Interview with Charlotte Sometimes

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(Me shopping with Charlotte Sometimes)

Jessica Poland is not your average 21-year-old singer/songwriter. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, she picked up her first guitar at the age of 14, a time when most kids her age were going to NSYNC concerts and mimicking choreography from Britney Spears videos in their mirrors. She spent her teenage years performing locally in a band she formed. Her incredibly mature songwriting, captivating voice and unique fashion sense quickly caught the eye of Geffen Records in Manhattan, who immediately signed the spunky chanteuse onto their label. She created an alter ego by the name of Charlotte Sometimes and released her critically adored debut album “Waves And The Both Of Us” in the summer of 2008.

At (clothing store) the GAP’s recent 40th anniversary in New York, Charlotte was one of the distinguished artists to perform in the store for the highly publicized event. It was there that this charming, modest, funny and high-spirited performer and I had some fun rummaging around the store and giving each other fashion tips while shopping, and she talked to me about everything from being the only non-rocker on Warped Tour to what new material she has in store for her eager fans.

AN: How did you come up with “Charlotte Sometimes” as your stage name?

CS: Well my middle name is Charlotte, and I was into this book called Charlotte Sometimes, which is about a girl who gets trapped in time and has to be someone else. I feel like I have so many different personalities that I’m constantly trying to find my way back to the person I’m supposed to be. I just kind of thought Charlotte Sometimes would be a fun little character to play, and I would be constantly able to change her over the years. So no matter what genre of music I decide to do, I can still keep the name.

You say you switch personas when you’re in your music mode, so do you have to change your mindset to become these different versions of yourself while songwriting? Or can Charlotte Sometimes perform something that Jessica Poland has written?

Well the biggest confusion is that all these personas are still all one person. There are just different characteristics about them, but they all come from the same person – which is fine.

So it’s not like Jessica is the angel and Charlotte is the devil sitting on your shoulders.

(laughs) No. I mean there are certain sides of me that are more angelic than others, and more vindictive than others. With the whole Charlotte Sometimes thing, I can kind of be a different person everyday, but they’re all just variations of myself.

You were diagnosed with Condylar Resorption, a disease that affected your jaw joints and forced you to have jaw reconstruction surgery, having to wire it shut for several months. As a performer, what was your biggest fear when this occurred?

Oh my god! Things like “nobody’s going to be like me because I’m deformed now,” “my jaw could fracture at any moment, how am I supposed to sing?” “Will my jaw just fall off?” It started to hurt a lot singing, it was very painful for me. Then getting the surgery and having all the recovery time, I thought “will my voice change?” and anything I thought could go wrong I feared just might. But you know, I’m fine now. I still freak out if I have normal jaw pain – I start loosing my head and thinking “it’s happening all over again, I can feel it, I know it!” It bums me out a little bit still now because being in the media, everyone’s got something to say about you and it’s not fun to hear. So when I hear a lot of people saying “there’s something wrong with her face,” and they don’t know that, well, there actually was. And you know, I think that with the surgery I had they made it look the best they could and I had to accept it and I like the way I am. But yeah, there’s something a little off sometimes. People are so used to seeing the cookie cutter look and so they’re taken aback when someone is different looking. I don’t really get it too much because I live in New York and being different is cool, but when you go out to L.A., people are like “whoa, who is that?” But in New York, everything is far more embraced, so I like my little shelter where I live.

By the time you landed your record deal with Geffen, you already had written all your songs and managed to record your entire debut album in a single month. Going into the studio, what were you most excited for and what were you most nervous about with a major record label producing your material?

You know what I didn’t think too much about it, I just wanted it to happen so that I could feel like something came out of my work. Whether or not someone would like it? I didn’t know, but I just wanted it to be released, which it was and that came with a whole new set of challenges.

What was your first thought when you first saw your video for “How I Could Just Kill A Man” being so heavily featured on VH1?

You know what’s so funny? I barely got to see it. I saw it once and then I saw it once again when I was on the Warped Tour. I shared a bus with this band called Evergreen Terrace, and they are a metal band, so when the video came on it was pretty funny because they could care less, you know? But I was like “oh my god!” and I freaked out and then I never saw it again!

Really?

(laughs) Yeah, really! But everyone else had seen it so I was so jealous.

So what was it like playing (rock festival) Warped Tour with all these bands whose sounds are all so radically different from your own?

(holds up two pairs of jeans) Wait, do you think I’m a 2 or a 4, p.s.?

Definitely a 2.

Yay! Um, it was hard. I don’t know if I’d ever want to do it again, but it was a good experience. I got to meet a lot of different bands that I never thought in a million years would I ever tour with. It was like summer camp, so it was half love and half hate. You always had to be somewhere and had to be doing something, but at the same time, you also created close relationships with people … and there was always drama with things like “who was your summer sweetheart?,” but no, it was really fun.

You have a very unique fashion taste. I see it as part 1950’s housewife meets contemporary Brooklyn punk. How would you describe your style and what are some essentials you need in your closet while touring?

Well I’m working on a new record so my style is changing, but for the last tour for the last record it was very “Bewitched” 1960’s but with a tom boy approach about it. I would wear a beautiful dress with great perfect hair, but then wear sneakers. Or if I were to wear high heels, it would be all grunge-y on top, but I always had this magical “Bewitched” thing going on. This time, I’m not doing such cookie cutter stuff so my style has been evolving in this very 1960s/Melanie Safka/very gypsy-esque. I’m kind of mixing her with my 1990s Liz Phair and mixing that with the East Village because that’s where I live now. Overall it’s just more grown up and more fashion-y, but a little more laid back than the last time … and a little sexier (laughs).

So other than your new style, what can you tell me about your upcoming record?

I’m working on it now, but who knows when it will come out. The industry right now is in the middle of a “oh my god, what the fuck are we all going to do?” kind of situation. I’m just trying to ride the boat.

How has your sound evolved since the last album?

It’s a lot more organic. There are no beats so say goodbye to the dance beats, say hello to depression. This CD is a lot darker. A lot of people are going to think about a relationship but it’s actually about my relationship with business and my band mates on the last tour. It talks a lot about my relationship with myself and being in this world. It’s a lot different but you can still tell it’s me, obviously. But if you took Brandi Carlile, Fiona Apple, and mixed it with Augustana, Coldplay, and Snow Patrol, and put it all together, that’s where I’m heading. Should be interesting.

You started out as a dancer but completely ditched that to become a songwriter. What prompted this switch and why did you only want to do one? Do you ever plan on returning to your dance/musical theater roots?

Anorexia, actually. Dancing is a difficult road and not everyone can handle it and I was one of those people. I loved it so much but it took a toll on my health so I kind of went to music to cope with it and just stayed with music.

You took the refrain from the rap classic “How I Could Just Kill A Man” and turned it into your own very different song. What about that song inspired you to revamp it so much and do your own take on it?

You know it’s funny because I wish it was my idea to it, but it wasn’t. My CD was almost finished and my producer Sam said to me “Yo boo! You know that song “How I Could Just Kill A Man”? Go write it,” and I was like “write it? What are you talking about? I’m not a rapper,” and he goes “Make your own version of that song. I’m telling you it’s going to work.” So we went to the other room and I rewrote it in like five minutes. It’s funny because at the time I was breaking up with this guy I was dating and he said “how could you just kill me like that?” so I ended up doing the whole song about killing his soul. I’m gangster in my own way. I’m a heartbreaker (laughs). I’m just not very nice to men sometimes, so I thought why not just write about that?

What I personally loved about your first album is that it had so many different genres interwoven in it. There was no single label for it. It’s part jazz, part pop, part rock, part musical theater, and part folk, all fused together. Did you set out to create such an eclectic mixture of genres or did it kind of just happen that way?

It just kind of happened that way. I’m the same way as a person – I say that I’m a loner but I’m not really at all. I just have so many groups that a lot of times I end up alone because they don’t get along but I get along with everyone. With music tastes I’m kind of the same way. I’ve never gotten stuck in a genre. I’ve just always liked good songs. I never really got wrapped up in a single scene, which is a blessing and a curse in many ways for my own music. I’m just kind of all over the place, so the album was reflective of my actual life and what I listen to.

This is going to be a loaded question: as a musician who clearly has a very wide range of influences, what would you say the top 5 albums you could not live without would be?

Oh my goodness! Ok – Death Cab For Cutie’s “The Photo Album,” Liz Phair’s “Exile In Guyville,” Fiona Apple’s “When The Pawn Hits The Conflicts He Thinks Like A King …,” Lifehouse’s “No Name Face,” and Roy Orbison’s “Greatest Hits.”

On my campus at Muhlenberg College, one of our acapella groups, The Girls Next Door, do a cover of your song “Waves And The Both Of Us.” What is it like for you as an artist to hear other people singing your songs?

I think it’s really cool. I’m often like “you should just do it. You want to play this show?” (laughs) No. It’s really flattering and nice that people care enough to do that. Most days I’m like “why do I do this to myself?” and it’s a very stressful life. I mean I think if I did anything else it would also be stressful because I’m just crazy. But it’s so rewarding when people like your music enough to do their own thing with it. I think that’s so cool.

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Exclusive: Interview with Ingrid Michaelson

Whether it’s humming the catchy beat to “Be Ok,” clapping along to the quirky and romantic “The Way I Am,” or singing along to the unforgettable and somber “Keep Breathing,” people across the country have undeniably fallen head over heels for the music of Ingrid Michaelson. The Staten Island raised folk-tastic songstress has fortified quite a name for herself in the industry. Her music has been highlighted on a large variety of television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, and One Tree Hill, as well as in feature films, including Sex And The City: The Movie.

After selling out shows worldwide and having had appearances on Live With Regis And Kelly, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Good Morning America, and Last Call With Carson Daly, Ingrid won America over with her sexy librarian glasses and charmingly addictive music and lyrics. Now, nearly half a decade after the release of the album that shot her to indie stardom, the reigning queen of college radio will be releasing her third full studio album, “Everybody,” on August 25th. While promoting the upcoming record, Ingrid took time out to talk to me about everything from the new album to her Twitter to the hot teacher she never got to take a class with in school.

AN: Your first release, Slow The Rain was mostly piano driven, whereas your second album, Girls And Boys strayed away from that for more of a folky, multi-instrument layered sound. What kind of musical evolution can your fans expect from “Everybody”?

IM: Everybody is more fully produced than Girls And Boys. I don’t really ever play songs from Slow The Rain because I don’t like that album very much at all. It was sort of my first attempt at making music. I went to school for musical theater and was studying how to have those kinds of vocals which I feel like was very influential in my writing – and while I enjoy musical theater, I don’t want it in my music. The second record Girls And Boys was really about finding what I felt comfortable with and where I felt my strongest in terms of good songwriting, but I still didn’t really know quite what I was doing. That record is about five years old now, so I’ve had a lot of time to be inspired and learn and grow. I think Everybody is way more thought out. There are string parts and bigger, more intricate, full band songs. There are still some small songs that have delicate and simple instruments, but I feel overall the record is just a lot more thought out and much better.

You’re quite the internet savvy girl. You constantly update your Twitter and your blog, which makes your fans feel like they’re really connected with you. You even tweeted asking for suggestions for album titles and advice on the ones you were contemplating choosing. Why do you so firmly believe in having your fans so updated and involved in your recording process and why do you think most artists choose not to include their fans on such an intimate level?

I think it just depends on your personality. If you’re a really introverted person or if you don’t really care about that type of thing and are turned off by it then you’re not going to do it. I feel like, though, since I was discovered on MySpace, I’ve had a lot of help from my fans and I owe a lot to the internet – it’s where I got my start. It’s a hard business and the people that are keeping me afloat are my fans, so obviously I don’t want to piss them off. I want them to feel thanked.

So why did you ultimately decide on Everybody as the title of the record?

Well there’s a song on the album called “Everybody” so I like that it’s taking something from the record. I’m singing about a loss of a connection between two people that still love each other, which I feel like is something that a lot of people, if not everybody, have gone through. It just kind of felt like a good way of summing up the album – it’s something that everybody can understand.

I read that this record is shaped like a story. You said it’s the tale of a relationship that consumes two people to the point that they are ripped apart. Can you talk to me a little bit about precisely how this story is structured through your music and why it is something that you feel you need to tell?

Well, they just happened to be the songs that I was writing. I didn’t sit down and think to myself “Ok this is going to be the first song, and this is going to be the next song, and so on and so forth.” When I sat down and looked at all the songs I had to choose from, it just seemed like they were a progression if I arranged them a certain way. It starts out kind of uplifting going into a new situation, and just how quickly it takes a turn and falls apart. I just arranged the songs that way because that’s the natural way things go.

Going off of that idea of telling a story – as a songwriter, what do you believe is the relationship between literature and music? Do you feel they feed off of one another or are they completely unrelated?

I think it really depends on the writer as well as the listener. I personally love Regina Spektor. I think she tells fantastical and magical stories in her music, but they’re not really stories about her at all – they’re ones she made up in her crazy, brilliant mind. And I enjoy that. But for my own personal writing, I like to write about what I know and what I know has happened. I never set out to do a concept album or anything, it was like I said – it just made sense that the songs I liked the best fit into that kind of specific category, so I don’t think it’s an imperative thing to have a songwriting story line.

The first single off the album, “Maybe,” has a very Carole King/Joni Mitchell feel to it. While writing this record, what musicians and albums were you listening to the most and how much of an impact did they have on your songwriting?

That’s hard to say. In the past year, I’ve listened to the Bon Iver record a lot. I really, really like him but I don’t think it influenced my songwriting. I don’t know what influences my songwriting, but I don’t really hear other people and think “I want to write a song like that.” I hear other people and think “wow, that’s really amazing, and now, maybe I’ll make something of my own.” I definitely get inspired to up my game … but that’s kind of a tricky question.

You’ve self released all of your albums on your own Cabin 24 records. After the critical and commercial success of “Girls And Boys,” did you ever feel pressure to completely switch over to a major label? What made you decide to stay independently releasing your material?

Well, I’m able to work with Universal/Motown now through a smaller label called Original Signal. They get me my distribution and radio and retail, so I have a lot of the muscle of a major label, but I have all artistic control over everything. It’s sort of like a hybrid of the two worlds, so I don’t really see why I would ever switch completely over. I think that what a major label can do is invest a lot of money to get you to a certain point, but I think I got to that point on my own. Now I just want to slowly work my way upward from where I am. I don’t need a million dollars to shoot myself out of a cannon to the top of the Billboards – I just want it to happen kind of slow and steady, you know?

You’ve become the official Grey’s Anatomy season finale theme song girl, having been heavily featured in the finales of the past 3 seasons. Do you yourself watch the show?

I occasionally do. Sometimes I buy it on iTunes, especially when my songs are on it because I want to see how they use them. But I’ve fallen so behind on almost every television show that I used to watch, so if I don’t buy them on iTunes, I usually miss them. I do like the show though.

So do you have a McDreamy in your life?

(laughs) Well, who’s my character? Am I Meredith?

Well that’s up to you!

Are they married now?

I think they’re still engaged.

Ha, well … I have a McSomeone. I’ll say that. A McSomeone Special.

Speaking of crushes and boys – all the artwork that’s been released thus far for Everybody portrays you as a teacher by a chalkboard. Was there ever a teacher in your school days that you had a crush on?

(laughs) Hmm … well … not really, no. I never had the hot teachers that everybody loved. There was one in my school but I never got him, unfortunately … meaning I never took his class!! (laughs) I had to clarify.

If you could only perform in only one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

I mean I pretty much do perform in one outfit. I just wear my skinny jeans tucked into boots and a t-shirt. It’s my go-to outfit. I like to be comfortable, but I still want to look decent. Sometimes I’ll wear skirts or shorts with tights, but for the most part I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.

You’ve already collaborated with a number of artists such as Joshua Radin and Sara Bareilles, so I was curious as to who you would choose to duet with if you were given the opportunity to sing with any musician, alive or dead?

Well I’ve always said I would want to sing a song with Judy Garland because I grew up watching all of her movies. The story of her life is just so interesting and sad. I have such a love for her so I would definitely pick her.

What are you most excited about and what are you most nervous for with the release of Everybody?

I’m excited to perform new songs and have new music for people to listen to. I feel like I’ve been performing the same songs for a while now. I’m nervous, obviously, that it won’t do well and people won’t like it.

Aw, well I’m sure it’ll do well and people will like it. You have a very loyal and dedicated fan base.

Yeah, I hope so! I always prepare for the worst so I won’t be disappointed. I hope it’ll do well but I don’t expect anything.

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Press Release: The Willowz

The Willowz
Everyone
(Dim Mak/Downtown Records; Oct. 6, 2009)

” The Willowz are the only thing in the O.C. cooler than Walt Disney’s cryogenic chamber.” – Rolling Stone Magazine

Los Angeles’ The Willowz are back with their vibrant energy and vintage inspired new wave sound. The band’s new album, Everyone, is a strong statement of musical evolution. While staying true to their no-strings-attached soul infused garage rock sound, the band has incorporated stronger crafted pop hooks than ever before.

When The Willowz formed in 2002, they were just teenagers with ambitious dreams. Fast forward seven years and the band has found itself featured on the soundtracks to such award winning films such as “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” and “The Science Of Sleep,” and on numerous publications’ “best of the year” lists. Nominated for L.A. Weekly’s “Rock Band of the Year,” making Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of the Year, and coveting the O.C. Weekly’s “#1 Rock Album of the Year” for their 2007 record, Chautauqua, The Willowz are gearing up for the release of their eagerly anticipated forth album, Everyone.

Opening the record is “Break Your Back,” a track that starts out with simple percussion and colorful vocals before crescendo-ing into a massive, heavily layered song, paving the way for the remainder of this dynamic rock album. “I Know” rides the waves between garage rock vigor and an undeniably addictive, anthemic chorus. “Way It Seems” highlights lead vocalist Richie James Follin’s incredible range as his falsetto accompanies the always tempo changing song, making it stand out as an original track that can’t be qualified as either fast paced nor a ballad, but rather manages to be both.

The Willowz once again challenge the rock genre with their unique and beautifully crafted sound. Their luscious harmonies and fiercely rocking melodies make Everyone a gem in their already expansive discography.

For more information please contact:
Pam Nashel Leto @ Girlie Action (212) 989-2222 x 111 Pam@Girlie.com
Kabeer Malhotra @ Girlie Action (212) 989-2222 x 123 Kabeer@Girlie.com

** written for Girlie Action Media & Marketing by Alex Nagorski**