July 30, 2021

Read the full interview on Flaunt.com!

Furthering the definition of the word “tastemaker”, Kiwi-Persian recording artist CHAII arrives on the scene with an unwavering passion to merge cultures, musically connecting New Zealand’s new generation of multicultural creatives with the US. Her seemingly endless skills include the ability to write, produce, engineer, direct, and perform, showing no signs of losing momentum in the time ahead.

CHAII describes herself as “someone who brings my two cultures into the making of my music, and being very experimental.”

Speaking multiple languages, CHAII raps in both English and Farsi, bringing her own unique style and flair into the music industry. Her music has been featured in a slew of campaigns such as the iPhone 12 + launch, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, FIFA 2021, and FENDI’s global online campaign FENDIVA.

Most recently, CHAII unleashed her standout collaboration with Party Favor on “OH NAH YEAH,” a high-energy record that will undoubtedly have you celebrating life and moving on the dance floor. The duo’s synergy is unmatched, as CHAII brings the record to life in the Mikey Rockwell-directed music video. Now, she unleashes her newest effort titled “Might Just,” featuring Kiwi rappers Kings and Eleven7Four.

Flaunt caught up with CHAII who was posted in New Zealand where she grew up. Read below as we discuss her sound, roots in New Zealand, biggest influences, being a female engineer in the industry, how “OH NAH YEAH” came to be, shooting the video on a green screen, new single “Might Just,” scoring Charlize Theron’s The Old Guard, and more!

Photo Credit: Evan Xiao

How would you describe your sound? 

My sound is very Middle-Eastern influenced because I’m Middle-Eastern myself. I love playing around with the whole idea of finding a sound that’s very me. It’s about exploring and marrying the two things together of Western Sound and Middle-Eastern. It’s been fun experimenting and finding something I can connect with the most.

You moved to New Zealand at age 8. How was it growing up there?

New Zealand’s such a quiet country but it’s very enabling, being creative and giving you space and time. You’re so far away from everyone and everything, so it leaves you to yourself and gives you time and space to really find yourself without too much influence from everywhere else. But you can get quite stuck in your head a little bit.

Biggest influences coming up?

Growing up, I listened to a lot of Eminem. He’s definitely one of the first English rap artists I was introduced to, obviously Dr. Dre, D-12, and a lot of R&B as well. A lot of Nelly and all the 2000’s goodies. At the moment, I still listen to a lot of the old school stuff but more artists like DaniLeigh. There’s so many.

When did you realize you could do music for a living? 

I didn’t know you could do it for a living, it’s more about committing to it full-time. I committed to it full-time about 4 years ago. Before that, I was working in the industry for quite a bit, for a long time. It was knowing at what point can I fully go into full-time music? I trusted it so I said “I’m going to do it.” If I don’t give it my all and all my attention, then I’ll never know. I started getting really busy and making money. With business comes money, so it’s cool. [laughs]

What were you doing in the music industry before you became an artist? 

I was an audio engineer. Still am, but I’m not actively an audio engineer. I was doing a lot of visual work for artists. It was like that in the studio: helping people write and record songs, mix songs, or it was building music videos and helping people get their music videos done.

How does it feel to be a female engineer? I know that’s rare. 

Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. In New Zealand, we’re getting a little bit better in terms of gender balance, but you do have to work quite hard and prove yourself. It’s cool tho, I like a challenge.

What’s the inspiration behind your name? 

So CHAII means tea in Farsi, my mother language. It also means tea in English but I thought what better way to describe myself than tea? Then CHAII. [laughs]

How was it collaborating with Party Favor on “OH NAH YEA”?

It’s crazy, it’s really cool. Got to work with Party Favor, he’s super talented. It was a really easy process, we turned it around in a couple of days and I turned the video around within a week. It was a really quick project, but the ones that come together really quickly are usually my favorites.

How did you tap in with him originally? 

We’re both from the same label, BMG introduced us to eachother and from there we wanted to work together.

Was the song made in the studio or was it sent? 

I originally started doing the vocals 3 years ago at a studio at BMG in Sydney, Australia. I sent over that to Party Favor, to Dylan, he put his magic to it. He sent it back and I added another verse. It was done on Zoom calls.

What was your reaction when you heard it back? 

It was so cool. It’s really refreshing to hear something that you’d left to the side for a little while. I didn’t really think much of the vocals I’d done on that. When I heard it again, I thought “Oh yeah, I forgot I did this.” [laughs]

How was it shooting the music video? What was your vision? 

For this one, I passed it on to a friend of mine, Mikey Rockwell. He’s an editing genius, he does visual effects. I got him to direct this one, which was something different for me. We went to a small town in New Zealand, we shot it on a green screen and he did his magic. Fully, completely made all the worlds around me. The whole thing was shot on a green screen.

That’s crazy. How did it feel? 

It was cool. I could definitely envision how it would turn out, but Mikey always takes it to the next level. He built all the 3D worlds. It was crazy because that shit takes a long time and we were on a quick deadline. The next time I saw him when he was editing, he had bags under his eyes. I said, “Bro, are you getting any breaks?” He’s like, “I’m loving this so much!”

How does this compare to your previous release, “WOW (LOOK AT ME)”?

The song was super collaborative with “WOW (LOOK AT ME).” I was in a writing session, a writing camp called Producer Series. They do it in New Zealand, you get into groups into a studio. It was 4 of us writing that. That’s my first experience of writing with other people for my own music. I’ve written with other people for other people, so it was that reversed feeling and it was really fun. I thought “Damn! Why don’t I do this more often?” It’s started this whole thing of I should collaborate a little bit more when it comes to my own stuff.

What is it you want fans to get from your story? 

I’m going with the flow and discovering new things as we go. Everything that really happens and everything I post about and put out, it gets a bit blurry because so much happens at once, but it’s all coming from in here. [points to heart] I’m making a lot of it up as I go as well. I have a really awesome team, we all have fun. We do funny stuff sometimes to keep ourselves sane.

Talk about being an advocate for the Persian culture and Iranian immigrants.

I feel really, really connected with my Persian side, even though I didn’t spend much time there. I easily spent most of my life in New Zealand. It makes me more curious that I didn’t have my extended family in New Zealand, or in general not being that connected with it. It made me need to work to stay connected with it. Through music, I felt I could stay connected and keep the language alive as well.

I listen to a lot of Persian music, watched a lot of movies. Any time I feel I’m getting distant from my culture or from the language, I start listening to more Persian music. When I went to LA, that was a really interesting experience for me because it’s such a massive Persian community. In New Zealand, we have the tiniest—2,000 Persians in the whole of New Zealand. Going to Los Angeles where there’s millions, every shop I walked into it’s like “what?” They weren’t happy to see me, I was happy to see them. Because they probably thought “oh, another Persian.” It was cool, such a blend of western and Persian in one place. I really fell in love with LA for that reason.

How’d it feel to be the only woman on Tony Hawk’s livestream? 

I didn’t realize I was the only woman, damn. It was crazy. Again everything moves so fast, I don’t really get to stop and see the things. Definitely a really cool moment in my music career of getting to do something like that. It was during all these pandemic lockdowns, in and out of lockdowns. It was really cool to be a part of it.

How was it soundtracking the Fendi campaign? 

That was cool too. I released that song, then Fendi chose to have it on their campaign. I’m like “What?!” I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the first big things that had happened for me in terms of brand collaborations.

What about scoring Charlize Theron’s The Old Guard

That was cool too. I’d always wanted to have a song in a movie and for it to be that movie, what?! That one is really memorable for me because it’s a female director. I produced that song with a friend of mine from LA Soraya, female mix engineer Sylvia Massy. She’s mixed for Tool, Prins, and other crazy artists. I didn’t know it wasn’t deliberate but when I look back at it, it was such a full female production that was involved. The movie is about female empowerment so that was really special.

What can we expect from your new single, “Might Just”? 

It’s definitely different to what I’ve done so far. That’s another collaborative song, I’m really excited. It was really fun to make, definitely a different flavor to what I’ve done before.

How so? 

It’s a lot less experimental, not in a bad way. A lot more people will be able to vibe to it. We wrote it during the lockdowns, during the coming in and out of lockdown so it’s about the pandemic. It’s a very in-the-moment song, with 4 of us in a room for over 3 hours. That was pretty cool.

Anything else you want to let us know? 

I hope people like the next song. I’ve got a whole heap of other stuff coming this year and already working on next year’s plans. I’m really excited about releasing a lot more this year. Excited for this year!

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