After finding his own success in Raleigh and in NYC, songwriter and musician Christopher Terrell guides his son Chris Feed toward his own music career.
Written by Lori D.R. Wiggins
Photography by Jeffrey Williamson
Christopher Terrell left his first digs, in a Raleigh trailer park, at 21. He was headed to New York City. He was there to make it in music—and he did. Terrell collaborated with R&B and hip-hop producers and artists, recorded over 100 songs, and caught the attention of RCA Records and Sean “Diddy” Combs. He also wrote a chart-topping hit single, Struggle No More, for Tyler Perry’s 2007 blockbuster movie, Daddy’s Little Girls. The song was recorded by Grammy-winning Charlotte native Anthony Hamilton.
Terrell’s success didn’t come out of nowhere: He met music early, growing up in Southeast Raleigh’s Washington Terrace and Worthdale communities. His great-grandfather, Jarvis Terrell, recorded what is believed to be the first black gospel album in North Carolina. His uncle and cousins formed a gospel troupe, The Goldeneers of Garner, and “toured all over the Bible Belt,” says Terrell. Of being a five-year-old singing in the Good Samaritan Baptist Church choir in Garner, Terrell says, “I was inspired by that.”
But in 2006, after 15 years in New York, Terrell moved back home. Despite being a native New Yorker, his wife Melissa convinced him that Raleigh was the best place to raise the couple’s three young children. Terrell kept music close as a singer and songwriter, and as a member of his church’s praise and worship team and choir. He also zeroed in on Writing Life Entertainment, a company he created in New York as a platform for other artists, including The New Journey Project, a multi-genre Raleigh band of various artists Terrell put together for the 2011 album, It’s Cool to Love God.
When his young children began to show interest in music, he resisted the urge to be a Dadager (that’s a dad + manager, the bane of many a child star) until they got older. But recently, Terrell has turned his focus to his middle child, son Christopher Terrell, Jr., a senior at Wakefield High School. “I didn’t want to push him,” Terrell says. “In this business, you’ve got to love it, first—have that passion and a good work ethic. If you’re just in it for the money, it won’t happen, or it won’t last.”
In 2016, Christopher Terrell, Jr. was ready to start a singing career, but his voice was changing because of puberty, so the focus became songwriting and stage presence.
Then, in January 2017, just as his son’s tone evened out, Terrell Sr. was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “That put fire into me,” he said, feeling an urgency to usher his son into the music industry. The diagnosis, which he says is still “under surveillance” has made him want to go harder.
Terrell wanted to stay well in the fight for at least four reasons: To be with his love, Melissa; to usher his oldest daughter, Zaina, a senior at Winston-Salem State University, into career success; to dance with his youngest, Destiny, a Wakefield High School junior, at her Quinceanera; and to seal his legacy by guiding his namesake toward success in an industry they both love. (Think: Paul and James McCartney, Olu Dara and NAS, Eddie and the late Gerald Levert.) Terrell worked to tap into his son’s talents, his own experience and entrepreneurial spirit—as well as his grassroots social media and industry networks—to introduce his son to the world as Chris Feed later that year.
Chris Feed’s first album, Inevitable, dropped in September. Streaming as an independent artist in 64 countries, Terrell said, the album has gotten 30,000 listens on Spotify, the easiest platform to track.“He’s bigger than he thinks he is and reaches a larger mass of people than he realizes,” Terrell said of his protégé. His son also made his acting debut in the 2017 independent Christian Cinema production, 30 Day Promise. “I see him as a superstar,” says proud father Terrell.
When asked about Chris Feed’s place in music now and in the future, Majik Reed, who produced Inevitable, said: “He can dominate both.” Reed owns The Hits Lab Studio in New Jersey and has worked with everyone from Diddy to Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder. In 2018, Reed also produced Terrell Sr.’s Searchin’, doing what the two have done for 20 years. “But I didn’t reach out to work with Chris feed as a favor to his dad,” Reed says.
“Chris Feed put in a lot of work. He got that from his dad.”
The “feed” in the younger Terrell’s moniker is intentional, and it bucks the trend of athletes and others out to “eat” the competition. Instead, Chris Feed wants to nourish his audience with what he has to offer. “I’m letting the world see me and see what I can do,” he says. They don’t see the artist’s behind-the-scenes preparation: late nights and early mornings, song-writing in the car, vocal production exercises, dance practice or the tough lessons—they see the results. “I’m learning how to connect and collab with other artists and producers, how to be consistent, how to set and meet my goals,” Feed says. “My dad has brought a lot of work ethic out of me, giving me a good feel for the industry. I can learn from it, avoid negative roads, and try to be and do better.”
Among Chris Feed’s notable nods: Ishmael Sadiq Montague, known as ISM, a Los Angeles-based record producer and songwriter from Raleigh, has sent Feed six tracks for possible collaboration. ISM knows firsthand the challenges of being young in the music industry and the importance of support: When ISM was still a student at Enloe High School, the self-taught beatmaker landed Chief Keef’s Michelin, Ty Dolla $ign’s My Song and produced Chris Brown’s Party, featuring Usher and Gucci Mane, earning his first Billboard Top 40. “He definitely has talent,” ISM said of Chris Feed. “It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
In Raleigh and the Carolinas, Chris Feed is emerging onto a music scene teeming with new talent and energy (see: the tens of thousands who converged for J. Cole’s Dreamville music festival). And it’s unique in that artists like Christopher Terrell and ISM are dedicated to paving the way. “A big part of getting in this industry is being able to reach back and help someone else,” said ISM.
“Christopher is very blessed to have his dad on his team,” Melissa Terrell said of her son. “He’ll guide him the right way. He has a one-up because of that relationship.”