French Soul… but make it touch #deftfrenchtouch @crystalmrr 🇫🇷
Crystal Murray is an 18 year old Parisian influencer, turned singer-songwriter. Organic growth for a natural creative. In an industry working at industrial pace, her group of school friends were thrust into instant instagram fame aged 14 with ‘Gucci Gang’, a name the young girls had facetiously given themselves. They were featured in Vogue, Dazed, I-D and many more. There was a campaign for Beats and Converse—and all the seriously sophisticated partying that comes with. Dizzying, really.
Showing growth and maturity beyond teenage years, they soon tired of the scene and went onto wield their clout to create ‘Safe Place’, a virtual platform for young women who have experienced sexual abuse and harassment. Before #metoo, along with a few others of its like, it was an online space to speak the unspeakable; to break taboos, and through honest conversation, to support. Influencing in its highest form?
She is half Franca-Spanish, half African-American, with a Jazz musician father, Crystal is simply 100% artist and began recording a few years ago. Her second single “Princess”, a song she wrote whilst visiting New York, aged 13, was used in an advert for Dior Beauty with Bella Hadid. “I Was Wrong”, her newest project, is a 5 track claypot of melodious Soul, with touches of French House —a crème de la crème of mood music, up a fair few brackets.
Speaking to us, surrounded by family, so complete with the sweetest interruption with her mother in French, it is wonderful to hear a voice of effervescence and age, especially during a global lockdown. Read on for more insightful wisdom and an exclusive project announcement… towards the very end.
What was growing up in Paris like?
Growing up in Paris was very fun! I think the people of my generation in Paris really started to do stuff artistically and even just party from a really young age. I feel like the Paris I lived, I don’t think I could have done that anywhere else. Paris was great. I love Paris! I’m a such a Parisian girl! I am so Parisian it’s crazy…it’s like, I can’t not be Parisian.
Paris has always been such an epicentre for art…
I think in the past few years Paris has really shown itself a lot too. Especially the young people and especially in fashion. I think France for a long time has been well known for older brands and couture, couture is definitely not young. But in the past couple of years, it’s really opening up to youth culture as well.
When streetwear exploded?
I think urban and streetwear exploded a few years ago now. I remember when Supreme first started to come. And then other American brands followed, brands which were not really known in Paris before. My brother is half American and I remember him going to New York and coming back with Supreme, and it was very rare and crazy. And when the shop got here, it was like crazy for the youth of Paris. I think now though, everything is getting centred and everybody is finding their identity and not just being urban. Everyone is mixing everything more.
“If you have the right balance, dancing and the essence of partying can be like therapy” I love this line…
Oh my god. What a great line!
It is your line Crystal!
I know, but the way you read it was so poetic! Hahaha!
No patronising intended, how did you come to such wise conclusions at such a young age?
Hah! Well, I started partying at a really young age because I was in the fashion industry and I was doing all this ‘influencer’ stuff, at like 14 or something. I partied a lot for 2 years, and it was a lot of fun. But then, I think I just got really tired of it. I started meeting new people, not just fashion people and I started going out with House and Techno DJ friends. I think it was through this kind of music that I really started to see what partying was really about and what the backstory to it was. Partying for me used to be singing Rap music and going wild — and that gets tiring.
When I stepped away from the scene, and was able to breathe again, it really helped me in my creativity because I learned how to feel emotions by dancing and allowing myself to feel the music. Now when I go out, well now we can’t, but when we all could, I actually just go for the music and I literally go to be in my bubble and the bubble of my friends and I get really inspired by it.
Could you tell us about ‘Gucci Gang’?
Gucci Gang was something I started when I was 13. Well, actually, we didn’t really start it. We were best friends and it must have been 2016 or something. It was not something that we planned. It was during the time of Instagram fame and streetwear exploding and the ‘influencer’ was coming of age in Paris. We were just young people of our generation on Instagram and taking pictures. And then suddenly, the media just found us and were like “well, hey, hello!”. Yeah… and then that happened.
It was really not planned. It was very nice to do. It was cool. It was a lot of experimenting. We got to do so much at a young age and I really learnt a lot— about myself, the industry, what I like, what I dislike, and how the media can shape a group of people. There were many times we were saying things that would end up totally different in the press. At the very beginning, it was a little out of control. Like, you had 13 year olds meeting people and giving interviews when we really didn’t know what the fuck we were saying.
Do you feel your organic coming of age experiences was marketed for mass consumption?
Yeh. A lot of it was. But out of all this, I think we made something good of it too. We took what we needed to take, we DJ’d, we partied and it was fun, we were 14, it was unreal, you know! We took all of that, and after 2 years we were like, “ok, that was fun girls… now let’s do something else!”.
And ‘Safe Place’?
And yeh, then we started to do Safe Place. I think the four of us together did have fun but we didn’t want to keep posting pictures of clubs and being used by brands and feeling robotised by everything. We created Safe Place because we wanted to talk to our generation because we felt like people were talking about our generation a lot, they were talking about the women of our generation a lot, but the voices were not ours. This was before #metoo and it mostly was older men writing about young women they knew nothing about.
We wanted to give young women like us a space to talk. Because when we talk, we find solutions. If we open up about our problems, we find solutions. It’s a space to break the taboos and air all our voices. We started doing videos on YouTube and we were just talking. And this is what I still want Safe Place to be. Just a place where you can really talk. And not just about society and humanity, it can be about any subject that makes somebody uncomfortable. Essentially, it is a platform to break taboos.
What does the word ‘influencer’ mean to you?
I think we have made the word ‘influencer’ a bad word because we have made it a job and it is not a job. And that is something I hate the most about my generation right now. We have taken something very shallow and made it something very big, and it’s very stupid of us to do.
I think the word ‘influencer’ in the world of Instagram is someone who influences by their clothes, by their thinking, their arts, things like that. But now the word ‘influencer’ has become ‘work’ and has been robotised by the brands. I see people quitting school at 16 because they have 20k on Instagram and I’m like.. “oh, that’s such a bad idea and not a cool thing to do”. The good part of influencing is take your fanbase and make something good out of it. I have had experiences of being invited to clubs and told I must post x amount of photos on my Instagram, and when I tried telling them that was unnatural to me, the response would be an angry, “Well, we can get an influencer with 200k followers to do it, if you won’t.”
I am grateful to be away from all that, but even now, when I say no sometimes, my mum will sometimes say to me, “well, you can’t turn my nose up to everything”. And she is right too. I am an artist and I do need to earn. I honestly can’t even spit on it.
You received a lot of media attention at an incredibly young age— how did that feel and what advice would you give your younger self now?
‘Gucci Gang’ made me feel really good with myself. It took me a long time to really understand and accept who I am. My Mum is French and my Father is African-American and I was sent to private school where there was mostly only white people. ‘Gucci Gang’ showed me to love everything from my hair to my style.
I was very young and we also had bad backlash. I remember I was 13 and there was a full page interview about us and it was terrible. It was written by some angry woman, and she tore us to pieces, really, for just wearing clothes we liked. For 3 days I was devastated. But then, after the 3 days, I realised how this shit could be cool too! People were talking about us, brands were sending us stuff, we were being invited to more fashion parties. That incident alone made me more confident. So now with my music, I know there may be some backlash, I know there will be critics, but I understand this and am ok with this now.
I also think the girl group I had, which was very powerful, played a huge part. We went through it together and we got out of it together. I think my advice would be, stick to your mind. I realised after 3 years of being in fashion that I didn’t want to be in this world and I needed to live it to see that I didn’t want it. I am so happy that I lived it because now I can go do other things. It really helped me see what I like and dislike and the kind of people I like and dislike. I think you need to experience things to see what you really want.
CongratulatIons on your EP ‘I Was Wrong’. What can we expect to hear?
I was wrong is very young, I mean, because I am very young. Hahaha! I started recording in the studio like 3 years ago so it’s like my very first project and it is a bit of a melting pot of the things I did and the things I wrote.
It’s an EP that I put a lot of things into from a young age and it’s also an EP where I really started to write. I started to write music two years ago and I would write about my emotions because writing was like therapy for me. I was putting words onto paper and it made sense. They were stories that I lived and emotions that I was feeling. And it was also, the first stories that I lived, and the first emotions that I was feeling— it’s a first-time EP. I am talking about the first time I fell in love and the first time that I really got hurt. Things like that.
I love the Soul and Techno sound of “Princess”, how did that come together as a song?
It was one of the first songs I wrote. The beat is very French. Very, very French.
It’s sounds very French. It sounds very Parisian and chic.
It’s so funny you say chic because the producer is like the most chic guy I have ever met in the world. He’s an ex-model, with beautiful blonde hair and blue eyes and he has this studio in one of the prettiest parts of Paris, but it’s like a cave. It is literally like a cave!
I actually came with the lyrics and the melody for “Princess”. It’s a song I wrote when I went to visit my father in New York, I was 13 and going out in Harlem with my friend Sonya and we were full of energy. We were listening to Janet Jackson “Nasty Girl” and we were just full of energy.
When did you realise you had a singing voice?
I was always singing from when I was little. I was always writing too. But it’s not like I wanted to be Beyoncé or anything. I really liked singing but I felt like everyone has a nice voice. But from the first time I went into the studio, I knew it was something I liked. Even if I wasn’t fully happy with something I knew I was ok with it going out there. And that’s when I started recording my EP.
Will there be songs in French soon?
Yes! Yes, I have actually started just this month. This difficult time has made me take my time to write. I am very pressed, I am a very pressed person. Even with my music, I have this thing where I like writing fast and I like getting things done and moving on. During this lockdown, I am trying to learn how to take time to do things. Because I know, if I take more time to do my music, it will sound even more better.
I have started writing and recording in French now. For a long time, I never wrote in French. The reason why I haven’t been singing in French is because I have not been writing in French. But now, I am beginning to hear melodies in French and I am writing in French, so yeah, we will see if it’s going to end up somewhere.
What are your thoughts of the French music industry?
We have a lot of underrated artists we don’t see.
The French-speaking music scene feels due an international ambassador…
Haha! Yeh, I think it’s coming, you know. Christine and the Queens are singing in French and doing great things. But I still think we have a lot of underrated artists that you don’t see because the French scene, Frances famous people.. I personally don’t like it. I don’t think it’s exactly great.
Do you see French Rap becoming more popular?
I have a bunch of friends.. you are actually going to be the first one to hear this… I have a DJ friend called Damawi Ande and we are starting a group called Federation du Boucan, we actually had a our first concert in Paris, just before the lockdown.
It’s a bunch of 8 or so artists, 7 of whom you never hear because they are not famous. There’s Lala A’s, she’s an incredible French rapper. There’s another rapper called Le Duke. There’s this girl called Niariu, she’s in ‘Les Amazones d’Afrique, and she does all this super weird and beautiful emotion-music. And there’s one girl who does R&Bb music, and another guy who literally sings like Frank Ocean. It’s going to be my first real introduction to French music and it’s amazing. It really is a melting pot of some crazy stuff and it’s going to be fun, lots and lots of fun!! I’m really proud to be in it.
One song, by you, that you would love for us all to go listen to?
My label would want me to say “Easy Like Before”but I think for me it would be “August Knows”. The song is about summer when you have a little thing with someone but then you leave to go on vacation, blah blah blah. And then, when you come back in August, and you may have had a thing with someone else … you just have all these lost emotions, things come out and you don’t really know what it’s about. If you listen to the song, it doesn’t really make sense. Because in August when I came back from vacation and I was seeing this guy, I really made no sense, so the song is this way, because only August knows. The song when I wrote it made no sense but it made so much sense to me!
How are you finding quarantine/lockdown life? Everything sounds very well…
I have a lot of luck! I am with my mother, my brother and my boyfriend is also here. I have my studio here and I have my house by the sea. I am very lucky. I feel very lucky to be safe and well!
Do you have any songs you have been listening to more since quarantine?
I’ve been listening to Ron Trent, it’s House music. I’ve been listening to a lot of House music because I’ve been writing my own songs, and when I write, I don’t want to be distracted by other lyrics. I am listening to a song called “Sweet Chocolate“, it’s like Jazz-Funk. And now I need to dance!