“I’m Feeling Ready” Charlotte Day Wilson Is Approaching Her Studio Graduation

Exploring the world of her debut album 'Alpha'...

“I’m actually a prolific person. I write a lot of music.” That might sound like an unusual statement for someone who has released three EPs and a handful of singles in the best part of nine years, but with her debut full-length album now in the can, Charlotte Day Wilson is in a confident mood. “I’ve been working towards this for a long time. I’m feeling ready.”

Even if the name doesn’t immediately sound familiar, there’s a good chance you’ll know her voice. That voice. That’s her relishing her role as the other woman in BADBADNOTGOOD’s sultry ballad, ‘In Your Eyes’. That’s her bringing some Romy Madley Croft soul to the dancefloor in KAYTRANADA’s ‘What You Need’. That’s her with The Internet’s Syd, sounding like she’s singing directly into your ear on their 2020 duet ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’. It’s a stunning voice, a voice capable of sending shivers down your spine, of conveying intimate emotional truths without the need for histrionics. It’s a voice that now has its own album.

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Born in Toronto in 1993, Charlotte Day Wilson grew up in a music-loving household where the main records played were The Beatles, Motown and bluegrass. She went to university to study alto saxophone but dropped out to pursue her own music, and because she “couldn’t really stomach practising long tones and building my embouchure for seven hours a day in a room with no windows” (she still dislikes listening to the alto saxophone to this day). A stint interning at Arts & Crafts — the label co-founded by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew – introduced her to the music industry and forged friendships and collaborative relationships with a number of Toronto artists.  

“Toronto’s a big enough city that there’s a lot of talent but it’s also small enough that if you’re making music and making any waves, chances are you’re going to meet someone else who’s doing the same thing,” she says of the city’s incredibly rich creative scene. Wilson clearly loves Toronto, which is handy given she’s been effectively stuck there since Covid hit in spring last year. She’s been making good use of the time afforded to her, though; her new album, ‘Alpha,’ was slated for an earlier release but instead, she’s gone back, finessed, experimented, created “little through-lines, sonically,” and even taught herself how to product and edit video.

The result of that restless and autodidactic streak is a pair of recently-released promos, for ‘Alpha’ singles ‘If I Could’ and ‘Keep Moving,’ that share a common theme: “a strong emphasis on queer communities, and strength and resilience.” Both videos feature lots of slow-motion, soft-focus shots of queer individuals and couples, but whereas ‘Keep Moving’ showcases a diverse range of relationships, ‘If I Could’ solely focuses on bull riders. “We had shot a lot more stuff for that one,” Wilson explains, “it was going to be more collage-y. But when I saw the footage I was so taken aback by it. I just loved how it looked so much.”

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“I’m Feeling Ready” Charlotte Day Wilson Is Approaching Her Studio Graduation

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Both videos have a filmic quality, as if the music ebbs and flows to the story that’s being told on screen, and that’s entirely deliberate. “I ended up editing video and music at the same time. So, if the video was going somewhere and I thought, ‘It would be nice if there was a dramatic drop here,’ then I would go back into the session and cater the song to where the video was going as well. It was a really cool, inter-disciplinary process.” That attention to detail and extra time spent is clear throughout ‘Alpha’ – the production is all in service to the vocals. The warmth of the bass provides a welcome cushion, the drums are propulsive without ever being intrusive (particularly on ‘I Can Only Whisper,’ another BADBADNOTGOOD collaboration), and the strings and synths swell and recede with the emotional arcs of the disarmingly candid lyrics.

“I gravitate towards writing about love and relationships because they tend to consume me; that was the case for this record as well. Humans want to connect with each other and this is a pretty incredible way for me to connect with people in my lifetime,” she says. As her career has progressed, Wilson has grown more comfortable in being open and vulnerable with her audience. She admits she can be “a little stoic and cold” (her last EP was even titled ‘Stone Woman’) despite acknowledging that desire to connect, and you feel that ‘Alpha’ is truly the culmination of the journey she’s been on. “I’m happy that I’m able to share that side of myself,” she says, with the title, ‘Alpha,’ being a word that “speaks to power dynamics and love within the queer community.”

Like every artist releasing a record in 2021, the possibility of touring isn’t far from Charlotte Day Wilson’s mind. She’s gained a reputation for taking her time on tour, ensuring that she can keep things fresh by giving herself ample recovery days and properly summon the emotional strength required to bare her soul to a room full of strangers. It almost sounds like she’s not a fan of the rigmarole of the live circuit but it’s actually the contrary. From the balcony of her Toronto apartment on a clear summer’s evening with the sound of children playing in the background, she talks about gigging “in as many places as possible.” It’s a yearning likely shared by countless musicians across the globe right now. Previous interviews have also hinted at Wilson’s modest behaviour on the road, where partying and excessive drinking are eschewed. “Oh no, no!” she exclaims, a broad smile appearing across her face. “I drink a lot of beers… I crush beers.”

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Charlotte Day Wilson's album 'Alpha' will be released on July 9th.

Words: Joe Rivers // @JoeRipcord

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