Q&A | OVERSTREET
The singer-songwriter and actor Chord Overstreet surprised a lot of his fans when, in 2015, he left behind his acting days on Glee to pursue a career in music. The son of Grammy-award-winning country music singer-songwriter Paul Overstreet, Chord had grown up surrounded by music, which he quickly developed an affinity for. Once he formed his own band, Overstreet, the singer was already opening for Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas on their Future Now Tour. After releasing some well-received tracks, the band came along with their first EP earlier this year Man on the Moon, Overstreet is back with the new track “My Ex.“
Flaunt sat down with Chord Overstreet and discussed his relationship with music, songwriting, and his newest single “My Ex”.
I wanted to ask you a little bit about your upbringing. You were brought up by a Grammy award-winning father, you have a music-related name—it’s almost as if it was predetermined that you would be involved with music.
It was probably my dad’s way of nudging me out the door with a guitar in my hand. I was the third one born into my family, and there’s three notes in a chord, so my dad and mom had names like that for everybody. My sister’s name is Harmony, like a four-part harmony, and a brother named Nash for Nashville, so everyone’s got a wacky name.
How would you say your relationship with music has evolved throughout your childhood up until today?
My relationship with music started out when I was really young and my dad introduced me to Elvis, the Beatles, and James Taylor. The stuff that I responded to was the lyrical content—songs with a story that helped you stepping out of reality, just being in your head and going wherever the music takes you. Lyrics first for me is where I always go, such as James Taylor and Bob Dylan, guys who were really able to paint a world.
Branching out into your own musical career—did you always want to do that, or was it a more recent decision after Glee?
I always did it just because I grew up around it. When I first moved out to LA, I was trying to get the acting thing going, and I had my guitar—it was always there. I never thought about it too much, I just always did it. I would be writing and I would be playing. Everything I got involved in and it worked always coincidentally had music involved, it kept chasing after me. I also always had the desire to do what my dad was doing. When I was probably 17 and playing football—I wanted to play pro football—I got a knee injury and was on Oxycontin on the couch. I was playing video games and my dad was like “Turn that damn game off and write a song!” So I picked up the guitar and couldn’t put it down.
That’s amazing. It’s good that it stuck, because I remember my parents forcing me to learn the piano at a young age, and I would get so bored by it. But then, the love for music sticks with you.
It’s interesting because, when you’re a kid and taking music lessons, you don’t necessarily have the drive and determination —although some people do—to push that as a kid and develop those skills. Thank God that parents make kids take lessons because when you’re older, it’s there. I’m really thankful for my mom driving me to guitar lessons. It’s about having the foresight to see that it would be useful someday. Of course, I saw my dad do it, and he obviously taught me a lot about songwriting. My dad said something interesting to me. He had a rough childhood—he came from a broken home—and yet was always very positive in his songwriting, his message was really uplifting. Somebody asked him where his inspiration comes from when he’s writing, and he responded that he always wrote about how he wished his life was, not how it actually was, how he wanted it to be. I thought that was really cool, to be able to twist anything and make a positive message out of it. I’ve learned a lot from him out of my 30 years of studying him. I was really blessed that he put great music in front of me for me to learn from versus some of the stuff that’s pretty bad [laughs].
From all of these influences, how is it that you came to the sound you have now?
I have a lot of modern influences even just in production, with the sound and current alternative stuff. Finding your niche within that, going back and taking some older retro production vibes and going in some of that—I would say it came from a lot of trial and error, honestly, just throwing a bunch of things at the wall. I was frustrated with not having a sound, so I went back and listened to a lot of Beach Boys stuff, as well as diving into deep tracks of music, while always wanting to make stuff that lasts for a long time. You find inspiration from the best.
You’re getting what inspiration you can from different artists and injecting it into your own style.
Exactly. It’s like I really liked the way they presented that sound, how they had fifty different voices way back then, and just finding your own voice within that. A lot of the stuff I love listening to is just stuff that I want to drive to. Then I did a bunch of tours with just me and an acoustic, that singer-songwriter stuff. That’s a different side of me that is there, but after a while you just want to put on a rock show, you want to have fun, you want to express yourself and do crazy shit and not give a fuck about anybody.
That’s actually what I wanted to ask you about next, about your shift from performing solo to having a band. It makes sense that you did it like your father before with the singer-songwriter aspect, and then you wanted to branch out.
That side of it for me is about expressing your emotions. You’ll to be up there, you’re vulnerable, and pouring your soul out. The band stuff and the energy—the crowd has so much to do with it. It’s such a release to be able to express yourself, and be that big, and be that loud, and to do whatever the fuck you wanna do. There’s such a rush in that, and when you go on and perform, you just black out—from the time it starts to the time it ends. Then all of a sudden I’m going, “Wait, is it over? Did that just happen?” It’s almost like its own drug, which you can get out of the singer-songwriter stuff, but that’s a little more therapeutic, and reliving some dark, heavier stuff.
You also have this support network of the rest of your band with you on stage.
Yeah. It’s fun to be able to make music with your friends, to shake out all of your anxiety, and nerves. I’m not a great dancer, so on stage I can just do the weirdest, craziest, stupidest stuff, and not give a fuck. That’s one of the things I like. That’s the only time you’re gonna see me blow off steam. It’s almost like you turn into a different person, which I love. That has a very similar connection with me that acting does. When acting, you get to disappear for a second.
I really like that, because there’s also this other side of performing that’s filled with nerves, and you’re always worried about what people will think. But when it’s right for you, you just melt into it.
Once you say, “Fuck it,” and jump off…The first time I started doing live stuff with a band, I was learning my body, and how I move, and how I do things. But then, once you rip the band aid off and learn to not give a shit, to just have fun and move around like nobody’s watching…that’s the best. Once you can take that jump, it’s fun.
Great. I’m wondering, what artists today would you like to collaborate with if you had the opportunity?
I would love to collaborate with Sting or, I listened to a lot of Aerosmith growing up they were probably one of my favorite bands. I don’t know what that would sound like, but probably more so the legends. Just to be able to say I did it and pick their brain.
To get into their headspace and see what their creative process is like.
Yeah, I’d ask a lot of questions like, “Hey, when you wrote ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady),’ what was the story behind that? I’d probably be the most annoying person sitting next to them, because I would be asking them so many questions. I find that the process of songwriting is so different for everybody that “What inspired this, what inspired this, what inspired this” might open your eyes to all the things around you that you wouldn’t normally pay attention to.
Going off of that, I want to ask you a similar question about your upcoming single “My Ex.” The songs on your Man on the Moon EP have a lot to do with past relationships and the effect they had on you. How does this single play off that? What inspired this direction that you’re going in?
I wrote this song the next day after running into one of my exes. I ran into her at the bar and she was with one of her friends, and I used to hang out with both of them when we were together. I run into this person all the time, and I ran into her, and every time I run into her she’s with her boyfriend. It’s a little odd, because he’s just a little bit odd about it. We’re cool though, I love her to death she’s super sweet. She started flirting with me a little bit, talking and drinking. To make a long story short, we hung out and afterwards I felt like she was making a move on me—not that I would’ve done anything. Then her boyfriend showed up and the whole vibe completely changed. I found all of this really interesting, so the next day when I went into the studio to write, I started working on the track with my buddy, and in thirty minutes I had the song written. The thing I thought was interesting was, what if I actually did go home with my ex-girlfriend and she left her current boyfriend? I just thought that would’ve been an interesting hypothetical situation, because once you had that relationship with somebody, there’s always something that’s underneath a little bit.
You’re always wondering “What if it turned out differently?
When you’re young, relationships end for reasons that when you’re older I’m sure they never would. There’s probably a reason and a good reason it did end. I self-examine a lot of my dating life. It’s an easy thing for me to really look at that while I’m writing.
That’s a positive thing—self-examination, looking at how everything went down and how you can change for the future—it’s a very good thing.
It’s very much like therapy.
Like self-therapy almost.
It is difficult to analyze yourself without you running through your own protective filter. When something happens in a relationship, people see it from a slanted view where they end up not being as harsh on themselves as they are on the person they’re breaking up with. Being that way with yourself can be tough.
Very true. My final question is, you know how people usually get an impression of an artist whenever they listen to their album or a single. I’m wondering, with the debut album you’re releasing next year, is there a specific impression you want people to get of you, whether as a person or as a musician?
That’s a good question. My goal for this next batch of songs is—everybody relates to love, loss, things changing. They might not relate to the exact story, but everybody has felt that way, everyone has had that emotion. Being able to really put out emotions that are relatable, that hard stuff that you don’t really want to talk about, or being able to share the good feelings. It’s about being able to emote and give people something they can relate to.
They end up feeling an emotional connection to it.
They have a connection to the music. Even if it is specific to my story. That’s probably the main goal.
That’s probably the main unifier between people and music—the ability to connect with an emotion or lyric, anything about it—it’s great.
It could just be a lyric, it could be something that makes you say “I felt that way.” Even Drake with “Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake Factory/ You know I love to go there.” That’s funny, and it’s real. I think it’s genius how specific that is, because you can’t make that shit up.
It’s specific enough that you can imagine being in a similar situation.
Everybody has got into a fight with somebody at a place like that. Cheesecake Factory is just—I think that’s hilarious. Drake does that better than anyone.
Great. That’s it on my part, is there anything you wanted to talk about that we haven’t touched on?
We talked about the sound, the inspiration…The one thing I also wanted to talk about…just the…I guess we talked about it. Letting people in and getting a good look at who I actually am and what goes on behind the curtains, what grinds my gears I guess.
Especially with this new project you’re doing, it’s a new path, and for people to see that and get their impression of you, it’s really important.
It’s new for me, but it’s also thirty years of my experience in self-discovery, and giving people a look into the reality of where I’ve been and where I’ve come from, that’s really important.
That’s great. We very much look forward to your new material.
Yeah, I’m constantly writing, so hopefully I’ll get a bunch of new stuff out there.