Chloe Bailey On Her Sisterhood With Halle, Why Music Is "Therapy," And 3 Words That Describe Her Debut Album
"Music saved my life. It's everything. It's a sense of therapy for me."
Lord, have mercy! Chloe Bailey — aka Chlöe — has long been heating up the stage with her younger sister, Halle, as one-half of the genre-bending alt-R&B-pop duo Chloe X Halle. With a coronation from Queen Beyoncé herself, the duo has racked up a total of four Grammy nominations. Now, the two are supporting each other as they forge their own path: Halle, in the titular role of The Little Mermaid (due in 2023), and Chlöe, in her preparations to release a solo debut project. We caught up with the 23-year-old "Have Mercy" singer (between press shoots, Paris Fashion Week, and a Jimmy Fallon performance, of course) to chat about everything from the first album she ever bought to the advice she would give up-and-coming singer-songwriters.
What’s the first album you ever bought?
B2K, Pandemonium! Well, with my parents’ money, because I was 4.
If you could collaborate with anyone — living or dead — who would it be?
Who are you listening to a lot right now?
Kelis, a lot of Kelis. I checked out James Blake's new album [Friends That Break Your Heart], and Don Toliver's new album [Life of a Don], but more recently, it's just been my playlist that I always listened to anyways that I just keep putting on repeat.
What’s on your go-to playlist?
A lot of ‘90s music — music that inspires me, has like futuristic sounds.
Have you ever been starstruck? And with whom?
Yes, I have been starstruck a few times. One was at The Lion King premiere when I saw Childish Gambino. I flipped out, and he was so nice to me. Another was with Frank Ocean at my friend Luka [Sabbat’s] gallery, and then it was also at B and J's Gold party when I met Rihanna. Those are the three times I was starstruck. [Writer’s note: I still can’t get over the nicknames for Beyoncé and Jay-Z.]
What I love most about fashion is that I can express myself and bring out my inner confidence and feel really sexy on the outside. And it's just so much fun to play dress-up.
Speaking of fashion, you had a Medusa and sorority-inspired music video for “Have Mercy.” Do you think you’ll follow a similar storyline for upcoming music videos?
I mean, I never know. That would be really fun. I guess we just have to see what matches the next song and aesthetic.
What’s on the mood board for this album, and what kind of themes are you hoping to explore more?
I think the themes that I'm looking to explore are similar to the ones that I'm exploring right now, where it's just about me finding my inner confidence and what really makes me happy and glow from the inside out. So that's kind of the world I'm living in for right now.
Who would you ideally want on the “Have Mercy” remix?
If I could, the Queen herself. [That's Yoncé, folks.]
Can you describe your debut album in three words?
Confidence, rich bitch, and vulnerable. [Writer’s note: Chlöe said she’s settled on an album title but can’t reveal it just yet.]
What was the recording process like?
The recording process — it varied from me being in my bedroom, when I'm really sad in the middle of the night, or even in the studio, when I'm with other songwriters and producers. And, you know, I'm wrapping it up, so it's not completely finished yet. But it's all over the place. I really don't have a formula or specific plan; I just create music that makes my heart sing.
Was your approach different from Ungodly Hour? And did the pandemic influence your sound?
My creative approach is pretty much the same — it's just me on my own. But when it comes to the sounds and the lyrics, I've been going through different experiences, and I've been using that to inspire me and the music. I've even been hearing and experimenting [with] different sounds with my voice and hearing how it sounds on top of that and figuring out what I actually love. So that's been fun, that's what's been different. But, you know, the actual process, nope, ‘cause I just create music anyways.
[Writer’s note: She has “a few favorites that I'll keep going back to and blasting in my car with my little brother,” but can’t tease any collabs or lyrics yet.]
Now that you’re killing it on your solo journey, what has it been like having Halle support you in your projects? And vice versa?
It's been the coolest thing. And I love it, because we're both so strong together as a group, and also individually, and I'm just so proud of her and all the solo endeavors that she's been going on. And I feel the same love and support from her. I can't wait to continue to support each other as we both continue to grow.
What sound can we expect from your solo debut?
It's definitely different from what you've heard; it’s more pop. And, you know, it's definitely a bit more different than “Have Mercy.” “Have Mercy” was just the first little thing people hear from me, so I can't wait for them to hear what's next.
You stress authenticity and positivity a lot both in your music and on social media. Who or what do you lean on when you’re feeling negative or unsure?
When I'm feeling unsure, I pray a lot. I talk to God, I talk to my godmom and my baby brother and my pets, and I make music and eat food. [Chuckles] That's what I do.
You’ve talked about how emotional it can be when you hit the main stage. What’s your favorite thing about performing?
My favorite thing about performing is that I feel completely free in myself. And I don't have to worry about anything at all except just doing my best on the stage. It's the most liberating feeling in the entire world, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Do you have a favorite performance so far?
I really enjoyed my Fallon performance yesterday because it was fun getting to show my production and singing with the orchestra and just really making “Have Mercy” very musical and bringing that to life. So that was really enjoyable for me.
What does music mean to you?
Music has saved my life. It's everything. It's a sense of therapy for me.
What advice would you give to aspiring singer-songwriters, especially young Black women who look up to you?
To believe and trust their voice. That's what I'd say. Because, you know, if you don't believe in yourself, no one else really will. And keep fighting for yourself no matter what.
Pivoting to acting, can you talk about your upcoming thriller film Jane, costarring Madelaine Petsch?
Jane was so much fun filming. I spent a month in Albuquerque, and we had such a blast. It was so much fun. And I can't wait for the world to see that film. It was made with a lot of love and joy. [Writer’s note: The movie is currently in post-production and expected next year.]
And, finally, speaking of TV, what have you been watching recently?
For Squid Game, what were your thoughts on the ending?
The ending was definitely interesting. For me, I wish he at least went to see his daughter before going back to take it down. But that just means we're gonna have an even greater second season. So I'm happy for that.
Agreed! Thanks for chatting with us, Chlöe! Be sure to keep a lookout for her debut album, and, in the meantime, stream “Have Mercy” for clear skin.