Q&A with Charlotte Sands

Q&A with Charlotte Sands
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Charlotte Sands viral hit “Dress”, a song about Harry Styles wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue, made her a TikTok sensation during the pandemic, with the clip now having received more than 46 million streams. She followed it up by releasing seven singles from her bedroom during the 2020 lockdowns, going on to collaborate with a wide-range of acts, including The Maine, Underoath, Sleeping With Sirens, and Mokita and playing shows with My Chemcial Romance, 5 Seconds of Summer and YUNGBLUD. Her debut album, Can We Start Over? was released in January 2024.

Ahead of her first Australian tour, with shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, we caught up with the Nashville-based singer-songwriter to discuss making collaborations successful, the making of her debut album and how she conquers any moments of self-doubt.


You’ve talked about growing up listening to the likes of Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, and Michelle Branch but where did the heavier influences of your music come from?

The heavier influences came from the discovery of bands like Mayday Parade, We The Kings, and The Maine when I was in high school. I started going to live shows and found different bands that I loved and wanted to make music that I could perform with more energy. I feel really lucky that even when I did feel rebellious as a teenager, I had parents that were so supportive of my taste in music and would always encourage me to express myself.

You come from a creative home, what do you think are the most important things parents can do to nature creativity, especially when typically, there’s more focus on academic achievements?

I think one of the most important things parents can do is support their kids when they show interest in art. Pushing them to play an instrument or allowing them to change their minds or experiment with different creative outlets is really important. Encouraging kids to express themselves and creating a space where they feel comfortable in their own skin is such a vital part of growing up. My parents always pushed me to trust my intuition and to be confident in my creative choices. They also made me realise how important it is to fail and make mistakes instead of trying to be perfect all the time. Failure is fine as long as you get back up and try again and refuse to give up.

What do you remember about the first song you ever wrote?

I remember writing it with my dad and recording it in our basement, which was so much fun. I was really self-conscious about the way I sounded because my voice was changing so much, and, at the time, that song felt like the most important thing in the world to me. I still have the recording of it and it’s so funny to listen back to my little 9-year-old self putting every ounce of effort and energy into every single word of that song.

In previous interviews, you’ve talked about your internal conflict between self-belief and imposter syndrome. When you are having moments of self- doubt, what do you do to help turn that around?

I like to repeat the phrase “trust the work that got you here”. It reminds me of the actual work that I’ve put in for years and years to get every single opportunity. I must remind myself that I didn’t get picked up and dropped into my current life with a list of accomplishments, I worked really hard and sacrificed so much! Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that.

You moved from a small town to Nashville. I think everyone (at last everyone outside the US) thinks of Nashville as being a Country and Western town. Have we all got Nashville wrong and how did moving to the city inspire you?

Nashville is definitely full of country music but it has changed so much over the last 10 years. I moved there because it’s where my favourite songwriters live and I wanted to be somewhere that would help me write better songs. There are so many genres there now and so many incredible artists that make all different types of music. It continues to inspire me because the entire city is full of people trying to make their dreams come true. The average person you meet most likely moved there to work in music or a creative industry and you’re just always surrounded by inspiring and motivating people.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of different artists over the last few years. How do you make a collaboration work successfully and make sure that you get what you want out of it without compromising your artistic views?

I think the most important part of collaborating is making sure you like the people you’re working with and that your visions align. I feel so lucky that I’ve had the chance to work with so many amazing artists and bands throughout my career and I am so excited about working with more in the future. As long as we enjoy the process and feel excited about what we’re making together I think any collaboration would be a success to me. I definitely believe in standing my ground when it comes to my artistic vision, but I haven’t had to push back too hard in past collaborations because I think we’ve all trusted each other’s opinions and also just enjoy making things together. I’m intentional when it comes to who I work with, and I try to work with people who have similar visions and most importantly are just good people.

The collaborations that you’ve done have covered an eclectic mix of musical genres, from R&B through to metalcore. It’s clear that you don’t want to be tied down by genre but is there a definitive Charlotte Sands “sound” that you’re after?

I honestly try not to focus too much on having a sound because I want to feel free to create whatever feels right in the moment. I want to give myself the freedom to creative something without putting it in a box or molding it into something before it even exists. As long as I am enjoying the music I’m making and am proud of it then that is the sound I’m after.

You’re playing the massive Download in the UK in the middle of the year. Who are you going to be trying to bump into to talk about a future collaboration? Who’s the dream collaborator?

I am so excited for Download and cannot wait to watch so many of my favourite artists and bands play. There are so many people playing that would be an absolute dream to collaborate with like Fall Out Boy, The Hunna, Sum 41, Kelsey Karter, and so many more.

You’ve released a lot of singles in the last few years and I read in a recent interview that you originally had no intention of recording a full-length project until becoming certain that the songs written for “can we start over?” had to be released together. Do you think that the idea of an album is becoming/has become outdated in these modern times when streaming dominates?

I always knew that I wanted to wait to release a full length project until it felt like the right time. I didn’t want to rush into it until the songs were there and I felt like the album was worth the 45 minutes it would take for someone to listen to it front to back. I think it’s harder to keep people’s attention because they consume so much more content which makes the idea of singles more appealing. I think the industry changes constantly and what is popular now will be different in a few weeks, months, or years. I’m not sure what the normal strategy will be in the future, but I do hope we’re able to preserve the magic of longer form content and releases. Being independent, I definitely enjoy releasing singles because it gives me the ability to promote each individual song with intention and be purposeful with the marketing of every detail instead of grouping everything together. It definitely means making more art and coming up with more ideas, but I enjoy putting out a lot of music and the process of it all.

can we start over? seems to be a lot heavier sounding than some of your previous songs. Did you know this was how they were going to go when the songs were first written or did they evolve in the studio to how they ended up?

The process of making this entire album was really organic. I had songs that I loved and felt inspired by that I referenced in some of the sessions but overall, we just made things that excited us. I wanted to experiment with my voice and different sounds and we chased ideas until we found what felt right for the story and the mood we were in. I wanted it to feel natural and not forced and let the songs exist in whatever realm made the most sense for each one.

You recently toured with 5 Seconds of Summer. How did those shows go? Did they introduce you to any Australian music or culture?

I had so much fun touring with 5SOS and I am so grateful to them for the entire experience. I am so excited to finally visit Australia and to experience the culture first hand. I have heard so many wonderful things and I am really looking forward to it. I definitely want to visit a zoo and hopefully meet a koala.

You spent a lot of 2023 on the road and 2024 looks like it’s going to be the same. How do you try to minimise the impacts of being away from home so much on having a “normal” life?

I honestly love being on the road and being in different places all the time. I try to do things like go on walks and experience the cities I’m in to try and create a sense of a normal life but overall, I love it. It always feels good to come back home and be in my own bed but then I quickly miss being on the road. I feel lucky to get to exist in such different realities in one lifetime.

The artwork for your singles and for “can we start over?” have all been portrait photos. What do you look for when deciding a photo for the cover art?

I usually look for the photo that best represents the feeling or mood of the song. Dillon Jordan took a lot of the photos for the album and he’s amazing. He’s also my guitarist on tour so we get to work together in so many different creative ways. I wanted the album cover to represent an environment that felt like starting over, like a new city or a city in ruins that was coming back to life. I had my friend Dawson Waters create a 3D background and design an environment for me to be standing in and then we paired it with a photo of me that Dillon took in Nashville.



Thursday 2 May: Stay Gold, Melbourne – Tickets

Friday 3 May: Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney – Tickets

Saturday 4 May: The Brightside, Brisbane – Tickets

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