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Interview: Chris Waters

Chris Waters “Road To Damascus” (rap)

Midway through the harrowing clip for “Road to Damascus” by Chris Waters, we’re shown a kid shattering a classroom window with the back of his skateboard. He’s running for his life, fleeing from a school that has become a death trap. The impending violence is only the second most frightening thing about the shot. The scariest part of the video is the strangely impassive look on the child’s face. There’s been so much gun violence in the USA and within our educational system that no one is surprised anymore when it happens — not even the victims. Somehow the unimaginable has become commonplace.

But Chris Waters still believes there’s hope for us. The rapper/singer/songwriter is outraged, but he’s not ready to give up. America is reeling from the epidemic of school shootings and mass shootings. Believe it or not, there have been 67 mass shootings already this year in 2023.  The most recent being just last week at Michigan State University. Our leaders are either powerless or unwilling to act. Thoughts and prayers will never be enough. But minds can change, and persuasion is still a possibility, and Waters is turning all the rhetorical force he can muster toward that end. His rhymes on “Road to Damascus” are articulate, fiery, and blunt; there’s not a word wasted or a momentary digression. He raps like a man who knows we’re running out of time.

This sort of urgency and commitment to communication isn’t a new thing for Waters. Though his songs are always entertaining, they’re not merely made for the party. He’s motivated by his desire to raise consciousness and restore our collective humanity through music. “Blurry,” his 2020 single, took the pandemic head on and made the rapper’s empathy for the campaigns of social-justice protesters manifest. His 2018 debut single, “Rise,” was a statement of absolute determination and a testament to lessons learned. “Road to Damascus” is just the latest (and fiercest) of his broadsides — a much-needed topical song that matches stinging words to muscular guitar and a huge, relentless, irresistible beat provided by producer Lang Freeman.

Philip Guzman’s video for “Road to Damascus” is just as uncompromising as the song’s lyrics. We’re shown the uncomfortable facts, including an infographic of school shootings across the country that lights up the map with a constellation of flashpoints. Footage pulled from the news and shot inside classrooms makes the crisis palpable to even the hardest-hearted among us. With every frame and every sequence, Waters asks: is this really the nation we want to be? Are we really so callous that we’re willing to do this to our children? Will we ever intervene?  Waters is also encouraging folks to share the video with anyone who needs to see it, including government representatives.

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Since your 2020 single, “Blurry”, how have you seen your music and music taste evolve?

It’s a bit strange actually. These days I mainly listen to melodic/ progressive house… I fell in love with these genres over the last few years.  You can hear a bit of this influence on a few of my recent tracks “Wait for You,” and “Dolly,”

I very rarely listen to “rap” music. If I do, it will most likely be 90’s hip hop/ rap which is the golden era and my favorite era of rap. Because of this new found love of melodic/ progressive house, it could steer me in a different direction going forward. We will see.

We are honored to work with you once again to help spread an important message with the “Road to Damascus” music video. What is the overall takeaway you’d like your audience to walk away with after watching it?

It’s easy to look the other way, but with this song and video I am hitting you in the face with it. The song and the video are extremely direct. There’s no trying to figure out a hidden meaning. It’s extremely obvious. I hope someone walks away being emotionally affected by the video. And I hope it may lead to some people actually taking action and fighting for change, because gun violence in the US is completely out of control.

Can you describe the process behind how you executed the vision of the “Road to Damascus” music video?

If you look at my video for “Blurry,” we had news footage/clips from 2020 as the backdrop. Those clips were put together by Phillip Guzman, who I met when I lived in Austin. So, for “Road to Damascus,” I knew I wanted to do something similar by using actual news clips. I reached back out to Phillip, and that was all him. I knew he would be the perfect guy to execute on what I was trying to accomplish here.

What encouraged you to write “Road to Damascus”? Is there a specific event or experience that comes to mind?

I mean if you really think about it…. we have children getting shot and killed while at school. If you really take some time to think about how messed up that is, you should be shaken. I found it hard to write about anything else. I would not describe myself as “religious,” so it was interesting that I am referencing a story from the Bible. The chorus kind of just wrote itself when I heard that harp loop. There are times when lyrics/ writing just comes out of you, and it’s hard to really understand where it came from.

How do you hope to grow as rap and hip hop artist? What do you hope to accomplish in your music career?

I do not really consider myself to be rapper or hip-hop artist. I’m more of a singer/songwriter who sometimes raps.  My goal is simply to make the best possible music I can make. That’s it. Believe it or not I have never performed live…. so starting to get out there live and make a name for myself is definitely on my radar. I also want to start collaborating with other artists as well.

There have been 67 mass shootings already this year in 2023. What do you think we can do to advocate for safety regulations and/or gun control in America?

What’s crazy is that it’s already up from 67 to 80 this year. I am not someone saying we should get rid of or drastically reduce guns. Most gun owners are responsible. I do think we need to eliminate access to assault weapons/ automatic rifles. Those are for war, not for communities. I am also a fan of stricter background checks. The majority of Americans are in favor of stricter gun laws. It’s not all about guns though, as there obviously is a mental health component as well. But my understanding is that about half of mass shootings, the shooter has no “red flags.” So there would be no way to know or try to prevent it from happening.,, so it’s complicated. But with the other 50% there are “red flags,” and maybe we need to keep these folks on a tighter leash somehow.

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