Even within the first five minutes of our chat, it is clear from the outset that Crystal Murray, 19, knows herself and knows what she wants her trajectory to look like. Passionate in all senses of the word, it’s plain to see how how her infectious energy and creativity has seen her attract a loyal audience throughout her teenage years.
Throughout our day together in Paris, dipping in and out of independent stores, bars and markets, we speak repeatedly about the idea of artistic evolution, a concept that Crystal maintains is the cornerstone of being a musician. She cites Tyler, The Creator as the Darwin of the industry in this respect. “I see Tyler’s evolution as an artist exactly how I want my evolution as an artist to be,” she says. “He’s tried so many things and, in the end, the last album is just Tyler, The Creator’s sound; I can’t put it in any box, because he is the only one who makes that sound.”
She tells me that the progression between her previous and upcoming EPs, the latter of which is due for release in February, is not only sonic and stylistic, but lyrical as well, charting her emotional coming of age. If the first song and accompanying visuals released from the project “Too Much to Taste” is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat.
“I wrote the first EP when I was 14/15,” she explains. “It was really the beginning of my teenage years, and it was kind of just what came out of me at that moment in my life. It was childish, because I was talking about love but I didn’t really know what it was! So, the EP that is going to come out is still kind of childish in a way, emotionally, but it’s more like… I’m much more mad!”
Crystal’s eclectic heritage may go some way in explain her obsession with following in Tyler’s footsteps and creating a sound that brings together various sonic corners and inspirations, though she also looks to the past for security and comfort more broadly than music. With a father hailing from the “Gospel Deep-South” and a mother who is half-French and half from Fuen Caliente in the Canary Islands, she describes an almost mystical element to her heritage. “I feel like all of these things from the past of my family makes me quite spiritual,” she muses.
“I still feel it in my body, like there’s something super mystical in my family. It’s not even my parents…it’s like there are people watching over me all the time, music-wise and also just in my life.” Interestingly, despite this protective aura, Crystal alludes to not always feeling that same kinship with regards to a particular place or language – though this is something she has become at peace with, learning to value her uniqueness in a similar way to Tyler and his music.
“I used to speak really, really bad French when I was little,” she laughs, “and I always spoke English better. Now I don’t have an American accent, I don’t have English accent… I don’t know if I have a French accent! I’m happy, it’s me.”
Home, then, is Paris, and the city has inevitably played a part in Crystal’s personal and musical progression. Our day together pans out similarly to what you would expect a typical Parisian’s day out to be, starting with a coffee, cigarette, and beignet (croissants are “too light”) at her local Malian café in Belleville, and ending by drinking natural wine in the “fashion places of Paris” ahead of a gig she is playing that evening. The contrast perfectly sums up my perception of Crystal. This is a woman enjoying the ascent on the express escalator, but remembering to disembark from time to time to enjoy the trippyness of it all.
I end our day together watching her perform at the Pompidou Centre, the contemporary, brutalist structure in central Paris that houses the biggest collection of modern art in Europe, an ending that seems to tie the day together neatly. Like the Pompidou, Crystal is Parisienne without being Paris, severe whilst also being luminescent, youthful yet learned, and bursting with art ready to share with the world.
Having been induced into the world of social media fame at 14 when she, along with a group of girlfriends, created Gucci Gang — a collective of creatives emerging out of the East side of Paris — Crystal has been releasing a steady stream of heady, alluring music ever since. She tells me that, after her first record in 2020, she felt like she had been pigeonholed too quickly. “I got super overwhelmed by this box that everybody was putting me in,” she says, “so I kind of did this project like a mad teenage girl – like ‘no, I don’t want to be put in a box!’”
This premature classification was one of the reasons that she opted to release another EP instead of a full album. “[This EP] can go very far music-wise, and that is actually why I didn’t do an album because I know that I needed the time to discover this kind of music before that,” she explains. “I did soul music, I did more pop-rock music, and now I’m going to do my album and know exactly what I want to do.”
Twisted Bases will be released in February 2022.
Francesco Loy Bell
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