Interview by Carina Parke & Katharina Schneider
Header photo by Lennon Gregory
There is a certain magic behind those voices which captivate you from the very first tone and take you on a journey that you just get lost in. And there is no denying that UK’s artist to watch Charlotte Jane has that kind of talent. Her sound? You may call it soulful, raw, powerful but delicate and definitely honest. That’s what she showed with her debut EP “Nowhere To Hide” and continues with her newest single “Get It Right” which is on repeat.
But a singer-songwriter doesn’t “just” come with tunes, there is always a story behind it. GASH dived into Charlotte Jane’s universe and talked with her openly about memories, emotions and dreams.
Your songs are definitely a great example of the power of understatement. They are smooth, chill but still have a certain opulence. Can you tell us a bit more about how you found your sound?
I thought I had to belt and prove that I could sing and make an impact on my first EP because that was a way of me feeling like I was stepping into the music industry and proving some sort of point to myself more than anyone else. Like “Hi Everyone, listen to how high or how loud I can sing”, that was all stemming from insecurity, to be honest.
Now I’ve realised, not just within my own music but the music that I listen to, what is it that makes me love Bon Iver, or Keane, or Amy Winehouse, why do I love those artists and the way that they perform? And it’s because there are light and shade. They don’t always have to be big and loud all the time, it can be laid back, it can be chilled. I definitely think with my new stuff I’m a lot more comfortable in what I’m saying and how it’s dressed up production-wise, and I don’t feel like I have to be the loudest person in the room to be heard.
You just mentioned your former insecurity, which brings us to your song “Down Days” which seems to deal with this topic. What experiences and learnings inspired you for this song?
“Down days” was literally written on a down day, when I’d had a weekend of not wanting to get out of bed. When I voiced how I’d been feeling in the studio, Phil and Jonah, who I wrote this song with were like “Mate you’re so hard on yourself, you’re punishing yourself because you had a bit of a rough weekend, like it’s fine to feel that way”. So that’s what inspired it.
I wouldn’t exactly say that “Down Days” is about my insecurities as such, although people could see it that way if they wanted to. It’s definitely much more about letting yourself off the hook when you’re having a rough time, or the days where you physically feel like you can’t get out of bed, and stuff has got on top of you. It’s so common for people to expect so much of themselves and pile up the pressure to be on top form all the time, and actually, I think to be on top of your game all the time, to be happy and to feel stuff, it means that you’ve got to, for example, let yourself go through the motions of grief after you’ve lost someone, rather than brushing it under the carpet and trying to move on straight away. Or whether that’s taking a day to de-clutter your mind, or do some cleaning, I don’t know, whatever it is to let yourself cope a bit, move through tough moments in your life, that’s “Down Days”.
Giving yourself a break and realising that everyone has rough patches that they go through, and maybe you don’t have to even deeply analyse them too much, if you have a rough day you have a rough day, you get up and try again tomorrow. That’s probably the overarching message of that song, is that it’s just one day or two days, it’s not your whole life. Get up and try again tomorrow.
“ I don’t feel like I have to be the loudest person in the room to be heard.”Charlotte Jane
Self-acceptance is another topic that you process with your music. But what does it really mean to you and how did you truly find acceptance for yourself?
Self-acceptance to me is being cool with being the person you are. I’m not going to claim that I’m fully there but wow I am so much kinder to myself now than I was a couple of years ago. I held myself to such a high, unreachable standard whether that was the way I wanted myself to look, wanting every single person to like me or expecting myself to be 100% okay all of the time. I am so much happier now because I cut myself a bit of slack every now and then.
Going to therapy was a great start to the whole process. I remember my therapist really shocked me in one of our sessions as she pointed out that I would never treat anyone else (or the child version of me) as badly as I treated myself and asked me why I thought that was acceptable… I’d never thought of it like that. How dare I be so mean to myself when I always try to be kind to other people?
Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this personal experience. Especially in the modern era, in the time of social media, it is not always easy to keep a healthy mindset since everyone seems to be judged. What kind of role does self-acceptance play in this dynamic?
I think self-acceptance makes social media a much more pleasant landscape as it becomes less about comparing yourself and your life to everyone else’s and more about sharing your authentic self.
That’s true. And how important is this topic when it comes to you being an artist and therefore a public figure?
It’s very important for me as an artist because if my social media channels were just a place where I was posting things that I thought people wanted to hear or see or was trying to just be like everyone else all the time, then what is the point in me and my music, and what I have to say if I am trying to be an echo of everything else that is out there already? That’s definitely a trap that’s easy to fall into on social media and I constantly have to warn myself off doing that, because I wouldn’t get on stage with a script that I had pre-written out, in order to be a personality that I thought everyone wanted me to be. I’m literally just my true self, I go into the studio and write down what’s genuinely going on in my life, so why would I ever be anything other than that on social media?
Word. On to the next topic: love and life. Because we’ve read in your press release that you’ve learned in real time how those work. What are your realisations?
It’s very much still a process of finding out how life and love work. I’m in my first relationship, right now, I have been for nearly two years and that’s been a journey and I’ve continued to grow up a lot and that’s been a big part of my journey with self-acceptance as well, it’s learning to be kind to myself as well as to someone else so that we can have a happy stable relationship.
I also think I’ve begun realising the things that you can only realise once you’re in a relationship, which are: it’s not perfect all the time and you have to put a lot of work, it takes maintenance and you have to be not just thinking about yourself all the time, which I was very good at before because I only ever had myself to worry about from being quite a Lone-Wolf, touring on my own and not having to check in on someone every day to check that they are okay. Now that I have another human to worry about I think that it’s quite a humbling thing that teaches you a lot.
There’s a lot on my EP about learning how to open up to each other in a relationship, and how that’s sometimes challenging. There are ugly parts of your mind that you don’t want to show but inevitably at some point you have to and it’s about working through that. Also how in films and TV programmes, I think falling in love is always portrayed as a really instant, easy, beautiful thing and it’s always the break-ups that are hard, but I don’t think for me personally falling in love was the simplest formula of all time, it took a while for me to let myself fall in love, it was scary at times but also amazing. I think I just voiced some of those sides of falling in love and being in a relationship that we don’t often hear about.
That’s so beautiful about music – it’s just a great “tool” to reach people by showing your very own perspective and learnings. Is there anything else that you like to achieve as an artist?
I want to tour the world 100%, touring is at the forefront of why I love music (besides writing and recording because they kind of go hand in hand). Every time I play in a new place that I’ve not performed before I get so giddy. It feels like Christmas Eve and there’s something magic about that, especially playing in countries that don’t speak English as their first language. And then getting to play my songs in English that people have never heard before, especially when I’m a support act, and then for the songs to connect, I find that mind-blowing.
That’s something I find so amazing about music, and a reason why I feel very lucky to be doing this as a job, and have the ability to write and sing songs, It’s just so fucking cool and beyond that, in terms of what I would like to achieve with my music, I just want to be able to do this for the rest of my life. I’m not in this line of work as it were because I want to be rich, because if I wanted to be rich quickly, I definitely wouldn’t have been a musician. The goal is that I want to be able to sustain myself, and live a comfortable life from this eventually, and that would mean success and selling enough music to put food on the table, and I eat quite a lot so I would have to make quite a bit of money as well so erm, yeah. I’d just like for people to connect with what I have to say, which people seem to be doing on a reasonably small scale so far, so I just want to keep that growing.
“It took a while for me to let myself fall in love, it was scary at times but also amazing.”
– Charlotte Jane
Within the industry itself, there are a lot of people believing in you. You’ve also worked together with some big names already. How did that help you move forward? Concerning your music and you as a person.
There are many layers I think to the benefits that I’ve had from working with extremely talented and reputable people in the industry. There’s an aspect to it which is hugely beneficial in terms of opening other doors when you’re a new artist and you’ve not put any music out or you’ve not really done anything of note in terms of the music industry. Once you work with one big writer or producer, or you write for a big artist, suddenly much more people see you as more valuable and are more willing to take a chance on you because there are loads of artists, loads of writers, loads of producers and there’s only so many hours in everyone’s day, and so many sessions that people can do.
It is competitive, so it definitely helped in terms of getting more sessions and working with more people. I think the biggest impact was on my self-confidence and feeling hugely validated and feeling that with every session I did with people I looked up to my confidence and my ideas and I guess my deservedness to be in these rooms with these people gradually grew. That’s such a powerful thing to now be an artist and feel like my ideas are valid. Because for the longest time – and I actually still do it if I have an idea that I think is a bit out of the box – I will always pre-curse the line, the lyric or the idea with ‘this might be weird but’. But I definitely have more self-confidence in what I’m saying than I did before, but I think that’s just a habit I’ve picked up.
Was there a key moment from which you’ve learned particularly much?
There’s two big lessons that jump out to me that I learnt specifically as a writer. One being from Toby Gad (songwriting legend), who taught me the power of learning when to take a break. It’s so easy when you’re in the studio and you get into the flow of a song and then you might hit a bit of a wall and you’re determined to break through it but sometimes there’s so much more success in terms of the writing of song when you just get a breath of fresh air, you make a drink, you go and play a game of pool if there’s a games room in the studio, or you go and sit outside, or you go to the shop.
Give yourself a bit of mental space, even something as simple as going to the bathroom and coming back is sometimes a thing that proves to me over and over again how valuable it is to take a break and get a bit of mental space because I can be feeling a little bit uninspired or like I’m starting to reach a block and then I just go for a wee and I come back and it’s like I found the lyric down the toilet, hahaha! So that’s a huge thing I learnt from him.
Also an amazing producer called Mark Batson that I worked with a couple of times when I was a lot younger – I remember him saying and it’s stuck with me ever since, that some of the best songs of all time have “one foot in the mud and one foot in the clouds”, so even when I’m writing about something that’s really sad, or I’m really angry about something, even just the slightest spin of hope in a song is kind of essential and can be transformative to the way a song feels for a listener.
Since we are already talking about life lessons – is there anything that you’ve learned from 2020 which was undeniably a challenging year.
Hugs are really nice and they should not be taken for granted. I also learnt that 99% of the time I am bored and not hungry, so there is literally no need for me to be going to the fridge as many times as I was going.
I miss performing live so much, and at this point, it’s nearly a year since I’ve played a live show to real human beings, which is just weird as hell. To be honest, I didn’t ever take it for granted before, I lapped up every minute I had on stage, but I promise that I never will take it for granted. 2020 was full of lessons, it was a bit much to handle, to be honest. It feels like this year has been a bit more of the same though so I don’t want to get too cocky and pretend it’s all been left in last year.
Still any hopes and plans for 2021?
My plan is to stop waiting around for the world to get back to normal because that’s what I was doing last year and that didn’t really go to plan. So just to keep releasing and doing what I can in the current climate and hope that my music can begin to reach more and more people even without being able to do a lot of the normal routes of promotion. To get creative I guess. One thing that last year also taught me and everyone on my team is that we can’t do everything the way we used to and we have to think of new ways and maybe in the long-haul that’s a good thing that we are innovating and we are trying things that we never would have tried before.”
“That’s such a powerful thing to now be an artist and feel like my ideas are valid.”Charlotte Jane
Thank you for being so open and honest in this interview. We just have one last question that might be interesting for everyone who wants to know even more about the person behind the artist. What values are important to you and what do you stand up for?
I’m passionate first and foremost about family and causes that are close to my family. Unfortunately, there are quite a few health issues in my family that are quite rare and the research into them is underfunded. My nephew has a heart condition and I am already an ambassador for a charity that supports other families in the same situation. My sister has a very rare blood disorder, and that’s definitely next on my list of things to raise awareness for and money for research and to try and ultimately improve her quality of life as she gets older because the more research that’s done, the better the treatment will be for her.
Outside of charity work, something, as I’ve got older and more aware of, that has become important to me, has been trying to stay away from fast fashion and trying to really think about the way the music industry contributes to just whacking a load of clothes in landfills, or not manufacturing merch in a very sustainable or ethical way. I’m literally by no means perfect, It’s something that I’m just trying to check myself on a bit more, and I know that a lot of my friends and family are trying to do the same.
Well, I’m not going to give too much away about what I’m going to do for merch in the future, but I have ideas about trying to up-cycle clothing and change how we do merch in the industry. Because the done thing is to get them made very very cheap, as cheaply as possible and then we just print album artwork on them and stuff and people buy them at concerts and it’s a great way of making money. But I don’t think it’s very good for the planet. I’m trying to shop locally and shop with small businesses a bit more, shop second hand which I’ve done since I was younger anyway because I love buying second-hand men’s clothing. In the best case, I just steal all my boyfriend’s clothes and trade clothes with my friends.
You can check out Charlotte Jane’s music here.