This week, Christian Moreno releases a new single with his musical project Geekd. But the interdisciplinary artist is nowhere near his former hometown of Schaumburg — or even the Chicago music scene — at the moment.
Since March, Moreno has been crisscrossing North America playing keyboards with the Broadway national touring company production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
His new release, “Astraethesia,” out for streaming and purchase as of Wednesday, takes listeners through a dreamy musical landscape, painted with casually strumming guitars warmly layered with reverberating harmonies and chimy bells. Moreno’s vocals, sometimes paired with backup from new collaborator Bex Gaspelin (of Chicago project The Looniest Toon), stroll through a reflection of nostalgia in the face of change. Looking back while moving forward.
And while the song — recorded and coproduced by Vincent Ippolito at Swift Road Studios — is an apt follow-up to Geekd’s second EP “Jeux” (released last year), it also somewhat presages the future for Moreno.
A percussionist at Schaumburg High School before studying music at DePaul, it seemed Moreno was headed down a path as an orchestral artist. His experience in indie bands had been mostly limited to behind the drums, while momentum was building behind his career as he professionally freelanced with Marriott Theatre, Porchlight Theatre and other theaters throughout the area. When COVID-19 put large-scale theatrical performances on hold, he took the opportunity to teach music lessons and expand his other creative interests — primarily his long-deferred dream of songwriting.
Now two EPs and some singles into that facet of his creative expression, he’s facing the return of his Broadway dreams and what that might mean for his Geekd musical output. But after living through what he called a “cloudy and unsure” time, Moreno came out the other side with a new mindset and fresh opportunities.
“I’m very flexible and free as an artist, and kind of just as a person. I’m not so much held back by what I think I should be doing or what’s possible. I go for things. And I’ve just been very chaotic in a good way,” he said. “Taking this tour was a very big risk for me, because I had everything set up great. … There was no reason to leave except for the opportunity to see if I can go a little higher. It might be successful. It might not be. And it proved really well. And so I feel very calm and excited. Kind of rejuvenated.”
Moreno said successfully navigating the whirlwind around stepping into a tour already in progress was a rush, especially knowing now that it might lead to even more opportunities.
“It was a very fast change. And I was freaking out for two weeks. Trying to leave my jobs, trying to find replacements, trying to get my stuff packed,” he said. “It was a very wild time. And then going into a completely different reality. It was very bizarre in a sense, like a complete shift. And that was a lot of fun.”
With Moreno launching a new release that he recorded just days before leaving for the road, he’s now faced with finding a balance between what he was working toward and what he has accomplished. Not to mention, what he has to look forward to now that the chase has become the choice.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “Kind of bizarre, I think, because any time I’ve reached a point where I have a goal, it always feels a little bit underwhelming, actually. Because I think that journey that we take as artists is the most exciting part. And when you get to that accomplishment, you think to yourself, what now? Where am I gonna go now? What’s going to challenge me?
“So I’ve been enjoying the ride and having fun,” he said, “but I have these two worlds again, trying to accomplish things with my band and trying to do this Broadway thing.
“And so I’m thinking to myself which direction do I want to go still? I’ve accomplished what I’ve wanted to for both, and I’m very happy about that. But I think what makes artists create good work, and what pushes people in general, is the need to keep going.”