I had the absolute honor of sitting down with Charlotte Sands over Zoom to talk about her journey with music, “Dress” exploding on TikTok, moving on from your crappy ex and way more. You can watch the interview here, but you can also read it below.
I am so excited to have Charlotte Sands with me! First off, I just want to say congrats on the release of your EP, Special! It has seriously been one of the only things I’ve been listening to and it’s on a playlist I have called, “repeat.” But we’ll get more into that later.
CS : Thank you so much, I’m so glad you like it. That means so much to me.
Bangers. Been playing it on my radio show almost every single week. People are probably getting annoyed with me.
CS : Hey! They have to put up with it. Too bad.
How did you start creating music?
CS : So I’ve been making music since I was really young. Luckily, I grew up with like two kind of creative parents. My dad was in rock bands when he was in his twenties in New York City, and that’s how him and my mom met. And she was doing theater and like all that kind of stuff, so I’ve been around artistic people, luckily. So when I was really young, I would basically just sit with my dad and learn how to play guitar and listen to him play and like always try to sing with him whenever he was doing stuff and learning how to record, all that kind of stuff. It was just kind of how we connected and bonded. I’ve just kind of done it since I was really young, I don’t remember not singing and not making music, even when it was so bad. I’ve been doing it for a really long time. It’s been like the only thing I’ve ever been good at, somewhat.
Not me, I have no musical talent. I just said this in an interview recently, I did drum lessons and everything when I was little, but I just wanted to rock out. I didn’t want to learn the basics anymore, so I ended up quitting.
CS : I totally get it. Drums were one of my first instruments I ever learned. And I loved it, but yeah, you got to stick with it! It’s hard.
Personally, I was raised on the Backstreet Boys on one side and then, I don’t know if you know, the Barenaked Ladies, but that was like the range of music I was raised on. And that definitely had a huge influence on my music taste. Do you think that the music you were raised on had an influence on your own personal style?
CS : Absolutely! I was just like you, in the sense of like, I was originally raised by my parents on Bonnie Raitt, Grace Potter, Cheryl Crow, all these really incredible women, female songwriters and musicians. Like Alison Krauss, all these super folky storytellers. So I originally found music and it was all that, all super acoustic stuff, all really really really high quality lyricism. Then, when I was in middle and high school, I found All Time Low, Mayday Parade and all these bands where I’m like, “Wait, this makes me want to break into a show and go see them,” which was like a complete different relationship, connection and energy I had towards music. It like went from me being like, “Ugh, this is beautiful and artistic” to being like, “Hell yeah, this is sick! I want to be front row at this show.” So, I think that 100% because of those two opposite genres, that have a lot of similarities and it’s still high quality lyrics on both sides. But for me, I was like how do I make a song that can be played on just a guitar and be as good as a song that is written by Bonnie Raitt or someone incredible, which I will never meet, I will never be able to be that good. That would be my goal. But then also be able to put on a show and make people feel the energy and the way that I felt when listening to those other bands that got me hyped up. Cause I’m a performer in the sense that I want to put on a show, I don’t want to sit in a chair. So I have been forever trying to find that weird middle ground of both those things.
I think that’s why I like your music so much because it’s like exactly that. I think the first “emo” band I got into was Sleeping With Sirens.
CS : Oh my god, incredible, yes!
So I think that says a lot about me today.
CS : Yes! That is a compliment!
So like I mentioned earlier, your EP Special just came out a little bit over a month ago. What was the experience writing and releasing your debut EP?
CS : Honestly, it was so crazy because I didn’t originally plan on releasing it as an EP. I just wanted to release it as all singular songs. Then, I kind of got this point on the last few songs where I realized that they all had a lot of similarities in the sense that I was talking about the same relationships and I was talking about the same experiences. It was kind of like almost every song felt like a different side of the same story to me. The happiness, and then the jealousy, and then the moving on, but then the not being over it. Every single song kind of felt like every phase that I went through during the last year of my life. So I decided that this is kind of a cool chapter to close and to move into a different narrative. It just felt really cool because it’s so different and I think all the songs are so different than each other. I think that genre is kind of dead, in the sense that I don’t ever want to be in one genre box, seeing as the fact that I want to release a folk album one day. I want to release a crazy metal album one day. I want to release a country album, like I want to be able to do all of that. I think that with me, I’m trying to release stuff that makes people see that I could be moving in any of those directions, not just like one thing, you know. So I’m excited about it. I’m really thrilled that it’s out in the world and it’s being received the way that it is because I’m glad that people connect with it. That’s the most important thing to me is that people feel represented and connection to it.
I absolutely love it, and I agree. They all do sound different but they work very very well together.
CS : Thank you so much.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard your music before?
CS : Ugh, that’s so tough. I feel so weird always talking about what my genre is or what my sound is because I feel like if you say that you’re pop, automatically people think of tropical, top 40’s, like Ariana Grande pop. But then if I say, I don’t ever want to call myself punk because it’s almost disrespectful to actual punk music, you know. But I think that I’m a weird clash of 2000’s pop punk kind of stuff with also a little more classy folky lyricism, I guess. I think that’s what I’m trying to do at least, I don’t know if it’s working.
No, it’s working, it’s definitely working.
CS : Ok, good! But I guess even in the live show aspect, it’s like a show with the energy of a pop punk band, but the songs are able to live in either a pop world or an alternative world. So I’m just trying to play all those fields.
The song “Dress,” basically a stand against Candence Owens, can you explain the inspiration behind the song and how it came to be?
CS : Absolutely. Yeah, it’s a hilarious story. It basically all started even before everything with the Harry Styles Vogue cover. I was having a conversation with my best friend, Danen Reed, who is another one of the writers on it. Basically he produced every single song I’ve had out, he wrote “Special” with me and he’s also my drummer, he’s the best. Shoutout Danen Reed! Before that whole session, we were having a conversation because he was talking to me and was like “Charlotte, it’s so funny over the years how much your type has changed. You used to like these guys would like get into fights and had to like prove their masculinity and confidence to you. And now you like won’t date a guy if he doesn’t paint his nails.” It was like so funny because I didn’t even realize it at the time that my complete definition of confidence has changed so much over the last few years. And how I perceive someone as confident and how I feel confident, just the fact that I now see confidence as feeling free to dress however you want and be whoever you want to be and live your authentic life. Confidence to go against the norm is, I think, more attractive to me than just going with it, you know. It’s changed so much and it’s shifted, which I’m happy about. I’m really glad I’m not dating those same people. We were talking about that and then we went into the session and the whole magazine cover and the whole reaction of Candence Owens happened. We went into the session and I was just laughing because I was like, “I can’t believe this is still a conversation.” It’s like fabric, and she’s like up in arms saying that our civilization is going to be brought down because somebody decided to wear more fabric. Like it’s just so insane to me. Not to dull down the actual issues in our society that are there unfortanutely, but it seemed like such a stupid conversation. I was like, “Would you just mind your own business? And just let people live the way they want to live. It doesn’t affect anybody.” So we were kind of just talking about it, and then Danen was like, “Yeah, what if we’re just like talking about a guy wearing a dress? Like it’s like Harry Styles wearing a dress or like YungBlud or like any of these guys that are right now, currently in music going against the gender norms.” We wrote “Dress” and our whole goal was to make it as casual as possible, in a way that most people wouldn’t even grasp the fact that it was even about a guy for like a while into it. I was like I want people who disagree with the subject matter to like the song before they even realize what it’s about, that they’re forced to support it without understanding it. Trick them into agreeing with this because it seemed so normal, so casual, so conversational that they’ll be like, “Wait OK, it’s actually not that big of a deal.” You know? So that was kind of our goal, to make it such a fun, catchy song that even people who didn’t want to listen to it were like forced to listen to it. And then have to question their actual opinions and views because of it. That was my only goal and we had so much fun. It’s been such an insane reaction from people and it’s been really special because I think for the first time in my songs, people were able to get a part of my personality and who I am as a person and my views, instead of just me as an artist. It was like me as a human being, mixed with me as an artist. Being able to do that and show that is super rare in music and I think it’s super special. So I’m just really grateful that people cared and took me under their wing.
So that song is actually how I found you on TikTok. [Dress] obviously blew up on TikTok and a lot came from that. Do you want to talk about that also a little bit?
CS : Absolutely. Yeah, that was such an incredible insane experience. It’s also just so funny because I was so new to TikTok when that happened. I was like one of the people who was pushing it off. I was like, “Please can we just pretend this is a phase and it’s gonna go away?” It’s not like something I’m going to have to create content for all the time because I just didn’t understand it at first. I didn’t have it and I was avoiding the whole platform. But, I had a conversation with my manager and she was like, “Charlotte, you just have to do it, you just have to make videos for it and put your music out there. Give people a chance to like it and feel represented. You deserve that and they deserve that.” It was this whole conversation where I basically just cried and was like, “I don’t want to make videos on an app. I don’t want to do this, I have so much stuff to do. This feels so stressful and irrelevant.” And then, I take it all back because the third or something video that I posted, a week after I was crying about it, ended up being just a teaser of that demo. Me not knowing how TikTok worked, not thinking anything was going to happen, all the sudden was at Thanksgiving with my Mom, looking at my phone like, “I wonder if like 500,000 views is a lot in an hour,” you know what I mean. I was sitting there like I don’t know what is happening, but it’s probably not a big deal because this stuff happens all the time, whatever. But it ended up being an insane experience because the coolest part was like, I’m 24, so I grew up where like if you put anything on the Internet, if you post any vulnerability, any songs of yours, anything like that, you get automatically bullied and rejected for it. It just never felt like a positive place for me, it always felt like a place you were being judged and you were being bullied or harassed in some sense. I’ve always kind of avoided doing that kind of stuff, and I think that’s why I was avoiding TikTok for a while. It was insane because there was like 14,000 comments on that video and I’ve liked and replied to like every single comment, and there’s not a single negative one. I’ve never experienced anything like that where there can be such a large group of people who are genuinely all spreading positivity and love towards each other and just supporting me, but also supporting this movement and this view. And just supporting authenticity and all these really really wonderful things. It was just so unexpected, I thought that maybe my mom would see it and my sister would be like, “Good job!” and that was it. It ended up being this incredible incredible thing that I was able to meet so many people and connect with so many people. We ended up releasing the song like a week later because we were just like whatever, we’ll just do it, you know, people are asking for it. It’s been crazy, it’s been the coolest thing ever. Like not being able to have shows as an artist where my favorite part of the whole entire music thing is performing, that’s been a really hard part of the year. So being able to have this kind of interaction, even though it’s on social media, actually being able to interact with new people, and meet new people and make friends and have this thing that connects us, has been the one thing saving me during this year and making me feel normal. Yeah, it’s been really incredible, I feel really lucky.
TikTok is insane with artists blowing up like left and right on there. Which is awesome, it’s amazing that we have this platform now. It’s how I find a lot of my music recently as well. All the new artists I’ve been listening to, all TikTok.
CS : Yep! And I know, it’s so funny how I’m like the complete opposite. I’m like I love it. I’ve met so many people. It’s the one app where I’ve realized people actually transfer over to other apps. People will find you on TikTok and actually go to your Instagram, actually go to my Spotify, actually go do all this work. And no other app, I just feel like people would leave it. Like they are actually looking to find connections, actually looking to find people they like and looking to find music they like, and support people and support each other. It’s just like a really wonderful community, at least my little bubble algorithm is. I know it’s crazy out there in the world, so still be safe, but for me, it’s been nothing but sunshine and rainbows.
I only downloaded it because I wanted to watch my 16 year old sister’s TikToks because she has a lot of followers on there, so I just wanted to watch that. Then I got slowly sucked in and now I can’t stop watching TikToks.
CS : Yeah, same. Me everyday.
What is your songwriting process normally like? Do you go in with just the lyrics first or a song idea? Or how does it all work?
CS : Honestly, it’s a little different each time. For me, all of my songs are from very specific things happening, every word in every song of mine is the truth. I feel like I’m not the kind of person who can just sing about stuff I don’t know, or sing about things I’m not experiencing or haven’t experienced. It doesn’t feel authentic to me in any sense. I feel like every single thing that I’ve written, it either comes from me having a drunken voice memo or something from the night before, or some sort of idea written down when I was just in a conversation or random things like that. I’ll just always kind of be writing, I can’t ever switch it off. Like I’ll be at a Whole Foods and someone will say something, and I’ll be like, “Oh my god, I have to record that!” It’s so weird and creepy. I do that a lot for song ideas. Honestly, a majority of the time I’ll go into a session and will try and build a track, try and produce just an idea of something of where we want the energy to go, if we want it to be upbeat or how we’re feeling in the room and if I’m in a good mood or a bad mood or whatever the vibe is. We’ll just try and build something and a lot of the time I just sing random stuff until something comes out that I like or that sounds good. It almost feels like my brain is subconsciously venting and its stuff I’m not even trying to be cool, it just is how I feel. That’s when I feel it’s the most vulnerable and most honest. Then we just roll with it. I’m just weird, I’ll just like sing random words in random melodies for however long and then just pick whatever things I like. Obviously I have co-writers and collaborators who do the same and help me weed through all of it. But yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing. Even the song “Special,” that the EP is named after, was like literally I was sitting in my car crying and a voice memo from that song is me being like, “Now you’re calling me up almost every single week.” And literally writing random stuff and the next day being like, “Oh my god this sounds so bad.” But then being like, “Maybe we can work with it a little bit and tweek it.” So I’ll just do random stuff like that.
I like that. Hey, if it works, it works.
CS : Whatever works, you gotta do that.
I need to ask about a lyric that literally just fits with the music perfectly, because I need to know how it came to be. In “Sweatshirt” you sing, “Woke up in the morning, you gave me something to wear home. Said it was your favorite from college in Colorado.” How did you get that to work so well? Because it is so catchy and just fits perfectly.
CS : That is so nice, thank you so much. Honestly, this sounds so weird, but when I grew up, my brother listened to a lot of rap music. The first time I ever started writing was honestly when I would just mess around with like kind of rap-y stuff. I would never say I could rap, because I can’t. But the lyricism of it, I was always so infatuated by the cleverness of rap music and rap lyrics and just how many syllables they would fit and rhymes and all that stuff. So I feel like I’ve always been the person who is like, we will fit as many rhymes and syllables and alliterations and everything into every sentence that I possibly can, which is sometimes way too much. I’m the kind of person where I need internal rhymes, I need rhymes all the time. It’s just how my brain works in the sense where I just think it’s one of the only things that I find kind of easy, just finding weird internal rhymes and be able to fit syllables and stuff like that. Sometimes it’s just way too much and I just need to kill it because I go overboard. That song was written so quickly. I actually had the idea for it. I had a Zoom session and I was with Megan Redmond, who wrote on that song with me, and someone else who ended up just not showing up to the Zoom session. And I was like, “Hey, Megan. This sounds like a really weird idea, but I realize that my whole entire closet, every single sweatshirt that’s in there is from a different ex. And I still wear them all the time because they fit really well, because I always wear XL sweatshirts. But I don’t want to get rid of them but I kinda feel weird that I’m holding onto them.” I was like, “Do you think that’s weird?” Then for like the next 15 minutes, we sat there and started writing that song, ended up coming back with Danen and getting another session in and figuring it out. But it fell out, it was one of those things where it just felt super natural. It was just, “gave me something to wear home.”
It works so well, it really does.
CS : Thank you so much. I always feel like I sound weird when I sing, like I’m in it and I’m doing, “Colorado.”
I sing it the same way in my car, so I think everyone does.
CS : Oh my god, thank you. I’m glad you’re with me on that.
Do you find it hard to be open and honest in your lyrics, knowing that the person in the situation that you wrote that song about, it’s going to be out in the open for not only that person, but everyone?
CS : Yeah, honestly, I go back and forth so much because for “Dream About You,” that song is literally the most descriptively honest song I’ve ever written I think. I mean, a lot of them are for different reasons. But that one specifically, that exact situation that I’m writing about was happening while I was writing that. Literally, not to give you too much information, but had just broken up with my ex, was kind of hanging out with this other person, woke up at their house and it was the first time I realized I didn’t feel guilty about it. That I kind of felt guilty because I didn’t feel guilty, you know what I mean. I was like I feel bad that I don’t feel bad about being here. I literally walked into the kitchen while he was sleeping, and recorded, “Laying in a bed with somebody else, hoping if my head’s on his chest it’ll keep my mind off you.” And that whole song, every detail in it is from that morning and that day. I went into a session later that day and we wrote that song. I didn’t put that out for an extra few months because I was so scared that my ex would hear it, which he would, and know that I was seeing someone else and that I was over him because the song is literally I don’t dream about you anymore. It really hurt my heart a lot to do that, but then I got to a point where I was like I think about the person who could potentially be going through the same thing at the same time. And the fact that them hearing the fact that I’m going through it at the same time, could help relieve any of that, and help them know that they’re not alone in those emotions in that moment. I was like that’s more important to me than his. Like, no offense, but me being able to be any sort of translator of emotions and make anybody feel a little less sad or lonely in any way, that’s my responsibility as a writer and as an artist and I owe that to them more than I do to my ex, or any guy. Sorry, but yeah that’s my priority and those are the people I want to affect. I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where if I am worried about hurting people’s feelings or doing any of that, then I’m not going to create the most honest art I possibly can. You kind of just have to let go of people’s expectations and judgement and comments, you know. You just have to completely let go and say, “This is what I’m doing. This is who I am. This is how I feel. My feelings are valid. You can disagree with them, but they’re still my feelings and I’m allowed to feel them and I’m allowed to write about them and be honest.” People deserve honesty, you know. Just kind of let it go and I definitely have a lot of hilarious phone calls and texts after every song I wrote gets released, consistently. There was one song where I had four people text me afterwards and ask if it was about them, which I’ll always say no because I want everyone to never think they’re important enough to write a song about just because they broke my heart. Like, no I would never! It’s always kind of scary, but you just gotta do it. You just gotta rip off the bandaid and just be yourself and let everything else go, you know.
Good life lesson in general, not just about music, just in general.
CS : Thank you, I’m here.
I know it’s only April, but what has been your favorite releases this year besides your own music?
CS : Oh, that’s a great question. Honestly, anything All Time Low, they just released another song that’s so good. I feel like everything I’m about to say is technically last year.
Last year, that’s where my brain’s at right now.
CS : I know. I honestly don’t even know where I am, or who I am, or what year it is. I’m still confused. But, I love the new Julia Michaels’ song that is like the, I wish all your exes were dead, one. I think that song is sick. She’s one of my favorite writers. Yeah, I don’t know. I listen to such old music that I feel like I’m always behind in the cool things. I would say those two. All Time Low and Julia Michaels.
I feel like I’m still in my emo phase. I feel like quarantine put me back in it, which isn’t bad because now I’m listening to all these bands that I listened to in middle school, all their new releases. Some of them are good, some of them are horrible.
CS : Absolutely. No, it’s so funny. We’re all going to come out of quarantine and see all the people we haven’t seen in so long and they’re gonna be like, “Why are you wearing black eyeliner?” And I’m going to be like, “I’ve been doing this for a year.”
I’m in public time, time to tone it down.
CS : They’re like, “No, no, no, that was a phase.” It’s like, no mom! It was never a phase!
Exactly, we’re going to be going through that again.
CS : She’s like, “Oh god here we go, I thought we were done with this Charlotte.”
Exactly! My sister, I think in the beginning of quarantine, she’s 16, she was like, “I’m so glad you’re not emo anymore.”
CS : And now you’re like, “Uhhhh….”
She described me as her “emo sister” for like a very big chunk of time.
CS : Honestly, that’s a huge compliment.
I know! I was like, “Thank you!”
CS : Good! Run with it! I love it.
Besides music, what else are you passionate about?
CS : That’s a great question. I always get asked about hobbies and stuff and I literally every time feel like I make stuff up because I feel like I don’t have any hobbies. I don’t know what it is. I know I should have hobbies because it’s probably not healthy to have all your eggs in one basket, in that sense. I love reading, I do love reading a lot. I feel like I only finish ¾ of every book, which is a problem. I always finish ¾ of a book, but then recommend them to everybody as if I finished them. I’m so weird. I’m passionate about animals. I’m fostering a dog right now. That’s been more than a hobby for me, it’s like taking up so much more time and energy than I was expecting. But he is so cute, he’s like a little pitbull puppy and he’s ruining my life, but I love him so much. If anyone’s looking to adopt a dog, let me know! But yeah, I don’t know. I need to go find hobbies because every single time I’m like, I don’t know. But overall, as a person, I would say I’m passionate about women, equality, you know. I’m passionate about people feeling respected and supported. Positivity. There we go, that’s my slogan now.
Put that on new merch, just that.
CS : Women! Equality! Energy! They’re like, “What is she talking about?”
I’d buy it!
CS : I would buy that shirt, for sure.
What do you hope people take away from listening to your music?
CS : I hope that people feel like our differences and what makes us different are celebrated. I think I hope that people know that nobody’s normal, like there is no normal. And that we should be celebrating the things that make us weird and we should be celebrating our fact that we’re able to be emotional people and we’re able to be rollercoasters of emotions. And that that’s really normal and it’s not weird. Just the concept of that like perfect as a person and as a life, just like doesn’t exist and there’s different levels of that we should be reaching for instead of just like one whole idea. I just want people to feel really safe and protected and respected and represented and know that they at least have one person out there that cares about them. And I think that probably doesn’t get through on maybe a lot of the songs that are just about shitty relationships, but that’s my goal, at least for the future, is to create more music that just makes people feel loved in some sense and makes them want to celebrate and be happy and you know, be around each other and spread positivity in every aspect. Yeah, I think the biggest thing is that I grew up listening to music, I was listening to 2000s pop punk music. The reason I loved it so much was because it made me feel like I had a group of people out there that listen to the same music, that we’re just as weird as me, just as misunderstood as me and didn’t fit in in the ways that I didn’t as well. It gave me hope that one day I would be able to find that tribe of people. So I hope that people listen to music and know that they also have a tribe and they also have a group of people out there that feel the same way that they do, and so do I. I’m pack leader, I got you guys. You’re not alone in your issues and in your problems and in your life. As long as people feel that way, that’s all I care about.
I definitely, definitely think your music does that, at least for me. Can’t speak for everyone!
CS : That makes me so happy.
Is there anything else you want to add? Where can people find you and your music?
CS : All I would like to add is, hang in there. It’s been a really tough year, but we’re going to be back to live music soon. We already have tours and stuff that we’re talking about that I’m really excited about. And it’s all going to be okay, so just hang in there and like be happy. You know, give yourself a little love and an extra squeeze today because you deserve it. Did you say where can they find my music? Everywhere. You can find it on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal, YouTube, wherever. We now have two music videos up right now on YouTube as well. I’m super excited because one is in the back of a Uhaul, so go check that out, if you want to!
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to sit and talk with me today!
CS : Oh my god, of course. Thank you for letting me! It’s honestly a privilege. I’m glad that you care about me!
Cover Photo: Charlotte Sands by Jacqueline Day
Written By: McCaeley O’Rourke