'My success is not measured by what people think' - Reggae star Chronixx
WITH a quietly rebellious nature, it's quite fitting that his 2013 hit single was called Here Comes Trouble.
Chronixx is not particularly fussed by what the industry makes of him, and he's unfazed by the fact that he's been dubbed a reggae sensation. Oh, and he refuses to define himself as a reggae artiste.
But with his velvety vocals and fresh approach to roots reggae, the Jamaican singer has been hailed as one of the most gifted talents to emerge from the reggae scene in recent times.
Is he lapping up the fame and adoration? In a word: no.
"My success is not measured by what people think," the soft- spoken star explains. "Popularity is relative. You have some really popular people, but there is always more to do and more people to reach before you get to that point in your life where you feel true satisfaction. People will always need a 'sensation' and that aspect of things is the least relevant for me. Music is the most important path.
"You can't really go by what people say, especially now that we're in an era where anybody can be a critic. Anybody can jump on the Internet and write a blog about you, and that can be very harmful because in some cases, the people saying these things don't even know anything about the music. But the love and acceptance of the music has been a wonderful thing. And that, to me, can only be a God-given gift, especially for a young, independent artiste like me."
Despite being an unsigned artiste, Chronixx has enjoyed phenomenal success. His 2014 EP, Dread & Terrible, topped the Billboard Top Reggae Albums chart; he's performed successful shows in Jamaica, the United States, Africa and in the United Kingdom - where he boasts a large fanbase; and excitement within the reggae fraternity reached fever pitch when, last year, he performed on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'.
Though this mainstream exposure was considered by many to be a fantastic feat for an unsigned reggae act, Chronixx is - you guessed it - laid-back when recalling the experience.
"I've spoken about it in so many interviews since. It was always one of the first things people asked about: 'Tell us about Jimmy Fallon.' I really don't know a lot about Jimmy Fallon," laughs the Smile Jamaica hitmaker.
"But, yeah, it was a great experience. We were in the promotional stages of the Dread & Terrible project, so getting to perform on the show was a great experience. I believe that when you're doing the right things at the right time, things come in the right way."
Some might expect Chronixx to be turning cartwheels about his achievements, but as we've already established, the singer, born Jamar Rolando McNaughton, isn't too concerned about industry expectations.
But far from coming across arrogantly nonchalant, his approach to his craft is refreshing, particularly in an industry that often puts the focus on fame, notoriety, and success that is measured by sales figures and chart positions.
And at just 22 years old, he might be expected to personify the attitude of consumerism and a need for stardom that is often linked to younger music artistes.
But staying true to the roots of reggae, Chronixx keeps his focus on the music and its message, something he believes is easier to do while in Jamaica, where there is less chance of getting "distracted".
"The thing is, reggae is a livity (way of life), and that's what people don't understand," he says. "Before reggae became this globally recognised genre, it was embraced mostly in the Rastafari community; pan-Africanist people, people who were going through post-slavery. These people never had time to look in the mirror and be fascinated with themselves. It was about the mission and the cause behind the music - the things that needed to change in society. It's much easier to keep the focus on those things when you're here in Jamaica, living in a post-slavery society. Once you're in the big cities in the world and you get caught up in the flashing lights (of fame), sometimes you can get a little distracted. Reggae music is about wholesome living, equal rights and justice for all mankind. It's about feeding the hungry; it's about the elderly being taken care of and the youths of tomorrow being nurtured. I think that's why many reggae artistes are focused on the message of the music and not the stardom."
NOT DEFINED BY REGGAE
But despite being an ambassador of reggae music, Chronixx rejects being labelled a reggae artiste.
"Definitely, [I reject that]. But I don't reject reggae music, that's the thing. If people see me as a reggae artiste, I don't mind that, but within myself, I can't accept that I'm a reggae artiste. I have to accept that I'm an artiste because I don't want my creativity to ever be limited by any genre of music. Music is a limitless thing and I don't want my music to be limited. Industries use these tags so they know how to manage artistes, but I'm not managed by any industry [laughs]."
Though he's unfazed by the politics of the industry, Chronixx is extremely grateful for his fans - his UK supporters in particular.
"Please put that in the newspaper: 'Chronixx is really grateful for the love he's been getting in the UK'," he requests. "I really want everybody to see that I really don't get that pop star feeling from the UK.
"When I'm there, I feel like I'm a musician; like an artiste. The UK is one of those places that still appreciates good music. In some other places, as long as the artiste is cute, that's good enough for them!"
Doesn't he appreciate the fans who think he's cute?
"I don't mind people thinking that," he laughs, "but that kind of thing can be a distraction. Being cute, it may be true; it may be false. But the fact is, you don't want that cuteness to ever override the power of music. As a musician, you're given the gift of being able to make music. But when you venture off into fashion and cuteness, you have to maintain all that, and that is very hard because those things fade and every day, something new becomes cute. You'll wear yourself out trying to keep up with those things. So I keep my focus on the music."