We interviewed singer-songwriter Charlotte Carpenter about her first-ever album ‘A Modern Rage’, out everywhere now! You can read all about her creative process, her struggles with self-doubt and anger, her journey to womanhood, and the hardships she experienced with an autocratic male producer in the article below.
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Tell us a bit about yourself. How did your journey with music begin?
I guess it started when I was 14. I was writing a lot, short stories and poetry mostly and some of them seemed quite dark, which didn’t feel very unusual. It felt like a relief to have an outlet for my imagination. I started learning a few piano chords at school in music and slowly learned I’d found a place for my poetry to exist. I then got a guitar for Christmas that year and became utterly obsessed with other women playing the guitar. I studied Popular Music at University and by the time I graduated I knew I wanted to give this a real good go. I haven’t stopped since, and that’s now been 11 years.
What are some of your artistic influences?
It’s shape-shifting all the time depending on my mood, but I can always find inspiration from Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Maggie Rogers, Jack White, Brandi Carlile, Alabama Shakes, and Bonnie Raitt.
What’s your creative process like? How do you write or come up with a melody? And can you talk to us about the visuals of the album, how did you come up with those?
I’m always trying to push my creative process, to see what comes out if I try it in a slightly different way. My go-to is guitar, playing through some chords and humming along, waiting to see what my subconscious might deliver, but last year I bought a piano for the house and that’s changed things. I’m finding myself writing more melodies as a starting point, and singing them into my notes when I’m out and about, and then I go home to the keys and find the chords and that feels really exciting for me, sometimes starting with chords on a guitar can feel limiting. I’m very much in a phase of my life where I just want to try new instruments and sounds and see what causes the spark to happen.
The visuals for the album were a collaboration between the photographer Esme Buxton and me. We sat down in what felt like a therapy session, and I shared the stories and experiences behind the album. I knew I wanted something with space, but I also wanted something with a sharp focus and intent. We agreed for such a meaningful record, the visuals had to carry the same weight so every single thing you see from the front cover is there for a reason. The open space represents my need for it, the oversized suit is a metaphor for my growth and the fact that I am still growing into the woman I want to become. The fact that I’m turning myself away from those cowboy boots is pretty literal; it’s an object from my past that once held a significance but by me turning away from it, it signifies my movement away from it and onto better things. There has been a lot of self-discovery and growth, and I think you can see it.
Why did you title the album “A Modern Rage”?
“A Modern Rage” is a lyric taken from the penultimate song on the album, ‘Draw The Line” and when I wrote that line, I knew I’d found my title. Similar to the album as a whole, It perfectly encapsulates my journey into womanhood, and the realisation that everything I was feeling or struggling with wasn’t only mine. My sisters have felt the same, my best friends, my mum, my wife, my grandmothers. The things that happen to us because we are women or things we feel because of that are not solitary. Only now, and in recent years, do we have the vocabulary and discourse to understand the things which happen to us. So, A Modern Rage, is ironic really, because these struggles are nothing new, but when you feel them for the first time, they can.
There’s this current discourse on social media about how rage and anger are things that women have been taught to suppress all their lives. Do you believe that your album embodies that feeling, in a way?
I can talk from experience that I struggle with anger and rage. I don’t know what to do with it, it ends up manifesting into something smaller, or emotional, something less frightening and that’s because, unknowingly, my anger has been suppressed for a very long time. I think women have been encouraged to be likable, pleasant, and nice for generations and that’s made us filter ourselves, and suppress very real emotions into something more pleasant for other people to have to see. Something which is easier to control, to somebody else’s benefit. I’ve had to unlearn that being angry isn’t something to be ashamed of, and you can hear in this album, especially in songs like Spinning Plates. Beautiful things can come out of being angry.
You speak openly about what you went through with your previous producer. Can you talk to us about your experience with abuse of power and discrimination within the industry?
It’s often the case that you don’t know what you’re experiencing until you’re out of it, and that’s what happened to me. It was a very dark realisation that came with a lot of self-doubt and self-blame. In my situation, I was always very quick to take the role of the responsible person, looking for answers, reasons, and solutions to the other person’s behaviour rather than just calling it for what it was. I didn’t speak up when I should have, I was too fearful of the consequences, and that’s not a good place for any good relationship of any kind. I really hope that when other young artists have a bad day in a studio, they ask themselves why. The more we can share with each other, the more safe spaces we can help create for future generations.
There are a few different themes in this album. Can you talk about those?
You’re right, there’s a lot. It’s a treasure chest of a journey into womanhood, and even more broadly adult life. Turning 30 was a big milestone, and a lot of these songs reflect specific moments, like losing my grandparents and falling in love. There’s a lot of human experience in this record, in some songs I’m questioning our role in a technology-driven world, and in another, I’m exploring the dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship. I like to think there’s a song in there for everyone.
You show a multitude of raw emotions in the album. Was this a cathartic experience for you?
I’ve always been able to make sense of myself by writing songs, but interestingly, making my debut album had a slightly different effect. I found that I was left with more questions than answers about myself, I mostly felt this before the first single went out. I became very aware that what I was about to share was very vulnerable, and I felt a real sense of fear for the first time. My music had never made me feel that way before, and I realised that writing about my life wasn’t the best coping mechanism for me anymore. It made me see that I had some work to do, to fully let go of past experiences and be ready for what was coming next.
Would you say that this album shows your growth not only as an artist but as a human being?
YES. I’ve never felt more growing pains than when I was writing and recording this album, and I feel like a totally different person because of it. But I would like to add, that even though there have been experiences which caused a lot of pain and self-doubt, I have also never been more proud of myself. I can see the journey, and the roads travelled to take me here, with all of its twists and turns. But I can equally see how much love I have around me, and for that, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Is there any meaning to the order of the tracklist? I found it quite remarkable how you began the album with “The Call”, which I understood in a sense as a cry for help, and you finished on “Bigger than You” which is filled with both melancholia and hope.
The tracklisting took me ages, so I’m happy with this question! From the very start, It was really important to me to have a mix of light and shade to the tracklisting. I didn’t want it to ever feel too dark, or too heavy for long. I always wanted the listener to be able to have a brief moment of clarity or energy amongst a deeply personal set of songs. The other important choice we made was that the opening track and the very last were always going to be solo performances with little to no production. I wanted to set a certain tone, with the opening track “The Call” as a dark, broody, understated moment of just me and my guitar, really taking it back to basics and letting my vocal melody be at the front and center. In terms of meaning, there’s a huge matriarch theme to the album; and the last “Bigger Than You” are both written for my Mum, who is the strongest woman I know. No matter how much grief life can throw at you, there is always hope.
Do you have a favourite track on the album? Or one that makes you particularly emotional?
You’re My Reason Why, Dolores, and Bigger Than You are my favourite songs because each of them represents some sort of new territory for me; I can really hear that I’ve pushed myself when writing and recording them. YMRW is a song I’ve always wanted to write. Dolores is a 7-minute beast where I really challenged my songwriting capabilities, it really gave me some proof I can be far more imaginative with melodies and lyrics than I have been previously. Bigger Than You was the first song I’d written on the piano, and I really didn’t think I’d be equipped enough to record it live, but she’s there, and she’s meaningful and imperfect – which I love.
You’ve released the song “Not Good Enough” as a single, and it’s also a documentary. Why did you choose to create a documentary and what was that process like? How did you like working alongside the director, Fraser West?
I felt as though Not Good Enough deserved some context and even though I felt quite vulnerable throughout the process of filming the documentary, I thought there might be other people out there who have been undermined or in a similar situation, and maybe by watching this they would perhaps feel a little less alone. Maybe I wanted to feel less alone. It’s important to me to share the setbacks as well as the things that have propelled me because then it paints a more realistic picture of my life and the experiences I’ve gone through to make the music you hear today. I’ve worked with Fraser West on a few projects now, and he is one of the most patient people I’ve ever met. He is so respectful of the songs and always manages to capture something meaningful. There’s so much intention behind his work. I’ve loved working with him.
What does the future have in store for you?
I’m heading out on a full band headline tour throughout November 2023, and I’m planning on playing as much as I can in 2024 too, and hopefully sharing A Modern Rage with as many new people as possible. I want to start writing pretty soon because I don’t want my second album to be too far behind this one.
If like us you’re dying to see Charlotte live, run to her website and get your ticket here!
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Charlotte Carpenter, we sure did. If you want to discover more queer artists, check out our interview with TOMI.
Love Team Nonchalant xx
Last Updated on 24th November 2023 by Nonchalant Magazine