tête-à-tête: chris quilala

I have enjoyed getting to know the Jesus Culture guys. They are all cool and funny and nice. Which are the three most important things in the world. Anyways, I officially met Chris Quilala a few months ago at that big new years Passion thing where he and the band dominated every square inch of the Georgia Dome. He has such an awesome voice, His songs rule, he can dominate on the drums… his hair is super curly… By the way, I know being funny and cool aren’t the most important things in the world. Being nice is probably one of the most important things in the world… anyways… So, I checked in with Mr. Quilala a couple weeks ago. Here’s how it went… ENJOY.

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Chris?
James!!!

What’s new, man? 
Just had another baby girl… well, my wife did most the work. I now have 2 beautiful girls… and a pitbull. Apart from that, we are getting ready to go on tour for a couple weeks. I think we might be in your neck of the woods even.

You are. I’ll see you there. Congrats on that baby girl!  Hey, what’s your favorite song?
Don’t know if I have one. I’ve been lovin’ Be Still from the last Killers album. Shadowlands still gets me… What’s yours?
I think my favorite song is Ultra Violet (light my way). But I am a U2 fan. So…

Your last name is really fun to say. Where is Quilala from?
Quilala… it is Filipino… wait, how do I spell check on this? Anyhow, the pronunciation is like… Key-Lala. Or at least thats how I’ve always said it… hehe

How did you get started with Jesus Culture?
I’ve been involved with Jesus Culture since the beginning. We started out as a youth group band that wanted to make a cd with songs that were ministering to us on Wednesday nights. The goal was to have something that our youth group could take home and worship God with in their bedrooms/cars/etc. It kinda took off from there, but the heart is still the same… we just want people to encounter God and, in turn, share Him with others.

I really like your voice. Have you always been a good singer? Did you ever take vocal lessons or anything?
My voice?
Yes. YOUR VOICE.
Aww, thanks man… thats super encouraging. I never really took formal lessons. I guess I learned by singing to albums that I loved. I sang in a few church musicals when I was a kid. My mom still says I couldn’t carry a tune when I was young. Recently I’ve been trying my best to warm up using one of those fancy speech-level-singing-training cds.

What is your favorite song you’ve written? Where did you write it?
I’d have to say, “I want to know You” It was a prayer of mine for a couple years. I started singing the bridge hook spontaneously when the band and I were playing in Australia. I guess a lot of my songs have a similar theme but that one sticks out to me.

What’s some advice you can give to songwriters?
I’m somewhat new to songwriting but something I’ve learned is to never ignore an idea. If I get something, whether it be a melody or a lyric I will always try and write it down or do a quick voice memo of it. For myself, the inspiration for a song usually comes when I least expect it. If I don’t write it down or record it… its gone. Chalk it up to short term memory loss or something.

Who are your favorite songwriters?
Love Dylan, James Taylor… Ryan Adams.. Brandon Flowers… the latter being my current favorite.

I like your curly hair.
(blushing…)

My hair is kind of curly too.
Yeah, I noticed that… is it natural or do you use curlers?
Yes!

I really like your new album, Live from New York. What was it like getting to make a record with Martin Smith? Were you so stoked!?! I would have died, probably. From happiness.
It was a dream come true. When I was 14-ish someone asked me, “If you had the chance to play with anyone who would it be?” I said Delirious. At the time I was playing drums so I never even thought I would actually be leading worship alongside one of my heroes. I’ve always looked up to him as a sort of father in modern worship… however, I believe he would prefer to be called uncle.

Who decides the setlist for your shows?
Kim and I.

I saw Jesus Culture play at the last Passion event in Atlanta. I was pretty blown away at what was going on when you guys were playing. I know it was a crazy experience being on that enormous stage surrounded by 60,000 people, but were you guys aware of just how powerful it was?
Man, it was crazy playing in front of that many people. I felt super humbled that Louie and the passion guys would share the stage with us. I still can’t believe how many people were there… makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it. Needless to say I was nervous but I know God touched people during our set and that makes me happy.

You and Kim sing and flow really well together. Do you two talk about what you are going to do, or do you just walk on stage and rule everyone?
Haha, you make-a-me laugh. We don’t usually talk about it. We’ve been leading together for a long time… 11-12 years? I love singing with her. I’d say we’ve gotten used to each other and usually have a sense of where is we are heading during a set. That being said, Kim always keeps me on my toes. She is great at breaking through the “norm” to get somewhere we haven’t been. That make any sense?

That makes sense, Chris. You are doing great, man. You are also a drummer. Does that influence the way you write songs? Are you picky about the drums on your songs when it’s not you playing them?
I am a drummer… always will be. When it comes to writing I am always thinking of what the drums might look like on the song when it is finished. I can also be very picky with drum parts but Josh is an amazing drummer. I’ll throw ideas back and forth with him a lot of times… I can’t help it. If I ever do a solo studio album… I might have to get behind kit for a least a couple songs. Whatcha think?

What do I think? I think you probably should. Who’s your favorite drummer?
The killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. I also love Glenn Kotche from Wilco. I’m too indecisive to have a favorite.

I’ve noticed that. Ever thought of leading worship from the drums like Don Henley or something?
Don is the man… Someone told me once that I reminded them of Don. Perhaps I should give it a try. Seems tough, ya know? Seems like a multitasking nightmare, and my wife is always telling me that multitasking is not strongest attribute.

You drink coffee, right?
Love coffee… You? Are you coffee connoisseur?

I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur. Other people would, but I wouldn’t. It sounds too braggy. What’s next for you? What’s coming up for Jesus Culture?
Next for me? Well, Jesus Culture is starting a church.. Crazy! I’ve lived in Redding my whole life… gone to the same church my whole life. The thought of moving and starting something new is scary for me but I’m excited to be stretched and get outside my comfort zone. What else… I’m gonna start writing for a solo album. You write? wanna help? haha.

Yeah I’ll help! Bye, Chris Quilala. 
Lets hang soon. Talk to you later Mr. Duke.

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