Mere Raj : Interview

Chris, also known as Mere Raj, is an artist from Beaufort, South Carolina, a self-described “retirement town” about an hour away from Hilton Head (best known for hosting The Masters). Chris eventually got into producing through FL Studio that was installed on his dad’s laptop in middle school after picking up music at a young age. Eventually, he went on to pick up a mic and make music under the alias of Christopher Robin on SoundCloud.

Over time, the style of his songs have changed drastically along with his name. He handles all of his own production - including instrumentals, mixes, and mastering. The 23-year-old artist only has two songs currently out on streaming platforms, but has been able to create a huge buzz for himself with just a small catalog. Attention to detail is the story behind Chris, and that is the reason he will separate himself from the pack and be on the front pages of websites, playlists, and selling out venues shortly.

Hunter : Is there a scene in South Carolina?

Mere Raj : "Maybe in Charleston or Columbia, looking toward what you would call a hub. There's a small independent scene and it’s very close knit. The town that I'm from, there is nothing at all. Anything you could say as far as the word culture, there is none of that. As far as having the internet, it’s such a blessing, because I can plug myself in through that avenue even though I'm not necessarily in all those places. I can ride there, I can fly there, but if I can't do that, at least I'm plugging through the internet."

Hunter : Your style of music, and just how you make an influence, would it come almost from an external place? Like not where you grew up?

Mere Raj : "Just YouTube or streaming services. I'm an avid listener of music in general; my pops is a DJ, so if you go upstairs into our attic, there's hundreds, if not thousands, of records sitting in that bitch. I’ve listened to a wide spectrum; Bob Dylan, Queen, Stevie Wonder, all types of shit that he was into. I end up falling into it. It just peaks your interests and leads you to start listening to the next shit, so I would say the influence is definitely there as far as just a wide variety of things."

Hunter : What was home life like in terms of music and how it influenced you? What is that inner drive behind your music?

Mere Raj : "I do everything myself. I do the beats, the mixing, the mastering - every stage. I'm pretty hands-on with it, and that just came from at first it being a necessity. I'm in the middle of essentially nowhere as far as a musical culture is concerned, so if I wanted to do that shit, it's on me. I find my inspiration for the shit, by listening to something else or taking something and flipping it into something. If I feel like I’m ever about to hit a wall with writer's block, or beat block, I’ll cut something on. I find inspiration from everywhere; I'm always walking around singing. There's probably a melody in my head throughout the whole fucking day from the time I get up to the time I lay down."

Hunter : How do you control all aspects of your music?

Mere Raj : "I can take pride in that, now that it sounds like you can sit and listen to it. But when I first started, it sounded like shit, but it only makes sense that it took a gradual amount of time for it to get to that point. It took a long ass time, but granted, I put the time in to get it."

Hunter : Did you venture into music in high school, or when did you pick up a mic or production software?

Mere Raj : "It's been a minute, probably a decade damn near, since middle school. My dad had a copy of FL Studio, but it wasn’t even FL Studio at that point; it was still Fruity Loops, Fruity Loops 7. I took his laptop one day, I remember that night; I stayed up until 1 or 2 AM fucking around with the loops, just stock drums. It had peaked my interest, and I didn't even start out rapping or nothing like that, just making beats for a couple of years. Eventually, it led to the thought that maybe I should get a mic and try rapping into it.

After a couple of months went by, I was like, "well, it sounds like shit, it doesn't sound like my favorite songs on my MP3 player, how do I do that?" So literally, I started reading books just looking at what's an equalizer, what is compression, what is all that. It took time to get all the technical aspects of it down; it was gradual, but I did it a couple of hours every day. It's just addicting to me, to be honest. I’ll sit there for hours tweaking this one little drum drop, but it's like I need to make sure it hit the way that I heard it in my head, like I pictured it. I want people to hear the way I picture it."

Hunter : How did you settle on the name Mere Raj? I understand it's like a play on words for “mirage”.

Mere Raj : "I came up with that name in middle school. I thought I was so hard but I had a name before that. I used to call myself Christopher Robin, because my full name is Christopher and that’s the boy's name from Winnie the Pooh. I thought I was slick and it was the name I used for SoundCloud, but I didn’t necessarily like that name. I need to find something else if I'm going to start taking it more serious, so I just flipped through the dictionary and settled on the actual dictionary spelling of the word "mirage". I don't even remember what the definition said, but I fucked with it; I could just figure out a different spelling of it.

The definition of it is an optical illusion, which I feel like even in the sense of me doing the music is, from a song writing aspect or just a song-making aspect in general, I'm trying to take somebody into a different space for three or four minutes. That's the whole point of it. From a beat to the mix, all of the things that we talked about just now. I just want somebody to fucking feel like they're getting taken away for a couple of minutes, almost like an illusion. A song should take somebody somewhere for a couple minutes; I feel like after the song is done, someone should say, “Damn, now that was an experience.” It all starts with the beat.

The majority of the shit that is uploaded to the streaming services now, I made the beat really fast, but then the tweaking part of it, that's the long part, because it's crafting the atmosphere to it that draws you in."

Hunter : What does the step-by-step creation process of the song look like to you?

Mere Raj : "I would start with the beat, play out some shit. I go to Omnisphere to find some plucks. If that doesn't work, I put a sample on. The sounds of “Sangria”, it's really relaxing, a mood that it throws you in. I like to have heavy, hard-hitting drums layered on top of that shit. I feel like those two sounds are juxtaposed well, and they complement each other if you do it right. I could do a bunch of beats in a day and I'll just keep going to the next one, but when I feel like I'm in that space to start writing to one then I just go in. I'll finish the beat and then start writing my lyrics.

For me, I have to write while I'm recording and do it right then. It's weird, but I have to do it right at that moment, because if I come back too late, it's gonna be a minute before that same energy comes to me again. Even if I start something at 2AM and I have to be up early the next day, I knock this shit out right now because that energy is not going to come back to me."

Hunter : What is it about the style of music that you make that really pulls you in?

Mere Raj : “Sangria” was the first song I ever put out on streaming services and I had originally done it with Distrokid. I must have had it up there for not even a full month before I tried Submithub and that led me to Matt and Kyle from Fashionably Early, who I've been workshopping with. I brought him on board as management just to handle all things from that aspect. On “Sangria", I’m more singing and rapping but before that I started off just rapping and then it graduated into a more sing-songy type thing.

When I record now, it’s damn near full on singing. I’ve just come to feel more comfortable in that space. I think it’s funny; I was explaining to somebody, I feel like a fan of R&B music more than I would even call myself an R&B artis. That's what I listen to a lot, I would say more than trap rap or just regular rap music. I like to relax, that's the type of shit I like to listen to. When I hop in the shower or when I’m driving, I turn on some R&B. I like to make what I want to hear."

Hunter : Both songs, “Sangria” and “DND”, focus on women and alcohol. Why do you feel like that might be a focus in the song? Where does it stem from, and could it be a fact that you can almost use women and alcohol in a song interchangeably?

Mere Raj : "It's a vice and a distraction; it's something that's keeping you from your full focus. That's pretty clever how you put it; it's interchangeable in that facet. It’s not the same thing, but almost because of what it can do to your brain, it distracts you like a vice, and for some people, it could end up being what ruins them.

That's kind of what the main focus of what “Sangria” was. It's especially interchangeable in that fact, you're just taking in this person to the fact that it's blinding you; you have tunnel vision."

Hunter : Since it’s such a focal point of the chorus on “Sangria”, what’s your favorite type of tequila?

Mere Raj : "Don Julio. I was literally just telling somebody on the phone yesterday that that song came about because I had stopped smoking weed. I’d been smoking a lot basically since I had graduated school and went into college; I picked it up there. I was really bad about it; I can say that was a vice for me, but at some point, it was starting to give me fucking anxiety, so I needed something to replace the feeling that the weed was giving me.

I ended up on that cheap ass sangria red wine. I enjoyed it, I still drink it sometimes now, not as much, but that's where the song came from. I was drinking that a lot; I was doing mixes and all that, just something to drink. The vibe of the “Sangria” song is kind of summery, which reminds me almost of going into dusk. That was the exact moment that I must have recorded, and I did it in about an hour. The recording process fell together, and didn't take that long."

Hunter : Story behind your cover art?

Mere Raj : "I went with my bro to… I actually think it was a golf course that we walked out on to. I had bought a DSLR camera to shoot all my covers because I'm a very hands-on, do-it-yourself type of person. We took the camera and some shit was going on with it that night; it wouldn’t shoot because it was pitch black. The cover for both of those came off an iPhone, and that’s just how it ended up working out. I like the way that it looked more; it looked too clean with the Canon.

I really like the cover. He sent me a batch of all the photos; I picked out one that stood out to me. I figured I’ll keep doing it in the future. It's funny that you brought that up because I had a third single that I was planning to put out after "DND". I had an idea for those first three singles to do similar covers in that same setting, but the outreach for just these first two songs was more than I had fucking expected. I think we're going to go in a different direction for this next one."

Hunter : What were your initial thoughts when you saw “Sangria” start getting those plays or coverage?

Mere Raj : "The main thing was I had got a post from Level; they actually put up the clip of the song, it got around 350 likes. I was like, "damn," because months before that, I was familiar with the whole Level organization, but I didn't think they would ever post anything that I did. Just getting that validation in that sense... I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, but I guess I must be on the right path. All those publications that I started to get, just months before that I would never have thought I would land on. It feels good. I just don't want to fuck up the process of what I'm doing, it appears to be working for the time being."

Hunter : Right now, you're two songs in, so what is your focus career-wise?

Mere Raj : "Putting together a whole aesthetic, particularly on my socials. I feel like the type of music that I make almost is just a side of myself as a person, but it's not the entirety of myself. My whole personality is not even like that because it definitely feels like my music has a darker tone.

I feel like it's fake for me to try and do that on my Instagram in a sense, because I'm not trying to be fake deep. I'm not really a person to shoot an off-guard picture and put that on my Instagram. I make a moody type of music, but I feel like that's just a stage that we all go through, that's the cycle that we go through. I want to make what I feel, but as far as what's next, definitely figuring out fan outreach. I'm getting all the Spotify listens, but I want to make sure when it comes time, when all this shit opens back up, I’m able to fill up a room.

To do multiple dates, like if I do something, are people going to turn up or is it just on Spotify? That's my worst fear; I don't want to be just a social media thing, I want to be able to do it full time, make an actual career out of this and be here for the long haul. I had an idea to do a couple EP’s and I had a rough album with the track listing, but I think with the outreach that's happened on my two singles, I'm just going to keep going with the singles. Especially now, I just want people to digest it in that way. I feel like 30 songs come out every day. It's more than that, but it's like from people that you already focused on."

Hunter : What makes Mere Raj, Mere Raj?

Mere Raj : "The amount of attention that I put into every little detail. Those first songs that are on Spotify, it had been years since I had dropped anything. I stopped uploading to my SoundCloud in 2015 or 2016, and that was really just a chance to practice. I don't know how many demos I have, to be honest; I can tell you that it's across a couple of hard drives, a couple of laptops, and just that amount of time has gone by that I spent working. People are like, “Just drop, you’re ready.” All my friends, anybody that I sent music to, just so they could hear it. I put so much care into this, at this point, it's getting way busier. I want another engineer, maybe one that I can send vocals off to, just to get a mix done faster.

There's a part of me that wants to do that, but an even bigger part of me that still wants to have that control. That’s what separates me; the amount of attention I put into everything down to the high hat, down to the snare, down to the kick, down to the way my voice comes in on the song. I care about how it’s heard. Especially in the realm of music we are operating in as far as the culture, a lot of it is just a one-off song; it's just people making something real quick, and feeding the fans. I'm not just trying to feed the fans; I want you to have an experience."

Hunter : What can we expect from you for the rest of 2020?

Mere Raj : "Actually putting my face out there; I feel like people actually haven't seen who I am. I’m working on something for videos right now; my plan is to get more singles out, but to have just actual visual content to go with that."

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