With Charlotte OC’s debut EP having dropped in November, the Blackburn-born vocalist is being hotly tipped as one to watch out for in 2014.
While the anatomy of catchy title track ‘Colour My Heart’ conjures Florence + The Machine with its gothic ascension, another of its number’s production sparks a comparison with Jessie Ware. And yet, Charlotte’s soulful sound distinguishes itself – for someone strikingly upbeat, her haunting pop possesses a fist-clenching sincerity.
The emotional resonance of the ‘Colour My Heart’ EP marks a change of direction for Charlotte, who was signed to Columbia in her late teens as a purveyor of, in her own words, “happy music about mango trees”. The sound then was influenced by Jack Johnson – “surfy music,” she calls it – but it didn’t feel quite right. “There’s just nothing beachy about me. My nearest beach is Blackpool, and I definitely wouldn’t be surfing there.”
It was later on, and far away from the British coast, that Charlotte found her footing. On a trip to Berlin she wound up in Berghain’s Panorama bar on a Sunday afternoon, as you do, and heard a remix of a Bonnie Byrd song that truly inspired her. She describes it as a piano instrumental with a driving beat behind it, overlain with Byrd’s vocal. “I wanted to create something like this,” she remembers, “something electronic with piano, that lets my voice do the rest of the talking.”
‘Colour my Heart’ does exactly that, with its arresting vocals over a subtle but timely production from Tim Anderson, who’s worked with the likes of Sia and Solange. Charlotte travelled to LA to record with Tim last January, and the pair clicked immediately. She recalls one particular morning in the studio after a drunken night out with Tom Odell, when she and Tim turned her headache into a song: the familiar-feeling ‘Hangover’.
Charlotte writes all of her own songs, and remembers first having the urge to “sing louder than everyone else” aged just five. “It was that confidence, that’s how I knew I wanted to be a singer,” she says. That confidence is still with her today, most visibly in her raw live performance.
But does Charlotte feel the pressure of being a potential Next Big Thing? “No!” she replies, in a thick northern accent. “It feels great!”
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WHERE: London via Blackburn
WHAT: Soulful piano pop
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Colour My Heart’, ‘Cut The Rope’, ‘Hangover’ (video above)
FACT: She used to have an imaginary mouse called Kenny, and named her first album after him.
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Words: Amelia Abraham
Photo: Hayley Louisa Brown