Grateful Web Interview with Charlie Belle
GW: How does it feel to be highlighted by such a well-established presence in the music world like NPR?
CB: It's honestly...really crazy. People are always saying "the internet is so powerful," and you know that, but, when we hit NPR, we got easily 30,000 music video views, it just happened, we got 200 likes on Facebook in like an hour. It's just crazy!
GW: You're one of 10 people in the whole year of 2015 that we're gonna be telling our friends about... I mean, does it feel like a dream?
CB: It's surreal! It's really weird! I was at the dentist when I found out it happened, you know, just getting braces... It's just so crazy.
GW: Austin is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to local musicians. Inspiration is everywhere, but it also makes the competition really stiff. What are the best and worst parts of being from here and trying to play around Austin?
CB: I think it makes a difference of what kind of musician you want to be, like if you want to make a lot of money or if you like playing a lot around town and...not making a lot of money. (Laughs) So I think if you want music to be your profession you might have a hard time making money off that, since a lot of shows are free. I would also say that as a U18 musician it's especially hard because a lot of people don't take you seriously. I'm 16 and the youngest member of our band (brother Gyasi, drummer) is 14 and a lot of places look at you and are like "Yeah...we're not gonna book you."
GW: But you booked ACL last year!
CB: We did, yeah, was it last year? I think it was 2 years ago.
GW: Wait, so you were 14 and your brother was 12?
CB: Yeah, (laughs) yeah, we were.
GW: Okay, that's insane, but moving on. Your band Charlie Belle has an impressive roster of live shows, playing at really legendary venues around town. Do any favorites stick out in your memory?
CB: I would say, Stubb's... man. We played outdoor, and it was easily the biggest crowd we've ever had. There had to be at least 1200 people there. It was so cool. And then we played The Moody Theatre (ACL Live) and the sound was so good at that show, that's the reason I really liked that show, the sound was...perfect.
GW: The Chronicle called you an 'it' girl. What kind of image or example do you want to set for young girls or musicians who are now looking up to you?
CB: I want them to know that they are capable of what they want to do. Even if it's not music. Even if they're like "Hey I'm really into art" totally just jump in. You can do it, and you can do it well. I've been surrounded by so many people who are telling me 'this is a possibility for you,' so I know if I want to do music seriously, I can do music seriously, because I take myself seriously.
GW: And you completely live by example, you don't even have to preach.
CB: Right, exactly, just work hard, and people will take you seriously.
GW: So, how on Earth do you handle being a teenager, a student, and a songwriter? How do you juggle that?
CB: I don't. (Laughs) I don't. I don't know!
GW: (Jokes) So you have two other clones that do that for you?
CB: Yeah that's how I feel! Um.. right now, I am homeschooled, I have a job, I row, everyday after school... and I do this. I don't know! I don't know how it all gets done!
GW: But it sounds like none of the parts of yourself would work unless you were all these different people.
CB: Yeah, they're all different aspects of me. I don't know, different parts of your life open doors to different people. Being a teenager, and being a musician, I would say it's hard and easy. It's easy because you have so much songwriting to do! You can write about everything because you're going through everything. But the hard part is being taken seriously, like I said before, and separating...recognizing my music as something to be prioritized. A lot of my friends play sports or have a hobby and sometimes I forget this isn't just something I enjoy doing it's also my job. I have to remind myself "Hey, focus. You need to write this song."
GW: Your Get To Know You EP is ready to drop, and it delivers a sound that is all your own. Who can you credit, which artists along the way, shaped the person who became?
CB: I listen to patches of a bunch of different music, and if I told you all the names and then you listened to my record... it wouldn't make sense. (Laughs) Like, you just wouldn't hear it.
GW: What'd you grow up with?
CB: Well my parents... My Dad is from D.C. So he listened to a lot of groovy, go-go, rap music. And my mom is from Princeton, NJ and she listened to Bowie, and The Clash. If you listen to our EP is kind of indie pop and some of it's a little funky too-
GW: And so much soul! Where did you get all this soul!?
CB: I really love the soul, I need to have it. I need to move to it. I listen to a lot of groovy electronic music too, lots of DJs. I have friends that are DJs. The musician that I look to the most is Alex Turner (frontman of the Arctic Monkeys.) I don't think our genres are very similar, but his songwriting, his lyrics, the way he uses metaphors...I'm always listening to his stuff, trying to challenge myself.
GW: Last question: 2015 looks like your year. What does the future hold?
CB: People have been asking me this question, and I guess all I really want is for someone who could change our lives to decide that they want to change our lives. So I don't know, I don't have this specific goal in mind like, "I need to be signed," you know? But I want someone to be like "I'm going to put my time and attention into helping you guys out."
GW: So head's up Grateful Web, putting out the call!
GW: Any personal goals? As a musician, or a songwriter? Even as a human being?
CB: Definitely... I want to keep challenging myself to be more and more serious about my music. And I want to improve my performance ability. I've got songwriting down but there are aspects I need to master... all the different parts that come along with being a performer.
GW: Well, you've got nothing but time!