Q&A: Cris Cab on His Rise to Fame via YouTube—With Pharrell's Help

September 04, 2014 | by Tricia Carr | Talk of the Town

We caught up with Miami native Cris Cab—you might know his first single "Liar Liar" produced by Pharrell Williams—before his album release party and performance this weekend. 

Musician Cris Cab.

Miami native Cris Cab 

Musician Cris Cab is going places, but first stop: Hyde Beach this Saturday, September 6 to celebrate his album Where I Belong and perform for his hometown. (Tickets here.) The 21-year-old singer-songwriter already has fans in high places; the roster includes Pharrell, Wyclef Jean, and Dallas Austin—and this fall, he's off to Europe to tour with Pharrell, who he considers his greatest music mentor. We caught up with Cab before he leaves town and talked about his sound, his YouTube stardom, and his favorite spots in Miami.

You’re from Miami and now you’re launching your album here. How does that feel?
It's great. I’m just going with the flow. My whole career has been very natural. I do what I love and I play for the people I love, and that’s it. I just go with it. Everything is very natural. I have some very great things planned for the coming months. I'm heading on tour with Pharrell all over Europe and we’re shooting another music video. There are a few other things that we've got up our sleeves. This show in Miami is only the beginning of the party. 

Your sound is unique—it's pop but it’s also something else. How do you describe your own music?
It’s definitely a fusion of several different genres. I grew up listening to so many different styles of music. Within my music is reggae, there’s a little soul, there’s hip-hop and the drums. At times there’s rock, and of course there’s pop. There's a little bit of everything. I grew up listening to a lot of older style music, a lot of Marvin Gaye, a lot of the Stones, a lot of Bob Dylan, The Beatles. Bob Marley was probably my greatest influence growing up here in Miami and the Bahamas—I spent a lot of time over there growing up. That was really my first inspiration. Everything goes from there.

I try to tell a story with my music and all my songs as Marley did, and I try to have a message throughout my whole album. The album speaks a lot about self discovery, just keeping on that path and finding your own way as a young person or as a growing human being, because no matter what age you are, you’re always growing. Ten years from now you look back, and you’re like wow, I can’t believe I used to like that. I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I wore that. That's what the album talks about. It speaks a lot about finding the harsh realities and the truths—and also the fun parts of life.

Do you have a favorite song off the new album?
There are so many great songs. I had such a great time working on the whole album. I only worked with a few key producers. I was lucky enough to work with these guys—Pharrell, Wyclef, Dallas Austin, and Michael Busbee—and the rest of the album was pretty much produced by my production partner and myself. The whole time it was just people I knew very well and people I was very close with. It was such a fun time creating it. But one of my most favorite songs off the album is a song called "All I Need is You." There's a big horn section in there which I really love, and the whole thing had a great vibe in the studio, from the production to finishing it. I was very happy we got it on the album.

Video for "Liar Liar"

There are so many young artists trying to get discovered through music competition shows and on YouTube. What do you attribute your success to? 
I attribute my success to social media—YouTube, Twitter. It was an idea from Pharrell. He was like, "the way I find all my music now is the Internet. That’s how I hear about artists across the world," and he [said that's what I] should do. He taught me this when I was about 17; he said to find a top 20 record and make a cover of it. "Bring it into your reggae style and do what you do with it, and even rewrite some of the lyrics if you want. Totally flip it and put it out there." So that’s what I did. The first song I did was “Black and Yellow” from Wiz Khalifa. That one started popping off, and after that I did a few originals, and those starting popping off as well.

My advice to anyone coming up as an artist is to really use social media and use it to your advantage. Really engage your fans and really make your way into their vision. It's hard to get discovered unless you’re putting yourself out there. It’s up to you to engage your audience, and if you believe in what you do and really love what you do, they’re definitely out there—there’s an audience for you. It’s on you to discover them.

Is Miami still home base for you? 
CC: Definltely. I live by Coconut Grove. 

Where do you like to hang out when you have downtime? 
CC: My favorite spots in Miami—one is in Wynwood. I love Bardot. It’s a great spot to hear a lot of live music. I’ve performed there a few times. And a good spot to take somebody to eat is on Miracle Mile, Ortanique. It's a Caribbean fusion restaurant. 

Who are your favorite up-and-coming artists that you’re listening to right now?
There's a band out of Europe called Milky Chance—very cool group. I think they’re cool because they really do their own thing. When their song "Stolen Dance" was coming to America, they were asked to change the lyrics, and they really stuck to what they believe and they were like, "no way, no." The song’s really cool; it describes a certain feeling—if they want to use the words “stoned in paradise” to describe a certain feeling, that’s what they wanted to use. I appreciate that they stuck to their guns.

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