Interview: Chloe x Halle’s Symphony Gets Sweeter

Having won our hearts over early in their career beginnings on YouTube, sister duo Chloe x Halle are a force among today’s best talent. The Bailey sisters are human vessels of the celestial energy and positivity that comes across in their original music via their individually unique vocal textures, high-vibrational harmonies and colorful musicianship. Chloe (19) and Halle (17) are already culture giants despite their petite statures. At heart, they’re everyday young adults who find joy in the little things. But professionally, the Atlanta-born ladies unapologetically flaunt their disdain for average predictability. Chloe x Halle don’t fit any cookie-cutter ideas of artistry nor will they compromise the integrity of their creativity by conforming to the demands of popularity.

From music to fashion, Chloe x Halle have successfully slayed everything they set their minds to. In addition to writing, producing and performing their own music (and raising the cover bar by flawlessly reworking some of everyone’s favorite jams), they both model, dance and are self-taught musicians; and at the top of 2018, they’ll deliver all that authentically matchless charisma and sass onscreen in the Black-ish spinoff series Grown-ish. Saint Heron had the honor of chatting with the darling sisters about their roles as trackstars Jazlyn and Skyler on the show, sister and friendship bonds in professional settings, hopes for future collaborations and film scoring, new music and more.

Shantel Pass: We’re all aware that you ladies got your start on YouTube and I’m wondering how it was decided that YouTube would be the best place to start showcasing your musical artistry.

Chloe: You know my sister and I, when we lived in Atlanta, would just sing around town and some people would say, “maybe you should start posting YouTube covers” and we were like “uhhh, you know… really? We’re not that sure about that.” And then one day we just didn’t really have anything to do at the house and we loved the song “Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyoncé, so we found an instrumental online and we just recorded it and posted it – with our parents permission. But you know it was like… it was something that we just threw out there, we didn’t expect much because we know it’s like one in a million when there’s so much content already out there. So it was really just for fun and I’m just so amazed and in awe about how all these opportunities came just from posting YouTube covers.

That was actually my next question. It was whether or not you guys expected it to be something that led to superstardom for you from there?

Halle: No. We did not expect anything. We had no expectations. I remember when we posted our first cover and it got to a hundred views. We were like “Whoa! That is amazing!” So we really just feel so blessed that something so big could stem just out of just posting YouTube covers and posting our favorite songs of what we were singing around the house at the time. And we’re so grateful that people resonated with it. Yeah, we weren’t expecting anything. It was just really a nice surprise.

Amazing. So other than guitar and keys, do you play any other instruments? And if so, how did that come about? Did you take lessons? Are you self-taught?

Chloe: Yes, so when I was [in] around 5th and 6th grade I played my violin and that was so much fun. It was a part of our school activities and you know having that part of me – it will always stay with me. I want to get back into my violin because, we’d love to record some string parts in our songs ourselves. And an instrument that I really really want to learn how to play are the drums! I [work with] drums all the time with our production, but I actually want to play the real live drums and that’s going to come really soon. I can’t wait to start experimenting with that.

Halle: Absolutely, I used to play cello when we were in elementary school. I used to play cello and that was really fun. I recently got an electric cello that I’m really trying to get back into starting soon. So that’ll be lots of fun but I always want to expand my horizons. Like Chloe said, definitely drums would be so cool to learn. I feel like I can get so much better at guitar. And yeah, we taught ourselves on YouTube with our instruments. Just looking up simple chords to our favorite songs, that really gave us a great foundation for making our own songs.

So, the music covers have been a big hit. We love those just as much as we love your original music. Y’all have this amazing ability to add fun and color and even, a lot of times, more music to some of our current favorites. How did the idea to start covering random tracks come about? And what has been your favorite cover so far?

Chloe: Well you know, what we do now is just throw something out because we’ll get inspired by a song we love, and most of the time it’s like these really cool trap songs [and] songs with great meanings and messages. My sister [and I], we love to experiment in life. So that translates through our music and harmonies. I think because we’re best friends, our harmonies are kind of like second nature. So it’s always fun coming up with new arrangements. We’ll sit in our room and arrange these in like 5 minutes and then record them, and then we post it! I’m so happy people gravitate towards them and that makes me so happy. But yeah, that’s how it came about.

Nice! When people see you, they see you as a sister duo and I think sometimes it’s very easy to forget that you’re both individuals as well. Can you tell me, has there ever been a case – musically speaking – where your creativity or your ideas collided? And, how does that help shape the musical dynamic you share?

Halle: What I love about our sisterhood is that we do have two completely different perspectives when we’re creating and that’s something that’s so exciting. My sister, she is such an amazing producer and she listens to such great music, eclectic music that is just so eccentric and beautiful and different. For me, I love to listen to jazz. So I’m kind of coming from the jazz perspective of things and when we come together, it’s cool because it makes this mash of our favorite things and that’s really what excites me. That’s why I’m so happy to have my sister [and] to be able to do this together because although we’re very different, when it comes together it seems like it’s all in harmony. So I’m very happy about that.

Chloe: I always feel like two heads are better than one in any situation. I have a different perspective than my sister and she has a different perspective than me and when those two perspectives come together, a lot more people can connect to it more. I just love how we fuse these different sounds together and I feel like that’s the sound of Chloe and Halle. We’ve got the hard beats and also the classic melodies and harmonies. And that’s what I love about us. Two minds are better than one!

In addition to your music, I’m always checking to see what y’all are wearing and you always look lovely. The ComplexCon ’90s-music-video, casual-streetwear combination was so nice and really unexpected too.  I’m curious to know how you choose what to wear for your performances and who your style inspirations are for everyday wear.

Chloe: We have an incredible stylist Zerina Akers. And we love her to death, she’s like our sister! We built this beautiful bond so she knows us so personally, and she knows how to bring certain things out of us, and we just collaborate. My sister and I, we love to take risks and experiment with colors and shapes and have fun; how we’re individuals but we’re the same at the same time. We like that to shine through our clothes as well. Most of the time we’ll be coordinated with the same colors or patterns, but something will be different in it. I love how our sisterhood translates through our clothes!

Well, congratulations on joining the cast of grown-ish. I’m so excited for you both.

Chloe and Halle together: Thank you so much!

It’s not easy to memorize lyrics to a new song but I imagine it doesn’t take as long for you since you write your own music. Did you face any challenges memorizing your lines and cues for your roles in the show?

Halle: Oooo, that’s a great question! Well, I don’t know so much that we faced challenges. Normally, in the morning when we got there, we would go over the lines while in the makeup chair because sometimes you’re so busy and you don’t really have time, but when you’re getting your makeup done and your hair done it’s a moment of silence. So that’s when we would go over our lines. It was so much fun because everybody on set made us feel so comfortable and looking to our friend Yara [Shahidi] – she is so amazing – she showed us some of the ropes and we were just so grateful to be a part of that whole environment.

Speaking of Yara, as sisters living and working together, I imagine there’s a level of comfort you both have with one another to squabble or goof off every now and then because that energy and that connection is just there; like you know each other and are in tune and you feel it.

Chloe: Yea.

So, since you’re both real-life friends with Yara, what has it been like working so closely with another person that you share that bond with?

Chloe: It has been the most incredible thing! Like, I love going to work every single morning no matter how early because I know that we’ll see our family. The whole entire cast, I’m not kidding you, we are truly like a family. We finished wrapping the season about two or three days ago and I cried like a baby. It was so emotional because we all love each other and we’re going to miss seeing each other everyday. You know when you’re around people, you start getting attached and connected and your energies sync up. I love Yara, I love the entire grown-ish cast and I’m just so happy that art imitates life because we’re family and friends in the show but that’s also true in our personal lives.

Do you have any interest in pursuing more acting roles? Whether in film or TV.

Chloe: Absolutely. When my sister and I first got into the entertainment business we started off with acting. Our mom would always take pictures of us and we would go to auditions. My very first audition when I was three, it was for The Fighting Temptations and I got it! I played little Beyonce when I was like 3 and a half.

Oh my gosh! I never realized that’s you!

Chloe: Yeah! It’s so funny how my sister and I, living in Atlanta, we’d do a bunch of stuff with Tyler Perry. It’s just fun getting back to the acting.

What about scoring a film? Would you guys ever score a film?

Chloe and Halle together: YES!

Halle: Yes, that is a dream of ours! Yes. That would be so exciting to do because that’s one of our favorite things, especially as creatives – when we’re given direction with movies and television on what to create based on a scene, that is so fun for us. It’s like putting a puzzle together. So we act like we’re 5 year olds and that’s the best time of our lives.

In an interview, I can’t remember where I read it now but, I do remember reading that you write a song per day and you guys have over 300 songs in a catalog of unreleased music. Has the process of writing, producing, and recording changed in any way since you began filming grown-ish?

Chloe: You know, since our album is 90% done – and around the time we started filming grown-ish – what we do now after we leave set is go in and start mixing and tweaking certain sounds and adding little elements to improve the songs because when our album comes out we want everything to be so perfect. It’s so full of our hearts and our soul. So instead of writing every single day, since our album is almost done, we’ve been just adding on and critiquing and editing – going back and tweaking little notes. I have my computer in my trailer and I’ll start mixing in there on my computer in-between breaks. Since music is our heart and soul we always find ways to make it work.  

Grown-ish is premiering on January 3rd, which is right around the corner. Can you tell us about your characters and what, if anything, about their personalities you identify with or relate to that helped you become “at home” in these roles.

Halle: I am so excited with our characters. Chloe plays Jazlyn and I play Skyler. We’re twin track stars on the show. Basically, we like to think of our characters as the alter egos of who we are in real life because they’re so sassy and it’s really fun to play them. But for me, I’d say my sassy side comes out only when I’m with my closest friends and family. So nobody really knows that that’s underneath me, but the character really helped me get it out. It’s so much fun to play.

Let’s talk about show prep. It’s a little bit different standing in front of a crowd and performing your music than it is to stand in front of cameras and lights and directors on set. How do you get your head in the game for acting and how does that differ from how you prep for your live music performances?

Chloe: You know, they’re both very similar because they’re ways of expressing ourselves, and we’re stepping out of our comfort zone whenever we get on the stage and perform or whenever we get on set and act and perform in that way. So you know, I personally always get nervous no matter what – whether I’m speaking, whether I’m singing, whether I’m dancing. But I feel like my nerves are preparing me to properly execute and giving me the energy that I need. So I love getting nerves. I’d be sad if my nerves went away because then the excitement is gone. Music, I notice I get more nervous before we get on stage and sing than I do with acting because with acting you have more takes and it’s okay if you fumble on a line because you can just redo it again. You always do these different layers and different coverages. So acting takes the pressure off a bit because you know you can do it again if you mess up.

If you could choose to be casted in one TV show from the past what would it be?

Chloe: Oh, that is such a good question! I know mine! I say That’s So Raven and Cheetah Girls. Those were my shows growing up. Also for me Family Matters was a bomb show. That would be amazing, that would be so cool if I got casted in that.

All excellent picks. So you write, you produce, you sing, dance, act, model and you even recently collaborated with Benjamin Shine for the New York Fashion Week edition of 29 Rooms which was amazing. How do you practice self-care with such a tight schedule and so many different mentally and physically demanding projects? What does self-care look like for you ladies?

Chloe: For me, self-care – and what I love to do – is meditate, pray and just center myself internally so that I can properly execute anything that I need to do whether it’s relationships with my friends and my family, and also business relationships. What I like to do is take really, really hot showers and play really great music. And I love to get my nails done because as I’m getting older and growing into the young woman that I am, I’m learning that yes, sometimes I do need to step away and breathe and just have a moment to myself to center my thoughts again.

Halle: For me, I would say one of my top moments for self-care when I need to breathe and just go away from all the noise for a second is, I love to sit in the sun in the morning. It’s the best thing ever. So I just come out on our porch and I sit in the sun and it really centers me and makes me feel so happy and energized for the day. You can never be sad when the sun’s out because it’s like “oh, this is so wonderful!” I just feel really great after I sit in the sun. And then like Chloe said, we love to take hot showers and I also love to read when I feel like my mind is overloading. I just pick up a good book, sit down, and then read to fall asleep. It’s the best thing ever.

So far you’ve already collaborated with Beyoncé and Michelle Obama, these are big names for so early in your career. Congratulations again. Who else are you interested in working with both musically and on screen?

Chloe: Ooooo! That is a really, really good question. Musically, there are so many incredible talents out right now and I love that they are getting the recognition they deserve; like Tyler, the Creator, GoldLinkWillow, Kehlani and Kali Uchis, and we’d love to collaborate with H.E.R. They’re really the voices of our generation right now and just being able to sit down and create with them would be a dream come true. Acting wise, well I have always loved Denzel Washington. I know that, I’m going to believe it and see it. I know it seems far, but that would really make me so happy because I admire him as a human being and also as an actor. He’s incredible.

Halle: As far as singers, I just love collaborating with the new wave. [Working] with a bunch of cool young kids who really know where they’re going, that’s something that’s very inspiring to me. When I find myself amongst beautiful people that know what they want and who make beautiful music for the world, that’s something that’s so exciting to me. As far as acting, I think I’ll have to think about that a little more but Chloe did a good one. 

Denzel is definitely a good one.

Halle: Yea.

At the very beginning of “Simple” there’s audio of you explaining how people have commented on the complexity of your sound and then the song goes into the most graceful clapback I think I’ve ever heard in my life. That level of confidence in creativity doesn’t come naturally to everyone. So what advice would you give to other young girls and creatives to encourage their authenticity and determination to chase their dreams?

Chloe: Well definitely, the people you surround yourself with is so very important because when you have those moments when you’re down and discouraged, you need someone that’ll be like “Girl you can do this! You got this! It’s okay,” and someone who is not afraid to tell you “that ain’t too hot.” You know? I’m happy that I get to be in this life with my sister because I have the best of both worlds with her. We’re creating together and she’s also my voice of reason; and since we’re on this journey of music together, whenever I’m feeling down, she’s feeling the same. Because we’re experiencing it together and we know how the other feels but what we do is, we center ourselves once again and say, God would not put these ideas in our minds and bless us with these gifts if we weren’t supposed to shine them to the fullest and we don’t want it to go to waste. Everyone has a gift and what their purpose is, is to share that gift with the world. So all we ever want to do is inspire others to share their gift and that really keeps us going. When we meet beautiful girls and boys of all colors and ages telling us that our songs have inspired them, we know that we’re doing our job.

Alright, last question. With a new year on the horizon, tell us what’s next for Chloe and Halle?

Halle: Well, we are so excited for this coming year because of the show, grown-ish. And then our album which we are super super duper excited for. We’ve been working on this album for like three to four years now. Even before our EP, before the mixtape. We like to think of our mixtape songs as songs that are still great but won’t make it on the album. So that’s why we put that mixtape together and we’re just gearing up for this coming year with our album because we are so excited for everyone to hear our baby, what we’ve been doing and it’s very cool.

Chloe: Yeah, I saw something online where it said “2016 was the caterpillar, 2017 was the cocoon, and 2018 is the butterfly,” and I truly truly believe that. This year was just building and constructing and doing all of these wonderful things behind the scenes and we can’t wait for it to come to fruition and be out there.

Just in time for the ‘Grown-ish’ premiere on Tuesday, January 3rd (2018) at 8 P.M.EST on Freeform TV, download Chloe x Halle’s newest track “Grown” here, which also serves as the the show’s theme track, and watch the Snapchat-themed accompanying visual below!

Photography: Daria Kobayashi

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