An Interview with The China Blue

By Jacob Ezra

Jacob: What initially inspired you to start making music?

The China Blue: Music was sort of all I’ve ever known. It was always a huge part of my life growing up, in part because my father was a musician, so there was always a home studio with instruments to fool around with. I just always felt comfort by it, music has always affected me deeply, and I figured out my proper relationship with it is in the creation aspect.

Jacob: Where did you grow up, and how did it influence your music early on?

The China Blue: I grew up in south coast Massachusetts, in very much rural areas. I have a large and very close-knit Portuguese family, and all my cousins, aunts and uncles are musical or artistic in some aspect. The creation of music with some of my family members happened early on, and we were very much influenced by what we grew up listening; Toto, Journey, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, The Police, etc. Lots of 80s music. But I wouldn’t say I acquired my own musical identity until I moved out of my parents’ home to Providence, RI. The city life suits me better, I love the people and experiences you can get out of it. Creatively, I moved and developed a lot faster there. There’s a bubbling art scene coming out of Providence and around Boston, MA that I’m lucky to say I’ve been at least somewhat a part of.

Jacob: Who were some of the main artists that shaped your sound over the years?

The China Blue: Michael Jackson was always my number 1 growing up. The ‘Thriller’ & ‘Bad’ albums are imprinted in my brain. I seriously take from everywhere though, there’s probably 100’s of artists that I try to reference in at least some way in my music, even if it’s not very noticeable. I’ve always been inspired by hip hop and rhythmic artists like Biggie, Lil Wayne, and Kanye and have tried to blend it with more atmospheric music I love, from say M83, Coldplay, or The 1975. I’ve been on a kick of female Rnb & Rap artists like Babyxsosa, Jenevieve, H31R, and YUNGCYBERPRINCESS.  

Jacob: How did you come up with the name The China Blue?

The China Blue: “China blue” is a color. My name doesn’t really have a meaning, It just sounds like it has an element of mystery or elegance, like a clothing brand. I found out about the urban dictionary meaning after.

Jacob: What is your creative process like when it comes to songwriting and putting tracks together?

The China Blue: It always varies in some ways, but my roots have always started in production, so I usually start with crafting a beat or synth texture and build up a song from there. I do it all on my computer in my bedroom. I can play a “tiny” bit of everything, enough to at least get some ideas down, and then I’ll sometimes bring on better musicians than me if I need something in the instrumental tighter. For my vocals I kind of just start mouthing random sounds and cadences over the instrumentals so I can find vowels that sound pleasing and catchy, and then fill in the words. Often times afterwards I spend a while going through the lyrics carefully, making sure I’m saying exactly what I mean to say. I really care about lyricism and keeping myself current and honest in my expression. For the mixing and mastering stage, I usually now get an engineer for cleaning things up at the end; I realized it’s not ideal to do everything yourself even if you can.

Jacob: I really enjoyed your debut EP ‘The Last Several Months’. It feels like you blended genres and influences in an interesting way- what different genres did you pull from when making it? And was this a conscious thing or did it just happen naturally?

The China Blue: Like I said previously I definitely do pull from everything. I love all types of music, and regardless of genre, some songs just have that thing about them that feels like a gift from above. I’m just trying to chase that feeling regardless of what genre I’m playing around with to do that. At the time of writing ‘The Last Several Months’ I definitely applied my regular sort of rhythmic influences while also being super into emo music. I wanted to write something that felt cohesive but dynamic.

Jacob: Is there a song that you feel the closest to on ‘The Last Several Months’?

The China Blue: I think “Nervous” will always have a special place in my heart, because I felt like with that song I was able to take what had been the hardest thing I’d gone through in my life at the time (the break up from a long term relationship) and make something out of my pain that was both honest and catchy, and it was received well. I also think my beats on “SiLENCE” and “Why (It Didn’t Feel Right)” were pretty technically interesting at least from my end. I put a lot of thought into each millisecond of those songs.

Jacob: I understand you recently moved to Savannah, GA. What inspired the move? And how have you been enjoying it so far?

The China Blue: It was both the gravitation towards the ability of living with three of my best friends who are all creatives and are super inspiring, where we’d get to escape into nice weather and be in a new headspace, and also necessity. My place in Providence, RI was put on the market and I decided to take this leap without necessarily a clear plan forward. I’m loving it so far; the weather helps with my depression for sure. But I do plan on coming back up to New England soon.

Jacob: What inspired your recent single “out of my mind”?

The China Blue: I wrote it at really stressful time in my life, when my mental health was for sure getting the best of me. I was definitely smoking too much, partying too much, not sleeping or taking care of myself, and was starting to feel lost. I was risking my friendships and relationships, and I couldn’t ever relax no matter how hard I tried. I eventually hit a wall where I just could not get out of bed for a while. I started feeling a little insane, and with the stress and negative voices in my head I briefly convinced myself I was schizophrenic, which is definitely not the reality of my situation, but I at least feel like I could sympathize with someone who is.

Jacob: What was the process like of creating and recording “out of my mind”?

The China Blue: The other half of the conception of the song is realizing I wasn’t helping myself by taking myself too seriously. The music is a simple, percussive groove that helped me kind of shake out whatever voices were in my head at the time. It’s the opposite sound and feeling from the sort of depressing lyrics, which I think is helpful tool of mine to exit negative feelings. Uniquely in this song there really isn’t much going on besides the simple groove and I enjoy the restrain I showed here, because I have a tendency to throw layers and layers of atmosphere on songs.

Jacob: “out of my mind” discusses mental health and sends a message that can really relate with listeners today. How important is it for you to emotionally connect with your audience?

The China Blue: Mental health is a very important and personal cause for me, as I understand the destruction it can have on mine and other people’s lives if not kept in a good place. It’s always going to be a theme in my music, and I just want to approach it from my honest experiences as opposed to necessarily offering clear solutions. It’s something I struggle with too, but to me and my listeners; we’re in this together.

Jacob: What are your plans for rest of the year musically?

The China Blue: I want to play as many shows as I can, and release a few more singles as well as another EP. I have plenty to talk about and be honest about in my music.

Listen to The China Blue’s latest single “out of my mind” HERE.

Listen to The China Blue’s EP ‘The Last Several Months’:

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