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Dundee rising star Be Charlotte opens up on the most personal song she’s ever written

Be Charlotte.
Be Charlotte.

Before lockdown, Dundee’s hottest new homegrown pop artist, Be Charlotte, seemed to be on a meteoric rise.

Her trademark high bun and huge bright specs were becoming familiar sights to music fans, and after some bigger gigs and trips across the pond, she was about to go on tour.

When Covid hit, the postponed gigs and cancelled sessions might have pulled the rug out from under her. But she didn’t stay down for long.

Hard at work

“Since I launched as Be Charlotte I’ve never really stopped,” Charlotte (Brimner) explains.

“It’s always just been going on to the next thing, whether that’s gigs, or songwriting, or working with different people. This last year has stopped all of that. And obviously there’s moments of that which are really difficult.”

Asked what she’s been up to and she replies, with typical Dundonian modesty: “Nothing really wild to report! I’ve mostly been inside… going to the supermarket…”

But in fact, Charlotte has been hard at work. She released her debut EP, Dreaming With The Lights Off, last June at the height of lockdown.

And she followed it up with singles, home-shot videos and a steady stream of online content to keep her growing fanbase sated.

Now, just this week, she’s dropped her third single of 2021 – You Stole The Summer.

Charlotte says: “I wrote the song a few years ago now, and at the time it was probably the most personal and honest song I’d ever written.

“Writing that song really started me on a different journey songwriting-wise, to really go for it.”

The sun shines brighter without you in my life.”

You Stole The Summer

The track, “a direct letter to the people who have let me down or abandoned me in life”, is a more stripped-back, emotional reimagining of her EP track Brighter Without You.

Piano-driven and plaintive, it proves Charlotte’s airy vocals and lyrical prowess hold up without the cushion of pop production.

Charlotte explains: “A lot of the EP content was quite sad and emotional, but the way it was presented was a bit more poppy and upbeat – which I love!

“But I love stripped-back, acoustic, proper emotional moments, so I wanted to capture that.”

Taking her time

Revisiting and reimagining songs has become something of a trend over the past year, with up and coming artists such as Maisie Peters and Dodie setting a precedent by releasing multiple versions of the “same” songs.

“I think a lot of times, in the music industry, people think that songs maybe don’t have a very long life,” Charlotte muses. “But I think music is so powerful and it can stand the test of time.

“And it’s been really exciting to delve back into songs and find bits about them that I didn’t notice the first time.

“It’s good to just try different things and not feel like you’re boxed in.”

Charlotte likes to think outside the box. Picture credit: Bonnie MacRae. Dundee.

Indeed, a big part of Be(ing) Charlotte is eluding those boxes in favour of authenticity. Her idols include pop sensations Lizzo and Taylor Swift – “who I think just show that you can be who you want to be, and still be absolutely smashing it”.

And her music expertly straddles singer-songwriter and pop sounds, never committing fully to either.

“I’ve always loved both,” she says matter-of-factly. “I started on acoustic guitar, being a singer-songwriter. And then when I realised ‘oh, I write pop music’, I started messing around more with the production side of things, building tracks myself.”

I’d be cringing at myself if I ever tried to sing in any other way.”

And it’s clear that even though she’s no expert producer (yet), Charlotte is the curator of her own sound, having taught herself the basics from YouTube tutorials.

“I love being able to get down an idea that I’ve got in my head and build the track a bit,” she enthuses. “But then it’s also really good to get somebody else involved who can get it to sound exactly how I want it to sound!

Change her accent? Eh, nah.

Another distinctive feature of Charlotte’s sound is her voice. She’s Dundee born and bred, and unlike some Scottish singers who feel pressured to flatten their accent to a sort of LA-London hodgepodge, Charlotte lets her native twang shine through on her vocals.

“I definitely did make a conscious choice (to do that) a few years ago,” she explains.

“I think when I first started, I did sound a bit more like my influences – a lot of English and American artists.

“And then when I was learning guitar, I listened to a lot of Paolo Nutini and I think that must have subliminally got into my head and been like – ” she waggles her fingers at her temples, little psychic waves, “it’s ok, you can sing in your own accent.”

The response, she admits, has been mixed.

“A lot of people think they can’t understand me – even though they probably could, if they just listened,” she giggles. “But ultimately I’m proud to be from Dundee, I’m proud to be Scottish.

“I’d be cringing at myself if I ever tried to sing in any other way.”

Is music still a man’s world?

Charlotte’s self-assuredness speaks to her ten years banked in the music industry – but it’s easy to forget that she’s still only 24, having begun her career at open mics when she was just 14.

There’s definitely been situations where I’ve been treated differently because I’m a woman…”

As we speak, the internet is in a frenzy over singer Billie Eilish’s new Vogue cover shoot, and the conversations online show that being a young woman in music is still no easy task.

“It wasn’t something I noticed to begin with,” said Charlotte. “But there’s definitely been situations where I’ve been treated differently because I’m a woman, a younger girl.”

Charlotte reckons confidence is key for young women entering the music industry.

She explains: “When I first started playing with a band, we had this digital set-up. And every time we’d turn up, the sound engineer would go to the guys in the band and say, ‘Oh how do we use this?’

“The guys would say, ‘That’s Charlotte’s thing, you have to go and talk to her’. But they would never be willing to listen to me in that instance. That’s just a really small example of it, but it exists on a much bigger scale.”

Asked what she thinks could be done to make things better, she says: “One of the main things we need to do is get young girls feeling empowered enough in the first place to pick up an instrument and write a song.

“Confidence is a big barrier in that. So that’s definitely something I’ve been focused on the past few years, is to help some younger girls who want to make music.”

Taking back the summer

So after her not-so-restful break at home in Dundee, what’s on the horizon for Be Charlotte?

“It’s hard to know!” she exclaims, echoing the uncertainty around the arts sector which has made headlines recently. “I don’t want to jinx it.”

“But hopefully a few festivals this summer. And then I have a tour this November, in Scotland and England.

“It feels like you’re missing a piece of your life, not even being able to go to gigs. I’m really excited for that to return, so fingers crossed it can all happen this year.”

Be Charlotte will play Church, Dundee on November 17 (restrictions permitting). All tour dates can be found here.