Charlie Brown has it going on. I couldn't go out with my "in the know" friends at all lately without hearing how utterly brilliant this new singer/songwriter is. Naturally they took me to go see him live at Cargo a few weeks ago. After the show, I was completely blown away as Charlie Brown wasn't what I was expecting at all. He's got urban style with a pop sensibility that any lover of great pop music will know and love. I had a chance to catch up Charlie Brown recently and we talked a little about his background, the meaning behind a few of his key songs and a rather freaky story involving him and red-hot producer – Red One. Make sure you check out Charlie Brown on MySpace and put him in your mental file for "next big thing".
Hey Charlie – how are you today?
Good, good good. I was walking home from a session and thought I was gonna be late for our interview!
You're right on time Charlie! First of all, why don't you give the EQ readers an insight into who you are..
Sure – I started "professionally" working in the industry when I was 19. That's when I did my first publishing deal for songwriting, writing other songs for other artists and their projects. Before that, I just grew up writing and singing my own stuff and just enjoying music from a spectator's point of view. When I was 18, I performed at a radio showcase and from then just weeded my way into the industry. Someone from the audience worked at 19 Songs and approached me to see if I was interested in working with other artists and next thing you know I was in the studio doing songwriting.
From the beginning did you always know that you wanted to perform or was the songwriting a good introduction into performing for you?
Yeah, it happened the way you just said it. As a kid I always wanted to perform. I did bits and pieces as a teenager. When I was approached by 19, my head was just completely in the artist space and they convinced me that my songwriting was just as good and that we should focus on that in the beginning. After doing that, I opened my mind and started having a really good time crafting my songs. I was travelling around a lot, working on a couple of Idol projects that were going on in Canada and the UK as well.
One thing I noticed when I first heard about you was that your image kinda suggests your more of an urban artist rather than a pop artist…but when you listen to your songs, it's quite the contrast – soft pop melodies and soulful undertones…
It was kinda unintentional but I know exactly what you mean [laughs]. When people say that to me, I laugh and say, yeah I do look hip-hop! I love that though. I purposely didn't plan that though, I like that people think I'm an urban artist – then when they listen, they see the contrast! I think that's going to make it quite interesting for people here and abroad as well. In places like London, I don't think people will judge too quickly with what they see initially. But I think it's going to be interesting to see how that turns out for listeners overseas. I hope people are going to be surprised by the material, but hopefully in a good way!
Charlie Brown live at Cargo
I was completely blown away at your gig at Cargo not too long ago – I understand that was one of your first gigs – you seemed very comfortable up there on stage…
I had a great time that night actually! Like you said, it's early days for me to perform this material – we literally just started performing the songs just before Christmas. I like to try and get as much of my personality out as I can in shows. I love to mess around a little bit with the crowd – it was fun!
Tell me about your song "Dependancy". When I first heard it, I thought it was a song about addiction – was I far off there?
I wrote it about a relationship where you might realize that the person you are with – is the one with the addiction. I kinda compared it with a drink or drug addiction scenario. But what I'm talking about in the song is an addiction this person has to someone else – other than you. When you're in a relationship it's hard to get the other person to focus on you and not "step out" on you. I was thinking that this is like trying to keep someone off drugs. The song was written in that moment of pure frustration and that moment when you're kinda defeated. You realize that you have as much chance of being with this person as you do if you were trying to get them to stop doing drugs.
That kinda sucks…
Yeah, but some of the best songs come out those situations [laughs]. I was really at a low point when I wrote that song.
You also have another song called "Troubled Man" which is a song about how utterly untrustworthy you are! Please tell me that's not an autobiographical song…
[laughs]. Yeah that one is kinda a tongue-in-cheek comedy…
It's basically a song about the scrapes and ups-and-downs I've managed to get myself in. It's not a serious song – that I imply I do those bad things to friends! It's definitely a song that looks at the more crazier side of my personality I guess! You don't have to worry – I won't steal your money [laughs].
Well I'm not going to give you my car keys…
Yeah don't do that! [laughs]
By far my favorite track of yours is "Keeper". What I find very cool about it, is that you reference Facebook a lot in in. Is someone's Facebook status a huge part in having a crush on someone these days…
Yup! I think it does yeah! Literally whenever I am interested in someone, the first place I go is Facebook. Back in the days, you might have called their friends or your mutual friends to see if they are interested. But now, you can just go straight to their Facebook page and if "you're alright" you'll generally appear in their status somewhere! The song "Keeper" is literally an extension of some of the messages I was exchanging with someone. Facebook played a huge part in that crush I had recently.
I know part of your strategy is going to be cross-genre penetration…
I like that. CROSS GENRE PENETRATION. [laughs]
It's a cool play on words isn't it…
It might be the album title now! [laughs]
As long as I credit in the liner notes [laughs]
It's growing on me! I like it! [laughs]
Is it important for you to have fans in both urban music and pop? Your music does speak to so many different types of music fans…
I think the music is just going to naturally be relatable to lots of different people. I have been doing some collaborations lately with people like Wiley and Bless Beats. I think it's wicked if their fans who are primarily into grime and hip-hop and urban artists think I'm cool and want to buy my music – which is more pop and soulful melodies. It's definitely part of the plan. I love this album so much. It has the potential to cross genre penetrate – I like that!
How far along are you from completing the album?
It's weird, because I'm from a writing background, I'm used to being in the studio and writing every single day. We haven't put a deadline on it. We've nailed the direction. We are talking to record labels now. I think were 3/4ths of the way there. We just need a few more last pieces of the puzzle and we're good to go!
Is your real name Charlie Brown.
My middle name is Charlie.
Do you get a lot of stick for being named Charlie Brown – from Peanuts and Snoopy?
I haven't had that too much actually. I thought that when I decided to use my middle name there might be a lot of Snoopy references, but people kinda just accept it as my name. Snoopy references will just be a bit of fun if it comes up – I'm prepared for the Peanuts jokes!
When we were out and about the other day, you told me this really freaky story about Red One – I'm gonna have to bring it up here. The backstory is that you were staying with Red One working on a project and you had a weird dream that he was a bit portly with long hair and resembled Jesus Christ a bit…Then the both of you went out Jamba Juice and he pulled out his driver's license and he looked exactly like he did in your dream…Yup! It was really weird, open-ended story! I was working with Red One when I was about 20, working in New York. After having a great day in the studio with him, he was in a health food store and he was a lot larger in proportion than he is in real life with long hair and a white robe! In my dream, basically, he was Jesus. I woke up in the morning, and wrote it off as a weird dream. When we were walking to the studio, he took me to Jamba Juice because he wanted a wheatgrass shot. And I said, "Oh you drink wheatgrass – that's really healthy" and he said that he was on a health kick and used to be really overweight. I was kinda then looking around and it was the shop from my dream. And then I told him I had the dream about him and he was like "ok". I said "But you were sitting in that corner and you had long hair and were fat." – And he just laughed. He then said "Are you serious about the long hair?" And I was like "yeah" and then he pulled out his ID and it was literally the dude from the dream – long hair, fuller face! I was completley freaked out, and then he told me he went on a health kick over the last couple of years. It completley wigged me out for a couple of days. Then the night before I left he pulled me aside and said "By the way, I know why you had the Jesus dream…" and he said it's not right to tell anyone the story, but one day he's gonna tell me why. And of course I told everyone, but it's been a couple of years now and I think i've jinxed it because I've told everyone, including yourself now.
That's so freaky!
Red One is such an interesting guy though. He's been around for a long time working in production and songwriting. He's just always been one of those guys on the brink of doing something big. I recently found out he did that Lady Gaga song that's everywhere – I'm really happy for him, he's doing really well. I need to call him now and lock down some more studio time and find the meaning of my freaky dream!
You have an interesting tatoo on your forearm – and it's also a mystery too. You won't tell anyone what the letters stand for and even your manager doesn't know about it…Tell is why this tatoo is so damn important to you to keep it secret…No, No! Basically I have this one tatoo, I got it when I was 19. I was overhearing a conversation with two of my friends. One of them said to the other, describing a friend that they both knew as being "O.M.S." I overheard that and just connected with the phrase – it describes exactly so much about me, who I am and the way I am – It encapsulates a lot about me. The reason I'm keeping it a secret is that I don't like it when people tatoo full quotes on their body – I find it really cheesy. I just decided to put the first letter of each word tattood on my forarm.
Charlie Brown – many of mystery. Any parting words for our EQ readers…
Thanks for reading, keep checking into my Myspace, facebook Twitter and hopefully see you at some shows…
And keep working on that "Cross Genre Penetration".
It may be the album title – you've just coined that phrase. I might even get a tattoo of it – "C.G.P" right under the "O.M.S"…