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Photo: Kelsi Gayda

Chynna Lewis Burns Brightly on “Where I Left You” 

The Toronto soul singer’s latest video is full of heartache, pyrotechnics, and a truly stellar vocal performance. 

by Ben Boddez

Toronto pop/R&B artist Chynna Lewis’ latest video for her single “Where I Left You” opens with the singer walking through a striking forest setting, a gas can clinking at her side. Nature lovers have no need to worry – all of the fiery passion she pours into her vocal performance ultimately manifests in a four-post bed symbolically lit ablaze to represent the rekindling of a tumultuous relationship that Lewis can’t seem to step away from.

The track is Lewis’ second single as a solo artist and previews her upcoming EP, What Are Friends For. Lewis began her career as a backup singer, accompanying both local heroes like Charlotte Day Wilson and Jessie Reyez and global superstars like Ed Sheeran, but her recent work proves that she’s fully prepared for a spotlight of her own as she delivers a truly captivating and deeply soulful vocal performance. As she confesses her loneliness and brushes off the pain of the past during a clandestine rendezvous with an ex-lover, the mixing feels appropriately intimate as Lewis’ voice takes on a near-ASMR quality over some tender piano chords, swirling harmonies and a steadily pulsating beat. As her vocal runs get progressively more elaborate as the track reaches its climax, the video sees her move from a dimly-lit house to the field where the spark reignites, embers rising into the sky as Lewis falls to her knees.

RANGE caught up with the soulful chanteuse to talk about her latest song and video. 

What was the original vision for the “Where I Left You” video and how did it come together? What’s your collaborative energy like with directors Mark Klassen and Petit Common and did it all come together as expected?
There is a lyric in the song that goes “let me fall right back to this bed of fire where I left you”. In the early stages of brainstorming this video’s treatment, I mentioned to director Mark Klassen that I envisioned a bed on fire in the middle of the field. The bed symbolized the destructive nature of an unhealthy relationship between two lovers. He was immediately on board and that’s how it started. 

Working with Directors Mark Klassen & Petit Common was a dream come true. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience filming my first music videos. The collaboration was fluid and open to communication at all times, and I’m most thankful that I got to meet some really special people in that process.

By some strokes of crazy good luck the video came together. The fire scene took a lot of planning to make happen, and we ran into some major obstacles with weather/unforeseen challenges right before and on filming day. There must have been some serious guardian angels on our side because somehow we managed to pull it all off.

What was it like on set when things started getting set on fire?

The fire was the final and most difficult shot at the end of two very long days of shooting. Balancing safety while making a grandiose enough fire for the shot was surprisingly tricky. The day was very dry and hot, so when the fire finally went up we had just one chance to get the shot. It was exhilarating to perform in front of a massive fire with my song blasting on full volume. A moment I’ll always remember.

Both of your videos for this new EP have found you in these beautiful fields, with a lot of nature shots. Is there a reason why you felt you had to get outside to really communicate these messages? 

The director Mark Klassen has very strong ties to nature in his approach to film, which I love, so it felt natural that the collaboration went in that direction. More practically, due to covid safety it just felt like being outside was the best and most comfortable option for everyone.

What’s your favourite natural spot in your hometown of Toronto?

High Park is hands down my favourite nature spot. It’s got so many hidden gems which I am still discovering. During lockdown when people weren’t able to convene indoors, High Park was the perfect place to meet friends and restart social gatherings again.

You’ve had the opportunity to work with some hometown heroes like Charlotte Day Wilson and Jessie Reyez, and a global superstar in Ed Sheeran – what are some of the things you’ve learned along the way that you brought into your solo career?

To be yourself. All of these artists whom I’ve had the fortune of working with and learning from are unapologetically themselves, and their music really reflects that. Though it’s very easy to feel the need to tailor your art to what is “in” at the moment, I’ve learned at the end of the day being an artist means to truly let your freak flag fly and lean into the things that set you apart from others. 

Do you change anything about your approach vocally or otherwise when it comes to singing your own music instead of other people’s? You have an incredible voice, but my favourite part of this new track is the huge surge of intimate, genuine emotion at the end where it breaks ever so slightly.

That’s a very good question and one that I’m still trying to figure out. Throughout my career I’ve taken pride in being a bit of a vocal swiss army knife; able to adapt to many genres and performance situations. However the challenge of being an artist is to commit to one single direction that honestly represents you. Making this EP really allowed me to start figuring that out. 

There was a big story behind your last single “What Are Friends For” that wasn’t overtly outlined in the song when it came to your experiences with discrimination and supposed friends not helping in your time of need. Is there a bigger story behind “Where I Left You”?

Yeah I wrote this song during a time that my heart felt so broken I thought I would never move past it. At my lowest point I went back to an ex knowing that it would hurt me and set me back from all the healing I had done. With this song I wanted to capture that sentiment of self destruction. Like fuck it I’d rather be in pain than be alone.

Speaking of which, it’s the title of your upcoming EP – according to you, what ARE friends for? What do you look for in a friend?

To me, friends are people who support each other through life. They are the family that you choose and they help you achieve things that you can’t do alone. They also make the wins in life sweeter and losses more bearable. 

Things I look for in friends – Loyalty, honesty, kindness, humour is a plus, desire for growth, vulnerability, and a general openness to life and different people.

What else can we expect from the new EP?
Another single called “Asleep,” which is one of my favourite songs I’ve written. 

Anything else you’d like us to know? What’s the next step for Chynna Lewis?
Thanks for these thoughtful questions. Next steps: I’m currently writing new music for my debut album, and we’re hoping to get into the studio to start recording later this year.

Photo: Jen Squires