After months and months of missed connections (mostly – or all – on my part), Chloe Charles and I finally found the time to talk, and talk we did. Chloe was gracious enough to tell me about recording her new album, Break the Balance, her extensive touring schedule, and what’s next for the singer-songwriter.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): You just released your first full-length album. Can you speak to that process a little bit – both in terms of writing and otherwise?
Chloe Charles (CC): Well, the writing is sort of a compilation of songs from a few years ago, up until about a month before the album started recording. So, it’s sort of a story of the last few years of my life. And most of the songs that I wrote were in a similar process; I’m kind of private when I write. It’s an intimate process, and I’m usually alone. If some sort of strong event happens in my life, whether positive or negative, then I’m usually inspired to write something.
Then I sing it out with my band and it slowly develops and we add the strings. And with the producer, he has some other ideas and we mix it together. He comes up with certain textures and the way we wanted it to sound overall – the feeling for the entire album. And there it is, and now I’m happy [with the album]!
RMM: A lot of critics have had trouble categorizing you into one genre. I found that, too, when reviewing your CD – there are so many different elements. is that something that you aim for when writing?
CC: No, not at all. It’s just me. There’s no push to write like that. That’s not consciously done. I think that’s just who I am and what comes out. It’s probably drawing from my vast music collection, and growing up listening to every genre possible. And my family was very interested in all different kinds of music, so I never thought there was one type of music that I liked better than other ones, I just like what I like. So, when something sounds good to me, it sounds good. I never think of genre as I’m writing.
RMM: I read that you’re related (through marriage) to Julian Lennon. DId that relationship have any influence on your music or your getting into music?
CC: Not particularly. It’s just a normal family relationship. In terms of career, we haven’t really worked together in that way or talked that much about it. If anything, I know that both he and my dad were very supportive of me trying out music and following my instincts and doing what I really love. So, he’s been really supportive along the way, but not specifically for my career. It just hasn’t really been much a part of our relationship.
RMM: You’ve been touring quite extensively, including stops across Canada, the U.S., and Europe. What made you want to take that on?
CC: I spent a lot of time in Europe – my dad was kind of living between Spain and England, and my step dad was in France. I spent a lot time travelling then, so from the time I was a teenager, I felt really comfortable over there. It just made sense for me to try it. I had been going back every summer since I was 15. So, when I was making music, I just thought that my sound might match a little bit more with European culture, being outside of the American mainstream.
I didn’t really feel nervous about it. I just started booking myself shows over there and immediately saw that there as a really great response and continued going back and building it on my own. And it seemed a lot easier, I don’t know if that’s true, but it seemed a lot easier for me to do that in Europe. I ended up focusing on Germany for multiple reasons, but then after Germany . . . things fell into place quite easily without any force. So, I’ve just been going where it works and hopefully it will translate across over oceans, and I think, hopefully, it is going to.
RMM: Do you think that going to Europe and having that experience; is that going to shape, or has it already shaped, your writing for future albums?
CC: Definitely. I mean, I think that, if I had never toured outside of North America, I might have felt a little bit more restrained when it came to writing; I might have felt more pressure to fit in. But, now I’m very aware that there’s a place for everybody’s music, you just have to look for it. There will be people who appreciate it. You don’t have to fit in to some sort of formula. So just having seen that and having experienced that, I feel a lot more comfortable experimenting. I feel more comfortable in the writing process [because of that experience]. And any experience affects how you write and the way you think and hopefully it helps you grow and, therefore, write better songs.
RMM: What’s next?
CC: I’m doing another tour in Germany and Italy in April and May, and then I’m back here in June. I’ll be using the summer – doing some of the festivals in Canada – but also using the summer to write and do a lot of collaborating. That’s something that I’m very, very interested and is more of a newer development. I was always writing things by myself, but a lot of times, the songs that you write with someone else are better because you have someone to suggest things and you can bounce ideas off of each other. So, I’m trying to collaborate with different artists from Toronto and put a huge pool of songs together and just start recording; because I want to release a new album next spring.
I’m writing a lot with this one band from Toronto, a four-piece dubstep, called Ninja Funk Orchestra. And as much as the songs work in that format, it’s interesting when I take those songs and pair them down into a “Chloe” sound, they really work as well. So, we’ve been collaborating together, trying to work on songs for both bands.
Also, with some of the musicians in my band, I want to hear more of their ideas. There’s a friend of mine, she’s not Canadian, but she’s an amazing writer, so I’d like to write with her this summer a bit. In Italy, I’m writing with my violinist a bit – he’s a brilliant classical violinist and he wrote ‘My Child’ from the album. I was writing with a guy named Robert Grape, who is actually going to put out this electro album this summer, I think. I don’t know; I’m just open to work with anybody that I respect.
RMM: Do you think that collaborating is going to change your sound in anyway, or are you hoping that it will?
CC: I think it will, for sure. I don’t want to sound “not Chloe”, but I feel like music is boring if it doesn’t develop and change a bit. So, I want to keep that “Chloe” foundation and just see what other people can bring to it and if they can inspire a sort of different ideas and different sounds, because I think that, no matter what, I’m always going to have this . . . whatever it is that I have going on. But, other people may help me with the different kind of structure, or . . . I don’t know. It’s really interesting every time I write with people, it’s kind of exciting because it teaches you something about music but it also teaches you something about yourself and it gives you ideas about writing. It’s, overall, a good thing.