ANNIE O: Don't Be Afraid is your first album in over 10 years. What did you feel needed to be said since your last release, and why now?
CHRIS STILLS: There’s a difference between necessity and desire. I think you’ll find both on this record. Most of these songs come from direct experiences in my life. Ten years is a long time, for sure. Sometimes these things take a minute.
You have some incredible co-writers on this album, like David Saw and Ryan Adams. Tell us what the writing process was like.
I love co-writing. It's so good to have someone in front of you with whom you can bounce ideas off of. It's even better, of course, when it's badasses like David, Ryan, and Natasha Bedingfield. Co-writing processes differ depending on the person in front of you. With Ryan, we were jamming with a band just throwing licks around and taking turns leading. Everyone's following along with ears on and feeling the vibe. With “Criminal Mind,” I had the lick going and then Ryan took the lead with the bridge and we all just followed along. Quick, and it worked great. With David, we were sitting at a piano and I had the music going and we were just throwing ideas for lyrics back and forth. We knew what we were trying to say. It was kind of like Who's Line Is It Anyway?
Tell us about your first single, “The Weekend.” Is this your take on the party anthem?
It's a good party anthem. We're taking the piss out of it because it just happens to pretty much everyone at some point. Nice to grab hold of something that unites us in these troubling times.
You were raised between LA and Paris. What's the biggest cultural shift you need to make once you get back to either place?
I'd say the food and a bit of an attitude adjustment. A lot more is immediately possible in one place and a bit more difficult in the other. Also, the music.
You just toured in France. Do you also sing in French when you tour there?
I prefer singing in my native tongue. The French do it all the time. Sometimes I wish they wouldn't. Vous voyez? Ca peu être tres difficile. Mais aussi des fois... c'est top!
You've toured with some incredible musicians like Ryan Adams, Smashing Pumpkins, and Lucinda Williams. What's one of your favorite tour or stage memories? Any touring plans for this new record?
Touring is a blur. So many shows, it's hard to single one out. But every one has its special moment. I will say that there is a tendency to do amazing shows when you're sick. One of my favorite tours, though, has to be one in France with Tom McCrae. There was something about it where all the fellas got along and that family vibe was there. Never a dull moment. Great shows. Great tour manager helped as well, a man by the name of Quinner from Liverpool. Had a Hannibal Lector vibe to him. But the nicest, funniest guy who constantly keeping us on our toes. Touring can be monotonous, so it's all about how you fill the many hours in between the magic on stage. I plan on touring for the rest of my life. Coming to a bodega near you soon!
You've not only been on stage as a musician but also as an actor in the French musical Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt. You’ve also appeared on screen in Requiem for a Killer opposite Melanie Laurent and in the TV show Shameless. And not to mention your cover of the The Bee Gees’ "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" appeared in this year's Oscar favorite I, Tonya. Is there any desire to get back on screen any time soon?
I've finally found that great location to shoot this incredibly finely tuned Privately Organized Rambunctious Nocturnal Overture. [Laughs.] I'm always up for a movie or something cool for television. Although it's not my priority, I love acting. It's actually the first thing I wanted to do when I was a kid. I fell in love with it when I went to see Star Wars. I've been very fortunate to work with some of the best at high levels. There's a very familiar feeling in both acting and recording music, and that's when you get a good take. You just kind of know it. It’s a bit of an out of body experience.
If Chris Stills had a superpower, what would it be?
Superdad. That's all I need.
You're playing a show on your album release day, March 23rd, as part of The Annie O Music Series at The Standard, East Village and also the Johnny Hallyday live tribute on March 27th. What can we expect from those shows?
Good vibes, great crowd, amazing music, and location-location-location! The view ain't bad.