Winchester’s Viral TikTok Star and His Film Director Look Ahead To Their Creative Future
Updated: May 31, 2022
By Elise Sandlin
MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
His vibrant energy and contagious smile is readily apparent when Chris Staples, the Winchester man known for a viral TikTok 2021video, enters a room. From his positive online presence and lively online dances, to his magnetic personality that attracts attention wherever he goes, the 33-year-old Staples radiates an undeniable glow, even though many of his Winchester friends would say he’s shy at his core.
His presence and style are what caught the attention of the makers of an Applebee’s commercial who chose a video of him dancing to Walker Haye’s “Fancy Like” to be included in the commercial. The commercial went viral and aired on TV in countries all over the world, as well as acquiring over 7.8 million views online.
Even when he’s eating at McDonald’s his presence is noted by other diners from across the room. A couple in their early twenties approached his table to ask if he would sing for them.
He launched into a version of one of his original songs, snapping along to the beat.
Since becoming a viral TikToker and being featured in the restaurant commercial, Staples has been in several other commercials for the driving service Lyft, including two which featured his own original songs, “Heartbreak” and “Yours.”
Staples began making TikToks in 2020 when a co-worker and friend dared him to, but he was making original music long before then. Staples has been writing lyrics and tunes for years but was never able to accompany it with music. He found someone on Fiverr, an online freelance service website, to create beats and music for his words.
“I sent him the lyrics to my song and sang it acapella,” Staples says. “He sent me back a beat, and the next thing you know, magic happened.” Staples doesn’t even know the African artist’s name, but since they first collaborated, the two have worked together on all but one of Staples’ songs.
Staples graduated in May from Tennessee Tech with his teaching degree and will begin teaching at Farrar Elementary School in Tullahoma this summer. He originally started college after high school in 2010 but dropped out to take care of his mother and grandmothers when they got sick. A decade later, when they passed away, Staples was determined to make them proud by returning to college, attaining a degree, and beginning to pursue his lifelong dream of singing.
“When I was growing up, my two dream jobs were an educator or a singer. No matter where I would go, I was always singing. No matter what, I was always singing,” Staples said. After he lost both his grandmothers within two weeks and his mother a month later, Staples wrote his first song “Make it Through” about coping with losing lost ones.
“Writing helps me escape depression. I write my songs to relate to everyone, but I wrote it at first for me. I wrote my very first song and after that it just started flowing. Now I have 16 original songs.”
Staples’ first music video came out in 2018 and was produced by local film director Seth Garrison. Seth has since directed 13 of 16 of Staples’ music videos, which can be found at his YouTube account under Chris D. Staples.
“Chris is a wonderful human being,” Garrison said. “You’ll hear him before you see him. He’s singing at the top of his lungs walking through Walmart, Kroger, or the park. That’s his whole personality. He never meets a stranger. He’s just genuinely a nice person. That’s why we click so well.”
Garrison runs his photography and film business from his Winchester apartment. In addition to Staples, he works with another local band, as well as wedding photos and other local attractions or events. He recently independently covered the HunterGirl parade for Montana Medina, the owner of the Oldham Theater.
“I’ve done photography and filmmaking ever since I was a child. I’ve always been obsessed with movies and television, and I’ve had a camera in my hand ever since I was born basically. It was always the dream,” Garrison said, but he often felt pursuing a creative career was discouraged.
“Coming from a small town, you can lose sight that your passion is possible. Growing up, not a lot of people believe you can achieve something that’s artistic.”
However, he didn’t let that stop him. After graduating high school and working odd jobs to pay the bills for years, he decided to attend college in 2020 at age 26. Now, almost 30, he will be graduating in December from Los Angeles Film School through its online program. He plans to visit California to receive his diploma.
“I barely graduated high school, and even if I did graduate, I don’t know if it would have felt important to me back then. This one is the real deal, and I want to get that diploma in my hand. I don’t want it to come in the mail.”
Garrison plans to continue shooting music videos and to get more involved with movie making in the future.
“It’s easy to just sit down and feel exhausted and feel like you’re going nowhere, feel like I should be farther along at my age. But I look around and I’ve achieved way more than I thought I would just five years ago,” Garrison said.
Staples and Garrison are proof that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.
“No matter your age, dreams can come true,” Staples said. Even when he starts his teaching career, Staples isn’t giving up singing. He plans to audition for NBC’s The Voice at the beginning of next year.
“I went for the very first time back in 2014,” Staples said. “I made it through the first round, and I was supposed to go back for the next round, but I got scared, and I didn’t go back. I got nervous, so I’m going to try again.” He’s getting ready for tryouts which begin in February of 2023.
“Don’t give up on your dream,” Garrison said. “If you are from a small town, like myself, there might not be a lot of people around who understand and support it, but if you know what you’re going to be good at it, don’t stop until you achieve your goals.”
Elise Sandlin is one of nine Middle Tennessee State University journalism students who recently spent two and a half weeks in Franklin County writing stories for the Herald Chronicle. More of their work can be found at www.theroadtripclass.com.