Singer/songwriter Charlotte Morris is a young and up-and-coming artist that you’re going to want to pay attention to. I got the chance to talk with her about how she got started making music, her new single “You Got My Heart”, some goals she has for career in the next couple of years and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
Music has always been a huge part of my life and a huge part of my family life. My parents were always playing folk music or musical theatre on long car rides, and they really encouraged my sister and I to explore music. My musical exploration started in classical music, actually, when I began playing violin at age 4. I studied violin for about 11 years and during that time picked up piano, guitar (plus a few more instruments that aren’t as prevalent in my music) and I started singing. I also found musical theatre during that time, which is still a huge part of my life (I’m actually in San Antonio, Texas right now doing a theatrical production of Once). For a while, I was kind of all over the board, studying classically, performing in school plays and then writing my own music at home – really just trying to do it all. But in high school, when I realized how important it was to me that I could express myself through my own songs, and realized how much one song could affect a person — that was a game-changer.
Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
It’s been a long journey to get to where I am right now, fully throwing myself into pursuing music. In high school, I really focused on music for a while. I was recording stuff in Philadelphia (where I grew up) and was flying back and forth to LA working with a producer out there. But, at the time, I wasn’t ready to fully commit. The LA producer wanted me to move to California once I graduated from high school, but I was already set on going to college at Northwestern in Chicago. The right choice for me at the time was to go to college, and so music was put on the back burner for a while. I’m so glad I chose the path I did though, because 1) I learned so much about myself in college, which has only made my writing better and 2) I learned so much about songwriting and the structure of writing through The Waa-Mu Show at Northwestern. Working on Waa-Mu taught me all these different techniques and tricks to convey what I want to convey through song. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t chosen to go to school.
So anyways, it actually wasn’t until after I graduated from college and moved to New York City in the summer of 2017 that I realized how badly I wanted to pursue music. When I moved, it was the biggest change I’d ever experienced. I no longer had any structure and I was moving to a city where I only knew a hand full of people. It was terrifying. And the only way I could get through it, and deal with the changes my life was going through, was through songwriting. I started writing furiously that summer, and that fall, as I realized how many new songs I had, and how much they meant to me – that’s when I was like, “of course. I need to put this music out. I want to be singing this music for anyone who will listen”. That’s when I started putting together my debut EP, To New York, with love.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. You classify your sound as folk/rock/pop, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
I always have a pretty hard time describing my music by genre, just because I don’t think it necessarily fits into some of the boxes that genres create. So, I really like to describe my music as “authentic” and “genuine”. All of my songs are auto-biographical. I’m always writing about what is actually happening in my life, and in the world around me. So when I’m singing one of my songs, I’m truly putting my heart out on the stage. I think that I’m better at expressing myself through song than through speech, and so my music is a continuation of myself. It’s who I am and it’s basically documenting my life as I live it. It’s an authentic telling of me.
Kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
Because folk music was so prevalent in my house growing up, a lot of those artists are still my biggest inspirations: Peter, Paul and Mary; Simon and Garfunkel; Judy Collins; Joni Mitchell…That music is still a huge part of my life. For the past year and a half, I’ve been touring the country as a part of the Lonesome Traveler band. Basically, we play a show of the history of folk music (starting with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and going up through Woodstock & beyond — Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, etc.). For most of our shows, we have one of the folk legends with us as a guest performer. Mainly it’s Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary), but I have also performed with Noel Paul Stookey (also of PPM), Tom Chapin and George Grove (of The Kingston Trio). That experience alone has been crazy influential in my writing of the last year.
There are, of course, a ton of current artists that are huge inspirations for me: Delta Rae, Brandi Carlile, Liz Longley, Maren Morris, Maggie Rogers… to name just a few.
I’m really excited by the female artists that are gaining popularity right now. It’s really important to me to support female artists, and it also always gives me inspiration and encouragement if I’m feeling down, or hard on myself that day.
Let’s talk about your new single, “You Got My Heart”. What’s the story behind this song
So as I said before, all of my songs are really auto-biographical. When I wrote this song, I was in a relationship with a man who had moved out of New York City. We were trying to make things work long distance, but, as you can tell from the song, it wasn’t going so well. I felt like I was giving my everything to make it work; I was constantly concerned about how he was doing, and how he was handling some tough parts of his life. Looking back at it, I really lost a bit of myself at the time, because I was putting him first in every situation and not taking care of myself. But anyways, I felt like I wasn’t getting the same effort back from him. Which, I think is a worry that a lot of people face in newer relationships or relationships that are going through a rough patch – that question of “do I care more about us than they do?”. It’s a really shitty feeling and that doubt eats away at you. I needed a way to express that confusion, even though I was still very much in love and trying to make things work.
The end product of “You Got My Heart” turned out exactly as I imagined it. If you just listen to the music, it sounds like an upbeat, sunshine-y pop song. Musically, it’s a song that I would play while driving during the summer, with all the windows rolled down and the music blasting. But when you listen to the lyrics, it’s truly not a happy song. It’s filled with a lot of doubt and frustration. It perfect encapsulates the internal struggle I was going through, which is why I love the dichotomy that’s created in the music vs. lyrics. It’s unexpected but hits home with a lot of people struggling in similar situations.
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into what it was like specifically for this song?
My songwriting process changes song to song. Sometimes a lyrics pops into my head in the middle of the day, I’ll stick it in a note in my phone, and then create something based off of that later. Sometimes a melody comes first. Sometimes, I’ll just be sitting down with my guitar and it’ll all come at once. But with ‘You Got My Heart’, the concept of ‘Do I really have you?’ came first. That was the question that was constantly nagging at me, and from there I found the chorus, and then worked my way to the verses.
Do you tend to write by yourself or do you like collaborating with other writers and artists in co-writes?
I typically write by myself. My songs are so personal, so when I’m first figuring them out, it’s a lot easier and honestly, safer, for me to be alone in my room, struggling with how to aptly express my feelings. I typically have to sit on a song for a while before I feel comfortable playing it for other people because they are all so close to my heart; they’re all my feelings spilled out on the page.
I do love collaborating, though. I just haven’t found the right person in New York yet. In college, a lot of the writing I did was done in groups; it was a very collaborative environment. I just haven’t found that community yet in New York.
Was there any major changes to “You Got My Heart” that happened once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
I feel like everything changed when we got into the studio [laughs]! In reality, this song actually got changed the least, compared to other ones that I was recording at the time. We tweaked a few lyrics in the pre-choruses and changed some of the chords to make it a more interesting progression. But other than that, it stayed pretty similar to how I brought it in.
The reason I say that I feel like everything changed is because Mitch Dane (at Sputnik Sound Studio in Nashville) just added so much life to the track. We talked about the song, and I explained what I was going through, and then he was able to find the perfect balance with me, the band, everything… he brought what was stuck in my head into the real world. Mitch really highlighted that contrast between music and lyrics, and made it the dance along track that it is, while still maintaining the struggle in the lyrics.
Now that you’ve got this new single out, any plans for a new EP or full length project anytime soon?
I’ve been going back to Mitch and Sputnik Sound and recording more. I have 5 tracks with him now, and I’m hoping to get back there in the fall to finish a full album. It all depends on whether I can raise the necessary money though. I’m hoping to laugh a fundraising campaign this summer, and from there, I’ll figure out what I think is do-able.
You’re still relatively new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
I’m really hoping to put out a full length album, for sure. I released my EP almost a year ago, and since then have just been doing singles, so getting a full project out would be amazing. I definitely need to remind myself sometimes, though, that it’s not race. I really have only been pursuing music professionally for about a year now. I started working on my EP about a year and a half ago, but I didn’t actually release anything until June 1, 2018. So it hasn’t been long at all.
I would also love to tour with another artist, opening up for someone further along in their career than I am. Right now, I’m actually in the middle of my solo acoustic spring tour, The Detour. It has been an amazing experience, and I’m excited to get back on the road, but I would love to tour with other people, because it gets pretty lonely out on the road [laughs]. But I also want to learn from someone who is maybe 5-7 years ahead of me. I think it would be an amazing opportunity to see what else I could be doing to further my career, see what other goals I should be striving for. Everyone’s path is different, but it’s always helpful to see what steps others have taken.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
Oh man. I feel like I’m always nerding out about so many things. I mean, not to be cliche, but Game of Thrones. WOW. I have definitely been freaking out about that, just like the rest of the world. I feel like so many eras are ending right now… I mean, c’mon, the Marvel universe?! I saw Endgame, and then rewatched all of the Marvel movies in chronological order to see Endgame again. So I guess you could say I’m nerding out about that [laughs]. I just can’t believe this part of Marvel is over! I literally spent my entire teenage years watching those movies; I adore superheroes. I can’t get enough of them. So, definitely, Marvel right now.
I was recently introduced to the band Johnnyswim, and I cannot stop listening to them. Their voices are INSANE. The combination of genres is just amazing, and inspiring. Just ugh, wow. Everyone needs to go listen to them.