As a classically trained pianist, Charlotte Berg grew up surrounded by music, so it’s perhaps of little surprise to find that she’s now making her own way in the industry. Currently preparing for the release of her debut album It’s The Damsel Who Decides and touring across Europe, she kindly took time out of her increasingly busy schedule to chat Missy Higgins, dream shows and social media.
PW: How would you sum yourself and your music up in three words?
Charlotte Berg: What’s up PopWrapped?! Very happy to be here! I’d say adventurous, empathetic and strong.
PW: You studied classical piano from the ages of 8 to 18 but then decided to study medicine before returning to your passion for music. Was there any one particular moment you realised music was what you really wanted to do?
CB: Yes, strangely. Spring break of sophomore year, my sister and I were hanging out in my room and she played me some new music I'd never heard. It was Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins. I'd always loved music and played many different styles, but Missy's lyrics changed its purpose for me. Music suddenly because a vehicle for expression, not just something fun and pretty to listen to. I began writing my own songs then.
PW: Which bands and artists influenced you growing up and have those influences changed much over the years?
CB: Growing up we listened to Mary Chapin Carpenter, Elton John, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel... lots of singer-songwriters. I still listen to singer-songwriters but I also love lots of current bands and more experimental music. I love Wolf Alice, Mitski, The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons. To be honest, I don't have a lot of time to listen to music, so I always feel behind keeping up with things. But when I can, these are the groups that I love and I'm always excited about getting new suggestions.
PW: Can you recall the first album you bought or concert you attended? What impact did they have on you?
CB: My parents took us to see Martin Sexton when I was about 12. Half the people there were high so it was kind of a weird place for a 9 and 12 year old to be, but I remember thinking Martin was so crazy talented. That his voice was out of this world and his songs were so beautiful. Some of the mystique gets lost when you start playing shows yourself, but it was all still there that night.
PW: Is there any band or artist you might say you're at all similar to?
CB: My biggest influence is Missy Higgins so I think our styles are quite similar. I also think some of my stuff sounds like Sarah Blasko's, but she's a genius so I won't compare myself to her!
PW: What made you move to Australia where you teamed up with Miles Fahey to create Char & Miles?
CB: When I was 19, I backpacked through Italy with my sister and we met lots of really fun Aussie's on the trip. We'd stay in hostels and go out with new people most nights. When I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to live somewhere other than the U.S. and I had already studied in Spain and Argentina, so I thought Australia, being an English-speaking country, would be a nice change. I took a backpack with me thinking I'd stay for a year and ended up staying almost three. I already knew I wanted to do music at that point but it took some convincing my mind that it was a good idea because I knew it wouldn't be an easy life.
PW: Was it at all strange moving back to the States after that, or did you feel it was something you just had to do to further your career?
CB: I felt like I needed to move to Nashville, LA, or New York to get any further with my career, but I also missed my family after almost three years away and was tired of the distance. My mind doesn't live in the past, I generally live in the present and future, so I didn't think about Australia much when I moved back. I miss people but I'm too busy now to think about the things that were better there.
Tell me about your upcoming debut album It's The Damsel Who Decides. How did you come up with the title?
CB: I wrote almost all of it in about four months when I first arrived in Nashville. I was only working 15 hours a week and I didn't know anyone, so I just stayed home and played and wrote. I got to work with two incredibly talented Nashville musicians and producers, Tim Grogan and Bobby Holland, and the process was so much smoother and less complicated than I thought it would be. I wrote about 40 songs for it and then picked my favorite 10, and I had all the songs very hashed out by the time I got to the studio. Bobby, Tim and I were very in sync with what we liked and it came out so much better than I had imagined. The title is a line from my song "Right Through You" and I think it sums up what I think about men, women, and life in general.
PW: Do you have a favorite song on the collection and if so which is it and why?
CB: "Turning into Nothing" is my favorite to play. I can always connect with it and it still feels very relevant to me. It describes a wonderful and then horrible night I had and I'm very proud of the lyrics.
PW: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on the subject matter?
CB: I generally find writing the easiest part of being a musician. I don't force myself to write, I only do it when inspired, so I think it comes quite naturally. I think too much so I always have content and I love putting the words together like a puzzle, or letting them come out really simply with no extra struggle so that they just sit there boldly.
PW: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?
CB: There's no way to answer that! Different songs are great in different moments. Many of Missy Higgins’ songs changed my life, as did songs from the Fray and Elton John. When the right song finds the right person in the right moment its magic.
PW: You're currently playing a number of shows in the UK and Sweden. How have they been?
CB: They've been really great. I did The Bedford in Balham this past Thursday which I think was the most beautiful place I've ever played. Theaters are my new favorite venue. I didn't know how my music was going to go over but people have been so complimentary and excited about it. I'm thinking about possibly moving to London because things have gone so well. I still want to reach a lot more people in the UK and hope to play many more shows on my next tour.
PW: How, if at all, do European audiences differ from American ones?
CB: UK audiences are quicker to yell out and chime in which I LOVE! It makes me feel more at home.
PW: Which has been your favorite performance to date and why?
CB: The Bedford on this tour was really special, but the last show I played at The Basement in Nashville was one of my favorites. I think my band and I played our best and were in sync. The audience was also great and encouraged more out of us.
PW: If you could play any venue in the world which would it be and why?
CB: Red Rocks in Colorado. I love playing outside and Red Rocks is stunning. I also love hiking so I would try to build an extra day into the tour so I could explore Colorado.
PW: Which four bands or artists, who can be living or dead, would you most like to share a stage with?
CB: Paolo Nutini, Missy Higgins, Mumford and Sons and The Fray.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and to what extent has it helped boost your career?
CB: I love and hate social media. I think people would have better self-image and live more in the present without it, but it also connects people and inspires them. I'm on it a lot because I know the power it can have to get music out there, but I would rather spend my time reading a book or hiking.
PW: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
CB: I'm headed to Sweden to play the Iris Festival and a few other shows. Then I'll head back to Nashville. I have a Southern U.S. tour planned for September with my band which will be awesome. I've never toured with them. Then I'm hoping to finish writing my next album and record it in the fall.
PW: Are there any other plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?
CB: I've written about 75% of my next album and I'll record it in the fall with a good friend of mine who's a fantastic producer.
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as an artist? Whose career would you most like to emulate?
CB: I want to travel the world, work with my music heroes and make a decent living playing music. Travelling is my number one love. I have no desire to be on the cover of magazines or followed around, I want to make music I'm really proud of and live comfortably. I'd love to take a few friends on the road with me if I can afford it. Missy Higgins has a great career. She's huge in Australia but people don't bother her and they really respect her music. She also gets to work with a lot of amazing artists. Thanks for talking with me. I hope you enjoy the new album!