Studio Sessions :: Chi McClean

CEO and music lover Jeff Yasuda hosts regular sessions at the studio in San Francisco, and we're excited to get the summer season rolling.
Acoustic roots rocker Chi McClean visited the  studios  last week, and we got a chance to sit down with him after an amazing hour-long set to ask him some questions.
JY: Talk to us a little bit… What’s going on with the career? What are next steps? We heard that you’re working on a new album… What can you share?
CM: I’ve been trying to get this album out for awhile now…
JY: What does that mean? A year? Six months?
CM: Sort of a year, frankly. It’s taken awhile to raise the money. It’s taken awhile to get the players together. And frankly it’s taken awhile to get things where I really wanted them. This will be my third recorded album — my third CD to release — and I just really wanted to do something special with it. I think it’s almost there. But there comes a certain time when you’ve just got to let it go.
Ideally, I’ll get this one out that’s sort of in the hopper, and then this summer when I get back to Tennessee in June, I’ll start cranking stuff out and maybe put out an EP or another record.
JY: Zeppelin and Hendrix were very “riff”-based with their songwriting. Lyrics —obviously, some artists write the poetry initially, and then the music follows. What’s your approach?
CM: I’m totally the other way around. I’m more of a music and guitar guy, first and foremost. I come up with a riff or a melody, and start just kind of “earballing” some lyrics. Just throwing some stuff that’s nonsensical, makes no sense, just to get something out there that I can hang on to. Since being in Tennesee and writing with a bunch of those guys — pros that are staff writers and publishers — what they like to do is get an idea, get a title for a song, and just sort of shoot towards that. And that’s been an interesting process… I used to kind of think, being a Hendrix fan, that lyrics were just filler in between drum solos and guitar solos. As long as they didn’t sound awful, and as long as the melody was cool, it was fine. But I think people want a little bit more than that.
JY: Hendrix, Skynard, Molly Hatchet — do you find most of your songwriting comes from those roots? I know you work very closely with a lot of other artists, cowriting songs. What are your influences? What inspires you?
CM: It’s really just that classic rock ’n roll stuff. In terms of singers... I really hip to this guy Chris Robinson, which isn’t classic rock, but it has that vibe. It’s like old Rolling Stones meets Bad Company, Free, you know.
 Also, old Rod Stewart — when people think of Rod Steward, they think of [singing] “Have I told you lately that I love you…” and the ballads thing? No, no. — He was in the Small Faces… “Maggie May,” “Gasoline Alley,” great stuff.
 And then, Paul Rodgers ("The Voice”), who has sung with Queen… I don’t know! I just like stuff that makes you feel something… The perfect song isn’t always the best song for me… If you walk away from it, and you have a vibe and you get stoked and you want to press play again and repeat, I mean, that’s it.