girl from the north country: singer/producer chrystal is putting her northern donk on pop
She comes from B-O-L-T-O-N and she makes post-donk inspired bounce pop. Say hiya to singer/producer Chrystal.
Chrystal is in the process of listing off her early musical influences when she drops the V-bomb. Growing up in the north west town of Bolton, Lancashire, the 26-year old singer/producer behind 2017's most exciting debut, Waves, was a devoted fan of R&B, of hip hop, of UK garage.
"I had my mum's influence," she describes. "And she listens to a lot of Eurodance music, so I was really into it as well. Vengaboys and all that." Hang on. Dutch, PVC-mongers The Vengaboys? "Oh, god that's going to get the main quote now, isn't it?" she laughs. "I was into Aaliyah and stuff as well. Cool people!"
Although already garnering comparisons to Lily Allen, Katy B and Ray BLK -- artists who document their worlds with varying shades of inbuilt London bullshit detectors -- Chrystal is conspicuously Not From London™. You can hear it in her speaking voice. In her singing voice. In the bouncy shades of Bolton's Blackout Crew in her music (yes, of Put a Donk on It fame).
"It was summit that we grew up with," she shrugs of Lancashire's divisive donk pioneers. "I don't know why we liked it so much. I used to actually travel to Wigan to go to the places that made the tapes and stuff. A club called Cricketers. This dingy place with MCs on a stage with their tops off."
Chrystal's own entry to music making came later than most. She spent her school years "not really doing what I was supposed to doing" and paying little attention to her future. "That meant I was 22 when I started, but I already knew how to write songs," she recalls. "That was something I could do from a young age, I just never really did for whatever confidence reasons. When I was 22, I started a course."
The fruits of that are heard on John Calvert (Nao, Bonzai) co-produced first single Waves. A bold and funny debut about not giving a fuck, it bounds out the blocks with stacks of attitude and contains the best opening line we've heard all year ("I'm from B-O-L-T-O-N, I write a million lines and go through bare biro pens").
"I was really on a high when I wrote that song," says Chrystal. "Even though I didn't really have anything at the time and I didn't really have as much to show for what I was doing, I just felt in me that there was change and that something was going to happen. I just thought, I'm going to go to the top on my own."
Be it the fight felt by every musician growing up in a small town or the confidence that comes from having a banger like Waves up your sleeve, Crystal is out to do things on her own terms. "I just want to follow my heart and do what my spirit, what my body's saying to do," she confirms. "I feel very different to other artists. I'm not sad about it. I'm quite happy about it. I know I can write music and I know the world needs to hear it." First she takes Bolton, then she takes Berlin.
Text Matthew Whitehouse