Charli Taft is a name you’ll definitely want to remember if you are interested in K-pop. The singer/songwriter from Liverpool has written songs for some of your favorite idols like Red Velvet, LOONA and Taemin of SHINee. I had the chance to talk to Charli soon after she released her single “Love Like You“ for SM Station. Read on to find out how she got started writing for SM Entertainment, whether or not it was difficult working in Korea, and what she has in store for fans next.
Charli, it’s so nice to meet you. It was like finding a hidden gem when I came across your video. Can you please tell us a little bit more about yourself?
CT: Of course! I’m an artist and songwriter from Liverpool, U.K. I’ve been writing music and performing since childhood — I was even on a Disney Channel TV show as a kid! Over the past few years, I’ve been working on material for my album and writing songs for other artists/projects, including various K-pop acts in South Korea.
Let’s talk about Charlotte, the musician. When did you first fall in love with music? When did you decide to become a musician?
CT: I’ve always been extremely musical; both my parents are professional musicians, and I was raised in a very vibrant, musical household. I took to singing and performing at a young age, competing in national talent shows and concerts in my hometown, Liverpool. I also started gigging my own songs at the age of 15, accompanying myself on piano. As a child, I fell in love with making music and entertaining people — I made up my mind that I was going to make a name for myself in the music industry, and I’ve been working toward that goal ever since!
Tell me about your writing process. What comes first, the lyrics or the music?
CT: For me, it totally depends on the situation and whom I’m writing for — I feel confident in my ability to create music from any source! When I’m writing for myself though, I usually prefer to create the musical elements first and then marry the lyrics to the music. I find that this method often produces the best result!
Once you’ve gotten the feel for what you want to write, how long does it typically take you to complete a song from conception to completion?
CT: When I’m writing for my own project, I like to spend a few days per song. I work closely with an amazing producer, Daniel “Obi” Klein — we always build a track together from scratch before writing the top line and recording the vocals. I prefer to take my time when it comes to my own music — I’ve been carefully creating a sound of my own, and I want every song to have that Charli Taft signature.
Do you draw inspiration from other creations, or do you prefer to write from scratch?
CT: My songs are always written from scratch in the studio, although I do often draw inspiration from other music in the form of references — usually R&B music from 90s/2000s. I feel like that era really speaks to me, and it comes very naturally to me to write in that style.
Your songs have a decidedly R&B feel. Is that your preferred genre?
CT: Absolutely! As a singer, I’ve always felt most at home in an R&B lane. It’s not even a conscious choice; it’s honestly just what pours out of me when I’m being creative. I play keyboards on pretty much all my songs, and the chords I’m drawn to are definitely from the classic R&B school.
So … you found yourself in Seoul working with SM Entertainment. How did that come about?
CT: I’d been making music all over Europe, taking part in various songwriting camps. On one particular camp in Copenhagen, I met Daniel “Obi” Klein and we wrote a song together called “Lips” during an amazing one-day session. This went on to become my first cut with Girls’ Generation, and I was invited to take part in songwriting camps at SM Studios in Seoul soon after.
What was the best experience you had working as a composer for them?
CT: I had a really memorable time writing “Automatic” for Red Velvet. It was written on my first trip to Korea, and I loved the whole experience of being in a new place and feeling inspired by my surroundings. It was a challenge that I was definitely ready for at the time! The song came together quickly and quite effortlessly, and I just remember spending a wonderful summer night on a rooftop in Seoul coming up with the lyrics and melodies. I also loved working with Teddy Riley — he’s such a legend and I’m a big fan of his, so that was a special moment for me!
What was hardest about your transition to working in South Korea?
CT: To be honest, the whole experience of working in South Korea has been a joy and a pleasure! It can definitely feel intense at times, and the sessions can go way into the night, but ultimately, I get to make great music and work with amazing people! I think when you have a good team of writers around you, it doesn’t feel like hard work at all!
Is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you’d like to?
CT: As an artist, I’d love to write with Babyface — I think he’s one of the best songwriters of all time. In terms of my songwriting, I guess I’d like to work with as many SM acts as possible; I’m always looking to expand my skills and develop as a writer.
“Love Like You” is a great song! Was this something that you wrote for SM, or was it for yourself?
CT: It was written for myself! I actually had plans to release the song independently in the U.K. before SM came on board and asked if I could join the Station project. I was just grateful that SM believed in the song so much in giving me such a brilliant opportunity!
Do you plan on releasing any more music (or hopefully an album) with the song, or was it strictly a single?
CT: I’ve actually been working on material for the past few years, and I hope to put an album out when the timing is right! “Love Like You” was initially intended for release as the first single from my upcoming artist project, so there is definitely more music on the way, probably in the form of an EP later this year.
What’s next for Charli?
CT: I’m constantly in the studio making songs, so I’ll definitely be writing my EP and working toward my next single! I’ll also be writing for various projects and working with other artists.
How can we keep up with you and support you?
CT: You can follow me on social media and subscribe to my YouTube channel — I’ll be posting info about all of my upcoming releases online!
Any tips you can share with people who are interested in starting in the field?
CT: To any new artists/writers out there, I would recommend working with as many people as possible as you start to develop your skills — it’s great for building your network and really helps you define your writing style. Otherwise, I would just advise being a kind, open and friendly person who is easy to work with!
Thank you to Charli for taking the time out of her day for this interview. Please make sure to check out her music and follow her on her social media listed above.