COLLE' KHARIS ON CREATIVITY, INDIE ARTISTRY, AND THE PATH TO HIS 'THE BOOK OF COLLE' KHARIS' ALBUM
Updated: Mar 23
Collé Kharis reflects on his journey as an independent recording artist, producer, and engineer, his up and coming ‘The Book of Colle’ Kharis album, the intricacies of social media, and the evolution of his music.
Returning to the music scene after a lengthy military and civil service commitment, Colle’ Kharis has regained his momentum. The Guyanese reggae artist relished the opportunity to return to the music scene and immediately started releasing new music.
The Book of Colle’ Kharis, his second album (to be released June 19, 2023), finds the artist at his strongest. He brings a marriage of traditional roots reggae beats with contemporary melodic lyricism and cadence. The evolution of his songwriting and the craft of The Book of Colle’ Kharis compared to his previous album structure, Defined Versatility (2005), is quite impressive. The Book of Colle’ Kharis will be released under Rac Jam Records — Kharis’ fully independent record label or, as he called it, his “independent brand." As he explained, the term 'label' is a bit ambitious.
What is the biggest difference between the first album and this new album?
I produced and engineered most of the songs on my first album [Defined Versatility, 2005], but for this album, I wanted to focus on the writing and lyrical aspect of song creation - more on being an artist, per se. Producing is also very demanding and time-consuming. The Book of Colle’ Kharis album is also closely aligned with the traditional roots reggae genre compared to my first album, which was a fusion of dancehall, hip-hop, roots, and more. Yeah! I just brought a different vibe to this album. I’m limiting this new work to ten songs, keeping it short but substantial.
Let’s talk a bit more about that. Why just ten songs?
Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference. In the age of information overload, a short-format album would serve best regarding attentiveness. Even though I will continue to create music that I feel is great, I still have to combat people’s attention spans. Ultimately, I want people to listen to and enjoy my songs.
I wanted to ask you about your label and being an independent artist.
Yeah! RacJam Records. It’s my personal brand under which I release my songs independently. Even though there are benefits to signing to a major record label, like not getting buried with the business and promoting your music, this would substantially free up my time. Still, I am one to learn from others’ mistakes and pain, and I have listened to the caution and advice of legends such as Prince, who eloquently broke down the difference between a major record deal and self-management. And yes, a major label can give you notoriety fast. But fame is not the fuel that ignites me; it’s sustainability, creative freedom, and owning 100% of my work. Now, you have to grind every day, but I have the talent to elevate my status in the music industry to make a lasting impact. Therefore I am confident staying independent.
Do you have a blueprint for your career, and what would you say is the biggest challenge?
First, make good music you will like and enjoy jamming out to in your car. If I make crap music, I will be stuck listening to my crap music [Laughs.] On a serious note, I want all of my songs on The Book of Colle’ Kharis album and beyond to be entertaining and evoke some form of emotion, despite the topic. But that’s just part of the battle. As an independent artist, you must conquer social media; social media is a beast. Trust me; you have to rely on your family and friends, their family and friends, and so on, to share your music and spread the word. I would venture to say that social media is my biggest challenge because, as a musician, you have to wash, rinse, and repeat until your music builds a strong enough momentum to take on a life of its own.
Let’s get into the singles on the album. “Johnny Don’t Cry” is one of my favorites. It has a refreshing modern sound for a traditional genre in roots reggae.
[The song] is fire. I started writing that song in 2018 to a beat I received from a producer in Guyana. I generally only write lyrics to tracks if the beats are in place. The deal for the beat didn’t make sense financially, so I stopped writing to it - having completed the chorus and the first verse. It wasn’t until the Depp v. Heard trial that I decided to complete the song. I was invested in the trial, which inspired me to finish the song, even though the initial premise had nothing to do with the trial. Still, it was themed surrounding the plight of men, so it aligned. Within a day, I had the final two verses written and recorded. Shortly after, a day or so, I created the promo video. The song has been well received since I released it in May this year.
Another highlight for me is “Tomorrow's Freedom.” It has this roots Bob Marley sound that is so universal.
Tomorrow's Freedom is one of those songs that, if you were to listen carefully to the words, you would get great insight into my socioeconomic and political worldview. It touches on oppression, police brutality, political corruption, the wealth gap, and more. It was important for me to convey the underlining message surrounding freedom adequately. I did not just mean "we need tomorrow's freedom" because "we, the people," are fighting for individual liberty and freedom. I also meant that there is a need for freedom among the human race regarding the treatment of the poor and disenfranchised, freedom to live life in a manner one finds most beneficial to him or herself, freedom to protest, etc. The song's purpose is to highlight that we should be doing better as a people. We should subscribe to the ideology of common human decency, fight against discrimination, and uplift our brothers and sisters regardless of race or socioeconomic status. That's what Tomorrow's Freedom is all about.
Was the creative process different this time around?
Different producers produced all the songs on this album. This is the first time I didn’t produce anything on it. I don’t have the appetite for making beats as I did when working on Defined Versatility. I have two songs that I may have to produce beats for Rise Once More and Cargo. I already have the melodies and lyrics in my head and cannot find beats that work without forcing the process - for this and other reasons, I don’t write without first having the beat because I don’t particularly appreciate having to force my lyrics and melody to fit a beat. So it is a significantly different creative process, especially since technology has evolved, and now I can create music without the burden of having access to large-scale facilities and equipment.
So what’s next on your list now for Colle´ Kharis?
Do you know what I want to do? Put a band together. Just something small where people get the live vibes. There’s nothing like live music to get people excited! To me, bands bring some extra seasoning to the pot of cookup rice that is music [Laughs.] You know what I mean? All these different elements come together to make a good song. My goal is to put a small hybrid band together with a DJ as the central supplier of the riddim during live shows. It’ll be a nice alternative to just singing to a performance track played by a DJ. Plus, how can I truly call myself a roots reggae artist and don’t have a band? — that's not a good look, especially when trying to book shows.
Link Tree: https://linktr.ee/collekharis