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Meet Chrissi, the Essex singer-songwriter with stunning emotional depth

With new EP ‘No Love Unrequited’, the singer documents personal growth on powerful music indebted to both indie and R&B.

By Will Richards

Chrissi (Picture: Sarah Tucker)

The night that Chrissi began writing her song ‘Love Me In Chapters’ earlier this year, she felt compelled to share it immediately. Taking to her private TikTok account – where she has often gone viral for “funny, terrible, inappropriate things that I don’t want my family to see” – she shared the unfinished fragments of the deeply powerful, musically minimal track to stunned response from fans.

On the song, she mines personal heartbreak while imagining a better way forwards for herself. The emotional heft of the song is furthered through the minimalism of the music, just acoustic guitars and a vocoder-manipulated voice. Over the next few months, she began to finish the track off the back of the significant love it had received on the day it was written. “We live in a snippet culture, and people tend to only really enjoy the snippet part. There can be a lot of pressure to exceed expectations with the parts they haven’t heard, or make it something that really sticks.”

Through the full version of the track (and a sequel featuring Rachel Chinouriri that arrived last month), Chrissi has added a new indie-leaning direction to her R&B roots, and emerged as a deeply powerful, musically diverse songwriter with bundles of personality and a knack for specific, detail-filled songs. As she releases second EP No Love Unrequited, we meet the singer to discuss therapy, self-love and how she wants to be viewed as a songwriter

You’ve been described as indie, R&B, soul and more – is there a certain description of your music that sits with you best?

“I think for me, singer-songwriter is the easiest thing. I love sad indie music, and I feel very comfortable singing it, but there’s so many different parts of me. There’s this R&B and soul-loving part of me. When we were recording the song ‘Kiss My Ass’, I was referencing Tame Impala mixed with SZA. That was a really cool mash-up of people in my head. I want to create this really broad [palette]. I don’t want people to know what to expect. When I release an album, there will be some people that will like half of it, rather than all of it, because I do want to explore all different sides of what I like.

Who has inspired you to explore the indie-leaning side of your sound?

I was really, really inspired by a lot of Rachel Chinouriri and Olivia Dean, and they make guitar-led songs. I really wanted to try and take inspiration from that, while adding in things like the vocoder or other vocal effects. I’m still figuring out what my sound is, and I really love the sound of just guitar.

And Rachel appears on the sequel to ‘Love Me In Chapters’!

That is insane. Insane. When I first posted it, I tagged her, and I tagged Taylor Swift, and a few other people. I was manifesting that I was going to work with them in the next five years. Then, when I released the song, Rachel reposted it three times as a duet, publicly saying that she wants to do a remix. She was like, ‘It’s so important that black girls are doing indie music!’ I went out for drinks with my housemates at the time. I was getting all these notifications and freaking out. I was broke at the time but got a bottle of Prosecco for everyone. We had to celebrate!

New single ‘Burden (Love Me So)’ also feels like an emotional purge – what’s the story behind that one?

It’s been a very long, stressful journey with my mental health, and I struggle a lot with codependency and something called love addiction. I want to talk about this a lot more going forward in interviews, but I went to a treatment centre in South Africa for two months. It’s like a rehab for people with different mental health issues. My therapist strongly suggested that I went there after this thing happened with this guy. I’d known him for a few weeks, and we hadn’t gone on any dates or anything, but I was just really obsessed with this idea of him. I didn’t really know him properly, but I really wanted to see where things could go. It didn’t feel very romantic from the beginning, but I was really attached to him. Out of nowhere, he said, ‘I don’t think I see this going anywhere. I think it’s best if we remain friends’. It sent me over the edge, and I ended up feeling really insecure about my skin colour and about my weight and about why it just felt like I was never, ever good enough to be the girlfriend of anyone. I felt really insecure about it, and was telling [producer] Mike [Brainchild] that it was just a conversation we were having together, and it wasn’t [something] to write about. He was like, ‘Well, this is a safe space. If you feel like you really want to dive into that before I even give you any advice, go for it.’

I think it’s really important that not every breakup song is like, ‘Oh, I’m sad, but I deserve better’. It can just be about that desperation that you feel for love. At the time, it felt very real. I felt like I would absolutely change my body, and I would change my skin colour, I would change the way my hair looks, I would stop talking about music so much to get this romantic love and validation and affirmation from this man that I knew nothing about. I know now that it was misplaced, and it was all leading back to childhood trauma. I will never, ever change for anyone, because I’m very proud of who I am. I will only ever change for myself. But at the time, that’s how I felt. And I think that’s important that people know that I felt that way at some point and that they’re not crazy and stupid for feeling that way now or for feeling like that in the past. I think I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t write that song. I’d forget that I ever felt that way and then the next time something happens and I want to change myself, I’d go right back into that place and there’d be no growth. Now, I have a documentation of how I felt. Then I met someone who was much fitter, and he loved me and I was his girlfriend!

Have these experiences helped you develop as a songwriter as well as personally?

When a song really works with you as a songwriter, it’s already written. You just need to find out where it is in your brain. When I’m in a session, I turn off all the lights and lie in the middle of the room on the floor. A lot of producers get put off by it, but I’m like, ‘I need to find the fucking song!’. It was like that for ‘Love Me In Chapters’.

You’ve already started writing for your third EP – is it a relief to have these old songs shared with the world so you can start the next phase?

Especially knowing what I’m going to be releasing on EP3, I feel comfortable having these songs out now. If I was in the same place for EP three and there wasn’t much growth – musically or just personally – I wouldn’t have released [‘Burden’] because I don’t want to seem like I’m glorifying that I need help, or that saying to everyone that you should agree with me, and you should change the way you look for someone else. It sits on the same project as ‘Love Me In Chapters’, which is still very sad, but it feels more hopeful. It feels like I’ve sorted out my priorities, and I know the kind of love that I deserve. I think it came at the right time.