„Charlotte Jane – Got it right“
Charlotte Jane ist eine junge, extrem talentierte Sängerin/Songwriterin aus England. Sie singt und steht auf Bühnen seit sie sechs ist. Seit sie denken kann, schreibt sie ihre eigenen Songs. Bei allem was sie tut, geht es um Ehrlichkeit, Authentizität und Verletzlichkeit. Lewis Capaldi ist der Meinung, dass sie drauf und dran ist, „eine der fucking größten Sachen der Welt“ zu werden …
Wir haben uns mit ihr ausgetauscht zu ihrer musikalischen Herkunft, ihrer Liebe zur Musik, ihren musikalischen Einflüssen und dem Kreativprozess hinter ihren Songs.
Cyte: Let’s start by looking back.
Charlotte Jane: Well, it has been a long journey … and I feel a lot older than I am.
Cyte: How did it all begin? What brought you to music?
Charlotte Jane: I have been doing this professionally since I was eleven. So I have been around for ages, grinding and working at it, making something of myself and in the music industry. A lot of people are only just hearing of me … and I have been doing this already for many years. So why did I ever want to do this? One of the main first things that catapulted me into the world of music were my grandparents. I give them the credit for showing me the raw and genuine love for music. And the love for performing music. They lived in Spain and … they never released any albums, but they played this old kind of soul and rock music and had gigs in Europe, Spain, Germany. I would spend my summers in Spain and go to all of their shows. My grandma taught me how to do backing vocals and I would be invited on stage and also into the rehearsal room. That’s how I learned songs by Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Otis Redding. And it was a magical world for me. On stage I sang with them … and it was just a very natural way for me to decide I wanted to do music. It just happened, it was never something that I had been told to do. It was around me and I embraced it. Having this intense connection, this crazy motivation and obsession with music, performance and arts in general.
Cyte: It sounds like you had a natural urge to go onstage. As if the music just drew you in. What fascinated you the most about it?
Charlotte Jane: I think there is a big fascination for me standing in front of a group of people and them wanting to hear what you have to say. I can’t quite pinpoint why I love that so much. Because I do feel quite shy with everyone looking at me. But I want them to hear me. I want to be heard. And I feel like I have something to share.
Cyte: So your love for music started with your grandparents. What came after that? You grew up in a small city in the UK and lived two years in Singapore. How did that effect your career?
Charlotte Jane: When I was around eleven, I got involved with Voice In A Million, which is a children’s choir with an academy. I had been given a flyer at school and I knew immediately: I have to do that! So on the weekends and during summer holiday we would do rehearsals or perform in these huge venues. So I travelled the country, played lots of shows and really grew in confidence. And I met kids that had the same passion as me, that loved music and wanted similar things as me. I got a glimpse of what was possible for me in the future … and that was so amazing.
Cyte: And then came Singapore …
Charlotte Jane: Yes. My father got this once in a lifetime opportunity. We all moved out there. I was just entering my moody teenager years and felt like the whole world was against me. We stayed there for two and a half years. And that’s when I really started writing. I was feeling cut off and homesick and very out of sorts … and that’s when I really turned to music, found comfort in music. And wrote my first real songs. That was my outlet and coping strategy. When we then came back to the UK it was a shock. I felt like I didn’t fit in anymore. I knew I still wanted to do music and be creative but I didn’t know where to start. And then a friend of mine told me he knows this guy that manages Paolo Nutini. And I was like, wow, I would love to talk to him … And five years later he is still my manager. The friend that put us in touch had sent him a song I uploaded to YouTube. He saw it, liked it, we had a chat, I came down to London to meet him. He opened the door and took me to some sessions. He encouraged me to try co-writing, to write lyrics with other people. Not only to write songs. But to truly become a songwriter. Meeting him was a world shifting moment for me. And so my first single came out on my 21st birthday.
Cyte: Tell me about the writing. How was it to share this process with other people?
Charlotte Jane: I had always written by myself. I had never been good at talking about how I felt with other people, which is why I would write a song instead. So the idea of sitting in a room with people I have never met before and sharing personal thoughts was strange at first. But I adjusted quickly. It became a really comfortable thing. And now for me it’s great … having someone there to draw things out of you, to challenge you and making sure you are doing the best you can do. A creative partnership now is more preferable to me than being on my own. Chord progressions for instance. I enjoy working with great musicians that can bring that to the table. And also, most of my lyrics come from conversations … And for a conversation you need more than just yourself.
…for me the songs on the EP were the ones that felt like the beginning of a DNA of who I wanted to be as an artist
Cyte: You worked with Dayyon Alexander Drinkard, Jeff Shum and Toby Gad. How was it working on your music with these musical heavy weights?
Charlotte Jane: My first EP was born from a song writing journey with Toby Gad. I went to LA and met Toby. He signed me to his publishing house. And that was another life changing moment. I wrote a lot with Toby and learned a lot from him. It was like being in the university learning from the best professor in the world. That’s what writing with Toby was like. He wrote „If I Were A Boy“ for Beyoncé. And „Big Girls Don’t Cry“ for Fergie, which was one of my favourite tunes. So he is incredible. I don’t think anything is as good as being in the same room with people that are incredibly talented and experienced, and just learning from them. So we wrote two songs for my first EP „Somebody To Hold“ and „Just Me“. And then he introduced me to a production duo called The Orphanage, consisting of Trevor Brown and Zaire Koalo. We did „I Tell Lies“ – my first single that I released. And they produced a song that I wrote when I was eighteen called „Nervous“. So my first EP was a mishmash of different writing collaborations. After a couple of years of writing, for me the songs on the EP were the ones that felt like the beginning of a DNA of who I wanted to be as an artist. When I look back now I’m like, ah, I would like to change the production on this …. But actually, they are exactly how I felt then and wanted them to be. So, yeah, that’s the beauty of it. And that’s also something that excites me about live performance. They are an opportunity to regenerate old songs. That’s something I would like to do. When back touring and playing those old songs, I’m sure they will have new elements to them and will grow with the new project I’m working on now.
Cyte: So your songs kind of grow up with you?
Charlotte Jane: They don’t have to stay the way they were. If I want to make them feel more relevant to me again, then I will just remake them. That for me is the power really of live performance. That’s why I miss it so much. It’s the feeling. The songs can feel so different. And that’s so cool. I can’t wait to see what my new stuff feels like live, I have not been able to perform any of my new singles, one is already out, „Get it right“ – that is the one I wrote with Dayyon and Jeff. And I’m releasing an EP next year, so that’s happening. And Dayyon has executive produced it with me. And he is someone that understands the sound that I want right now. He is a collaborator creatively that I very much value. We wrote „Get It Right“ two years ago. I wanted to put it out with my first project, but I knew it didn’t fit sonically with the EP. The EP was mainly big productions. And „Get It Right“ is subtle and small in a production sense. And I loved the song too much to let it get lost in the EP. So I didn’t release it, but I knew still at the beginning of this year that I was desperate to put it out. So I decided, ok, let’s built the EP around this song then. That was an anchor for the project, it meant that „Get It Right“ has been a reference, in the sense of being a threat, retaining the feeling that song gives you. That has made some songs rather challenging, but has been a really helpful guide for others.
Cyte: How would you describe your songs around „Get It Right“ on the EP, the sound but also the vibe or feeling of them? Is there something in common that threats through all of those songs?
Charlotte Jane: Thematically self-awareness is the topical threat through everything. I think you listen to it and think, she has been to therapy (laughs). I’m definitely less of a hot mess than I was last year. Sonically I think everything is a bit more considered production wise, maybe not as heavy handed. This EP is more like „I know myself now, this is how I want it to be, I hope you like it“. I’m not trying to crowd please. When I listen back, it sounds like what I was trying to say. Vocally I hope people can hear more of the raw emotion – I didn’t feel like I need to proof that I can sing. This definitely has been a creative learning process that I have been on. I have been asked so many times, whats your sound … It’s just how I feel.
Cyte: Are you already thinking about and looking into the future … music wise … Do you have an idea of how you want your sound and music to evolve?
Charlotte Jane: If in a couple of years I haven’t grown up and changed and evolved sonically then that would be a real shame. I have been influenced by so many different things. And that can only mean that there are going to be so many different corners of my mind and my emotions that I can explore … and will end up sounding different. I just hope that the people have a deep enough understanding of me as a human being, that I will be the threat that ties it all together. That people don’t necessarily have to think „oh she is stepping outside of her lane to do that“. My voice and what I will have to say will hopefully be my DNA and will tie it all together. I just hope that in the next couple of years my world continues to grow.
…when I perform to a crowd, I feed off the energy and the atmosphere. And I can read the room and I feel if people are engaged and connecting with what I am saying
Cyte: What is the thing you enjoy the most doing music, and what are the things most important and relevant creating and doing music?
Charlotte Jane: The things I love the most: Writing, singing, performing. And connecting with people … the process of releasing and then realising that others are listening to the songs, are finding themselves within them or relating to them, being affected by them. That is such an unreal process. I only ever began to understand it, once I took the plunge and put something out. That’s when I felt like I have become an artist. Once the songs were out there and people reacting, going to shows … it’s a great way to meet people from all over the world. And the fact that a song can do that is such an amazing thing. The things that are important in music right now … this year has been weird obviously, things are very different than they were last year … I have built my career being on stage, everything was very much in person with people. And social media was a necessary evil for me. But I worked out how to use it. This year social media has become my career. And that is something I haven’t got along with very well.
Cyte: Why? Because you don’t like it … because you think it’s not your channel to get out there? Or because it’s not personal enough?
Charlotte Jane: It is very powerful and gives me a lot of freedom to let people know who I am. Which is great. And I can chat to people so easily and share things. People get to know me in a really great way. But then at the same time, when the world stopped, I wasn’t doing anything … I didn’t feel up to sharing everything I was doing. And live streams, I hate. They just make my skin crawl. They make me feel really uncomfortable. I have tried my best and I have done them. But when I perform to a crowd, I feed off the energy and the atmosphere. And I can read the room and I feel if people are engaged and connecting with what I am saying. When I play a show I’m talking to everyone, I’m chatting. If something goes wrong we all laugh about it together. That’s how I like to connect with people. Just existing with people. I write about things in an honest way, I’m upfront with how I feel and what I’m going through in my life. I am not going to go on stage pretend that I’m some godlike figure that people can’t relate to. Why write relatable lyrics … you know, I want to be myself. And I struggle to be that online.
Cyte: Is it because it feels forced or fake?
Charlotte Jane: I can’t do that. I can’t fake it. I don’t want to do that. Every aspect of people who faked it and pretended to feel a way they are not, or try to make something look the way it’s not … is every reason why I was an insecure miserable teenager. I don’t want to be that for other people. I would hate myself if I was that person. So, that’s why this year has presented itself to me as a bit of a challenge. But we have got a vaccine, so hopefully I can start to feel more connected again.
Cyte: How would you describe your creative process?
Charlotte Jane: I don’t really have a routine with writing. I sometimes write things down in my notes section … it’s like a jungle of shopping lists and occasional lyric ideas. But most of the time if something affects me, I won’t forget it. So I don’t need to write it down really. Usually how I write is how I feel on the day. It will be something that is playing on my mind a bit, revisiting me. And sometimes I don’t even know that this is how I feel until someone plays a certain chord progression. And I‘m like „that is exactly like what I have been feeling“. Sometimes I go in with concepts. And that works. It will always be born of something that happened. But most of time: chords, melody, then lyrics. Song writing is just so magical. You can go into a room with nothing and sometimes with people you don’t even know, and then music kind of binds you together … you have chords and then a couple of hours later you have written a song. It’s so cool.
Cyte: You said that your experiences inspire you for songs. What you are feeling inspires you as well. Do you also have other influences – artists, family members that influence your music or how you do music?
Charlotte Jane: Yeah my family … I write a lot about what’s going on in my own head. But also what is going on around me. That is a huge part of what inspires me. I don’t ever listen to other artists and go like „oh I want to make that“. I think being influenced by something is a subtle thing. Just little things here and there that you hear. I definitely know that I must have been heavily influenced by Adele and Amy Winehouse. Because they were two artists that I could sing every lyric to every song. They could have only been part of shaping where I am now. Two females being very heart on their sleeve about how they feel. And saying things in their own way. And Bon Iver … I don’t even know what to say about that man. The way he writes melodies. And I don’t even know what he does… the harmonies he uses. My music doesn’t sound like any Bon Iver stuff … but I know how influenced I am by Bon Iver. That is definitely a huge sonic world. I look at him and go „ok I’ll just take a note on that“ (laughs). Relationships and people and other creators are all things that influence me.
No one is naive to what happens when people become famous (…) So I’m very aware that while wishing for success, you have to accept as well that with it comes a lot of other baggage.
Cyte: I would like to finish off our talk with a word game … I have put down a few words … I would like to know whatever goes through your mind.
Creating – Fun. An honor. A privilege. Fun. Play.
Success – That’s a really interesting one. I can probably talk about it for ages because I’m still trying to figure it out. Success for my career and success for me personally are probably going to bud heads for the rest of my life. I want to be at the top of my game. And I want to sell out shows around the world. I want to see how far I can take this. I would love to be looked upon as someone that other people see as successful, as talented. All that stuff. That’s great. But with that automatically comes … because the celebrity thing now is completely intertwined with being successful as an artist … your personal life getting blurred with work life. Protecting people around me and all that kind of stuff would become a concern, I would feel responsible for people, I would feel guilty if people were harassed. No one is naive to what happens when people become famous in the music industry. You know the impact it could have on your mental health. So I’m very aware that while wishing for success, you have to accept as well that with it comes a lot of other baggage. So yes success for me in a career sense is selling out huge shows. But that is going to mean a lot of other stuff. So we just have to see what happens (laughs). I think success is a sticky one in music.
Spirituality or believing in (whatever) – It‘s interlinked for me with the word magic. The fact we can create and believe in things that almost acts as a reward system for us. And keep a part of our happiness. I think it’s magic that we can do that. Spirituality that is something that I have only really started to explore since I have suffered loss in my family. And grief and spirituality for me go hand in hand. I never really believed in all that stuff, but actually … if it makes me happy I will believe in what I want.
Coming home – Acceptance and comfort. In any sense. Coming home to where I’m from and knowing who I am now. And therefore being comfortable to go back to my roots as me and not feel worried about what other people think or whether people like me. This is where I grew up. This is where I am from. And in another sense I’m growing up now. I’m more comfortable in my own skin. And a lot of that is accepting things. Accepting things that we can control, accepting things that we can’t. And a massive one is accepting, that I can’t make everyone like me. I will never ever be able to make everyone like me. Because we are all so different. I can’t waste my life worrying about all the people that didn’t like my songs, or don’t like the way I look. Or don’t think I’m funny. I don’t have to please everyone. And realizing that is as if you have been carrying the world for ages and everyone’s opinions, and then suddenly you just get to chug them down.
Singapore – fucking hot. And unfinished business for me. I haven’t been back. And actually it was what I planned on doing this year. Didn’t get to do it. I actually want to go back there and make friends with it. Because I know now, it wasn’t Singapore that was the problem. It was my little world and how the time was for me. And how teenager I was. That was the problem. Singapore is lovely, and it’s an amazing place. And I was very lucky to get to go there. Going back to Singapore is going to be like: it’s just a really cool country and cool people. I don’t feel the way I felt anymore. And even better … I want to go back and play a show. That for me would be really special. To connect with the country in a positive way.
Text: Claudia Ippen
Photo: Lennon Gregory