Chris Rawlins is a singer/songwriter based in Chicago, IL distinguished by his unique finger style guitar playing, vivid lyrics and blend of folk, jazz, country and pop sounds. Born in Michigan, he studied jazz guitar and creative writing at Western Michigan University, and worked as a bassist in a variety of rock and cover bands before venturing into Chicago's eclectic singer-songwriter scene.
Shortly after his arrival in the city, Chris won the bi-annual open mic competition at Uncommon Ground in 2015 and went on to release his debut EP '“Impressions.” The EP received airplay on local and regional college radio stations including Loyola University's WLUW, Western Michigan University’s WIDR and Elmhurst College’s WRSE.
Chris embarked on his first national tour in 2018, and has performed at some of Chicago's most noteworthy venues, including the Metro, Double Door and the Empty Bottle. He is currently working on his first full length album.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I’ve always seen myself as a singer-songwriter, but I struggled to put a foot forward and do that for a long time. I grew up in Kalamazoo, MI and I’ve played in bands since high school but usually as a guitarist or bass player, never as band leader or songwriter. After high school I went to study music in college for two years, became frustrated at how technical and competitive that was and then changed majors to creative writing hoping that would lead me more into songwriting.
I wrote songs while in college but I was too shy to play them in public. Finally, once I graduated I felt like enough was enough. I had wasted enough time, so I decided to pack my things and move to New York City and focus on nothing but writing songs and performing them. I went to open mics every night and eventually got somewhat comfortable singing songs I wrote in front of people. Living in New York was unsustainable though, so that lasted less than a year before I moved back to Michigan briefly and then made my way to Chicago.
I’ve found Chicago to be much more my speed. New York may have given me the confidence to perform, but living in Chicago and becoming a part of the music community here has shaped my songwriting more than anything else. It’s taken a while but I’m pleased with where I am now. I went on my first tour this Summer and I’m finishing up a debut album.
Can you tell us more about your songwriting?
I write songs that try to describe feelings or things I can’t quite put into words any other way. I like writing songs with multiple angles or themes happening at the same time and fitting them together under the same emotional umbrella. I take a very visual approach to lyrics and let the narrative seep out of the images. So, I hope that people take away something like what you’d take away from a painting or photograph, with an endless number of little stories that stem from each image, line, verse, etc.
As for the music, I like to base melodies and chord progressions off of traditional themes. I’ve always loved jazz standards as well as traditional country music, so I think my songs tend to sound like a blend those two styles.