- Words Solly Warner
Having overcome many challenging obstacles at such an early age, operatically trained singer-songwriter, Charlotte Rosse, has never stopped believing.
Discovered at 8 years old when she won a national choral singing contest in her native Poland, Charlotte performed throughout the country as one of the soloists for a few years. Early success didn’t come without troubled begins however, as the young singer was a victim of bullying throughout school. Despite this, Charlotte used music as her natural escape and wanting to further finesse her voice, she went on to study opera at Academy Of Music In Lodz. But, mentally abused by her teachers, Charlotte fled to London, working as a receptionist, while realising that contemporary music is where her real passion lies.
Charlotte has challenged her vocals to the limit from a young age and this is a standard she continues to set in her song writing to this day. “My music has a commercial character, but without compromising its musicality and lyrical depth” says Charlotte. “I want to bring the musicality back to pop music. I love songs that can stand on their own if you play them at the piano. Classical studies challenged my voice in new ways and expanded my horizons.”
Recalling the classic, timeless sound of her heroes Shirley Bassey and Mariah Carey, Charlotte sings with such conviction and delivers an honesty in “Pray To You” as well as her towering new single “Raise A Toast”. “Raise A Toast” is a superb introduction to Charlotte’s world, exploring an overarching theme of loneliness. Charlotte has also directed the video for the new track, acting as a joyous contrast to the dark track, showing her playful and humorous side.
Now fully independent and in total control of her creative output, Charlotte’s dream of singing at London’s Royal Albert Hall would be the perfect climax to her very own fairy tale.
We caught up with Charlotte to discuss what the benefits and drawbacks are from developing your voice classically, how she hopes to use her music to help others, and what she offers the current pop landscape.
What are some of your earliest memories with music and were there any particular artists that were played around your house growing up?
My earliest memories are of me at the age of 6 sitting on the floor in the living room with my mum and writing on a piece of paper the lyrics of “Strong Enough” by Cher. There was no Internet at the time and I had to write them while listening to the song.
My grandfather used to love 60s music and used to play the Beatles a lot. My mum instead used to play all the current music of the 90s and also really loved ABBA. So I grew up listening to a wide range of artists from the 60s to the current music of the time. My favorite song in those days was “Twist and Shout” from the Beatles. I loved shouting the high notes of the bridge. So The Beatles it is!
As someone who is classically trained, what are the benefits and drawbacks of developing your voice this way?
I have been trained in Speech Level Singing technique since I was 16. This is the technique that was created by Seth Riggs who taught singing to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Barbara Streisand and many more. This technique built the grounds for me as a vocalist. Soon after I started classical studies with this technique already embedded in me. The biggest benefit I got from my classical training is mainly the development of my musical horizons, knowledge, the expansion of my vocal range and the experience of singing some of the most difficult pieces of music written for voice, which now gives me an incredible confidence and ease while singing pop music. Not to mention the discipline you have to develop when you study for an Opera Degree, which involves acting, music theory, fencing, ballet and more.
The main drawback from the classical studies was the development of anxiety and panic attacks after having been mentally abused by one of my first vocal teachers at the Academy. For a while it made me lose my voice and cost me a huge amount of strength to get back on track. My life at the time was resembling the movie “Whiplash” but without the prize at the end.
Experiencing your own mental struggles from a young age, how do you hope to use your music going forward, not only as a means of personal growth but to help others as well?
One of my goals is to reach a wider audience and for my voice to be loud enough to be heard and trigger a change. I would like my music to empower people to take action and shine a light on the persisting problems of abuse in artistic institutions. So that we can avoid young artists getting hurt and make the institutions accountable for their actions. I have many friends who graduated from artistic degrees and this is an unspoken problem that many have encountered while studying at music, film and art academies.
How has the last year changed you as an artist? Have you learnt anything new about yourself and what do you hope to take forward?
Last year in particular made me realise that even if the circumstances are bad and it seems like there is nothing you can do, you must take destiny in your own hands. Keep pushing and never give up! Even if this might sound naive or a typical encouraging phrase, it does bring results in the end.
To my surprise I have learnt that I am more than capable of creating my own visuals assets and music videos. In particular during lockdown I understood the old proverb “necessity is the mother of all inventions”. I couldn’t agree more.
I am planning to continue being the creative director of all my visual work, as I am generally the kind of artist with a very clear idea of what I want to achieve both visually and sonically.
What is the meaning behind “Raise A Toast” and what are you trying to convey with this new track?
“Raise A Toast” is a perfect introduction to my emotional world and my classical music influences. The idea came to me from my personal experience when I came to London, and before I met my boyfriend when I thought I would never fall in love. It was a very lonely time for me. I led a very lonely life when I first moved to London. I was working full-time as a receptionist while studying songwriting at university and I found myself starting to get heartless. I could only count on myself, and I was becoming calculating, including with my heart. When writing “Raise a Toast” I wanted to create a song that would stand for all the people that go through the things I went through. People who are living in a big city and still lead a lonely life. I wanted to write a song that they could relate to and it would be for them like an anthem for loneliness.
You have also directed the video for “Raise A Toast”. Is creating visuals something you look forward to and how do you feel the music video adds to the song?
I creative directed both the video and the photo shoot. Considering that the music video was shot in January 2021 when we were in full lockdown everything had to be done very simplistically with just me as the director, stylist, makeup artist except for the cameraman.
I wanted to make it feel like it was filmed by a lover, personal and also playful as a contrast to the song. The lyrics of the song are dark, but the video is a good contrast, as you can see my joyful side while messing around with cake and champagne in a pink wig.
What is the story behind changing your name and how has being Charlotte Rosse helped you?
It was during middle school when the name Charlotte first came to me. I created an imaginary variety show with a friend at the age of 13, and I called it “Charlotte Rosse TV”.
Charlotte is the French translation of my real first name, Karolina. Rosse is from my love of roses, the double-s added for symmetry with the double-t in Charlotte. I feel differently as Charlotte. Karolina is the shy and private person my mum knows. Charlotte is the confident Shirley Bassey-style diva.
What was it like when you first moved to London and how has your view of the city altered over the years?
The first time I went to London I was 13, I fell in love with the architecture, cultural diversity and the openness of people. Then I moved there when I was 20 years old and it was my first time being out of my parents home. I was childish and very naive, also very excited about the opportunity of working and studying in London. I quickly understood that it wasn’t a safe city for a young woman and got burned several times. I had a very small salary then and no support from my family, therefore I could only afford small things like going to see free exhibitions, standing tickets in the Royal Opera House and going to public events. I loved that even though I didn’t have much to spend, London had so much to offer.
I always wanted to live in central London and since I moved to Mayfair I discovered a different side of the city – private members clubs with their incredible interior design and amazing restaurants, beautiful outdoor lunch spots, art galleries, fancy bars with live music and elegant gardens. Living just a stone’s throw away from Buckingham Palace also has been pretty good! London is always home in my heart.
With such a strong and powerful voice, what are you hoping to offer the current pop landscape?
Thank you for the compliment. I remember when I was a child we had so many incredible singers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and now the world needs another diva. I’m hoping to bring back the pop music that seems to be forgotten. People miss melodical music with great vocals and I get messages like this all the time. I think the music industry got oversaturated with the singer-songwriter style artists, who go on stage wearing their ripped jeans and sing acoustically with a guitar. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that but I think variety in music is so important! There is a place for any kind of music. I want my performances to be a whole experience, like going to a theatre or seeing a movie. I think the last artist that truly offers fantastic vocals, exciting outfits, theatrical performance, acting through song, has been Lady Gaga. She’s a huge inspiration and I really admire her professionalism and artistry!
Having overcome many obstacles in your life, what are your dreams for the future and what can you say to people going through equally tough times?
To the people who are struggling with mental disorders, anxiety, depression, I would say: find something you truly care about in your life, determine your purpose and once you have it you will be able to lift mountains and move through any obstacles. My passion for music, for performance, has been leading me through my whole life since I was 3 years old. It gave me the answers in all the bad situations I found myself in. Particularly when I was at my lowest, lost my voice and was having panic attacks, passion was the reason to fight for, the only thing I dedicated my life to. Find your reason.
Also I can’t forget about the people that helped me overcome these tough times – the operatic diva I was looking up to and had masterclasses with when I was struggling, my singing teacher, my mom. Open yourself up about the things you’re going through.
My dream for the future is to be able to continue creating music and sharing it live on stage with the audience. I think nothing makes me happier than performing and connecting with people. Also nothing can beat hearing live instruments playing, having your fellow musicians, singers on stage with you. Live music is a magical experience that happens only once. You can’t have twice the same feeling, the same voice, the same performance.