Charlotte Carpenter: "My heart lies with Americana"
Singer-songwriter Charlotte Carpenter speaks to DIVA on the release of her brand new EP "Shelter"
IMAGE: CHARLOTTE CARPENTER
A fiercely independent singer-songwriter, Charlotte Carpenter’s "blues-driven, indie rock" has drawn comparisons with the likes of PJ Harvey and Courtney Barnett, as well as praise from BBC Radio 6’s Lauren Laverne. DIVA caught up with the Northampton-based artist ahead of the release her new EP, Shelter.
DIVA: Hello Charlotte, first of all - how did you get into music?
Charlotte Carpenter: I was fourteen and I was a really big Avril Lavigne fan. I loved her Let Go record and through that, I started learning the guitar in my bedroom. Poetry and storytelling was always something that was a part of me from an early age, and when I started to learn the guitar, the two naturally fell together. I went to university to study music and learn a little more and when I finished my studies about five or six years ago, I said to my mum, “Look I’m coming home. I’m going to work really crappy jobs and just try and play as much as possible.” And that’s what I did and some really cool and exciting things are starting to happen. It’s beginning to feel like that hard work is starting to pay off, but then, the goal posts are always moving!
Did your family encourage your interest in the arts?
My parents were really, really encouraging, at family events I’d always be like a performing monkey! I was that kid. With poetry and storytelling, I definitely think that stems from being quite a sensitive and emotional child, and also having a really lovely, close relationship to my Nan. She would tell me really incredible stories of her growing up, what she had gone through as a young women and all of the children she had. She was always really in touch with her emotions and I think, now that I’m older, I can really see how that side of her character has rubbed off on me.
Your music has been described by others as both “soulful and fiery” and “bluesy, indie-rock”. How would you describe it?
I always describe it as honest and emotional storytelling. I do often use “bluesy” too, but actually my heart lies with Americana which has fusions of folk, country, blues and rock - it has a bit of everything and that’s the direction that I see myself going in. It’s a real mixed bag, you know? I’ve got no one poking me, telling me what to do. I’m also a little bit in love with the idea of not being restricted by a genre, though I totally get that you often need one. I’m comfortable with the idea of being called “bluesy”.
Who inspires your music?
Well, besides Avril - she’ll always be with me, of course [laughing] - I really, really love 90s singer-songwriters, “girl with a guitar” type stuff. When I was growing up, my dad had brilliant taste in music, and I was listening to a lot of Alanis Morisette and Sheryl Crow and I still listen to them now. Sheryl Crow is in my car everyday - not in the flesh - though that would be great! But yeah, they just write really honest, real music and I feel like, especially with their earlier records, they’re just so pure. You can tell that they mean every word they say and I love that. When you see that and hear that in any artist, that’s the best thing.
What do you tend to sing about?
All of my songs are about my experiences. Whether they’re about relationships, family or friends. I guess it’s quite self-indulgent, but it’s also where what’s real is happening, it's what's inside my head. “Burn” for example is just a straight-up break song. I’d gone through my first major break up at the time and that song came to me almost subconsciously. I actually felt like I was on the verge of writing the best thing I ever had, and I still think it is to this day. Whenever I play it live it’s always emotional and, even though I’m not in that moment any more, I still feel like I can connect with it. I think that’s the beauty of writing honestly and writing about what’s around you.
And your new four-track EP, Shelter?
Shelter covers a couple of different themes, I think the main message though is the more you grow up as a woman, the more assertive and sure of yourself you become. You become more confident in the choices that you make. Ultimately, the EP is about reminding yourself to really love yourself above anyone else because that’s when you’re going to have the best life and the best relationships. It’s about not holding back and just going for it, whether that’s in terms of your career or a relationship. I feel I’m really close to being the artist that I’ve always wanted to be and I hope that Shelter reflects that.
And your sexuality, is that something you’ve always been open about as a performer?
I came out when I was 18 and it’s never been an issue. It’s not who I am as a person, it’s just who I love. My family have been incredibly supportive since day one, in terms of both my sexuality and my music, and I think what’s most important, is that I like to think that what I’m doing is pretty genderless. I’d love for my music to resonate with people of all sexualities, races and cultures in their own way. It just is what it is.
And finally, is there an album on the way?
There’s definitely one in the pipeline, but I don’t want to rush it. I want it to be perfect. People really start paying attention once you release an album and I want to make sure that the things I'm saying, I’m saying right.
Charlotte Carpenter will be touring the UK from 23 October until the 1 November. Her new four-track EP Shelter is released on 20 October. To get your copy (it’s available on vinyl too!) click here.
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