Charlotte Jane: "I got to the end of the year and I was a shell of a human"
Tonys Antoniou | 17/02/2022
Charlotte Jane is an emerging UK artist from Hull who has already performed with the likes of Jess Glynne, Tom Odell and Dennis Lloyd in the short amount of time she’s been on the scene. Lewis Capaldi described her as “one of the biggest f***ing things in the world”, not surprisingly as Charlotte draws the listener in with her raw emotive soulful vocals. I caught up with her at the Isle of Wight festival after her tent packed performance.
Charlotte, what was your first festival and has been your favourite festival you’ve been to?
The first festival I went to was called VW Action Santa Pod Raceway, a car festival. I’d go and watch the jet car on the racetrack and there was also music, performing would be unknown up-and-coming bands. The thing I remember most about it was they had free peach Lipton Iced Tea which I love, they had buckets of it, under the premise that you could take as many as you want, but in reality, you could only take one. So I’d walk past, grab one, take my hoodie off, grab another, circle back, take another, put a hat on and go back. I don’t know how you beat that, to be honest, I have later memories of festivals that are great, but that’s the initial one.
What are your festival essentials?
Tissue, wet wipes and loads of booze. Barefoot Wine hands down and my latest discovery is Old Mout Cider Pineapple and Raspberry. Whoever came up with this flavour combination, thank you, it’s stunning and really delicious. Cider normally has an aftertaste of sadness, but that one, I could have every day.
What’s the strongest personal and professional advice you’ve been given?
My dad always said the harder you work the luckier you get, which I’ve seen to be true. Within the industry, it’s probably to not be looking at what everyone else is doing. Trustwhat you have as an artist. It’s been a huge learning curve for me, to realise that there are so many opinions, my team is always going to have opinions on what I should and shouldn’t do, but I have to be the face of it and believe in what I do.
Earlier in the year you signed a deal, has this compromised you as an artist?
That’s been a huge adjustment period for me because it’s an amazing thing to have a big label believe in you and care about your success etc. But it also comes with a lot of opinions. I’d always done whatever I wanted before. I think that a huge part of expanding the team and bringing on board new people with opinions about me is that I do have to compromise. It’s mine and my manager’s responsibility to be measured around how much we compromise in retaining me as much as possible.
Your grandparents were in a band, what role did that play in your childhood and your progression into music?
It was a really lovely way to be introduced to live music and music in general. My grandparents didn’t want to be famous or have people worshipping them, they just genuinely loved music, in a really pure way and that’s what I grew up with. I fell in love with the music that they played, and I wanted to desperately be a part of it. Without permission I’d just be hopping up on stage to play the tambourine, thank God I had a little bit of rhythm, then eventually I’d jump up to sing with them. When they were in rehearsals, I’d be in there wanting to learn how to harmonise and learn all the words of the song. That was part of my upbringing, I was completely captured by it and have gravitated towards it ever since.
Do you suffer with any form of anxiety when performing live?
I was the most stage shy, awkward performer for most of my childhood; I’ve always had very long hair. Well, actually, no, I was bald until around five, then suddenly it was like those Bratz dolls where you twist them and spaghetti comes out of their head. That’s what happened to me in the space of a week or something. I suddenly got really long hair. When I started performing, I would just stand on stage, have my hair as far forward as possible, I’d look down and have the microphone on and be thinking please don’t look at me, just listen. I still feel it in a way; I just want to perform the music and to just do it behind a screen.
That’s quite surprising considering I just came from your set and you controlled the crowd in a way that exuded a lot of natural confidence.
I’ve grown into the whole thing a lot more; I used to be really shy but growing up and performing more regularly in bigger venues has helped shape me as a performer and helped me learn how to shake the awkwardness to create a more pleasant experience for the audience. When I started playing my own music, it changed the whole game for me, I felt like I was telling a story on my own terms. That’s the part that I really enjoy and encourages me to go out on stage in front of people, as I’ve got something to share, rather than just playing covers of songs and people comparing me to the original.
When I first heard the lyrics to your song ‘Refuge’ I couldn’t stop crying. It resonated with me and what I was going through at that time and led to a commute to work break down. How did that song come about?
That song is a perfect example of me going ‘oh shit’. When I write stuff now, I feel more confident with what I decide to put down on paper. On my first EP I wrote a song called “Just me”, it was never released as a single, it’s just on the body of work and the thought of people listening to this terrified me, because everything I put into that song was what I’m most insecure about. When it was released, all it took was for a couple of people to relate to it, it’s a really cathartic process to go through. It boosted my confidence in what I share now.
You recently worked with Toby Gad, who wrote John Legend’s “All Of Me” and Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy”, were you more excited or intimidated going to LA to write with him?
Well, the first thing I did was go for a meeting with him. I didn’t go for a full on session. So that almost felt like an audition. I was petrified because I walked into a studio and there were plaques all over the place. Like Hi Beyoncé, Hi Alicia Keys, Hi Kelly Clarkson, Hi Fergie. He wrote these huge tunes including ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ for Fergie and as a kid I was in my living room screaming “I Hope You Know” at the top of my lungs so it was surreal to be in a room with someone with so many hits, but then his attitude was very humble and approachable.
How did you find yourself in that situation?
I have two managers, one in London and one in LA. My LA manager, Nicola also manages Leona Lewis who Toby has worked a lot with on her more recent albums. Nicola contacted him and suggested that we work together, he agreed to meet me and as soon as we met we just really connected, he ended up offering me a publishing deal and then I did a bunch of sessions with him. I have a song “Somebody To Hold” that I wrote with him and “Just Me” that was on my first EP. I also wrote for other artists as a co-writer with him. The songs actually haven’t come out but I’ve written for Natasha Bedingfield , Aloe Blacc, Leona and 10 Tones. It was a huge learning curve for me watching him, I was 18 or 19 at the time, and it was a super educational experience! I was seeing one of the best songwriters in the world getting writer’s block, wouldn’t sit there hounding himself, he’d just take a break. He’s brutally honest, if he wasn’t feeling a session, he’d say it’s not working today, let’s call it a day. I learnt a lot of do’s and don’ts from him.
You must have a lot going on, how do you maintain a balanced lifestyle within an industry that’s so demanding?
I don’t, I try but it’s so turbulent. There’s absolutely zero consistency in my life. I don’t really know where I live. I ping between my boyfriend’s house, my family, London and some random place for a session at a festival, it’s really hard. My weight and mental state fluctuate; my motivation is just all over the place. I struggle without a routine. But then my personality also caters to this lifestyle positively and negatively, days like yesterday when I’m playing a show like this is worth it because I love it. But then my body confidence is all over the place because I don’t have a consistent diet. I go through stages of being really disciplined and looking after myself and keeping myself healthy and then sometimes I forget how to get into a healthy rhythm.
Do you think it’s possible to settle into a balance and to create boundaries with your team?
I hope so; it’s something that’s left out of the conversation and discussed less when in terms of new artists. The budgets are tight on everything, you’re trying to play a festival this size but scrape your way here because you can’t really afford a full band, you want to do it but the fee doesn’t cover the costs. You’re staying in shitty hotels or campers; you’re cutting everything as tightly as possible. I did it in 2019, my career was mental, and I was on tour the whole year as a support act with no budget. We’d get the cheapest train of the day, we didn’t have a tour bus and there was a really small team. We were tired by day three from staying in hostels. The shows were amazing, but in between was exhausting.
I got to the end of that year and was a shell of a human. On the surface, I had an amazing year between the release of my first song and getting to the end of it with quite a lot of hype. But as a person I had nothing left, I had laryngitis, I was bedridden. It wasn’t necessarily the shows, it’s just the fact that it costs so much to do this, I’m lucky that my parents have been able to help me out a bit to get here.
Charlotte’s family and boyfriend were notably present supporting her at the Isle of Wight festival. This support may explain why she is such a down to earth and grounded person. Charlotte was a pleasure to interview; she is a talented, warm and funny individual. She was honest about her personal struggles and didn’t shy away from talking about the less glamorous side of the industry. Having watched her perform at the festival her vocals did not disappoint, technically Charlotte’s ridiculously gifted and I’d describe her as a powerhouse. It’s rare to find someone who sounds exactly as they do live as they do on their records. Charlotte not only has the voice but is an engaging performer, who you must see live and have on your playlist. Her latest release “Alone in a Crowded Room” written for the new Sebastian Fitzek book ‘Playlist’ is out now.
Words: Tonya Antoniou
Photography: Alex Currie