Who did you work with?

For this EP it’s quite different than what I’m doing right now. I was discovering people in Paris that I could do music with because I’m not a producer or anything. So the EP is a bit of a melting pot of a bunch of different producers and people I know. 

I would reach out and see if there was a vibe. I would come up with my lyrics and my melodies and we’d cook something. On this EP, there’s this French guy called Sacha Rudy. He’s this 20-year-old genius guy. He drinks a lot of red wine. He is very French and very fun. I did “Easy Like Before” and “I Was Wrong” with him. 

For “Princess” I worked with Archil. He’s like a doctor of music. He’s a really funny guy. He uses trombone to do his own thing and make his own samples.

For “Diamond Man,” I worked with my friend Bamoa Yende. He’s a DJ in Paris and is a really close friend of mine. 

Then for “August Knows” I worked with this producer and singer Lonely Band. He does rock music. I’m also working with him on my second EP. 

Now my music process is quite different because I know a little bit where I’m going. 

What are the stories you are trying to tell with this EP?

I’m very young and this EP was made during my teenage years. We’re all discovering all the time, but this was the first time that I was discovering new emotions and feelings, and just writing. I was just able to write about something real in me. Sometimes I would write I would be like, “Wow, this is so real.” 

I wrote when I was little, but I would invent love stories and stuff like that. I think these years were the first time where I was really writing about the inside of me. It’s a lot of different moods of mine. It’s not very teenage-y, but when you really hear the lyrics, you can tell I’m realizing a bunch of stuff. I’m just talking about love. It’s actually really exciting to see my evolution. 

What was it like having your song “Princess” in a Dior ad? How did that come about?

It was very funny. I kind of knew this guy and he brought up that I do music. He didn’t tell me what he was doing in life but he was like, “I’m working on this thing and I’m trying to push French musicians.”

So I’m in this club and I put my headphones on him. I showed him the song, even though it wasn’t finished and he was like, “This is exactly the song I need.” Then about two weeks later, it all started happening.

So who are your musical inspirations?

I grew up with a lot of Afro-American jazz. In my family music comes from church. I come from Oakland, and my grandma was doing the music in church and taking care of the chorus. She was playing piano and grandpa was playing the guitar. It all comes from soul, like real American soul. I grew up with Minnie Riperton, John Coltrane, and Macy Gray—a lot of different Afro-American artists. My dad is a black activist American in his music and also in his writings. So in the base of my blood, it will always be there. 

But I also grew up like a teenager in Paris. So I was listening to a lot of RnB. I had brothers, I was listening to French rap. 

Now I’m creating my own music tastes. I’m listening to a lot of Serpentwithfeet.  I listen to a lot of disco from the early 80s. I also like listening to electro music, and music that makes you go somewhere, music you can feel in you; it’s not very shallow. I listen to D’Angelo. I listened to Bedoa all the time. I also like techno, and rap, and Spanish music. I like to party, but I also like to go to jazz concerts. I just like a lot of different things.

Who is your dream collaboration?

I don’t really think about that. I always like if things go naturally. If something happens, then it happens, but I don’t want to think of it. But if you’re thinking about somebody that’s died, I would work with Prince.

You and your friends started Gucci Gang when you were really young. How did that come about?

We were just like a group of friends you know? I was 12 or 13, and I was just arriving on Instagram. We were just kids of our generation posting pictures. We liked mixing vintage clothes with brand new stuff like Supreme and shit. And it became some sort of a girl-power element. This article came out about our Instagrams and how we were a girl gang and they asked us what name we wanted to put. We were like 13 so we said we would call ourselves “Gucci Gang.” It was a very funny thing, and then it got out of proportion. 

Then everybody was writing about it being like, ‘”the girl gang of Paris!” It was cool for like a minute. Then it was just like, you guys are putting too much attention on something. We don’t really know how to explain those two years. We were just DJing, and partying, and making money off of clothes. It was just very shallow. It was very fun to do it with my girlfriends because we’re still friends and they’re like my blood. It was good to do it when I was young because I wouldn’t do it now.

Garnering that much media attention at such a young age, how did that impact your approach to music? 

I’m really happy I have lived the life I have lived. I never went overboard. I remember this article once came out — it was the worst article ever. It was like a fucking 60-year-old writing about 14-year-olds. It was ridiculous. 

We got so much bad feedback, and people were commenting on my body. I was 13 and they were saying I was ugly and a bunch of mean stuff. I remember being sad for like two days, and then not caring. And so since that, I actually didn’t care. And I actually don’t care about social media that much. I just use it as a platform. 

I’m happy that all that happened because I’m starting my music career and I have followers. I already have people watching my stuff. So I’m not just arriving. Gucci Gang, they made me realize how I loved real life and real connections. I still use social media. I’m so addicted, but I’m not an influencer you know? 

Tell me about Safe Place, the organization you and your friends started.

So it started three years ago. I was 14, they were 16, and we were all best friends so we would talk about everything. And at some point, we realized that we weren’t saying the right stories to each other. 

We would just talk about the shallow stuff, and boys and girls, and sex. One day we had a talk where everybody thought about all of the problematic stuff that happened to them. We wondered, why do we see each other all day and talk about everything, but we don’t talk about the real stuff that could like really hurt our souls?

It’s really the other girls that really started it. I love them so much, and I love what they’re doing. A bunch of people think it’s just about discussing our shared experiences of sexual assault and harassment, but it’s really a place for people to be open. I don’t want to put a Safe Place in a box. I want to talk about the LGBT community. I want to talk about race. It’s a safe place for people to talk. I’m not really involved 100% on it now that I’m focusing on Music, but I’m always supporting them, totally.

French women have kind of been influencers without social media for decades because people look at France and Paris for style inspiration. What’s your personal style and where do you draw your inspiration from?

I don’t really know what to call my style, but I’d say I am very disco. I’m very vintage.  I’m trying to be the black women that I always looked up to. I always looked up to Macy Gray. Not even just her style, but her energy on stage. I look up to the women that really sing, maybe they don’t always dress what other people would deem “well”, but they dress well because of their energy. I like not dressing like everyone else. 

I like colors. I like heels. Right now, I am buying like five pairs of Santiag boots. I’m also playing with my hair a lot these days and doing a lot of braids. This year, I really feel like I know how to dress, even on stage. I know how I want people to look at me on stage. 

Images Courtesy of Naomi Wong

Stay tuned to Milk for more music moments. 

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