DIVA met up with the singer to talk about what inspired her new record A Modern Rage
BY ELLA GAUCI
Singer-songwriter Charlotte Carpenter has been in the music industry since she was 20, with a guitar in one hand and a dream in the other. Her debut album A Modern Rage was released earlier this year (6 October), marking her first venture where she felt she had complete control over her music.
A Modern Rage tracks a myriad of emotions: love, sadness, and simply the feeling of not being good enough. We caught up with the singer to find out all about what inspired it.
When did you start making music?
I was 14. It was a tale as old as time – I was in love with Avril Lavigne and wanted to learn the guitar like her. I remember getting a guitar for Christmas that year and then as soon as I knew a couple of chords I was writing songs. I’ve been taking it seriously since that point, but I’ve been doing it professionally since I was 20.
When you were in your 20s, what was that journey like and that experience being a young woman in the industry?
At the time I didn’t give it much thought; I was like a sponge soaking in all these different people and environments. For the most part, I enjoyed that. It wasn’t until I got a little bit older and wiser that I realised that it wasn’t the healthiest place to be for a young woman. I didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of what an abuse of power meant. I look back at 32 and realise how much creative control I handed over to people. But at the time I didn’t know any better. At 20 I was just plodding along thinking everything was fine, and now I’m 32 and in therapy!
Your song Not Good Enough is about a toxic relationship with a producer, could you tell us about that experience?
During my 20s I worked with the same producer for almost eight years. He was my producer but he almost became a family member and mentor as well. What I didn’t realise was that what was happening was a real abuse of power. I didn’t realise that I was stuck in his ivory tower. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I felt so lucky that he had given me this opportunity.
One of the first things he said to me was that he was helping me with my music because he “liked me” and he “didn’t want other men to take advantage” of me. From the get-go, he made me feel like I was safe with him. But as time went on I felt like I wasn’t being listened to and that my ideas weren’t being heard. When I would suggest a change he really came down on me, telling me all the reasons I was wrong.
What was the breaking point of your relationship?
In my mid-twenties, I saw the cracks appear. The rose-tinted glasses came off. One of the things that really bothered me was him asking me if I was practising the guitar enough. He started to undermine my commitment to music. He could commit his whole life to playing the guitar, but a woman can’t do that.
I was about 28 years old and I started to make a name for myself away from him, and I think he knew this. I knew that I couldn’t spend a decade of my life feeling like I owed someone something. I went over to his house and shared my truth, and told him that all he did was make me feel like I was not good enough. “Well you’re not,” was his response.
How did that experience make you feel?
Honestly, I was broken. My self-esteem was at rock bottom. I didn’t know what I wanted from music. I’d lost a sense of myself and my identity. I had to rebuild myself. Through listening to my favourite singer-songwriters, I found the way back to myself. I fell back in love with myself and music. The track Not Good Enough was a painful song to write, but I’m so glad that I did because that story deserves to be told.
What was it like having full creative control on the rest of the album?
It was life-changing. Going from a working relationship where I didn’t feel confident to voice creative ideas, I went into a working relationship where I could share everything. I said from the start that I wanted every musical decision to be made when I was in the room, whether I was playing that instrument or not.
How did your queerness inspire this album?
When I came out at 18, I didn’t feel like my identity was related to my queerness. They felt separate to me. And for a while, it stayed like that. But then I met my wife. And everything changed. I met Carolina eight years ago, and she was the turning point for me. I realised that this was real love.
She taught me so much about LGBTQIA and queerness. She educated me. She’s from Lisbon, and she had this really strong queer identity which I fell in love with. She got me to read books, watch films, and she taught me a lot about the importance of celebrating your queer identity.
When I met her, my whole world opened up. When I wrote the song Your My Reason Why, I realised that it was such a pivotal moment in my life. I never thought I would have a wife, I never thought I would be married with two cats. Now that I have it, it’s the most important thing in the world to me.
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