Channel Tres is focused, yet as laid-back as ever, as he offers me a bag of Sour Patch Kids from his green room at Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival. Cloaked in a black hoodie there’s a stoic and contemplative mystique surrounding the Compton artist which only becomes clearer as he reflects on life and his flourishing career: “This time around I’m noticing where to put my energy fully. I’m learning to take breaks, and I’m learning to respect and love myself in different ways. I’m learning to be in the moment, take it slow, and really enjoy the process.” It’s fitting that Tres is enjoying the ride because we sure as hell are. Since his debut in 2018, the multi-talented act has continued to impress the world with his captivating and unique synthesis of house, hip-hop, funk, and jazz.
Yet with already so much accomplished (from making Elton John into a fan to collaborating with Tyler, the Creator), it’s apparent that Tres’s meteoric rise is far from over. With a new project, Real Cultural Shit, on the way alongside his first-ever headlining North America tour starting later this month, the sky is truly the limit for an artist as talented and dedicated to the craft as Channel Tres. With that said, it was a pleasure to sit down with him over this past weekend and capture this moment of his career in an interview. Check out our conversation below and make sure to cop tickets to an upcoming Channel Tres performance in a city near you if you haven’t already. -Max Chung
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Run the Trap: An overriding theme in your upcoming project, Real Cultural Shit, is growth and maturity. How have you seen yourself evolve and develop over the years from when Channel Tres began in 2018 until now? What stands out?
Channel Tres: I’m much calmer and slower – I think it happens naturally in life when you’re maturing. In your 20s you’re usually trying to do everything you haven’t already done or trying to fit in with a certain lifestyle. This time around I’m noticing where to put my energy fully. I’m learning to take breaks, and I’m learning to respect and love myself in different ways. I’m learning to be in the moment, take it slow, and really enjoy the process. In the past I was taking things for granted in a way. The pandemic also helped slow things down. All of a sudden we didn’t have all these shows anymore. It was like ‘oh shit they’re all just memories now.’ So now I’m just trying to create better memories for my older, present self.
I’ve heard you mention meditation, Marcus Aurelius, psychedelics, and other spiritual/self-development resources or practices in the past. Can you talk about the role these modalities have played in your life, both as an artist and as a person in general?
Now, a lot my self-care is working out to see how hard I can push my body to its limits. It’s also very different now from when I took psychedelics, I’ve been sober for about 8 months now.
How’s that going?
Cool. Raw-dogging life, man. There was a lot of shit I used to run away from but now I’m building my mind in a different way to not rely so much on external influences, but more so on the internal. In the gym, it’s a ‘no pain no gain’ type of thing – you have a goal you’ve got to hit, but it takes a while to get there. It’s the same thing with the mind and certain character defects I have, whether it’s trying to be a kinder person, not being so quick to anger, or being more positive.
A book that’s helped me out with that is The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn. I’m really into that right now. I’m also noticing how my internal work is affecting my music and performances. I’m not trauma vomiting anymore on stage. Now I’m more just like: “Are you guys having a good time? How does it feel? Does it feel good?” You know, it’s a purer expression of entertainment.
Is it a struggle to try to cultivate everything you’re talking about amidst the craziness that comes with tour life?
No, I just take things one day at a time. Some days are harder than others but ultimately I have to remember that I could be doing something else. It doesn’t have to be music, so I’m grateful that I’m doing something I love and I need to remember that every time I get frustrated. And you know things get better over time.
You’re embarking on your first North America headlining tour later this month. What’s the goal of this tour specifically and what are you excited about?
The goal is really to just get to know my fans. I’ve been playing festivals and opening for other artists, so I haven’t really had the time to get to know the people that enjoy my music. So with this being my first tour, that’s what I’m excited about and really looking forward to: getting to know who shows up and the type of people they are, what kind of merch they want, what kinds of things they like, and also how to communicate with them better.
You’re someone who’s fascinated with culture, so touring the world – from Australia, Europe, to here – and seeing how different crowds react to your stuff must be quite the experience. Any takeaways or lessons from how your music has been received differently?
I don’t know, every show is different. The common theme I’m finding is that people just want to dance and have fun. If you’re having fun on stage then people have fun in the audience. People show up to see a show, so I like giving a show.
Do you have a favorite city you like to play?
I’m looking forward to playing at LA, my home. That’s where I’m from so it’s always exciting to go back home and see people who haven’t seen me in a long time or who only know and support me online.
You inhabit this unique space as an artist who can inhabit multiple worlds at once. Right now you’re billed at an EDM festival with dubstep headliners, while at the same time you’ve also toured with Thundercat. Can you speak a bit about this duality and navigating these different scenes?
I didn’t really notice that until you just pointed it out. Honestly, every job I take and everything I do is just because I like doing it. So I guess that’s pretty cool. I think it’s just something that happens naturally. I don’t really intentionally try to do that, so that’s pretty cool my stuff crosses over into two different worlds like that.
Since we’re in Chicago and your dad’s from Chicago, we have to talk about house music. For someone who’s been in the game so long, how are you feeling about the current house craze (for example Drake & Beyoncé’s new albums) and where do you see the genre going next?
To be honest I don’t have any thoughts on it. House music has been around and I think it’ll continue to be around. It never went anywhere. I mean obviously Drake and Beyoncé are two of the biggest artists in the world so of course it’ll get attention but I think it’s fine. It’ll be here when people aren’t as much into it, and it’ll be here when people are into it.
I’m excited to catch your performance since the last time you were here it was just a DJ set, and I know the full Channel Tres experience includes a lot of choreographed dancing. What does this aspect of your performance bring to the table that DJing and singing doesn’t?
Entertainment. Movement. I’ve been dancing my whole life. When you move to your music it’s just different. It feels better and is an extension of your creativity. I like acting and in dancing you can bring out certain characters, since every song has a certain character in it, there’s a certain person I can become for that song. When you dance you can really embody a specific personality for that song.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of notable dance producers: Mura Masa, ZHU, Disclosure, Baauer, etc. Anyone else from this space you’d love to work with in the future?
I just did a dope song with Honey Dijon which I’m excited about. I really want to work with Nile Rodgers. But yeah, I’m just taking it as it comes.
You’ve mentioned the number 3 as a significant and spiritual number in your life. With that said, I wanted to get your take on the best “3’s” of different categories: Favorite big 3 in NBA history?
Imma say Shaq, Kobe, and Pau Gasol.
Best three-course meal?
Mashed potatoes and gravy, fried steak, and green beans.
Best trilogy of all time?
Blade. That’s the shit.
Favorite 3 pieces of clothing to style together?
Tights, long t-shirt, and some loafers.
INTERVIEW: Channel Tres is Finding Inner Peace on His Burgeoning Road to Stardom