Songwriter-Producer Cris Chil Refuses to Be Anyone's Prop
“People assume that women writers and producers are not as talented," says Cris Chil. "It’s definitely a bigger challenge than for a guy to step in. I’ve had to definitely push my skills to the next level in order to be accepted."
Cris Chil does not want to be looked at — she wants to be heard. When you're part of an industry where women are marginalized and vastly outnumbered — 49 male producers for every one female producer, to be exact — that's the precise attitude to have.
“This is a time when women are standing up,” the songwriter and producer tells People CHICA. “It's our moment to shine and step up our game. We don't need men leading the way, we can lead our own way. We need to support one another.”
The 29-year-old artist (born María Cristina Chiliza) is signed to NEON16, a talent incubator and record label launched by producer Tainy and former Roc Nation executive Lex Borrero. She was already making strides alongside the two though, having scored writing credits on Sean Paul and J Balvin's “Contra La Pared” and Benny Blanco, J Balvin and Selena Gomez's “Can't Get Enough.”
Born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Chil started performing at 14 and began writing songs later that same year. “I feel the most inspired when something is specifically happening in my life — things out of the ordinary,” she says, naming confessional singer-songwriters like Alanis Morissette and Pink as two of her biggest influences. After moving to Miami at 23, Chil started singing live shows across Florida at least three times a week, but quickly realized her calling was in songwriting.
Through networking, she began to meet writers and producers, and eventually quit singing to pursue a career behind the scenes. “As a woman I have the upper hand,” she says. “I think most music is directed toward women. We are the biggest fanbase, and that's a fact.” She believes that advantage extends to writing as well, making it easier for her to produce songs that women will enjoy, even if a male artist is singing them. “We all go through the same struggles,” Chil explains. “We may live in different situations, but we all feel the same emotions.” In rooms with male artists, she imagines herself like an actor getting to know her character, putting herself in another's shoes in order to help them perfect their message. “I can give them something the girls want to hear,” she asserts.
Chil only embraced that confidence gradually, as her early days in the industry turned out to be difficult. “People assume that women writers and producers are not as talented,” she says. “It's definitely a bigger challenge than for a guy to step in. I've had to definitely push my skills to the next level in order to be accepted.” She encountered people who didn't want to give her a chance just because of her gender, an experience that isn't hers alone — a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 12 percent of the 600 most popular songs from 2012-2017 were written by women, and only two percent of the top 300 songs were produced by women. Though the study focused on the Billboard Hot 100, which is predominantly pop, this disparity is likely just as pronounced across other genres. The study also found that female songwriters are most likely to work with female artists, so in a male-dominated genre like urbano, it's that much harder for a female songwriter to break in.
Chil also got an unwelcome introduction to the industry's expectations for women very early on. “The industry expects you to be overly sexual,” she says. “[Women] have to look deep inside and understand that we are in control and that we have to support each other….Writing for other women, I've been blessed to send a different message. You can be sexy and not disrespected.”
According to Chil, the past two years have been her most productive yet. “I'm pretty happy with how everything has been happening,” she says. She's currently working on her own project patiently and privately, noting, “I'm giving it time for it to be exactly what I want it to be.” She recently teased a collaboration with DJ Snake and Anitta, and got a credit on Luis Figueroa and Yashua's anthem “Pa Las Babies.” Though still in the beginning stages of what will likely be a shining career, it's clear that she's in it for all the right reasons. “This is not because I want to be an artist or I want to be famous,” she states. “I have a calling.”
Watch the video for Cris Chil's latest track, “Pa Las Babies” by Yashua and Luis Figueroa: