Lance Washington, a.k.a. Lando Chill, is a self-described “raisin in the porridge.” For him that means standing out as a black man in ultra-white Tucson, where he is based. But the term also applies to his music, which makes a powerful impression by blending genres instrumentally and blowing minds lyrically. Washington’s freshman LP, For Mark, Your Son (2016) was a tribute to his deceased father, and an earnest, soul-searching project; it was well-received, and rightfully so.
His new record, 2017’s The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind, is thematically different from its predecessor, but just as satisfying to slap. It’s a concept album based on Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist, featuring the emceeing of an angrier, more mature Lando Chill. While he previously took on personal struggles with his music, Washington now turns his attention towards taking on the world’s struggles. I had the pleasure of talking with him about his identity as an artist, signing with the iconic Mello Music Group, and the power of The Alchemist.
Featured photo by Jimi Giannatti
LANDO CHILL INTERVIEW
PETER (HIGHLARK): You just put out a new album! I found it really interesting because it didn’t match any specific genre.
LANDO CHILL: Yeah, definitely. On The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind [I’ve] been working on creating a new way, a new lane, and not necessarily creating it to be innovative. I feel like there’s a void in hip hop that limits true expression and true freedom. There are artists that come out nowadays, Raury is one of them, Lil Uzi Vert is too, (even though I don’t even really listen to his music) who are putting out music that’s different from the mainstream but still expresses who they are as people. I feel as though the individuals who think like me, who know their truth, who want to live their truth, who want to make this world a better place through music, are important catalysts.
PETER: What would you say are your main musical influences?
LANDO: I grew up on rap and hip hop pretty late, and so a lot of things that I do are unconventional — not because I just want to be different, but because I grew up on soul, I grew up on funk, I grew up on folk. I grew up on jazz, smooth jazz, at that. [The new album] was a conglomeration of all those, of history and innovation, and a want to be better.
PETER: The Boy Who Spoke To The Wind is based on The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Why that book specifically?
LANDO: It wasn’t necessarily like I was going through a book collection and then decided to pick out the book that spoke to me the most.
Honestly The Alchemist is about me. I was working at this Chinese food shop and this student came in. She would come in periodically and she would ask me questions, really existential questions about reality and free will. And one day she asked me if I thought fate was real and I said no…so she literally was like “I think you would get a lot out of this book I have called The Alchemist.” And I was like “OK, cool, I’ll read it,” so the next day she brought her copy of The Alchemist. I read it within the week of receiving it and it was mind-boggling, life-changing.
There was a quote in the book and through that quote I realized that I was limiting myself in my art and my life. And limiting my dreams because I was afraid. That quote is: “The greatest lie one has ever believed is that he or she is not in control of their own fate.”
I thought that was the greatest thing anyone could ever have told me at that time.
PETER: When would you say you had that awakening? When did you read the book, realize all this stuff, and then translate it into your music?
LANDO: It was 2014 when I read the book. In early January of 2015, right around my birthday, I realized how old I was, in my mid-20s. I was at a dead end, working a minimum wage job. And reading that book really jump-started me as far as not being afraid to fail, but not being afraid to work hard either…That’s why I’m here and I make music. Two years ago I wasn’t shit.
PETER: You’re with Mello Music group, which has a star-studded roster. What’s your story behind joining that team?
LANDO: It’s actually a crazy story. Two years ago I was self-releasing my first album, For Mark, Your Son, but self-releasing a project is extremely daunting. And so I’m learning the ropes and learning the music distribution and learning how to do the layout of a CD. By the end of this process I was in the paper here in Tucson; I thought I was doing it big. Then I get an email, a random email, and it’s from [Mello founder Michael Tolle] who was like “I saw your face in the paper. I checked your album. Can we talk?” And I was like “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” And that was it.
That was one of the steps of validation that I needed at that moment to continue music. Because you know Tucson has a high ceiling but it’s not L.A., not Chicago, not New York. It’s not even Denver. It’s Tuscon.
PETER: Have you been working on projects or doing shows with any of the other Mello guys?
LANDO: I met L’Orange and that was fucking dope. We did a show up in Phoenix together. I also met Mr. Lif, who’s a cool guy. I think I might go on tour with Red Pill later this year. It would be cool to meet Open MikeEagle and chop it up with him because we’re both from Chicago.
PETER: Where’s the tour going?
LANDO: Oh man, all over. I think we’re setting up like a 30-date sort of deal. West Coast, East Coast, and Midwest. Definitely hitting all the staple cities like L.A., New York, Chicago, and Denver. Even the obscure cities; we’re going to Bakersfield apparently.
PETER: That sounds dope.
LANDO: Yeah I’m excited. It’s still in the works obviously but I’m ready to get out…I went to New York for the first time a few years ago when I went on tour with Jabee, an artist from Oklahoma City who is somewhat of a mentor to me, and it was my first time ever in New York, and it was fucking incredible. I have never seen the city and been in a place — walking down the street and hearing Russian on one block, then all of a sudden hearing Swahili, it’s just so tight…New York is the shit.
Being from Chicago, us Midwest kids never really get out, and when we do we end up in random-ass places like Arizona.