Chi, 21, is a beatmaker and music producer from Oxford. The Beat Route project, run by the Ark T Centre, has helped him learn new skills and work out a direction for his future.
“I make quite a bit of chilled music, trap, drum & bass, anything and everything – it depends on my mood at the time,” says Chi. “I use Logic and Pro Tools to record a whole range of people, so it could be guitars, bagpipes, singers – I’m happy to record anyone!”
Chi’s currently studying for a degree in audio production at the prestigious SAE Institute, and working towards a career in music. It’s a big turnaround after going through some tough challenges when he was younger.
“I was living like I was invincible”
Chi had an especially difficult time after leaving school aged 15: “I hated school from day one. I remember having long arguments with my mum cause I wanted to drop out and have nothing else to do with it, and she wanted me to finish.
“I decided to rush all my exams and not really care about them. It wasn’t till I was about 17 and started looking for jobs that I realised that was the biggest mistake I’d made.
“When I was going through all of that, I was overdosing on medication. I was pretty much living like I was invincible. At that point, I had a friend that [overdosed], and it almost killed them, and it started to make me think differently.”
Expression through music
“But I was just so low and it was a hard place for everyone around me at that point,” Chi continues. “Music [meant] I could express myself without having to talk to anyone about how I felt.
“I was in a terrible place, really depressed. I reckon I would have killed myself if I couldn’t express myself. I loved [making music] cause it meant I could say everything without saying anything.
“Even if you write lyrics and you don’t record them, at least you’re getting them out of your mind. And if you wanna record them, or give them to someone written down, then at least you’ve said what you’ve got to say.”
New tech skills
Chi had been inspired to start recording and producing his own music at a young age by watching his dad DJing. “I remember being amazed how someone can control a room just from pressing a few simple buttons.
“I also thought to myself, ‘you could do that, but why not make your own songs to then show to the world’?” The studio facilities at the Beat Route project gave Chi the chance to hone the skills he’d begun learning at home – and to share them with others too.
“I got involved when I was about 15, and started doing recording,” he recalls. “My sister’s boyfriend gave me a laptop with some basic stuff to start doing some production on. Then I’d come here and show everyone what I’d done and teach them what to do.”
A safe and supportive space
The support and guidance Chi has received from the Ark T staff and music leaders has been really important. “Sitting in the studio was just a safe place where I could say anything and not be judged by anyone. They’d always be here for me no matter what I said.
“It’s a great place to come – you can meet all sorts of artists, you can meet people that do promotional work, you can go to the events they do. There’s lots of things they can help you with. They definitely helped me figure out that working in studios is what I want.
“Whether I can make a career out of [music] or just as a hobby on the side I don’t know yet, but it’s definitely something I want to keep on doing. It’s been such a big part of my life so far I wouldn’t want it to just stop.”
A future in music
“When I was in my really bad place, I didn’t think I’d be alive past 20 so I didn’t make any plans. I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I was back then. Generally I feel happy when I’m recording, because it’s something I love to do.
“Even if I can’t make it in production, I can always go back to writing lyrics as an outlet for myself.”