UK singer-songwriter Charlotte joins us at Alfred Coffee in Brentwood, CA for a quick tour break to discuss her upcoming debut EP Nowhere To Hide, the importance of meaningful lyrics, and the sacrifices that need to be made when you’re starting your dream career.
So you’ve recently released your debut single, “I Tell Lies.” Wanted to say congratulations!
Also wanted to ask you if you would like to share with us a little bit about the recording experience, as well as the story behind the lyrics and the instrumental elements that you chose?
Charlotte: Sure! So I wrote this song over a year ago with these two guys out here in L.A. named Trevor [Brown] and Zaire [Koalo], together they’re called The Orphanage. I had written with them a couple of times before, and at the beginning we went in to produce one of my other songs from my upcoming EP called “Nervous.” We got it down right quick, and they were like, ‘We should write something else too,’ which turned out to be “I Tell Lies.” We only wrote half of it, the verse and the chorus, because we didn’t have that much time left in the studio. I took it home and wrote the rest of it, and I ended up booking another trip back just so we could fine tune it and finish up some parts that I needed. It was such a big deal for me in open and vulnerable I was being so I thought that that was the first thing I needed to say in my first song. It’s about being the class clown, but also kind of giving yourself a character or a personality that you feel like you have to live up to all the time. Sometimes you feel like you can’t keep that up, which makes you feel trapped. That’s always been very true for me and is why I wanted to bring it up in a song. And that one had some pretty cool influences for it too! I had been listening to Leon Bridges’ album Good Thing on repeat, so that was a big influence for it as well as Otis Redding’s song “Try A Little Tenderness.” So yeah, lots of cool stuff happened with this song!
And that’s so cool that you chose this as your introduction because it’s such a relatable topic. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that feel like they need to put on a mask in a public setting.
Charlotte: Absolutely. I hope that this song can relate to them and let them know they’re not the only ones that feel the same way.
Absolutely. So you’re also gearing up to release your debut EP Nowhere to Hide. Care to give us a little sneak peek at some of the other stories that we get to listen to?
Charlotte: Yes definitely! Nowhere to Hide is a four track EP, and every song is just as vulnerable. It’s not thematic in a way where they’re all about a certain topic, but every song is really about coming clean and being confessional and being raw and honest. I feel like every song brings something different as well because they’re not all in the same vein sonically, but lyrically they’re all very vulnerable.
Awesome! We are big fans of vulnerability and honesty. That’s what music is all about!
Charlotte: Yeah exactly! At least you hope so right?
Definitely. And in regards to the way that music listening has been more focused on the streaming aspect, as well as shorter releases like EPs and singles, do you feel that those styles of releases are what modern listeners are kind of looking for in how they consume their music?
Charlotte: I think the focus for mainstream has very much shifted to singles, but I still try to hold onto the fact that people still make albums to cater to a larger audience. People still want albums, they still ask for them and stream them from start to finish. That’s almost a testament to us to see how much people invest in them. They’re not just listening to the songs, they truly care about the bigger picture and what the artist has to say, not necessarily just caring about the hits. I think that streaming has also given the opportunity to allow an artist to kind of do things their way, you know? Sure, pop music is clearly singles driven now, but I think the albums are still going strong alongside them, which is good because I absolutely cannot wait to do an album.
Yeah! And EPs are still a good starting point for a lot of artists.
Charlotte: Yeah! I mean, it’s a short body of work, but I think it gives a good way of easing people into who you are as an artist. You can then share more and more as you go and build it into an album. Hopefully by the time you’re ready to make an album there will be plenty of people ready to listen to it.
Yeah! So apart from getting the chance to work with hit songwriter Toby Gad for your EP, you have had opportunities to write with and for a bunch of big named artists like The Vamps and Aloe Blacc. How would you say that the songwriting process is similar or different when it comes to writing for yourself as opposed to writing with or for other artists?
Charlotte: When it’s for me it’s completely biographical, so the process is more of a driving force to tell my story. Whereas when writing for someone else, you’re kind of there to help guide the story out for them, so you have to take more of a backseat role. It’s not all about me when I’m writing for someone else. *laughs* It’s almost like in a social situation when someone needs your advice and you just sit and listen to them and help guide them along. In a music scenario, the two are very similar. Writing for other people is actually an amazing tool that I use to help me step outside of my own head for a bit, because when I go back in to write for my own project I feel like I have a broader horizon kind of thing. Maybe we tried something in a room with someone else that I wouldn’t necessarily have tried for myself, and then I’d be like, ‘Oh, that was kind of cool! I think I could do my own version or put my own spin on that.’ So yeah, it’s helped me get better writing for myself and being more adventurous.
Cool! And if you had to choose between being a performer and being a songwriter for the rest of your musical career, which one would you choose?
Charlotte: That’s such a tough one because I think if I was just a performer it would mean that I wasn’t writing my own songs and just singing them.
Oh you could totally write your own songs and bring them to the stage! But if you didn’t want to perform and just stuck strictly to the songwriting realm, there’s that option as well.
Charlotte: Oh! Well with that case, I would definitely want to be a performer if I was able to write my own songs. If I was to just sing and couldn’t write my own music anymore then I would have said that I would just songwriting because I’m just so passionate about the writing aspect. But if I was able to perform my own songs, the choice is easy. *laughs*
Yeah! So if you could choose three artists to go on your own world tour with, who would they be and what would you name your tour?
Charlotte: I know who I would want! *laughs* I would want to have Stevie Wonder, Leon Bridges, and Soundbender, and I would want to call it something funny.
The ‘Something Funny Tour’ 2019. *laughs*
Charlotte: The ‘Something Funny That I Couldn’t Manage To Think Of In Time Tour.’ That’s what it is! *laughs*
I’m sure one day that will actually be a tour name. *laughs*
Charlotte: Yeah, when everyone’s run out of ideas. *laughs*
Right!? There’s only so much wit you can put into a tour name. *laughs*
Charlotte: We’ll try though, even if they sound a little silly. *laughs*
Absolutely! So as a female singer-songwriter, do you feel that women in the music industry need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to be successful? Whether in be in-person or even through social media?
Charlotte: Right now, no. I think they did like twenty years ago, but I also think that there’s two sides to social media. There’s a damaging side of it where it’s this polished highlight reel that people show the edited version of themselves, but there’s also the other side of it where people are trying to break that mold. It’s a platform for people to be real, to show the cracks as well as the shiny bits, especially for females. If you manage to delve into that side of social media, whether you’re an artist or just a normal person, I think it’s quite an exciting time right now with people not being afraid to take off the filters and be a bit more real. It’s amazing! I think when I was a younger kid, the way that the industry was for females was like, ‘Am I going to have to wear a leotard and do a little dance routine on stage? Would I have to sing about love and relying on men all the time?’ That’s definitely not how it feels now, and is why I feel like it’s an exciting time to start in music. For me, I don’t really want to fit the ‘ideal,’ and right now is the perfect time for me to break out.
And I feel like the listeners are starting to agree too. They’re looking for more than just the cutesy little love songs or your standard breakup song, they want something with a little bit more substance that makes them think, which is awesome!
So social media has pretty much taken over at the main form of marketing, whether we like it or not. Do you feel like social media marketing has helped with creating opportunities for independent artists to reach a broader audience?
Charlotte: Oh definitely! It’s amazing because you can actually do it all on your own. It allows you to create stronger connections with fans. The power is in the artist’s hands when it comes to social media, but it’s not in the artist’s hands for other parts of the industry. I think the main beauty of utilizing that method for artists who are independent is the same way that I feel about artists. If I find them myself early on, I feel quite protective of them and just very passionate about being a fan because I stumbled across them and found that they were this gem. Social media allows people to do that everyday, like, you can see something on your explore page or you can see it on someone’s story and think like, ‘Oh, they sound cool. Who are they?’ I think because it’s not coming from official people saying ‘You should listen to this’ you kind of feel a bit smug about it. *laughs* Social media really has been a blessing.
Yeah! And do you feel that social media almost puts a pressure on artists to feel like the need to share a certain amount of themselves to their audience as well as constantly needing to have something going on like tours and new music?
Charlotte: I think so, I’ve definitely experienced that feeling. But I’ve also started to pick up on other artist processes that are starting out. I think everybody goes through a bit of a rough patch with social media where they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to portray themselves on it while still being authentic to themselves. At the beginning it’s difficult to establish that because you want everything to look nice and artsy, but you also wanna figure out what people want to hear from you as well and then from there you figure out what to share. You just have to go through that for a bit, and then when you’re not on tour or not writing, you can just be at home for a weekend and relax without worrying about the rest of the world. Although, I haven’t actually done that this year yet. *laughs*
The year is still young. *laughs*
Charlotte: Yeah right?! *laughs* But if you want to switch off, it’s kind of hard because if you do you might lose followers. I think that’s a minor thing in the long term and that the bigger picture of social media is how great it can be for you to market yourself. It’s just a small disadvantage that you have to push through.
“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac blares from a car waiting at the stoplight.
We can live by the words of the song, just go your own way! *both laugh*
Charlotte: Yes! Thank you for that! Thank you L.A.! *laughs*
We’re getting some inspiration from our L.A. traffic here! *laughs*
Charlotte: All the inspo! *laughs*
Inspiration from everything! *both laugh* So how do you balance your personal life with the beginning stages of your music career?
Charlotte: *laughs* I don’t! I don’t really have much of a social life. Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing friends that I try to stay in contact with as much as possible, but for example, I think I’ve been home for a total of six or seven days so far this year. Nevermind my friends, I’ve barely even seen my own family, and my younger sisters are starting to get quite annoyed with me. *laughs* You’ve gotta make sacrifices if you want to work hard when you’re starting out because you’ve pretty much got to take every opportunity that comes your way. I do miss going to the pubs with my mates, but then again, I wouldn’t be doing anything else right now. So yeah, no social life for me. *laughs*
Like you said, sometimes we just need to sacrifice in order to make our dreams come true. The people the care the most will understand.
Charlotte: 100%! My friends have been absolutely amazing. They’ve come to shows and support me that way. We’ve done a few UK tours this year, and pretty every show someone has come down to be there for me. They’re all at university, and I really appreciate them taking time to come out to see me. But even though I’ve gotten to see people on the road, they’ll be going out afterwards and I’ll be like, ‘Bye guys, have fun.’ *laughs*
The job comes first!
And if you could give a younger version of yourself some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far, what kind of advice would you give her? And this could move past music as well, like, maybe even some personal life advice, because we need that too.
Charlotte: Oh my God! I would just tell myself that everyone is going through pretty much the same weird shit that you’re going through, so you’re not alone and you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. I think that’s what I’ve trying to get at with the music that I’m putting out now. The stuff that I’m trying to say is the stuff that I wish I would have heard someone else saying when I was younger. I think I wouldn’t have been so introverted about the way that I felt if there was music that was like that.
Absolutely! And what other things do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Charlotte: I would really like my audience to take in more than just the way that it sounds. Some would listen to a song just because it sounds good or that it’s a nice voice or that the production is nice, but they might not necessarily be listening to what the artist is trying to say. I guess it just really depends. In my art, I really hope that that’s a lane that I fit into with the lyrics that I’m singing. Hopefully the singing is good too, but I really hope that they take something from the lyrics if anything.
Yeah. And I feel like a lot of people who listen to music are looking for that emotional connection in the lyrics. Yeah, we can just throw on some music, but if you’re really listening and really care about the music itself, what you’re really listening to is the words.
Charlotte: Absolutely! I hope that I will be able to provide something for whoever is listening to my music to relate to.
Yes! The ultimate artist goal! And to end us off, apart from the upcoming release of Nowhere to Hide, what other big and exciting things should we be expecting from you in the near future?
Charlotte: I don’t know a whole lot of things that are going to happen. I keep getting surprised by things. *laughs*
Me too! *laughs*
Charlotte: There will be more music as soon as I can possibly get it out after Nowhere To Hide. I’m not just going to do an EP and then disappear for ages. *laughs* I’ve been writing for a very long time, so I have a lot of music ready to go. Hopefully by the end of the year there will be another project in the works. I have loads and loads and loads of shows! And I’m trying to play out as much as I can.
Well whoever is reading right now, definitely check out a show!
Charlotte: Yes! Please come see me! *laughs*
She’s far from home! This is your chance!
About Alfred Coffee Brentwood:
The saying “But first, coffee” is taken seriously when it comes to small local franchise Alfred Coffee, and their Brentwood location certainly doesn’t lack in trying to let their customers know that caffeinated goodness is available once they step into their colorfully kooky designed shop. Known for their #10DollarLatte (pretty much a Starbucks sized cup with your choice of significantly better ingredients), they also offer classic coffee and tea options (including a chicory, cacao, dandelion, chamomile blend called “Fake Coffee”) and cold brew, kombucha and matcha available on tap in order to please the many different types of Angelinos and visitors that come through. Fun little fact apart from them having great coffee, Alfred frequently likes to collaborate with other businesses, including famed specialty chocolate company Compartés (in which a shop is within walking distance to Alfred) and hilariously satirical social media account Overheard LA (which included themed coffee sleeves). So, what are you waiting for! Let yourself relish in quirkiness that is Alfred Coffee!