Not many classically-trained pianists play Beethoven and hip-hop covers in the same hour. But most pianists aren’t Chloe Flower.
Chloe’s career has been anything but traditional. She’s been featured on rapper NAS’ “A Queen Story,” Celine Dion’s “Lullaby,” and on Timbaland Jay-Z, and Drake’s, “Know Bout Me.” She recently opened and closed for Mike Epps’ Netflix special, breaking barriers that say classical musicians are “too stuffy” to exist in the same arena as comedy.
On top of her impressive music resume, Chloe is also an activist (in 2013, she won the Creative Coalition Award for Outstanding Achievement in the fight against human trafficking), founder of detox drink, and an investor. Below, she tells us what she loves most about her work in music, business, and philanthropy.
You’re a pianist and composer, but also an activist, founder of Modern Alkeme, and an investor in Munchery. Have you always been interested in both music and business, and how did you work your way into each?
Yes, I have always been interested in business. My entire family is made up of entrepreneurs and business owners, and because of that, I appreciated the value of being your own boss and business creativity/freedom. And like the work I do in music, whether it be music therapy or music education, modern alkeme & Munchery are brands that promote health and wellness, just in a different way. So I feel like the diversity in my work life all still falls under one umbrella: healing and wellness.
You’re a concert pianist who’s sold out concerts at Walt Disney Hall—but you also love playing covers of current hip-hop songs. Tell us a bit about what it’s like to be a classical pianist in the age of Instagram and Spotify.
I feel so grateful to have access to platforms like Instagram and Spotify because it allows me to release music and content without relying on anyone. Before social media, artists had to rely on labels to release music. Now, anyone can upload music and artwork through distribution platforms like tunecore, YouTube, etc. For classical musicians in particular, it also gives us the ability to try new things with our music that we wouldn’t necessarily release in an album, like covers and mashups. And We can also take chances in our performances and get immediate feedback, this is so different than any other time in history! I can incorporate visual elements like fashion into my videos and do it from my living room! I am giving my followers a concert like experience with just my iPhone and a tripod! The accessibility is incredible!
What’s the biggest source of inspiration for your music?
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds has had such a huge impact on my music, not just what you hear but also the way I write and the technology I use to create. Before I signed with him, I was just using my acoustic piano and writing my music down on sheets of paper- old school style. But after working with Kenny, I was exposed to computer programs like Logic and Pro Tools. This completely changed my productivity and as a result, my productivity and what I was able to create increased exponentially. I found myself watching YouTube tutorials on “how to use Logic, “ and “How to use pro tools” for hours trying to learn as quickly as possible. That coupled with watching our genius engineer/producer Paul Boutin, made me proficient in the music software and soon my nickname became “Chlo-tools” in the studio!
If you could give advice to young women just getting started in their careers, what would it be?
Look ahead, not behind or beside you. With Instagram and other social media sites, it can become easy to compare yourself to other profiles. This is a distraction. Don’t slow yourself down by always looking at what everyone else is doing. Stay focused on your goals, write them down, and try your best to achieve them. Social media is just one aspect of your life, I see a lot of young girls making it the most important. It’s not, you are bigger than social media. What you accomplish in real life is far more valuable and real.
What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?
Signing with Sony Masterworks.
What do you hope your listeners take away from your work?
I hope to inspire my listeners and simply make them feel happiness. I think we need positivity now more than ever before. Music therapy is a true form of medication, but without any negative side effects. I always joke that I wish doctors would also prescribe a song or applied music lesson in addition to or even in place of prescription drugs.
Which women in your industry do you look up to most? Why?
I really look up to my mother. She has always been the example of integrity and nobility. My mother taught me the value of hard work, discipline, but that no goal should be achieved without integrity. I honestly think she is a superhero. I haven’t met a smarter, wiser, or better human than her. She also always promoted natural health over prescription drugs, so as a child, I always ate the most natural foods and tried holistic remedies before pills. She is also an amazing painter too and started her art career in her 40s, and became one of the best students at the Maryland institute college of Art, all while raising two girls. My mother always supported a career in the arts, and never forced me into any one direction. For her generation and culture, she was extremely open minded. I would not be who I am today without her guidance. Even today, I constantly called her to ask her opinion on so many different things. She’s like Astral (from Crazy Rich Asians) meets Yoda, I swear!
What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?
Making people happy and being a positive influence on young kids. Whenever I see or hear about kids wanting to learn an instrument because of me, I can’t tell you how rewarding that is. Because I believe music education is as important in development as maths and sciences and should be part of every core curriculum from kindergarten to college.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find new roads + switch gears to find success?
When I hit a bump, which I often do, I try to go over it. If I can’t do that, I then explore new ideas by reading, watching relevant documentaries, or even taking walks. I get a lot of utility and inspiration from the outside world, and there’s no better place to see different cultures and gather new ideas than NYC.
I’m definitely not afraid of failure, so the idea is to try new things and don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go exactly how you expect. All roads lead to the same place, sometimes we just take the scenic route!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There have been many times where I was really nervous before a performance. So naturally, I called my dear friend and partner in music therapy, neurologist Rudy Tanzi. Do you know what he told me? “Be grateful, you’re providing a service.” In my line of work, it’s easy to become narcissistic and think only about yourself. But that isn’t what music is about is it! This is an extremely important lesson because it helps remove the element of fear and replaces it with gratitude. That energy can change the trajectory of my concert and how the audience experiences my performance. It’s as much of a mental game as it technique and training.