Chris Assaad’s feet are firmly planted in the fertile soil of a world where music truly has the ability to heal and inspire—a world where self- examination and self-love take precedence over mainstream culture and conventional wisdom. He exists in a world where hope is not lost and where we, in fact, have the ability to create our own reality. That reality looks to be one of peaceful co-existence, perpetual growth, and collective positive change.
First and foremost, Chris is an artist—a musician. He is a musician whose heart-led curiosity about life has birthed albums that sound as if they’ve been washed with the spirit of a hundred cultures. Tribal rhythms, jazz, funk, rock, reggae, soul melodies, ancient medicine songs— you’ll find traces of them all with Chris Assaad. On top of his musical expression, Chris is also a mentor and voice coach, actively lifting up his community and helping people transform their lives.
The best part is that it all still feels so fresh to those outside observers of Chris. This is an artist whose career is still in its adolescence and yet, it exudes maturity.
Chris has already shared the stage with industry heavyweights like Michael Franti and Trevor Hall, has performed all over the world, and has had singles featured on Canadian and Australian radio. Chris’ words have been selected to appear in such inspirational publications as The Daily Love, Positively Positive, and Project Happiness, and one of his written quotes recently went viral and was shared, liked, and reposted several million times on social media. He’s also the resident Music Content Curator here at Face the Current Magazine. Not bad for a first act!
Chris Assaad’s latest album, LION, represents the beginning of his second act—and a massive step forward sonically. All the roots are still there, but there’s a bigness that we’ve yet to see from Chris. He takes center stage in a life-affirming musical to which you can’t help but sing along. Initially, LION was being slowly and privately distributed, gifted to individuals as the primary instrument in a musical ceremony. Since then, the first two singles off the album, “Lion” and “Together We Rise”, have been released and are streaming worldwide. The entire album will be available everywhere November sixth.
As a native Canadian, Chris Assaad might just be the North Star of the Transformational Scene, shining a bright light in the darkness and guiding us all back home. Face the Current caught up with Chris to talk about his innovate approach in initially releasing LION through gifting, how 2020 has impacted his life, and more.
Anthony Reese Schneider: On top of being a performing artist, you also offer vocal alchemy and mentoring sessions. How have these offerings allowed you to expand as a musician and artist?
Chris Assaad: It’s said that we teach best what we are here to learn. Learning to navigate the ins and outs and the challenges and pitfalls of the creative hero’s journey while unlocking my own voice have been a huge part of my path. It brings me tremendous joy and fulfillment to be able to share what I’ve discovered with others to support them on their journey, and to be able to contribute and give back to the creative wheel in that way. Working with and holding space for other artists and creatives has been a source of great inspiration to me and a role I view as sacred. Witnessing my clients in their process allows me to continue to deepen my understanding and embodiment of those lessons in a way that has really supported my own artistry.
I have continued to be in awe of the profound healing, emotional release, and freedom to be who we are that is available through voice work. I would say that the most magical thing of all is the discovery that we can use our voices and make sound as a way of connecting to our higher guidance and as a way to receive insight and clarity.
ARS: What are some of the benefits you’ve witnessed firsthand of someone liberating their voice?
CA: In the same way that the eyes are a window to the soul, I believe that the voice is an expression of the soul. When we use our voices, especially with an understanding of the healing power that our God- given instruments possess and the effect that our own voice, vibration, and tone can have in our body, it is incredibly powerful. I have continued to be in awe of the profound healing, emotional release, and freedom to be who we are that is available through voice work. I would say that the most magical thing of all is the discovery that we can use our voices and make sound as a way of connecting to our higher guidance and as a way to receive insight and clarity.
ARS: You just recently finished your latest album, LION. I’m
one of the lucky few people that know how you’ve been secretly releasing this music to the world. Can you explain why you chose to release the album the way you have so far? What sort of response have you seen to this particular strategy?
CA: From the outset, my approach to this creation has been different from anything I’ve done before and my main intention throughout the process has been to be used as an instrument for good and to be as “out of the way” as possible. From this space, I’ve continued to be delighted and surprised by what’s come through, including clear guidance and new ideas about how to best share the creation and the songs with the world.
Even though music is such an essential part of our lives and has undeniable inherent value, I think the way music has been shared and consumed—especially in recent years—has created a disconnect from this value in artists and listeners. As artists, we are so often forced to “sing for our supper” and to go out into the world and seek the attention of listeners in a way that feels like we’re asking for something from them.
I’ve been on both ends of that exchange and it’s a paradigm I’ve felt called to leave behind and to move in the direction of something new that honors the inherent value that music possesses. What I’ve come to realize is that the music that has come through me and the creation that has resulted are a gift I’ve been blessed to receive. Knowing this and feeling it unequivocally have led me to share it with my community as such, as a gift for them to receive without needing or expecting anything in return.This has really been the essence of how I’ve gone about sharing the album with the world, through intentional gifting and allowing the creation to be passed on from hand to hand like a sacred book of songs. The response has been incredible. It’s been amazing to see people’s immediate relief when presented with the music as a gift for them to receive rather than something that’s being given to them with an implied expectation. Also, that sense of the value of the creation has been reflected back exponentially in people’s appreciation of the music and their desire to share it forward. For me, it has felt like the first expressions of a new paradigm that I’m excited to explore and develop further. I understand it is part of my role as an artist to establish that within myself, first and foremost, for my listeners and community, and as an example of what’s possible for other artists.
What I love is how that first inspiration was the seed of something that grew and evolved over a two-year period that included trips to Egypt and Jamaica, both of which influenced my direction with the album and that song (LION) in particular. Pretty magical ride from inception to creation!
ARS: What’s one of your favorite backstories for one of your songs? Is there one in particular that was birthed under unusual circumstances?
CA: Love this question. The song “Lion”, the title track from the new album, arrived in quite an unusual way. I was in BC and had just played the Wanderlust Festival in Whistler. It was a beautiful August summer day and it was my birthday. My partner and I were driving from Whistler to Scotch Creek with my dear friend and album artwork creator, Diana Shams, and her partner, who we were going to stay with for a few days. As we were driving and taking in the stunning BC views, radio going and all, I started to hear this melody in my head. It was loud and clear despite all the action going on around me. I quickly grabbed my phone and started humming the notes into a voice memo. A moment later, the melody continued to evolve, this time with the lyrics: “Courage, where’s it gonna come from. Courage, what you tryin’ to run from. Courage, where’s it gonna come from now?… Lion.” That was the first time the portal of that song opened, and it arrived unmistakably. I continued to explore it over the next couple of days, setting the melody to a chord progression on my guitar. I revisited it and developed it little by little from that day until two years later when it finally came time to record it in BC, where it originated, at Baker Studios. The song’s arrival was definitely unlike any other I’ve written and received. And what I love is how that first inspiration was the seed of something that grew and evolved over a two-year period that included trips to Egypt and Jamaica, both of which influenced my direction with the album and that song in particular. Some of the last lyrical additions happened right up until the final vocal tracking sessions and that very first melody that came through is now the opening horn line for the song and the album. Pretty magical ride from inception to creation!
ARS: What’s the most difficult part of your creative process? Is there a part that always seems to be the most difficult?
CA: The most difficult part for me remains the moment when it’s time to let go of a creation that I’ve worked hard on and that is dear to my heart and share it with the world. There’s so much excitement and joy that can come from it and at the same time, it often comes with a whirlwind of emotions.
I’ve been learning to see this as a step in the process that can be as effortless as and supported by the same inspiration that gave rise to the initial creation, and that has definitely made it easier. It comes down to the balance between having a vision and desired outcome while being in surrender and being willing to truly release it and let it go. It’s something that has gotten easier over time and I think an integral part of the creative process is to be able to steward one’s work in the world without being attached to how it ripples out, while also remembering to leave room for magic to happen all along the way.
ARS: Are there any ceremonial aspects to songwriting for you? Do you have any practices that happen for you on a regular basis while you’re “in the zone”?
CA: I see it all as sacred and ineffable. To be a vessel for an idea, a melody, a lyric, or a wave of inspiration to come through is one of the most exhilarating, fulfilling, and indescribable experiences I know of. To me, this is really the meeting point of spirituality and creativity. All of my practices, whether it be meditation, journaling, or toning help to open up that heart space and clear the creative channel and they are all interconnected. More and more, I find that the most amazing and powerful ideas come through when I’m in a state of pure flow, playing for the joy of it, opening to a higher source of inspiration, and being a witness to what’s coming through. When I’m in that state, I often feel that I’m accessing something ancient and that I’m being blessed by what’s coming through as it washes over me and pours through my instrument— especially the voice. This is a zone where time truly ceases to exist and it feels like I’m surfing a blissful wave of sound and melody, while being attuned to the vibrations.
ARS: How has the process of self-examination influenced your song writing process?
CA: I first started writing songs as a way to capture and crystallize insights, discoveries, and realizations I was having as I began exploring my inner world and opening up to spirituality. In many ways, I think this intention has continued to underscore my songwriting. There are many things to write about and every song arrives in its own way with its own essence. And yet, I see it as a powerful way to encapsulate a moment, a feeling, or a revelation and share it with the listener in a way that grants them access to the same within their own experience. Seen in this way, I’ve always gravitated towards using music and songwriting as means to convey the most valuable pieces of wisdom and fruits of my own self-exploration and transformation. It’s an offering to others to support them in their own process.
ARS: Is it all sunshine and gumdrops?
CA: Haha—most definitely not. This life, the creative path, and the journey of the soul are an adventure and rollercoaster with highs and lows, ebbs and flows, and a wide range of experiences. I’ve had many a dark night of the soul along the way, and it’s most often the deepest dives into the shadows within that have led to the richest fruits being harvested.
ARS: Some people might not know that you nearly lost your hearing to a hereditary condition. What is the most unexpected lesson you learned from the experience of recovering from that condition and getting a second chance?
CA: The biggest lesson for me from that whole experience and my journey with my hearing has been that what is for us cannot miss us. I often think about the fact that if my early attempts at playing music and singing had come easily, I might have somehow lost interest and moved on to something else like a kid who gets a drum set and then gets bored in a few weeks. As challenging and scary a time as that was, I truly believe it was all by divine design and grace; that it was life’s way of ensuring I wasn’t to my purpose. It has continued to be something I’m deeply grateful for and an amplifier of my passion for the many gifts that come with being able to hear, foremost among which are my love of music, singing, and songwriting.
ARS: How has 2020 shifted the way in which you prioritize things in your life?
CA: This year has really amplified my commitment to living life moment by moment, one day at a time, as much as possible. It has forced me to lean deeper into my practices in order to create stability and to find peace amidst the uncertainty. Most of all, it has magnified my gratitude for the little things and the big things, for the health and well-being of my loved ones, for all the ways that I am/we are blessed, guided and provided for, and for the things in life that bring me Joy.
ARS: Consider the young musicians who might view you as an inspiration. What do you hope they learn from you early on?
CA: To enjoy the process. To remember that it’s just as much about who we are becoming as it is about what we are creating. That the creative process is a healing journey that will reveal to us our insecurities and our limiting beliefs, and that by engaging in it as such, we can bring love and awareness to these parts and move towards an embodied experience of our inherent value, wholeness, and perfection. And most of all, may we remember not to take ourselves too seriously and to have fun and play!
ARS: What’s the future hold for Chris Assaad and transformational artists? What is our role in all of this?
CA: As much as there is a great sense of uncertainty looming at this moment in time, I have also felt the potency of the opportunity that is here for us collectively. It’s undeniable that the world is going through a massive transformation and I believe that it is leading us to a new chapter in our history that will be marked by positive change and the birthing of a new earth. I believe we each have a crucial part to play in looking within, tending to the garden of our own heart, and tuning in to how we can best be of service and what role we each have to play in this forward movement. I know music and art have a powerful part to play in this time of great healing and awakening; in spreading messages of peace, love, hope, and upliftment; in bringing us together in oneness; and in being a catalyst for growth and transformation. I see artists being more essential and valued than ever before and I’m excited to see how music and transformational art will continue to be a part of leading us to where we are heading.
As for me, I’m excited to continue being available for the dance of creativity and what wants to come through, for my heart work in the world and the purpose I am committed to serving. I feel like LION has been a bridge for me into a deepening of my intention to make and share music as medicine, and I’m already collecting seeds and ideas for another album. I also see visions of gatherings in intimate and sacred spaces where this new collection of music medicine can be shared and come to life, where we can heal and grow together, and where the first fruits of this new world we are birthing can be harvested.