Curated by Cedric Dladla
Photography by "TheSmallGuy"
Classy, Carefree And Unapologetically Charli: UK Singer-Songwriter and Producer Charlie Taft Unpacks Music Influences, Early Childhood, Her Career As A K-Pop Songwriter Her Debut Album, DLUXLIFE & More.
There is an unspoken magic that comes with nostalgia. The craving for a simpler time, a younger mind far from being plagued by adult troubles like bills and the waning bandwidth of your mortality and obsessing with the next episode of Dragon Ball Z or Winx Club, you know the dreamy belief that you will live forever and all things are purely magical. This was also the time when we were carefree enough to sing old-school RnB songs where we would ironically mimic tonalities, cadences, and lyrics that hit differently when you felt the heartbreak they represent.
I share delicate applause for UK singer-songwriter Charli Taft, a well-versed global citizen who has made her mark in the industry as a sought-after songwriter entrenched in writing a plethora of K-pop music. Taking a universe of travel experiences and the unending desire for music to sound like the teenage love songs of our yesteryears she poured her pen, her piano, guitar, and production skills and enlisted the production expertise of Grammy-award winning producer Daniel “Obi" Klein to pay homage to the good old days of music with her debut offering DLUXLIFE.
After dancing our socks off to hit singles to timeless R&B hits and up-tempo blues bops such as “Wish I Would,” “Sentimental,” “Money Can’t Buy,” and “Oh!;” I took some Colorbloc time to have a chat with this eclectic talent. We converse about the effect of the pandemic, her musical journey, how travel has influenced her creative process, what inspired her debut album, the philosophy behind living a deluxe life, and more.
ColorBloc Magazine: Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us at Colorbloc Magazine. Let’s start at the beginning, for those who don’t know, may you please introduce yourself, where you are from and what you do in music?
Charli Taft: My name is Charli Taft, I am a UK-based artist and songwriter, I make 90s & 00s influenced R&B Music with throwback elements. I have been writing music professionally for the past 8 years working with amazing producers and artists across the world including Teddy Riley, in addition to being involved in songwriting projects that merge the worlds of RnB & K-pop. I also have released a few singles before the pandemic, which gave me room to complete my first cohesive body of work.
ColorBloc Magazine: Do you ever get used to the nerves surrounding a musical release where it is officially out of your hands and at the mercy of public scrutiny?
Charli Taft: I don’t think you ever get used to it. I think the place where you feel the most secure is when you are creating the music or the relief you feel when you just finished the creative and administrative process and there’s this eager vibe to share the music with the world. Public Scrutiny helps because every time you release music you get to figure out how the audience sees you and it helps you figure out whether you are on the right path and how you can grow.
ColorBloc Magazine: Décor aesthetic has a significant influence on the creative process, for you what does your studio space need to look like in order for you to evoke emotions and create?
Charli Taft: To be honest, all I need is my writing partner Obi, a laptop, a decent set of speakers, and a mic and I can pretty much work anywhere in the world. I don’t have set things I need to be in the studio for it to feel like home. You know as long as you can light some candles, make it cozy inside and get on a wavelength with people, maybe play some reference tracks to get the vibe going in the room. Sometimes being able to write during your travels is amazing because you get the feeling of the place you visit.
ColorBloc Magazine: Growing up in the nostalgic era of the Mariah Carey’s and Brandy's of the world, what gravitated to you first between the pen and musical instruments?
Charli Taft: My parents are both musicians and professional music teachers. My mom’s a vocal teacher and my dad’s a jazz guitarist so I grew up around music, always singing along to songs on the radio. Their style of music and preference has influenced the music I'm making now though and I've also been influenced heavily by talents like Brandy and Mariah Carey - the R&B music that was around me growing up. As a kid listening to all these sophisticated and amazing sounds on the radio inspired me to copy their vocal runs, tone and range, and articulation. I was influenced by the culture of the times and I knew from the age of 10 that I wanted to write my own songs. I remember sitting in front of the keyboard, singing melodies and writing chords then taking them to my dad who had an Atari and Cubase where he’d do programming and production for bands and he made a production for me.
ColorBloc Magazine: Why was original sampling as opposed to traditional sampling important to you?
Charli Taft: I love sampling from old music, it’s a fantastic medium and so many genres such as hip-hop have grown off the strength of sampling as long as it is cleared accordingly. If there was infrastructure in place to make sample clearance easier, I’d be sampling other musical works on every song, however, we have had a few instances where we did sample and ran into numerous clearance complications given the fact that we are independent artists. We decided to take a more organic approach sampling original vocals and having session musicians play their instruments or digging through the golden Obi [Daniel “Obi” Klein] samples from back in the day, 2005 was a special era where he was active in the New York Scene so we would take sections of it and give them a fresh spin
ColorBloc Magazine: As a seasoned instrumentalist and sought-after songwriter, what took you so long to buckle down and create your own music?
Charli Taft: I had a collection of songs before the pandemic that I felt could have been an album than like 2 and half years ago but as soon as it came together, it felt like the timing was wrong because I wanted to do everything the right way before the challenge of COVID and everything closing down. Up until that point, I had been making numerous demos for different artists writing different styles of RnB that it became much easier to articulate which style was mine and what sound I wanted to pursue for my solo project and I developed a sound that speaks to the core of who I am.
ColorBloc Magazine: Would you say the pandemic period from surviving it to recovering from it grounded you with a fresh perspective that inspired your current framework of what is authentically you?
Charli Taft: Absolutely. I feel like the time I had to finish the album gave me something to focus on and in some ways helped me cope during the hard times we were all going through. I had access to my studio so the first wave of the lockdown flew by because I was zoned in on writing and recording songs, dedicating my full attention and effort into my own project versus prioritizing other projects from my songwriting projects. I actually wrote 5 or 6 songs on DLUXLIFE during lockdown which also became a transformative period to ground myself and reflect on how I wanted my brand and artistic direction to be introduced to my audience. A silver lining from the pandemic I hold dear to my heart is reconnecting with the ability to write songs in my head which I haven’t done since I was a kid and the overall experience of being spontaneous and present in my music.
ColorBloc Magazine: What inspired the title of the album, “DLUXLIFE”?
Charli Taft: DLUXLIFE represents music that inspires me, and the desire to reconnect with the nostalgia I felt when I first heard this music. It speaks to the pursuit of feeling good again and looking forward to something. Deluxe in this sense is not related to material wealth, its just about the music and the way your life makes you feel about yourself and feeling empowered, uplifted, and connected to purpose The DLUXLIFE title represents the good old days of music and my bold commitment to its renaissance."
ColorBloc Magazine: If the 2000s were a time when you were a teenager, are there any teen romances and first heartbreaks that inspired some of the songs like "Wish I could?"
Charli Taft: I definitely drew on the feeling of teen heartbreak, which also permeated, into songs like "Little things". I was trying to channel the enthusiasm, joy, and excitement I felt when experiencing those kinds of songs and the way music used to make me feel. there’s an element of me trying to tap back into the past even if there they were not 100% the same experiences as the songs
Watch “Charli Taft - Ride feat. Justin Starling” Here:
ColorBloc Magazine: Speaking of Digital Audio Workstations [DAWs], you’ve mentioned Cubase already, are there any programs that you use to create music? Fruity loops, Pro Tools, Logic Pro?
Charli Taft: We use logic here pretty much, full-time. What I noticed from my travels and work with different producers is that in the states the preferred DAW to use is Pro Tools and DJ/Producers use Ableton and a lot of European producers such as Scandinavian producers use Logic Pro because of its ease, quick workflow and easy to find samples.
ColorBloc Magazine: What instruments can you play?
Charli Taft: I play piano and I play a little guitar as well.
ColorBloc Magazine: Going in the bold direction of 2000s soundscape are you not afraid of being boxed and labeled as a throwback artist?
Charli Taft: I'm not, the reason I make music is because I want to represent who I am and I don't think too much about public opinion. The thing about trying to stay relevant is that it is a losing game and there is always the possibility that you can develop a detachment from your art because you're too busy chasing relevance than protecting your authenticity. Again being present and pulling out a collection of songs that represent how you feel at a particular moment in time as opposed to the status quo of your surroundings should always be the preference. My second project is going to be something different because I always want to evolve so I shut the outside world out and focus on being the best version of myself.
ColorBloc Magazine: What has been the most personal song on the album where you shared a part of yourself that you wouldn’t normally make public knowledge in a way that gave you a sense of relief?
Charli Taft: That’s a good question. Though it is difficult to single out one song because of how immersed I was in creating all of these songs I would have to say the opening title track, "DLUXLIFE", is my current go-to track because the lyrical theme explores my desire to bring back standards of excellence in music and songwriting against the backdrop of today's climate where great songs are often not valued as they used to be. There was a drive, an ambition to be the best and set the standard for musical quality and I intentionally want a resurgence of this in my own way. So the context of DLUXLIFE is not about a relationship but rather my love for music and the quest for its purist quality to center itself in our overly consumer digital age.
ColorBloc Magazine: What can we expect from your post-album release?
Charli Taft: There will be a headline show hopefully in the UK and beyond that, into next year, hopefully, a chance to tour. Then I will start working on my sophomore album, which is currently untitled. I already have a few ideas for what I want to explore about next time around so I am excited for that. I feel the most at home when I am creating.