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INTERVIEW: Singer/Songwriter Oliver Charles Talks Artistic Growth, New Single, + More

Photo Credit: Jean-Charles Labarre

Raised in Montreal by way of New Brunswick, Oliver Charles comes from a musical family. Charles discovered his passion for music early on and later taught himself the piano and guitar. Growing up a shy and sensitive kid, music kept him company, and over time, gave him a voice to externalize how he felt. More confident today, he offers his songs, hoping to connect and comfort those who share similar experiences.

Charles delivers his own brand of well-crafted pop-folk songs highlighted by catchy melodies and personal stories, often romantic. Inspired by artists like Billy Joel, Rufus Wainwright, Josh Groban, and Ed Sheeran, Charles believes pop music can coexist with strong lyrical content, storytelling, and killer hooks. Since 2017, Charles has released a handful of singles. After an intense period of writing and recording alongside well-known producers The Grand Brothers (Pascale Picard, Kevin Parent, Bran Van 3000), Oliver Charles is ready to release his first full-length album later this year, with his new single “Let Go Of My Ghosts” dropping today.

Growing up a shy and sensitive kid, music has always been there to keep you company and help articulate and communicate feelings you’ve felt. As your musical career continues to evolve, how have you learned to become more transparent and open with the music you create, as well as build confidence in yourself as an artist?

Oliver Charles: “I can feel myself being way stronger than my younger self. Although I still have much to work on, life rewards me when I try, so why stop now. When I was young, my mother taught me that being shy and sensitive was not enough of a good reason to put myself down or be bullied in school. My father made me listen to music with artists that had similar personality types. It fuelled their creativity, and it inspired the world. So, to answer your question, I think I overcompensate and attempt to overpower my weaknesses with ambition and drive. The more I try, the more I grow. The more I grow, the more I thrive. I have to project a future-me that is, in my opinion, a better version than the me-now and fight towards that goal. It’s a discipline with no tangible feeling of arrival, yet it’s rewarding when you look at how far you’ve come. My music matures the same way.” 

Discovering a passion for music in your teens, you took inspiration from artists such as Jack Johnson, Billy Joel, Rufus Wainwright, Josh Groban, and Ed Sheeran. How have these artists influenced the direction of your music? What pieces of their artistry have you incorporated within the music you strive to create?

OC:I’m definitely inspired by artists who blend thought-out lyrics, often about romance or personal struggles, with pop hooks and arrangements that are more acoustic, traditional and vintage. It’s the ultimate goal for me to be able to express my feelings and relate with others in a profound and significant way, while singing and playing music that is universally pleasant and helps connect us to the present moment. It’s so powerful, how could that not inspire me. The idea of having this debut album more acoustic and traditional is simply my way of giving homage to my upbringing.”

As your music is centered heavily around themes of romantic encounters and personal struggle, how might your songs be seen as “diary-like” submissions? A companion to those in similar situations, providing them with strength, positivity, and promise in times of uncertainty.

OC: “People will definitely see my music as being similar to artists like Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift who also have a “diary-like” writing style. My lyrics are often written in the first person and they document moments in my life that I believe are shaping who I am becoming as a person. They are often direct, written with a spoken-like aesthetic and do not hide behind complex metaphors. In my opinion, it is easier to relate to lyrics that are written like this. Not everyone feels safe sharing their personal and confidential diaries, yet we tend to build relationships and create bonds easier when we are fully transparent about who we are and what we are going through.”

Your latest single, “Let Go of My Ghosts,” is a pop-folk-infused tune about the attempt to overcome trust issues and have faith in true love. Can you explain the feeling of liberation you may have felt when putting your feelings and thoughts down on paper? Ultimately, expressing yourself through an art form that is universally understood.

OC: “It really is one of the best therapy sessions. It develops an ability to identify and communicate your feelings more precisely and without judgment. It develops your empathy as well. My liberation was a few steps further. I had recorded a demo at home and played it in the car to the person I was dating. I was afraid she would feel rejected or she’d think I wasn’t really into her, which wasn’t the case. I also needed her to understand that, even if it’s a bit odd, writing songs is my way to process my feelings. It was also rewarding to see that she liked the music. I was relieved to know she understood the song and where I was coming from. That’s the real liberation; the connection with people who just get it.” 

As you prepare for the release of your debut album in the coming months, can you explain the creative process behind the record? What is your hope for fans and new listeners alike when first listening to the record?

OC: “Once I’m confident about lyrics, chords and the overall musicality of my song, I record and produce a demo at home. Once I had my demo, I sent it to The Grand Brothers, hoping they would be interested in recording and producing it professionally. So many talented musicians are on this record and most of what is on there are real instruments, recorded with the knowledge and technics of our predecessors. I love how the 3 female singers and brass section help in creating a retro-vintage aesthetic that is unique to this album. I hope fans will hear the reward behind being transparent about our feelings. I hope they will feel safe and not rushed to jump into a new relationship, but also not clam up and be scared of falling in love again. I also hope they will see that pop-folk music still serves a purpose in this modern era.” 

Pulse Music Magazine is a creative space allowing musicians to showcase their craft and build their audience. Is there any piece of advice you could offer other up-and-coming artists who wish to follow their dreams?

OC: “Don’t look for the fast and easy path, enjoy wise and well-informed solutions. I found that putting in the hours to learn an instrument, sing, produce or anything that revolves around making art, takes time and perseverance. You can go and play with all those loops, but you need to strip it down and understand the core of what is music. Also when it comes to the music industry, it is changing so much and so fast, it’s easy to lose yourself in it or try and find a shortcut or an instant gratification. I feel like it misleads you and you might feel like you haven’t fully understood what you’ve gotten yourself into. Don’t assume anything, get the right information and follow the path that is right for you and not the path of societal standards or what will make you look good right away.”

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Matthew Patania

Hi, I’m Matthew, and I am the Founder of Pulse Music Magazine. Having attended my first live show in the Spring of 2015, I realized just how much joy music brings to my life. As my love for music continued to grow, I decided to create a publication that serves as an outlet to share stories told through life's grandest medium.

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    Written by Matthew Patania

    Hi, I’m Matthew, and I am the Founder of Pulse Music Magazine. Having attended my first live show in the Spring of 2015, I realized just how much joy music brings to my life. As my love for music continued to grow, I decided to create a publication that serves as an outlet to share stories told through life's grandest medium.

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