CHINCHILLA’s story, in many ways, epitomises the current climate for emerging artists. Making what she terms ‘feisty pop’ – which traverses between RnB and alt-pop and bears her signature powerful vocals – the London-based artist was previously signed to major label Sony, before the desire for greater artistic freedom proved too great.
Leaving such a backing is never easy, but the artist, writer and producer now finds herself riding a wave of support on TikTok for her latest track ‘Little Girl Gone’, which got its full release today.
With many resonating with the lyrics that tap into a feeling of “feminine rage” – generating millions of views for CHINCHILLA’s videos on the platform in the process – we speak to the artist about her present success, her tour support for McFly, and how Nicki Minaj unknowingly blessed her with her artistic moniker.
CHINCHILLA, it seems things are taking off for you right now, especially on TikTok. How’s that going?
Insane. Last year I said I was going independent and planned all these things. I didn’t have it in mind the first single would completely blow up and basically turn my life upside down. So now I’m trying to manage all the things I already had going on, which was already busy, and then do all this new stuff.
You say the response to the track has “turn your life upside down”. Is that really the case?
Yeah, it’s weird because I’ve been in the industry for a while, releasing music. My followers had been gradually growing. I was on about 16,000 on TikTok about two weeks ago, and now I’m on about 220,000 followers. And you hear stories like this, but you think it’s kind of a myth. And then it happens, and it puts your life into turbo. I recently had to do a post on Instagram that basically said, ‘Look, I know it sounds desperate but I’m really struggling with my inbox right now – please bear with me if I don’t get back to you because my whole brain and life is exploding.’
Why do you think the song has resonated with so many people?
I think there’s a lot of trauma that particularly women have been through, and they see this song as liberation, almost. So many people have messaged me saying, ‘Thank you for being this voice.’ And I think we bite our tongue so much – everyone does, not just women. I know I’ve bitten my tongue in a lot of situations, and then I’ll walk away thinking of everything I wish I said. That specific feeling is something that’s very universal, I think, and people really tapped into that.
Is that specifically what ‘Little Girl Gone’ is about, or is there more to it?
It’s about a specific situation, but in general it’s about someone coming back after they’ve treated you badly, and still expecting you to be this naive person who won’t stand up for themselves. To me it’s like a dream world where you’re exploding with rage in this person’s face and shocking them; that feeling of, ‘Oh, you really second-guessed me’.
You’ve described ‘Little Girl Gone’ as a comeback song. Where have you been? And what have you been up to?
I had a while where I wasn’t really able to release any music. A lot was going on in the music industry for me, which was super shit, and it was very hard. I had a lot of times when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, I was really down. The music industry’s hard enough for an artist to break through when you’re doing well. I split with, and lost, a lot of my team, and a lot of my support, and was going through a lot of legal stuff. It’s very hard to be motivated and write your best music when you’re feeling so low.
Then I found anger, which was the next stage. So that’s why I call this my comeback single. This is a really new era for me, and I feel more empowered than I’ve ever felt, especially within the music industry. It’s so nice this song has done well. I love the song, but never expected this kind of reaction.
Does it feel like a vindication in your decision to go independent?
I think it does. And that’s not to say I won’t work with teams of people again, in terms of management and label. But now I’m in a position where I know I can do this myself better than with anyone else. It’s proven that doing this by myself for a bit, and finding that empowerment, being a one-man band, has done the best for me. So if I’m going to bring anyone else on my team, it needs to be people who are enthusiastic; I don’t have the time or energy to be making anyone else feel that about my project – otherwise I’ll do it by myself.
We see it quite a lot now: the debate around whether it’s better for artists to break free and go independent. Is that something you recognise and are discussing more around artist friends?
Yeah, it feels like there’s a bit of a shift in the music industry at the moment. I do a lot of stuff with [Brighton-based artist] Ren – we’re like musical siblings. He’s very inspirational, actually, in the way he does everything independently and the way he works. I think the more you’re around people like that, the more you see it doesn’t all have to be done in the formula of how people have become successful before.
Also, we do music because we love it, and it’s very easy to get caught up in the industry side of it, thinking, ‘I need to do this and this.’ At its core, music is about heart-to-heart resonating with other people and sharing emotion. I think that’s what we forget. I feel that so much, being independent; the amount of creatives I’m collaborating with now feels so open. I love creatives, love them. They make my blood flow around my body, it gives me life. I think also, what Raye has done has been super inspirational for me. So it feels like a bit of a weird time for music, especially with everything on TikTok.
What’s your relationship with the platform like?
When you’re not doing well on it, you hate it, and as soon as you do, you love it. I think it’s amazing for connecting with people and getting rid of the middleman – the industry, basically. That’s what music’s been missing for a while. I love the way it can reach the masses and has gone back to that word-of-mouth promotion; people will just tag or send something to their friends, mums will be tagging their daughters. The power of the people on it is incredible in a way I’ve never seen before. So in that way, TikTok is a proper beast and I think it’s probably the independent artist’s best friend.
Let’s come onto your music itself. It touches on alt-pop, RnB, and more. How would you describe your music?
I’d say feisty pop.
Why’s there that ‘feist’?
I feel like genres are a bit outdated in music. When I think of pop, I still think of Britney Spears or Dua Lipa – who I love, by the way – but that’s what I think when I hear the word ‘pop’. And when I think of alt-pop, I think of bands, or someone like Banks. If I meet someone and said I made pop, I don’t think my music is really like that. It’s similar, but different, so I feel we need new genres. Maybe feisty pop should be one.
It appears there’s also a theatricality to your style as well. Is that something you recognise and have intended the whole time?
Not really. I think it’s weird because as I get more exposure and more success, I see more of what people say about my music. I love the idea of having this world, almost like an emporium, like CHINCHILLA land, but it’s not something I created. I think I’m just quite creative in different fields.
I make a lot of my own hats, for instance, and customise a lot of my own outfits, and I write a lot of my songs, start to finish, and produce. I’m really involved in everything, and I think that creates this world without me really meaning to. Also the community of female rage is kind of the best community I could ask for, in terms of the audience for my music.
@chinchilla_music Oop I made a song 👀 #songwriter #singer #femaleproducer #newmusic ♬ Little Girl Gone – CHINCHILLA
Yes, I saw the first preview of ‘Little Girl Gone’ that went viral on TikTok came with the message about still getting asked if you’re a producer in the studio. Is that something you still experience a lot?
Definitely. People do just presume all the time. I don’t think anyone’s ever presumed the opposite. People will always ask, ‘Who produced this?’ which is a natural question, but some people – even though they know you produced it yourself – will talk to you in a way that really over-explains things. They’ll look over your shoulder while you’re doing things. It really irks me because I’ve seen it and it doesn’t happen to men. I have examples in my head, I just don’t want to at anyone. But they’ll say, ‘Do you know how to bounce a track?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yes, funnily enough, I do… because I’m the producer’.
Do you feel part of a community – that “female rage community”, as you put it – trying to turn the tide on all of that?
Definitely. I feel like it’s always been in me, that’s why the people this track has reached couldn’t be a better group of people. That’s the underlying theme of all my songs: some sort of empowerment. Every time I write a ballad, I never want to feel sorry for myself. If someone suggests a lyric in a co-writing session, I’ll say if I don’t like it. Or if it’s too based on another person, I’ll try and make it say something more about me. I think it’s in my DNA that I have this female empowerment thing in my in my bones. I just love boss women.
Why the name, CHINCHILLA?
It’s funny – I don’t have a very good story for this – but I was choosing between names. I always used to wear big faux fur coats, and I have my nails that are usually long. I loved the sound of the word, and always came back to it. I was picking between a couple names in an Uber, because I felt I really needed to pick one at that stage. A Nicki Minaj song was playing; I just wanted a sign and then she said ‘Chinchilla’ in the song [‘Letcha Go’], as I was thinking it.
@chinchilla_music ‘LITTLE GIRL GONE’ OUT NOW EVERYWHERE – LINK IN BIO AAAHHHHH #newmusic #independentartist #singer #songwriter #littlegirlgone #fyp #femaleproducer ♬ Little Girl Gone – CHINCHILLA
Oh, come on – that is a good story. That’s a message from the music gods.
From Nicki Minaj herself. And I’ve never second-guessed it. Even when people say to my face they don’t like it, I’ll just tell them I do, which is unlike me.
And you supported McFly on tour last year. How was that for you?
It was the best time of my life. Firstly, it was all around the UK, which on a personal level was nice because it was my home-turf. We did Wembley arena, and I got to go onstage and shout “Wembley” –that’s every artist’s dream, to be in your hometown. And I had my own tour bus and my band there, and it was enough shows that I wasn’t nervous about all of them. It was hard work, but we had so much fun.
I suppose that gave you an insight into it being the life you want to live…
Yeah, it was also crazy because I think it’s weird when as an artist you have these surges of popularity, because it’s suddenly super overwhelming. McFly fans are great – they’re hardcore. They love McFly, and then as a product of that, a lot of them were really adoring of me, which was nice but also overwhelming because I’d never had that before. I’d never had people waiting outside my tour bus or trying to see into it.
That sounds a little bit like what you’re dealing with on TikTok right now – a boom in popularity.
Yeah, and it’s on a mass scale now on TikTok. It’s also weird because you can’t see the people online. So it’s like I’m walking down the street and I feel like I have all this success on my phone, and I don’t know what to do with it.
Well, we know what people should do with their phones – go stream ‘Little Girl Gone’, out now.