A Chat With: Charlotte OC
We recently caught up with the on-the-rise singer-songwriter Charlotte OC while she was over in New York City, fresh off her debut television appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Hailing from Blackburn, England, Charlotte creates music that blends her soulful, powerhouse vocals with dark pop melodies and deeply personal lyrics. Prior to the release of her debut full-length album, Careless People, we got to know the down-to-earth and relatable songstress. During our conversation, Charlotte revealed the story behind her The Great Gatsby-inspired album name, how she handled the culture shock of recording in Los Angeles, which soul singer inspired her, and how she deals with her darkest times. Find out all that and more in our chat with Charlotte OC...
ANCHR Magazine: So I wanted to start out by saying congratulations on finishing your debut album! How are you feeling about releasing it out into the world?
Charlotte OC: Petrified. I don’t know if I should feel like that, but I just recently did the Seth Myers Show, and it was just the most petrifying thing in the world. I just said to my friend, I was like you’re baring your soul to quite a soulless room-- it’s like a studio and it just felt so bizarre. And that’s what it’s gonna feel like when I’m releasing the record, I don’t know. I’m scared. But I’m also really excited.
AM: Well I’m sure it will be great!
Charlotte OC: Thank you!
AM: So talking a little bit more about the album, I know you named it after a passage from The Great Gatsby, so how did that idea come around to you?
Charlotte OC: I was just reading the book, and then I watched the movie cause I just wanted to get as much of it as I could into my system, because I loved it so much. And just when I was watching the movie, it kind of like stood out to me... just a little bit more, just that line. After being so moved by the story, and what happened, the fact that she doesn’t even end it with him and she just kind of goes back with Tom.... Gatsby was just along for this massive ride, and it ended up costing his life. I just really related to that. I just think that that happens quite a lot. People just make you think that something is a really good idea, and then all of the sudden it’s not that fun for them anymore. You’re like “wait, it was still fun for me!” Like, why is it stopping? And I think that that’s really sad, but it happens constantly. I also was just kind of taking my own experiences of being careless, and caring a bit too much about stuff, and it just kind of felt right. I think the whole record is about me finding out what I care about and what I shouldn’t care about, and I think when you realize that someone’s being quite careless with your emotions, as much as it hurts, if you can actually see it, I think that’s like you taking 10 steps forward. Some people just don’t realize it, and that’s what the record is...me realizing and growing up a bit. Being present. I think by the end of the record I turned 25. When I was a bit younger I never felt like I knew what was going on. It’s just about me finally becoming present. Hopefully you understand what I mean.
AM: Yeah, totally! I’m about the same age as you so I totally get what you mean. So going back to your songwriting, did you draw inspiration from any other classic literature when you were writing the record, or is it mostly personal experiences that you draw from?
Charlotte OC: There’s a song called “In Paris,” which is about Princess Diana. That was the first song that I wrote where it wasn’t about me. I think I was quite young when that happened, and I didn't really understand it. Like the Twin Towers I was young when that happened as well, and I didn’t really know what was going on. It’s just one of the those things you think about when you’re a bit older and you think “what the actual fuck happened there?” It just moved me in a way, I just thought it was slightly romantic and glamorous, and just a bizarre thing to be happening to a royal family....and it’s such a huge all-over-the-papers kind of thing. [Princess Diana] just really fascinated me. I wrote it in her perspective of singing it to Prince Charles like, “I know you don’t even really care for me, but I don’t really want to be your enemy.” That was the first song I wrote [like that]. Then weirdly, after it happened, after I wrote it, the Paris attacks happened. It felt kind of connected to that, that song has got quite a lot of heavy meaning.
AM: Oh, very cool. It’s crazy how you said right after you wrote it the Paris attacks happened. I feel like that will happen a lot, where you’ll write something and it’s very relevant later on and it takes on new meanings.
Charlotte OC: Oh yeah, it happens constantly!
AM: So talking about the recording process then, you recorded out in LA actually. I read that your writing is often inspired by your hometown in Northern England, which is totally different to LA, so how was it recording out there?
Charlotte OC: It was weird! I think it was good for me. I think it’s good to feel weird when you’re making a record. I don’t think you should feel comfortable, and I didn’t feel comfortable. I still feel weird when I go to LA, and like it’s just I think as somebody from the Northwest of England, which is quite a... I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just, LA and the Northwest of England are so different. The type of person is very different too, and yeah, it was bizarre. I also met Tim Anderson, who I work with, and he’s my producer, and his studio is in the heat of LA. If you walk inside his studio, it’s all black and it’s got like, it’s quite spooky, like it shouldn’t be in LA. That’s what, I think that’s why it worked for me...because the studio wasn’t like an LA studio. That’s why I think it just worked. It was like this little safe haven for me. It was was interesting. I don’t know if I would do it again, but it was definitely interesting.
AM: Yeah, so how was it working with Tim. Would you still continue to work with him?
Charlotte OC: Yeah, I love working with him...totally! I just love working with him, and he’s a great friend of mine. He’s my A&R guy, which sounds weird, but he started working as an A&R rep at Harvest after we started working together. It sounds weird, but it kind of works in our favor at the same time. Because I’ve always worked with him. We work really well together.
AM: Very cool, what was the most culture shock thing coming to LA, then?
Charlotte OC: Just that there’s nobody walking anywhere! I feel a bit petrified walking anywhere, it’s weird! Like everyone just stays a bit safe in their cars, and everything is just air conditioned. And that’s not good for my voice. It’s a bit like, I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t drive either, and I’m learning, but at the time I didn’t drive and I found that quite hard. There’s a lot of homeless people, and it’s such a glitzy and glamorous place. One minute there’s an amazing house and then the next minute there’s Skid Row. It’s just like...I don’t know, bizarre. It was really extreme.
AM: Yeah for sure. Well on a slightly more positive note, who would you consider some of your musical influences?
Charlotte OC: First, I think my favorite vocalist is Aretha Franklin. She...have you ever watched the Muscle Shoals documentary? Watch it, it’s amazing! But there was a bit about her and how her journey started, and how nobody really knew what to do with her. She had this amazing voice, but nothing really made sense. They had all these songs for her, and it just wasn’t connecting. I think that she may have just found herself and it all really just fell into place. I think that’s what makes a good artist. When you just kind of, figure out stuff, instead of being told what to do. She just knew what to do, and I feel like I could have related to that. Plus she’s got the best voice in the world I think. I grew up listening to The Talking Heads. I’m constantly inspired by the Stop Making Sense album and the film that they made with it. It’s the music video-- have you seen it?
AM: No, I haven’t!
Charlotte OC: Oh please, write that down, you have to watch it. It’s Stop Making Sense and it’s live, the whole album. They filmed it--it’s a show, but it’s also just incredible. The whole way through his suit just keeps getting bigger and bigger and his head keeps getting smaller and smaller. It’s just incredible, and all live...I love it so, so much. So that inspired me when I was younger...I just used to watch it over and over again. I used to love Freddie Mercury…”Bohemian Rhapsody.” What else? Lou Reed...Leonard Cohen. I think Cohen lyrically, how he paints pictures, it’s really amazing. I like lyrics like that. I don’t like throw away lyrics.
AM: Very cool. So talking more about your live show, I know you’ve played SXSW and Gov Ball in NYC, which is awesome! Are there any other festivals on your bucket list to play?
Charlotte OC: I’d love to do Glastonbury I think. That would be my ultimate ever. Pyramid Stage...Straight to the top [laughs]. That’s not gonna happen anytime soon, but that’s just the dream. I’d quite like to do Coachella, even though I find it quite a bizarre festival. It’s a strange one, and I didn’t really enjoy myself when I was there, but I’d really like to do it. I think it’s different when you’re not playing. I always find festivals really hard when I’m not playing and just wanting to play. I’ve got Secret Garden Festival coming up, which is a great one in the UK. It’s amazing, especially if the weather’s nice! I can’t really think of any at the moment, but Glastonbury definitely.
AM: Yeah, that’s like the top festival. So are there any songs in particular that you’re excited to play for a live audience?
Charlotte OC: Yeah, I’m excited to sing “Running Back To You.” That’s always a feel good one. It’s so much fun to do, I feel great after I’ve done it. I’m excited to release “Shell.” That’s the next single, which I’m just excited for people to hear. “Where It Stays,” that’s a ballad on the record.
AM: Do you amp that one up when you play it live?
Charlotte OC: Yeah, exactly. I have fond memories of writing it, and I’m really proud of it.
AM: Are there any cities or countries that you’re really hoping to play this year?
Charlotte OC: Yeah, I love doing shows in America. I’d like to do some more over here. I’ve got some shows coming up in Berlin on the 21st of March, which I’m excited about. Just anywhere really. I’d quite like to do some shows in Poland. I’ve never been, but I’d really like to go. I heard they’re amazing. Like they’re just music lovers and they just go for it.
AM: Very cool. So I was reading when you first started playing guitar, you were actually upset about it and dreading your first lesson at 15 years old. So if you weren’t doing music, what would be your backup career choice?
Charlotte OC: I totally don’t know...I don’t like to think about it! It makes me feel a bit sick. It’s just always been like that, I’ve got this constant feeling of discomfort if I’m not doing it. I think that I would always be writing...writing music. If not for me, for other people. I do love writing music and it’d probably still be something in music.
AM: When did you write your first original song?
Charlotte OC: At fifteen. It’s called “One of the Angels,” and it’s about death. It’s super depressing, but my mum and dad loved it!
AM: Speaking of depressing, your big single out now is called “Darkest Hour.” What advice would you give to any of your fans who are going through their darkest hour?
Charlotte OC: Talk to somebody. Keep talking about it, get it off your chest. Don’t bottle it up. I think that’s the biggest...silence feeds the biggest darkness. Being able to talk to someone is the most important.
AM: Ok now last question, a lighter question...are there any other bands you’re into at the moment?
Charlotte OC: I’ve been listening to a lot of Echo & The Bunnymen, which is an old band from Liverpool. I don’t listen to a lot of newer bands, but let me pull up my Spotify. I’ve listened to The xx, obviously they’re not new, but that last album was incredible! There’s a girl called Sigrid and she’s got a song called “Don’t Kill My Vibe.” I can only listen to it once, like I understand that it’s a good song, but I can’t listen to it a lot. I think Rag’N’Bone Man is great. I love him, he’s amazing. Sampha’s new album is brilliant! I haven’t listened to the new Ryan Adams album but I’m going to!
Speaking of new albums, Charlotte OC's debut is now available for pre-order here, prior to the release on March 31st. We've been listening to it all this week, and every song is just incredible.
Careless People Tracklist:
2. Darkest Hour
3. Medicine Man
7. Running Back To You
9. I Want Your Love
10. Where It Stays
11. In Paris
You can also keep up with all of Charlotte's tour news on her website. More dates are on the way soon.