Interview with Charlotte Champian

Charlotte Champian is a singer/songwriter, disability advocate and entrepreneur. She writes and produces jazz-infused soulful songs from her studio in Birmingham, UK. Her distinctive style experiments with layering of vocal harmonies, trumpets, double bass and keys. Her musical influences include Lianne La Havas, Laura Mvula, Brooke Fraser, Joni Mitchell, Birdy and Jacob Collier.

Introduce yourself (yourselves) and your hidden talent!

I’m a singer-songwriter and producer based in the creative village of Stirchley in south Birmingham. I’ve developed my song-writing identity as Charlotte Champian while I’ve been living here over the past 3 years, finding my jazz-infused, soulful vibe and releasing my own songs. I’ve also been navigating how to be a musician with a hidden disability, and I am working to raise awareness about physical and mental health in the music industry. My hidden talent is that I can speak Mandarin Chinese. I lived in China for over ten years when I was growing up and I studied the language for many years. Now I’m also gradually learning to re-create the delicious food from my childhood!

If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?

A big thing I would change in the music industry is accessibility. I have so many memories of struggling to perform or to attend gigs and events because of pain and fatigue. I’ve also seen many others excluded from live music because of the inaccessibility of venues – things like no
step-free access to stages, nowhere to sit to rest, no subtitling or BSL interpretation. In order for me to perform live, I have to put measures in place to give me stamina and prevent me from injuring my spine. At my recent album launch gig, I trialled a new gig format so that I could take a rest break halfway through my performance. It made the event so much more enjoyable and manageable, and I will definitely try to take this forward into future performances. It’s also very important to me that my music is as accessible as possible for the people watching and listening. I live-streamed my album launch gig so that everyone would be able to enjoy it, whether or not they were able to be there in person. I was also granted BSL interpreting funding for the album launch and provided lyric sheets for people who wanted them. I hope that all these things can be small steps towards promoting accessibility in the music industry.

If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?

If I could collaborate with anyone, I would probably choose Jacob Collier. His music and music- making journey have really inspired me, especially because he also started out recording and making music from home like I have. His YouTube tutorials on song production have also been an invaluable resource as I’ve delved into learning to produce my own music.

I admire how his music exudes so much joy and musical complexity and I think my music has a similar hopefulness and intricacy. I’m also inspired by the instrumentation and vocal harmonies in his music and by his exploration of so many musical genres. I think collaborating with Jacob Collier would be a real musical adventure and I’d be well up for the challenge.

What’s the best advice you’d give to your younger self?

In the words of my song ‘Say’, I’d tell my younger self:
‘Greatness lies in more than what they say
Darling you can be proud of yourself
There’s no need to edit yourself out
You only need to make yourself proud
You’ve got something to say
Don’t let them stand in your way’

My self-confidence took a hit when I was young and muddling through my teenage years, and I know many other people have had a similar experience. Over the years I’ve been working on reclaiming and trusting my own voice and it’s been amazing to discover self-compassion and start to overcome the impulse to be perfect and acceptable to others all of the time. ‘Say’ is track number 6 from my album and I wrote it in collaboration with my amazing friend and soulful pop musician Shayanne. We wrote ‘Say’ as a song to our younger selves.

Tell MoggBlog viewers about your latest release! What’s the inspiration behind that?

As the Summer is my debut album of 8 tracks that I’ve written over the past 4 years and brought together into a collection of soulful songs. It’s a very personal collection as I share some of my reflections on life’s beauty and complexity. I was inspired to write songs about real life issues that people face in the hope of highlighting people’s experiences and bringing solace and solidarity to my audience. The album brings you on a journey from upbeat tracks like Blue Light and Highlight Reel to more soothing tracks that I wrote during lockdown, like Shimmer and Breathe. I produced and arranged the tracks from my dining room studio and then, during the restrictions of 2020 and 2021, I worked remotely with musicians all over the world to record instrumental parts and compile them for each track.

The album title, As The Summer, is a line taken from Lemon Sky that I think encapsulates the atmosphere of the whole album:
‘I perceive you
Seeing into me
And bask in that tangerine glow
Oh, it’s our moment
As the summer takes hold’

Going forward I plan to sing at plenty of events, festivals and gigs over the next year and enjoy writing new songs and sharing them.

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