Singer-songwriter Chris Chan and rapper Eric Maxton are preparing for the biggest performance of their lives: opening for Joey Bada$$, DNCE and Alison Wonderland at Brookfest 2017. The two earned their spots after auditioning at the Undergraduate Student Government artist release party on March 22.
“That was a wave I have never experienced,” Maxton said. The audition, in front of hundreds of people in the Student Activities Center Auditorium, was his first live performance, and Brookfest will be his second. “Doing it now on a much larger scale with a lot more people, I’m so excited for it. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
But this opportunity almost didn’t happen. Originally only Chan, who received the most student votes in the USG sponsored competition, was given the opening time slot.
Chan won by a margin of one percent, according to USG Vice President of Student Life Jaliel Amador. USG would not confirm exact vote counts, other than the 929 total votes, and Amador denied the accuracy of the vote totals cited by the Stony Brook Independent, who reported that Chan and Maxton finished a single vote apart.
“The next day, Eric Maxton was in my office,” Amador said. “Once I saw his passion, it was what made me go, ‘Hey, you know what? Maybe I should revisit the idea of having two acts.’”
Amador said that the original plan was to have two student openers, but that idea got lost in the shuffle over the course of a busy semester.
“The whole reason [of having student openers] is to showcase what they love doing,” Amador said, adding that he wants as many people to be as successful as possible.
The afternoon of March 23, USG announced on Facebook that Maxton and Chan would both open.
Chan, a junior biology major who is set to graduate this spring, decided last year to abandon his intended pre-med track in order to pursue his true passion — music.
“I’ll make my mark as a doctor, right?” Chan said. “But I feel like I’d just be an average doctor. If I put all my focus into being a musician, I could make a name for myself that leaves a much greater impact.”
The decision has paid off for the singer, who is set to perform in the same lineup as world-famous performing artists.
One of those artists, DNCE frontman and former teenage heartthrob Joe Jonas, grew up in The Assemblies of God Church – the same branch of Christianity that Chan observed as a child in Queens.
“I automatically connect with anyone who’s in that same [church],” Chan said.
The Assemblies of God Church is the world’s largest sect of Pentecostalism. And while Chan is still close to his religion, college served as a period of exploration.
“My personal view on spreading Christianity is not really to shove it down people’s throats,” Chan said. “I’m just seeing where I fit into the world.”
Not only did college expose Chan to new cultures and beliefs, but to new music as well, after a childhood of listening to and singing gospel music.
“It wasn’t really until I got to college, I started listening to other stuff.” Now he names The Weeknd, up-and-comer Khalid and Australian singer-songwriter William Singe as his main influences, and frequently covers their songs on his Facebook page.
He plans on singing some of those covers in his 20-minute Brookfest set and he may include some yet-to-be-released original pieces. The acoustic-guitar strumming crooner said he’s been studying The Weeknd’s release history, as well as his music, to understand how to build a fanbase.
“I would like to work towards an entire album,” Chan said.
This summer he said he hopes to work at a music label to broaden his understanding of the industry.
“But for right now I think I’m just going to have to work on singles,” he added.
Maxton, a junior political science major, has been rapping for less than a year. Like Chan, Maxton only got into the music he now performs after coming to Stony Brook.
“I started writing stuff over the summer, but I didn’t really have the means to record it or the plans to. It was kind of just something I was doing,” Maxton said. “Last semester, I met a kid who has a mic and recording equipment and everything like that. I went over to his house and recorded and that was when I put out the first project.”
His first project, “The Roll Out,” debuted in December 2016. His second project, “E,” followed in March. Since then he’s released a track once a week, a trend he hopes to keep up through Brookfest, where he will perform a few of them, along with some of his more popular tracks. His most popular, “6ixth Love/Interlude,” off of “The Roll Out,” has over 2,600 listens on his SoundCloud.
On stage and behind the mic, Maxton goes by a different name — Lou.E.
“I don’t know who the f**k this Eric Maxton is they’re talking about,” Maxton said as he walked out at the Brookfest audition. “I go by the name Lou.E.”
For Maxton, Lou.E is a part in a stage production. He has cast himself, as Eminem did with Slim Shady and T.I. with T.I.P., as a more degenerative version of himself.
“We spend so much time caring about the opinions of others,” Maxton said. “This is supposed to be a release for me. I can go in that booth and I can say whatever I want. I don’t have to care what really anybody is going to think.”
Maxton and Chan will take the stage April 30 to kick off Brookfest 2017 in the SAC parking lot.