"Making this album did teach me a lot about my own patience."
Charlotte Day Wilson creates music that is truly her own; it is warm, complex and sincere. The atmosphere that forms through her music is truly captivating. Her deep, soulful voice is the kind that turns heads, and would draw anyone’s attention.
While she spends a lot of time in the States, she calls Toronto home. Living her life in Canada, she has been running in the same circles as a few other fellow Canadian musicians – collaborating with notable artists such as KAYTRANADA, featuring on his 2019 album ‘Bubba’, as well as featuring on Daniel Caesar’s 2017 album ‘Freudian’. “It's nice to be part of that family” she tells me, thankful for the strong supportive circle she finds herself in. More recently, Charlotte collaborated with The Internet’s Syd on Charlotte’s own song ‘I’ll Take Care of You’, proving she is becoming a striking force to be reckoned with. Despite these phenomenal collaborations however, Charlotte is in no rush at all... patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you had planned... Charlotte tells me her album was ‘ready’ a year ago, but once the pandemic hit, she was forced to come to a halt. Little did she know, this was a blessing in disguise. It helped her realise that the album wasn’t finished, and spent the next seven months refining the through lines sonically and conceptually, and touching up on what she wasn’t 100% contempt with.
While Charlotte’s soulful voice takes charge on her latest album, ‘ALPHA’ there is another striking element to the album, her production. Despite her extraordinarily rich vocals, Charlotte tells me that she actually considers herself more of a producer than a singer. She produces all of her own music, and wants this side of her artistry to have its shine in the spotlight. She learned a lot as a producer during this time, she feels like she is constantly learning and is always getting better. She tells me this is kind of like a double-edged sword – as she continued to learn and get better with her production, more time passed. While it may seem frustrating as months elapsed, it rewarded her as she frequently realised the production decisions she made a year ago are totally different to what she would do now. Another reward from her patience is her lyricism. The album itself feels like I’m listening in on a therapy session. She tells me there were things she’s wanted to say, but just hasn’t been ready to until now. Letting life simmer around her, she has now found the words she once needed. Charlotte has let herself open up more when talking about her sexual identity as a queer woman, one she had not found comfort in before. After finding the right words and the confidence to tell her story, she finds it important to tell her stories, and to stay true to who she is talking about. The album is a deep dive into Charlotte’s life, as she honestly and sincerely expresses her inner struggles of growth, love and exploring her identity over eleven songs. It is refreshing to hear a strong-willed artist sharing her deepest thoughts, certainly bound to help those who haven't quite found the right words yet either.
Tell me about your introduction to music – where did it all begin?
There was always music around my house, and my parents put me into piano lessons when I was a kid – so I always had the tool of being able to play instruments, I knew I could sing a little bit. Then when I was in university, I played in a cover band and we played a tonne of shows. It was like a funk cover band pretty much, your typical university cover band. We did some good covers though... like we covered ‘Didn’t I’ by Darondo, and ‘She Can't Love You’ by Chemise... some cool disco songs. We did some deeper cuts. But at a certain point I realised that I wanted to actually do my own thing, and I kind of started writing songs around that time.
Do you remember the first song that you felt properly connected to?
I think I remember the first time that I was really overwhelmed by a song emotionally... like realising that it made me cry every time I listened to it, and at the same time at the exact same spot... the song was ‘Ain’t No Way’ by Aretha Franklin. That was and will always be the one song I can connect to the most for some reason.
Have you always lived in Canada?
Yes! Canada has always been my permanent residence for sure. I spend a lot of time in the states, but I love Toronto and I call it home. Toronto is cool, it's got its strengths and weaknesses like any city, but food here is really amazing. There's a lot of good music that comes out of here, so it has a strong community of people who started here and have since become international. It's nice to be part of that family. Any time I'm elsewhere in the world and I run into someone from Toronto we flock together which is nice. Toronto has a lot of good parks, it's really nice in the summer, but really bleak in the winter.
What was the music scene like in Canada?
It was a nice fun time. My friends were also making music and I felt a strong sense of community. I also gained my confidence as a performer while I lived here. It was nice to have that really, really supportive community full of people who are ready to support whoever is making anything, which is really great because what I was making at that time was not all that great, so it was nice to have the supportive community coming out to every show and just being there encouraging me. By the time I moved to Toronto I had become a little better, so when I met some of my contemporaries in Toronto there was a healthy level of people sharing music and being able to push each other a little bit. I would hear what my friends were working on and I would be like “oh I shit, I got to step my game up a little bit!” It was a great environment to thrive in.
How did linking up with KAYTRANADA come about?
He’s another Canadian, so we just had a lot of mutual friends and have been running in the same circles for a minute, so it only felt like a matter of time before we would work together. I’m super happy we ended up making something. We have a few more songs together that I have no idea if they’ll ever come out. I find it really easy to work with him because he’s so musical, you know?
"I just know myself, I know my process and I know my own radar of whether something is good or finished or not, and the album just wasn’t... so there was really no other option than to be patient."
What did making this album teach you about yourself and your own patience?
You framed that question perfectly because making this album did teach me a lot about my own patience. There were moments where I felt like I should be putting out an album sooner, and that I should hurry up and get it finished and put it out into the world and it had been too long... and with the rate that most artists put music out now is really quick, and it's hard to not feel like you need to do the same. I just know myself and I know my process and I know my own radar of whether something is good or finished or not, and the album just wasn’t... so there was really no other option than to be patient. There were moments where I was feeling like maybe I was taking too long, but now I'm super grateful for the process of it and the patience I was able to have with myself and also the people who helped me with it. It's so nice to have the collaborators who helped me with it who were also super patient with me. Patience is the word for sure. I've definitely learned patience in every way of my life as well... relationships, friendships and family. It’s a vital part of every relationship that I have.
How did you know it was ready?
I thought it was done about a year before... then the pandemic happened and I realised I might have a little more time before this comes out, so I kind of spent the last seven months just adding finishing touches to things, trying to find the through lines sonically, production wise and conceptually, and sequencing everything... I feel like when you begin to sequence everything is when you know it's done, knowing the order of the songs and figuring out whether they flow together or not. That’s when I started to know it was done, when it began to flow like a body of work and not just a few songs here and there...
Did you explore new terrain while making this album?
Definitely, I think I just learned a lot as a producer – that was the main reason that I was patient with myself, because I am stubborn about being the main producer and about making all my music. I feel like I'm always evolving and learning as a producer – it's almost like a double-edged sword because the more patience you have with yourself as a producer and understanding that you're still getting better, the more time elapses and as time passes, you look back a year before and think how much better you are now, realising I would never have made the same decisions that I made before... So, I guess it was just a lot of retroactive perspective, and then tweaking and improving sounds that I hadn’t 100% settled on before. In terms of inspiration, I feel like I'm always going back to similar themes in my life... everything is quite personal.
Charlotte Day Wilson's debut album 'ALPHA' is out now.
Have a listen on Spotify below:
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer, shot over FaceTime.
Charlotte Day Wilson is the first cover star for Tenner Magazine Volume Two.
Pre-orders open on the 16th of July.