INTERVIEW: Lorine Chia
Lorine Chia is a Cameroonian-American vocalist based out of Ohio. When she spoke with SoCalMusicToday, she had already released her debut album, Lorine Chia, several months earlier and had begun to play venues in the Northeast at only 20 years old. Check it out now absolutely free. With so little known about her and the buzz growing by the minute, we wanted to know about absolutely everything, from her early life in Cameroon to the album itself and her ambitions as an artist.
So, when you were at the University of Toledo, what did you study?
Pre-Med. My parents were like, you’re going to be a doctor. I was like, I don’t know but I’ll try it. But it was like the first time I got a 2.4 GPA. I always get like 3.5’s or higher. It was terrible. My first semester in college was like– no.
I failed all my classes my first quarter at university in Bio Sci. At some point, you just check out emotionally, right? Eventually, I picked it up again but it was a major change to my path.
Right! It totally depends on what you go for and if you’re actually doing what it is that you want to do.
Exactly, that changes everything. So, I know that you grew up in Cameroon ‘til about age 6, right? So, tell me what you remember about growing up in Africa.
Right. I remember a lot actually, mostly just day-to-day experiences and just being outside. It’s like kids in Cameroon are more mature. When I was like 4, I was outside with my cousins. We would just play outside by ourselves. We had responsibilities like washing dishes and our clothes. We didn’t have washing machines so we would have to wash everything by hand. I remember every Saturday we would wash our school uniforms together and it was great. It’s such a beautiful place to be. It’s not at all like what people put on TV.
My new dream destination! I wish that people got to see more of that side, you know?
And that’s my job, to basically bring awareness to people. Like, yo, Africa’s a beautiful place!
Awesome. So, you want your identity as a Cameroonian to bleed into your music?
Definitely the way I am as a person is because of my background. My parents are not about to be ‘American’ at any time. Like, it’s definitely an African household. Their morals are ingrained inside me. The way I am as a person is based on everything I experienced inside an African household and being where I’m from. Throughout the music, it comes out– the honesty. I don’t know. I don’t know how to just explain it. But everything I’m saying is like apart of me so I don’t know if people get that I’m African. What people pick up is that I’m an old soul. But to me, it’s like no, pretty much everyone in Africa is like this– like the kids are more mature. So that’s something that definitely goes in.
Yeah, you mentioned washing your own clothes with your cousins. That’s probably where the maturity comes from– having responsibilities.
Yeah, responsibility and discipline. Discipline is a major thing, especially in schools because they’re allowed to hit you. So, if you’re doing something wrong, they will hit you. I remember this one time, I was playing with my bookbag so I wasn’t paying attention. This lady whacked me with a big stick, and I’m just sitting there like, “Oh, my God!” It gets real.
Let’s get to the album. When, where and why?
The album was made over the course of a year. I used to go to University of Toledo, but I didn’t get to go back my second semester so I was just at home. I was like, “I might as well just focus on music because I don’t really have anything else to do. So I spent that whole year making this album, and released it Thanksgiving of 2012.
How do you think it’s been received?
It got a lot of positive feedback. I was shocked when Complex put it on their website. They really loved it. A lot of people got to find out who I was. Even people in Colombia; I got played on Colombian radio. People over in the U.K. loved it. It was amazing. But you know, life still hasn’t really changed. I’m still at home doing the same thing, just wanting for an opportunity to pop up. But a lot of positive things have already happened so far, and now I have this time to just focus on making more music. I’m learning how to make beats and really just building my craft more, day by day.
It’s one of those albums that I play on Sundays while I’m cleaning house, reading, relaxing, whatever. It’s weird but it really felt like it was my album. There were certain points where I just knew where you were going in the music, knew what the next lyric would be.
That’s really shocking because I never thought that I could be influential or I could appeal to people in such a way. Growing up, I was always the kid that was quiet in school, I didn’t really talk to people. I wasn’t the popular kid or anything. I never knew my words could make people feel the way you do. Some fans were sending me questions, and they would reply, “I’m so happy that you’re even responding right now!” I was like, are you serious? That’s crazy.
Wow. For them, you’re already larger than life.
Yeah, it’s so weird. It makes me feel good because that’s what I really want to do. I want to motivate people. I want to inspire people and I want people to know that they’re not the only one who is going through something. Like, I’m here for you– I totally understand. But it’s crazy to see my fans freaking out when I follow them back on Twitter. I absolutely love them.
I think it’s awesome how you build relationships with your fans. One song in particular that I wanted to ask you about was “Water to Wine”. It’s about how sometimes relationships can just sweep in and take over you. How did that track come about?
You know, I’ve never been in love. I don’t have a love life at all. But in this song, I was talking about God because I love God to the T [?]. To have people understand what I was saying, I had to say it in a romantic-relationship type of way because a lot of people probably don’t believe in the same thing that I believe in. But they can understand what love is and they’ll get it through relationships. I was thinking about my parents as well. They love each other– why not talk about them? So, that’s basically how the song came out.
I think you’re right that there are a lot of different ways to connect to God, and a lot of different ways to connect to love.
It’s in patience and kindness– I see that from my parents. I’ve never been in love because guys are jerks but I get love from my friends and family. It’s so hard to describe because it’s so powerful. When people listen to the song, there is some type of love that goes through you. You can’t really just listen to a love song and not even feel it. Don’t try to act like you don’t feel it. I know you feel it! I know what love is because love is around me, and love is inside me.
It really hurts me when I see so many young women who are desperate to find love and be loved, and they’re looking for it outside of themselves. They don’t really know it can come from within. What would you say to them?
Love yourself! You won’t be able to find any type of love if you don’t love yourself first. When I was younger, I was picked on and I felt like it was my fault because maybe I was ugly or I was this and that. But I woke up. I was like, never should I feel guilt about because myself. If people don’t like it, oh well– I need to learn to love myself before I can love someone else. You won’t allow anyone to love you if you don’t love yourself. Love yourself and everything else will take it’s course.
You wrote all the songs yourself, so would you say that the album kind of presented itself as an opportunity to work through some of that?
Definitely! I remember, it was a year ago, during the time I was making this album was about the time that I began the process of learning to love myself. I had the lowest self-esteem. I just didn’t think too highly of myself and I would always second guess myself. While making this album, I just really dug deeper into myself– into my soul and into my thoughts, and I realized that I am a great human being– I am very incredible, so why is it that I don’t like myself? I just started realizing a lot more about myself, so I was like, you know what? I am beautiful, I am incredible and God has made me who I am. I am talented and I am going places. “You’re Alright” is my favorite song on the album not only because I got to play the keys but because it was when I finally broke out of my shell. That’s when I finally realized that growth is something that I need. There is no way I should not love myself. So this album was definitely my way of getting through that. I’m glad the opportunity came because I would have still been that girl who was insecure, trying to find a man to make me feel better or whatever the case may be. But I’m cool now.
Some people just never learn to love who they are. They try to be other people. They try to be their idols. They try to be fashionistas. It’s like, just be you. People are going to love you for you.
And what a better thing it is, when you’re just relaxed with someone and they just love you doing absolutely nothing.
Yes! And you can just feel so comfortable. I love it.
It’s wonderful. You also mentioned switching from this mode where you were kind of looking for some guy to come along and make you whole. I used to feel like that too, but now it’s like there’s this totally different journey I have to go through in order to really come into myself as a woman. It’s not him who is going to do it for me– he can’t. So, what is it that you think has to happen for all of us? As women, how do we come into ourselves?
No, he can’t. You just have to find yourself. Every human being has to know who they are and know what they want. Know what you want and understand that you are worth more than what people will set you. You’re worth more than everything– you’re a soul and that’s why people try to buy souls. I just realized this. A person with a soul is worth more than anything in this world. You don’t need anyone else to come around and say that you’re this or that. You can do that on your own. The love is there inside of you; you just have to learn how to grasp it.
Sometimes it gets a little hard to watch so many young women putting all their eggs in the ‘wife and kids’ basket.
I know! It’s just crazy. I always thought he would pop out of nowhere. Like, every guy I would talk to would have me feeling like, maybe we’ll talk and then we’ll become lovers and whatever– but it was really like, no– we didn’t even get past the talking phase. I’m sorry, but I refuse. If I say someone is mine, I put them on a pedestal because they’re mine. Just like how a king and queen should be– that’s what I want in a relationship. But if you’re not a king, then I don’t even have any business being around you. You gotta be that guy first, just like you’ve gotta be that woman. He won’t come around until you’re ready– until you are your own queen. A lot of people go out looking for it, but of course it’s not going to come to you if you’re not ready. I’m not ready and I am perfectly fine with that.
That’s beautiful, and of course everyone you meet for now is apart of the journey– I mean, you have to stop and smell the roses. Water them, let them grow but keep pushing. Besides, there are so many other things that go into a relationship besides you wanting it, you know? That’s not always enough.
Exactly, and there’s something to write songs about. I think there has to be this connection– spiritually, mentally, all of that. If you don’t have that, then it’s not even worth it. This last dude I talked to, he was very childish– very childish! I was just so mad, I would get so mad at him and I would be like, “Why are you so childish?” But I just realized, it’s just not his time. It’s not, and I can’t expect him to be up to par if it’s not his time. People have to realize that.
So, there was one song that I really love that wasn’t on the album called ‘Babbling Idiots’. I saw your music video for the song, so I really wanted to ask you about its political focus– protests, presidential candidates, police brutality. Talk more about that.
That song is pretty much about people who babble too much. Just being in high school, being around people who just talk too much. A lot of people have been coming up with these conspiracy theories, and I’m just like you guys have no idea what you’re talking about– you are all crazy because you don’t even know what you’re saying. I felt like Romney was a great example– because you know I wasn’t for Romney. So, it was just perfect– I put Romney in the video and it made everyone laugh because everyone knows he has no idea what he’s talking about.
And the protest footage? Do you participate many protests and organizing?
It seems like a lot of protests start because things are misconstrued. Protests happen because people failed to get everyone involved in what’s going on. The government doesn’t tell everybody what’s going on, that’s why there are so many people trying to find answers. It’s just like spreading a rumor, and someone could end up fighting just because you spread a rumor about them. I feel like that’s what’s going on in the world, and that’s why some protests happen. People are fighting for their rights and trying to make things happen for themselves, but people in charge are only talking but not doing anything about it. Therefore, it leads to all these protests, all this violence and it’s sad to know that people in charge can have that much power.
I was apart of one protest because a cop in Cleveland shot someone and he killed the boy– he was rapper. He didn’t do anything wrong. I was apart of that because I didn’t feel what happened was right. I was definitely there marching for justice. I wanted to see this cop go to jail. But nothing has really happened. It’s sad to see that things like that can happen, and you can march around and try to bring awareness but nobody is really listening to you at the end of the day.
When I think about how you used the protest footage in the video for the song, it seems like it worked because I’m feeling you and it got my attention. You got me, so I’m wondering if maybe we need to do even more with protest.
Before I let you go, will you tell me what’s coming next?
I’m releasing a new song very soon called “Good Enough”. It’s one of my favorite songs right now– I love this song. It’s about people who do things for other people, and those peope end up saying that you’re not good enough. But then, the people who feel rejected basically come back and say, well, we made it– and now you want us but you can’t have us. I can’t wait to release it. It came from past experiences– trying to be good enough for a guy or a friend and they were just like, sorry but you’re not what I want. Now that I’m actually making it, now that I’ve made this album, just to see the feedback from people and to see the people that rejected me saying that they want me now– no! Sorry. You can’t have me. If you couldn’t accept me at my lowest point, then why should you have me at my best? It’s really just me growing and realizing that they weren’t even something that I wanted at the end of the day. It’s cool to be kind, but you don’t want to let people back in to do the same thing they did again because they made me feel low. But I finally realized that I am better than good enough.
And there’s no love lost, right?