There’s an old saying that promises that the only constant in this world is change. Unfortunately, a superficial listen to America’s Top 40 radio stations will probably make you think otherwise. Quite fittingly, Chanj, a new artist who happens to go against the grain, finds comfort and value in his name. Time will show if radio will too.
Upon the release of Time for Chanj, Chanj managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Luther Vandross, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and his remarkable reign as a four-time winner of Showtime at the Apollo.
In spite of your tremendous vocal range and abilities, your original aspiration was to be an actor. At what point did your heart turn to music?
Over time, I started to realize that music was something that I could express a little bit easier and a little bit more passionately than acting. I think my turning point was when I was at a school assembly and I was singing “I Believe I Can Fly.” After the assembly, I walked up to my father and I asked him how I did and he was standing there crying and said, “I understand why you love to do this.” That’s when something kind of clicked in me, like, let me explore this a little bit more. I gained such an attachment to it, because it was an easy way to speak about what I was going through and share myself to people.
In high school, you linked up with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center through a community partnership. How did your experiences with the NJPAC shape your artistic endeavors?
Well, the Performing Arts Center brought their program to my high school, and we were actually the first batch of students to experience that whole thing. We had excellent acting coaches and musicians and vocal coaches coming in and assisting us and preparing us for school plays, talent shows or whatever else was going on. I had also been a part of the Performing Arts after-school program since the age of six. So my training has always been there, and the Performing Arts Center was very influential in my artistic development.
As a child, you were a constant participant in the talent shows that you just referenced. Was your participation driven by personal ambition or were you prodded by family, friends and teachers?
In the early stages, my participation was driven by personal ambition. I just wanted to be seen and heard. My appearance on Showtime at the Apollo was something that my management team – Second II None Entertainment – pushed me to do because I didn’t even really want to do anymore competitions at that point. They were just like, “We really believe it is a great idea to do it.” After some persuasion, I decided to do it.