If you’re looking for a debut song which oozes confidence, talent, and soul from the first ten seconds, it’s difficult to think of a better example than CHARLOTTE’s ‘I Tell Lies’. The crackle and ripples of a vinyl player ease one into the atmosphere before a burst of soulful vocals emanates through; accompanied by the gentle strum of a guitar.
It’s a beautiful composition by CHARLOTTE, idiosyncratic yet holistic. It’s rather obvious how the artist attracted the attention of Toby Gad – writer of ‘All of Me’ (John Legend), ‘If I Were A Boy’ (Beyonce), and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ (Fergie), leading to her discovery with her career quickly gathering momentum at breakneck pace.
“I tried not to have too many expectations” the Charlotte behind CHARLOTTE reveals in our interview as we discuss the release of ‘I Tell Lies’. She speaks to me a few days after completing filming on her first music video and before she embarks upon a landmark-hopping European tour. “It’s the first thing I’ve ever put out. So, I was focusing more on the personal achievement of getting the song out there rather than how it would be received. But it’s been insane just how positive the reaction has been”. I ask if I Tell Lies was always the planned debut song to which she answers ardently – “I’ve written loads of songs but was flitting from one to another. But as soon as I wrote that song in January last year, from that moment, I knew instantly. This is me in a song. This is what people need to hear first”.
The crackle and ripples of a vinyl player ease one into the atmosphere before a burst of soulful vocals emanates through ‘I Tell lies’
I asked her about being vulnerable in songwriting, something she’s spoken about in various interviews previously, but I was keen to know if she could expand on how vulnerability has such a profound impact on her composition stage. “It always comes through a conversation at first. I’ll go into the studio with the producers and for me to be able to get something that means something and feels authentic to me, I have to have a conversation with them about what’s going on in my life” Charlotte answers candidly, clearly demonstrating the care and vigour that goes into her songwriting. “I don’t have a routine or a process, I just always start with that conversation. I try to be open and honest and the more compatible we are as people, the more open and honest that conversation is. Then maybe we start playing chords and form melodies. Then I’ll write melodies that will sound how I feel and because the conversation we had is still fresh in my mind, the gibberish that I probably say in the melodies starts to take form, they often have the words from the conversation. It’s strange and sort of magical at the same time, the song tends to write itself”.
She reiterates how important music is to her life when talking about her songwriting. “It’s an imperative coping mechanism for me” she states fervently, “each song I’ve written has been a saving grace”. But she also explains how live performance can change the dynamic of how her songs are presented. “When I sing, I don’t normally tend to plan how I’m going to do it. Even when I’m performing live, I take a slightly different path from the way I originally sung it in the studio, depending on how I feel on the day. No matter what sort of emotion I’m feeling, I can rely on singing on getting it out”
CHARLOTTE’s debut EP, Nowhere to Hide, will be released on the 3rd of May and even its title suggests a sort of emotional vulnerability; she’s keen to discuss what sort of themes bind this album together. “A lot of the lyrical content of the songs on this EP, it’s this similar theme of the stuff that I’ve dealt with when I became a teenager: Lost innocence, being a grown up and a lot of the baggage that comes with that” Charlotte claims. “The more I wrote about these ideas, the more I found out I had this significant longing for childhood and how genuinely content I was as a child. Not having to go out, not having to put on a front, or wearing make-up. Not that you have to do those things as an adult of course, but they’re things that people end up doing to try and get by. I just felt very connected to my childhood, that’s what I want to go back to. It’s how to deal with things that you have to deal with as an adult but not letting them paint who you are”. She quotes a lyric from I Tell Lies which specifically resonated with this idea – I wish I could press pause and rewind. “There are things that I feel the need to talk about as I haven’t heard them written in the way I feel they should be” Charlotte affirms. “So hopefully someone else hears my song and that someone needs to hear it as much as I needed to write it”.
She reiterates how important songwriting is to her life: “It’s an imperative coping mechanism for me”
The music industry is a business that is often scrutinised and pessimistically examined from the outside and I asked Charlotte on her perspective regarding this. “I think, we could talk again in three years’ time, and if I’ve had a rough ride of it, I could be like ‘I hate everything’” Charlotte wittily claims. “But so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the industry, I mean I’m from Hull, it’s not had the best music scene and I didn’t have a big insight into what the music business was growing up. All I heard was that it was full of sharks, you’d never make it and get ready for failure. I understand why people would think that, but when I went into it, I was thinking that people were going to try and screw me over, but of course while there are people like that, I have an incredible team and I’ve been fortunate to come across people that have all been great and passionate and the creatives behind everything are absolutely amazing. I’ve worked really hard and the harder I’ve worked, the luckier I’ve got”.
Whilst CHARLOTTE’s career only seems to be picking up exponential momentum, this wasn’t always the case and I ask her about any wise adages or pieces of advice she’s received that have stuck with her through the years. “Obviously there are some situations when you shouldn’t, but ‘just say yes’, in terms of work opportunities, just say yes, be open to things” Charlotte advises to anyone with ambitions similar to her own. “There are people who are on their way up and are incredibly talented, they may be working in their bedroom and you might have the opportunity to work with them and they may be about to do the next big thing. My managers have always told me as far as possible, we should say yes to things, if they want us to perform, we should be grateful and we should do it. If people want to work with us, we should feel flattered and we should do it; be willing to work hard at something and say yes to things”.
“just say yes, be open to things” Charlotte advises to anyone with ambitions similar to her own
Finally, I ask Charlotte what her aspirations are for the future and she chuckles before revealing that one venue she is desperate to play at would be one called ‘The Welly’ from her hometown. “It’s like 600 capacity. It’s an indie club that I go to most Thursdays with my mates and I have the most wicked nights there and I just know that, maybe for selfish reasons, my friends would think I’m the coolest person in the world if I sold out there” Charlotte reveals. “That’s just more of a personal level for me and I also really want to perform in a place I’ve never heard of, a remote place and to have people just show up. That would solidify the fact that the songs could travel further than I ever thought they would”.