Many artists start off in a group and then branch off to do their own thing. Up next to cross over into the solo lane is Chanelle Hayes of the gospel group, Trin-I-Tee 5:7. After 16 years, she’s breaking out and jump starting her solo career. with the release of her debut album, Trin-I-Tee 5:7 According to Chanelle, which dropped June 17.
VIBE Vixen caught up with the New Orleans native to talk about her new album, why she chose to go solo now, Instagram backlash and more.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
The group has been together for so long. Why go solo now?
It’s all timing. It’s not new in terms of the idea just coming to me. I just knew that the market needed what Trin-I-Tee 5:7 had to offer. We came out in 1998 and there was no funky young gospel girl group. It just wasn’t there and it was something that we really embraced and just now am I finally really ready to express myself creatively as an individual as a woman. I started as a teenager, so it’s a great time.
You mentioned using your own creativity. How will your album be different from a Trin-I-Tee 5:7 album?
I’m finally 100 percent in control from the photoshoot to the album cover to sitting here with you deciding where I want to interview and talk about my career and express myself. Booking agents, management, I hand picked everything, so that it is a true extension reflection of Chanelle. I’m building my brand from the bottom up—well not from the bottom up because I still have Trin-I-Tee 5:7 as apart of my DNA—but you’re just getting a more concentrated Chanelle.
What will your sound be like on your album?
On this record, I wanted to have all these voices that I’ve always wanted to share, but I was always nervous to do it because I know there is a certain sound people like. So you gotta give people what they want. At the same time, I have to have fun because I love textures. No one could sound like Billie Holiday. No one can sound like Tina Turner, you know what I mean? No one can sound like Sarah Vaughn. They have very unique textures and talents and I’m all about that. I do it in the shower all the time but the when I get to studio I have to give them the voice that they’re used to so with this one but this record I get to have fun and do all of it.
Are there any collaborations on the album?
I have one, because again I wanted the record to be cohesive. I’ve done a bunch of records where it has 10 to 15 producers but this time I needed it to have a theme, you know? The records like Miseducation of Lauryn Hill where it’s a theme from the beginning to the end. So the collaboration for me is PJ Morton of Maroon 5, and he’s my childhood friend. Since kids, we’ve been creating music in our dads’ churches. We’re both pastor’s children. So just throughout the years we’ve both been achieving different things in our careers but when I called him I was like, “Hey I need you,” and he was like, “Hey, what do you need?” It was so magical being in the studio with your friend from childhood creating something that the world will hear.
It doesn’t sound like your album will have the traditional gospel sound.
Not at all. I mean in some ways I’m traditonal but then it comes to my lifestyle and my approach to life in general. It’s very unorthodox. I think a lot of people may not even think I’m a Christian.
Just because I don’t live my life with the purpose of making people accept me. I make mistakes and I make bad choices, which are two different things. Sometimes you just do stuff on my purpose like, “You know what? This is what I wanna do.” I own it, though. You learn from your own choices and Christians generally don’t really give you that legroom. In a lot of ways it’s unrealistic and unattainable the way they project Christianity, especially with people in my generation and younger. So I’m just like you know what I’m in love with my life. I love God. I have a very healthy relationship with him and it’s in the process. If you don’t like my music or you don’t like the way I dress or you don’t like where I hang out that’s okay because I don’t like that choir robe you have on either. But I mean I accept it but that’s not what I wear, you know what I mean? So it’s about learning to love and accept each other for who you are. I’m all about that, especially on my record.
I saw that you recently got some backlash over your new hairstyle. People were saying you were going to hell. What happened with that?
It’s the craziest thing. When your life is public you just gotta be ready for whatever because you really don’t know. If you just do a regular post it could turn into sheer madness and all I did is what you see right now. I cut the sides but I had it kind of spiked in the front you know? I was feeling great and feeling the vibe of Grace Jones. I posted the picture and all I was doing was eating at my favorite sushi bar and was having sushi and what do I get? All kinds of stuff like, “Good Christian girls don’t really go out and look like this. You look like the world. You look like you’re trying to draw attention to yourself and not to the message of Christ,” and they flat out said I was going to hell (laughs). I’m just like, what planet are you on? You can’t be on earth right now because if you believe in the God of the universe do you actually think my demise will be to burn in hell because of hair color and a hair cut? And that’s what freaked me out because these people in these times will lead other young people or people in their churches or wherever in your mosque or temple, you can’t lead people with such limited ideas of who God is. I’m such a rebel against all that. It shocked me but it doesn’t change me. I’m not gonna stop being Chanelle. Some people can’t even grow hair. Are they going to hell to because their hair isn’t growing? Like c’mon. It’s so crazy.
Who are some of you fashion icons?
Of course. It may sound corny but my mother named me after Coco Chanel. She was actually in labor in the hospital and she was going to name me Reagan actually. She was watching TV and a Chanel commercial came on and that year, I won’t say the year, but I always wondered who was the face of Chanel that year that made my mother change her whole plan and gave me that name and of course now I’m like fascinated with Coco Chanel. I’m a big 1920s, 1930s fans so all the music and the art I’m all into it.
Why the name Trin-I-Tee 5:7 According to Chanelle for your album ?
Primarily the brand Trin-I-Tee 5:7 will always be a part of me that I built with my blood, sweat and tears and I own it. I own the name and a lot of people may not know Chanelle. They will but I just wanted to give them something in reference. I titled it that way because I thought it would be helpful and good business you know? (laughs).
What’s the release date?
The release date is June 17. My big day.
How many songs did you do with PJ Morton?
He produced and wrote two songs.
Any other producers?
Not that I think you may be familiar with. I’m not a big person on big names. If you’re a big name and we have chemistry, yes. If you’re a no name and we have chemistry, yes. These two guys Zaye Gibson and Darion Dorsey are both students of music. They’re just geniuses. Anything I threw out to them they recreated it. You know how you look in a magazine and you see a beautiful dress and you take it to your mom and say, “Can you make this for me?” That’s power when you can recreate something really cool. That’s how I feel about these guys.
I noticed that you came here alone today.
That’s another thing that’s new about this season for me. This is my chance to interact in a very concentrated way. I’ve forever had the entourage, the driver, the bag person so by the time I arrive there’s all these distractions and barriers and I really want to have one on one interactions. Pure interactions and no distractions because I’m building my brand from the ground up and I want you to see me and not everything else. So I care about that. I don’t know how long I can maintain because it is a lot. I’ve sort of gotten used to all that but at the sacrifice of personal interaction.
Are you going to be traveling alone for the promo tour for your album?
I have friends—because moral support is really important to me. So for example, I’m totally kidnapping my mom, my two aunts and I’m going to go from New Orleans to Atlanta. I want to take them with me and they can just pamper me if they want to but I’d rather that so it’s that personal energy around me. Sometimes it’s just a little too much. It’s like I’m working but you’re the diva. Then I’m like, “Where’s my mama?” She’s going to make sure I eat, take my vitamins and that kind of stuff.
How supportive has your group members been of your solo endeavors?
They’re very supportive. We call each other with crazy stuff all the time. She steals my clothes and insists that she doesn’t have it. I’m like Angel, I know you have my black shoes (laughs) and I will come to Atlanta and go into your closet and get my stuff. We’re very good. Very supportive of each other. We want different things. it makes me crazy when people think that women separate in business that it’s a problem or something wrong. This is business, baby. We want to do different things and we want to come back together we will and have a reunion and that will be fun too.
What’s your next single?
It’s “Repay.” I just released it and it’s the song that PJ wrote for me. Every song on the album is one word. I wanted everything concentrated and as focused as possible. I don’t want you to miss why I’m here. Just in general with everything you do, you don’t want to miss it by being distracted with random ideas from other people. Everybody has an idea of you so what is your idea of you? That’s what I’m all about right now and I had to grow to that because I used to want to please everybody. I wanted everybody to love me and accept me. When I kept getting disappointed I said okay, I’ll just chill and refocus and recalibrate and that’s what I‘ve done. This song “Repay” is a song about gratitude because I’m very grateful. You don’t have to have longevity. There are a lot of people who could put something out and tomorrow they aren’t remembered. So I want to be remembered because I want to really cause change in the world. Not just on stage but going into a nursing home and singing to people who don’t know I’m Grammy-nominated . They’re just so happy I’m coming in and bringing my nail polish and the little ladies see me coming and they line up. I just sit there and sing to them and paint their nails whatever color they want and I live for those moments because that’s what gives me the energy and the force behind me to go back into the world where it’s really ugly. There’s nothing sweeter than seeing an old lady fanning her nails dry and she’s feeling all new, you know? It’s just too cute. I’’m crazy about senior citizens. I just love them.