- Words Notion Staff
With her debut full-length project, can we start over?, Charlotte Sands is letting us know exactly who she is. To mark its release, she reflects on her creative process and why she'll never compromise.
Last year, Charlotte Sands had no intention of releasing a full-length album any time soon. But after flying to LA in May and completing three sessions with a team out there – Alex Nice, Jutes and and Keith ‘Ten4’ – she came home with what felt like the best music she’d ever written. Certain that the tracks needed to be enshrined in a project of note, can we start over? was born.
Opening with the three songs she wrote in LA and featuring well-loved alt ballad ‘blindspot’, can we start over? drops with six previously unheard tracks spanning pop and rock. “The inspiration behind the title can we start over? came while writing a song for the album about the idea of restarting a relationship, and the idea of beginning again or reintroducing yourself to someone,” Charlotte says on the project and the story that ties it together. “I’ve changed so much over the last few years personally and in my career and I love the concept of starting over as who I am now with the information and knowledge I’ve gained. It’s not about forgetting the past or regretting our choices but more so letting go of the previous version of ourselves and meeting each other where we are at this moment in the phases that we’re currently in. I think this album for me represents exactly that, standing firmly where I am as the person I am today.”
Remaining fiercely independent, Charlotte’s work – and rapid growth as an artist – bears testament to her commitment to expressing who she is and how she feels. Earning her a legion of dedicated fans in the process, it’s her honesty and self-determination that have allowed her to carve out her own niche. “It feels like holding a mirror to myself and reflects exactly how I feel right now in this phase of my life. I feel more secure in who I am as a person and as an artist than I’ve ever been,” she affirms. “I hope this album conveys strength, confidence, and power within vulnerability.”
With a world headline tour kicking off on 7th March, the artist, who’s previously toured with 5 Seconds of Summer, will be connecting with her community of fans in real life in 2024. Touching base before she jets off, she reflects on her creative process, maintaining control as an independent artist, and what she’ll never compromise on.
Winding back to the start, what role did music play in your life growing up?
I was lucky to have really creative and musical parents who always encouraged me to be involved in creative arts and introduced me to artists who continue to inspire me. Music was always a part of my life and I honestly don’t remember a time growing up when there wasn’t someone playing a guitar or singing around the house. It was a collection of all of those moments that made me start writing and singing along, which is how I got here!
Who inspired you at this time?
When I was growing up I mainly listened to artists like Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, and Michelle Branch. I loved their storytelling and their ability to represent emotions and experiences that at the time I wasn’t fully able to understand or communicate. They made me want to start writing songs and were the main reason I ended up moving to Nashville right after high school. I also listened to a lot of Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Avril Lavigne, No Doubt, and of course Hayley Williams. I loved the energy in their music and that’s when I realised I wanted to not only write the songs, but I wanted to perform them. I think since then I’ve tried to blend the two things together and create songs that have the stories and details like a lot of the folk songs did while, also having the energy and the live show of the pop/rock ones.
What made you decide to pursue music full-time?
Growing up, I performed in talent shows with my dad, sang in school plays, and took every single opportunity to play my songs in front of people even if there was only one person in the audience. It’s the only thing that felt natural to me from a really young age. I was lucky enough to grow up in an environment where my creativity was celebrated and supported. I was allowed to dream about being an artist, which led me to taking the first steps.
Can you tell us what your biggest learning curve and proudest moment has been since then?
My biggest learning curve would be learning how to run my own business. I got into music for the songwriting, the creativity, and the performance, but the majority of my career right now revolves around marketing, social media, and strategising. Choosing to be an independent artist is so rewarding but also extremely challenging. I’ve had to learn how to run my own company and how to advocate for myself since I don’t have a label doing it for me. Overall my proudest moment would be achieving everything we have as a small independent team. Having a song at top 40 radio, winning a Heavy Music Award, and touring with some of my favorite bands and artists to ever exist, I couldn’t be more proud of it all.
Looking back on that journey, what does it mean to you to be releasing your debut album ‘can we start over?’?
This album to me represents stepping into my confidence as an artist and letting go of the expectation or pressure to make music for anyone other than myself. I have waited so long to make an album and wanted to feel fully inspired and excited before beginning that journey and I’m so grateful that everything aligned at exactly the right time to allow us to make this project of songs that are so special to me.
What’s the significance, or story behind, the project’s title?
I’ve always wanted to make a song that felt cinematic like a movie trailer and while I was in a session with Kodeblooded and Mathew Marino, I referenced a song that I was obsessed with by Sleeptoken. While they were working on building the track I started looking through poems I had saved on my phone and found one called ‘can we start over’ where the author was talking about the possibility of restarting a relationship from beginning but with all the knowledge that they had of it at the end. I loved the concept of starting over but not erasing the history, just starting from a new point and asking someone to meet you where you are now instead of where you were. It represented my personal life but also how I felt as an artist. I’m getting older, I’m allowing myself to evolve, and I’m finding peace in knowing that I’m still the same person but I’ve also changed a lot.
How would you describe the album sonically? What different genres did you draw from?
A lot of the songs were inspired by early 2000’s Kelly Clarkson, Paramore, P!NK as well as bands like Deftones and Sleeptoken. I loved creating songs that had pop melodies but pushed the boundaries when it came to chord progressions or instrumentation. I always get excited when there is tension between strange melodies or chords and we tried to incorporate a lot of different references into everything we did. A lot of the project is very different for me so I’m very excited for people to hear it and be surprised by it.
You’ve said that you want it to convey strength, confidence and power within vulnerability. Can you elaborate on the headspace you were in whilst writing?
My entire life I’ve only really written songs about my personal experiences. I write about my relationships, my friendships, my career, and very often my mental health. It can be extremely daunting to make songs about really personal parts of your life and then to broadcast it to the world for everyone to criticize and pick apart. As terrifying as that can be, I’ve learned that the pros of being vulnerable constantly outweigh the cons. Sharing things with people brings us closer together, it allows us to find things we have in common and create a connection. It creates a community among people that on the outside may think they couldn’t be further apart. That is the power of vulnerability.
How do you want to make your audience feel whilst listening to it?
I want the audience to feel seen. I want them to feel like they aren’t alone and that their feelings and emotions are so much more normal then they may think. Whether it’s heartbreak, mental health, sexuality, confidence, anger, or anything in between, I want everyone to feel represented, free to experience their emotions and to fully be themselves.
The first three singles were written in LA over consecutive days – what made these writing sessions so special and fruitful?
During those days I felt like I had a lot to say and luckily the people I was working with were incredible at helping me put it to paper. They created a space where I could be myself without any criticism or judgment which led to songs that were honest and perfectly represented the place I was in. I make my best music when I’m in a supportive and positive environment and as soon as I walked into the session with Keith, Alex, and Jutes I knew immediately that we were going to make something very special together.
Did you find a different version of yourself in LA, or do you think you felt more yourself?
There is something magical about LA in the sense that there is almost this palpable energy everywhere you go, which I really love. It feels like a creative buzz full of people chasing their dreams and making it happen for themselves which is how I feel in NYC and why it’s my favorite city in the world. I think the version of me in LA feels motivated and excited while the version of me in Nashville feels calm and consistent. Both things can have a positive or negative effect on me based on what’s going on in my life at that time but as of right now I am very much enjoying splitting my time depending on what type of energy I need.
Looking to the future, what are you unwilling to compromise on as an artist?
I’m unwilling to compromise on my artistry which Is why I’ve stayed independent for so long now. I want to have the final say on what I make and who I make it with. The most important thing to me is maintaining creative control and making art that I’m proud of. Without those two things, the rest of the sacrifices that I have to make throughout my career wouldn’t feel worth it to me.
What are you most looking forward to about taking the project on tour next year?
I am so excited to get to experience these songs live and sing them with so many people across the world. Getting to meet people and share stories and talk about their experiences or perception of the songs is my favorite thing and I am eternally grateful that I get to do it all year. There’s nothing quite like being in a room full of hundreds of people screaming the words back to me. It’s an indescribable feeling that I’m lucky to get to experience so often.
Where do you want to be in five years time?
I want to be making music I’m proud of with people that I love. I want to feel at peace in my career instead of feeling like I’m constantly having to keep up or compete to get ahead. The most important thing to me is that I’m happy and the people around me are happy. But I wouldn’t mind a grammy…