Photo by Sarah Sellars

Chino Maurice only started singing four years ago, but his incredible onstage energy suggests a longer performance history. The Cali-born vocalist recently played an explosive show at Public Assembly in Brooklyn, NY. Bringing his soulful bellowing, confident energy and electrifying performances with band and DJ to the table, Maurice has opened for Stevie Wonder and Beyoncé and is set to open for N.E.R.D.’s summer tour.

Maurice can rock, roll the soul and roar like James Brown, but his musical tastes include everything from the Doobie Brothers and the Eagles to George Clinton and Andre 3000. Starting as a producer, but also writing and recording, Maurice has made his way on the music scene with finesse, confidence and an innate ability to captivate an audience, something experience on the catwalk—the man has modeled—surely only bolsters.

First and foremost though, Maurice knows a lot about music as he recently made evident to CMJ.

When did you know that you wanted to play music?
I got tired of going to football practice, and I used to stay up late and listen to old ’60s and ’70s and ’50s records. I had a keyboard thing, and I would try to mimic the sound I’d hear. I would hear something and press the key and think, “Gosh, I can’t be playing that right…”

Do you practice a lot?
I’m kinda the spokesperson for geeks. I don’t go out. 360 days, I am practicing. I don’t party, so I get good at scales.

You play eight instruments. Do you have a favorite?
Probably the trumpet because I don’t know how to play it. My dream is to learn how to play wind instruments. I don’t really have a favorite. I pick up the guitar, and then I’ll say, “OK, wrote enough on that,” jump to the piano, then I have an amazing violin teacher now. I started picking up the violin. I can’t write on the violin yet. I just pick it up and do melodies. I don’t get bored.

What was the first song you ever wrote?
I have memories of this TV commercial, “Army! Navy! Air Force! Marines! It’s a great place to start!”—something like that. I used to record myself singing that as a kid, I don’t even know why. I used to go in the closet [and sing], “Army! Navy! Air Force! Marines!” Maybe that’s the first thing ever. My aunt used to play it and just laugh.

What’s your most comfortable setting for recording or playing?
I’m comfortable anywhere. I don’t do things I’m not comfortable with. I do what I want to do. If I feel comfortable at a place, it’s because of how I’m feeling, not because of the place. I could record anywhere—it could be a basement, a big studio. Four years ago, I didn’t really know I was going to sing four years ago, but I knew I was going to be a producer. I taught myself how to do ProTools. And I can really only do that at home, because you have to pay for studio time. And I love the East Village. The good thing about the East Village is that people don’t judge you here. You could have a spear going through your neck, and somebody would be like, “You OK?” You just keep doing your thing.

What influences your writing?
The thing that affects me is my running. I need to run everywhere I go. I might not have a pair of jeans, a shirt, as long as I have my running, I’m good to go. As long as I have my guitar and running shoes, I’m good to go. So, everywhere I go I try to find a beautiful place to run. I don’t like the cold weather, but I don’t care. Even if it’s 10 below, I’ll be out there running. My run affects my music more than anything. Because you can wake up in a different kind of way every day, but after my run I feel the same, which is very upbeat. It’s about the rush.

Speaking of a rush, the energy of your live shows certainly gives crowds a jolt-filled rush.
There could be five people in the audience. I feel the music, I appreciate people, but I love my music. One person says, ‘How does he jump like that for 30–40 minutes?’ I’m just like, how do I not? I love it. When I see people clapping and jumping, I feed off of that. Music is so comfortable to me. I just love doing it.