Charlotte Sands on Soft Sound Press

Interview + Playlist: Charlotte Sands lets herself feel sad on “Bad Day”

When’s the last time you had a bad day? Not just a bad day, but one where you actually let yourself feel sad — write off the rest of the day and vow to start fresh tomorrow. For now, you’re letting yourself really feel that angst and frustration. For a lot of us, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Whether you worry about bringing down the mood of those around you or don’t know how to un-cork your bottled up emotions, it’s… a lot. Enter Charlotte Sands and her new single, “Bad Day”.

“Bad Day” was made as a space for Charlotte to let out her emo mood on a particularly rough day during the pandemic. And now, it’s a space for all of us to do the same whenever we need it. It’s funny how letting yourself sing along and acknowledge the fact that you don’t feel great… actually kind of makes you feel great?? What kind of sorcery is this?? Finding a space with both the new pop punk scene and the wave of badass women making music on TikTok who I would kill or die for, Charlotte Sands is here to help us all through whatever emotional rollercoaster we find ourselves on as the world begins to reopen.

We had the absolute JOY of chatting with Charlotte about the new single, her resistance to joining TikTok, and how much has changed (both for her and for all of us) over the last year. If you like our idea of emo daily drives, we’ve also got a perfect playlist for you that Charlotte curated! Throw the playlist on and keep scrolling to read our whole conversation. 💙

Listen to Charlotte Sands’ guest playlist:

Thank you for making the time for us, Charlotte! I’m really excited to talk about “Bad Day” in a minute, but first I wanted to say congrats on the release of your EP, Special. How was it releasing this in a year where you can’t tour and do the usual things?

It’s been so interesting. It’s been difficult to not feel guilty celebrating. So many people have had really difficult years, and it’s hard to get excited in a year where a lot of people are struggling and having a really hard time. But yeah, as soon as I come to terms with that, I get really excited with the fact that this project means so much to me and the songs are such a reflection of who I am as a person, as well as who I am as an artist. I think that’s any artist’s goal — to be able to create a piece of work that reflects your identity as a whole. I really do feel like these songs do that for me, and I had so much fun making it. It was kind of the only thing that kept me sane throughout this year, having a goal or a project that I was able to work on and knew that I could get into the ears of other people. It gave me this huge sense of hope and positive energy.

I think it’s so cool, I discovered you through “Special” when that single dropped, and then when I went to listen to the rest of the music… I realized I already knew so many of your songs. I just didn’t realize it was you because I’d been hearing them all over TikTok. This year it seems like a lot of careers blossomed due to the app, it’s doing wonders for helping artists find a supportive audience. How has it been for you, pivoting to that platform and finding this new audience for your music?

Dude, I love them. They’re like my little children, even though we’re almost the same age. TikTok is super interesting. That whole platform is a mystery in so many ways. To be honest, in October or November, I would have barely made a TikTok. It was the back end of the hardest year of my life, my career. I was at the lowest point emotionally that I’ve been in a while. It was kind of when I was just trying to get through the holidays. Cause it was so hard, not seeing family and wanting to travel and do all this stuff. I’m the only one that lives away from my family, everyone else lives in Massachusetts. So I talked to my management team and they were like, “you need to start having a presence on TikTok.” I had a full fledged breakdown. I was like, I am a shell of myself right now. You expect me to put out content of my personality and you want me to — like, it’s not just releasing a song. You’re trying to be personable and you’re trying to be funny. And you want people to like you. It’s so much of a reflection of who you are and that’s why people love the platform, because it is really personal and you get to know people really well. But I was so tired and I was like, this isn’t gonna work for me. I’m too old for this app. I was not a TikTok fan.

And then I posted a video with a demo of my song “Dress”. It was a week after we wrote it and I just did it. I almost was trying to rebel against my management team and be like, “watch this not happen, watch this not work.” And to my surprise, it absolutely did. And now I love TikTok. I’ve made so many incredible relationships with people on that platform, and relationships that I’ve kept for so long now. They’re truly close friends of mine. I owe that platform and that audience so much, I’m so grateful for it. It’s such a weird experience, but yeah. My advice to any creator is that even if it seems scary and you don’t feel like you’ll find your people or you don’t know how to do it do it, just make content and you will connect with people. It amplified my audience by so much, and I did not expect it. I am so grateful for the people that I’ve met.

I saw a post you made — probably almost a year ago now — where you were showing that in 2019, you were excited when you hit 1000 streams on one of your songs. And then a year later, you’re celebrating hitting 500k on a new song.

I still have messages from me texting my sister. Every time I release a song, she’s like, “what are the streams?” She’s so involved in that stuff and loves talking about it. I have all the texts from my different releases and it’s so funny because it would literally be like, “what are the streams on this song?” and I was like, “it’s at 350 in the first week!” She’d be like, “that’s so good!” And now you see those conversations change. I’m like, “oh, we’re at 500,000 now” and she’s like, “oh, that’s cool” ’cause her reaction changes alongside my career. It’s so crazy to be able to witness that. Now we’re about to hit 6 million on “Dress” and it’s so weird how that’s the same exact feeling I got when I hit 1000 streams on my first song. It’s not like it’s cooler, it’s just growth with me as a person and as an artist. It’s this small progress that happens over time; you don’t even realize it happens. When you’ve been working really hard, it’s cool to see physical evidence that it’s paying off.

Do you find it harder to set goals when the numbers are so different? I feel like it’s easier to be like, “I want to hit 1000 streams” than to be like “hmmm, perhaps 7.5 million on this one?”

Yeah, definitely I do. Personally, I’ve made it a goal of mine to not have any expectations. I’m hopeful. Would I love to have 100 million streams on a song? Absolutely. But in my mind, I try really hard to not write music for streaming or to even look at streaming as success, because you’ll never be happy. I have no control over it. Streaming has so much to do with playlisting and random people paying attention. Sometimes they’re better friends with other artists and they’re going to give them a better slot. It’s just how the business works. In my mind, I’ve tried to always remind myself — and remind other artists as well — that streaming isn’t always a reflection of how good the song is. It actually never is, because some of my favourite songs have less streams than “Castaways” by The Backyardigans, you know? That song is #1, and that’s just because it’s viral on TikTok. That doesn’t mean the song is better than half the artists I listen to that have 50,000 streams.

It’s all relative, but I try to make it really clear for the myself and my team that streaming is great but not to put too much pressure on it. It’s important because streaming’s like a business card for artists at this point. That’s really how you’re able to view where an artist is, which is scary. But it takes away from the magic of a lot of it. I’m grateful for it though. I’m not going to say I’m not grateful.

I think that’s a good way of doing things. Sometimes you get added to a bunch of Spotify editorial playlists, and then the next one doesn’t get the same attention, but it doesn’t mean the song is any better or worse. And your songs are so authentic, you can tell you didn’t write them just to play with any algorithms. They’re honest songs and they’re all amazing.

It means a lot. I really appreciate that. I’m glad it comes through.

It definitely does. I’ve been listening to it a lot, especially now. I feel like I need that kind of powerful music just to power through the end of this pandemic.

No, 100%, I need that rebellious angst to get me through like… Tuesdays, you know? Like, just to get me through the morning.

Agreed. I mean, the new single “Bad Day” is a perfect one for right now. I’ve been listening to it on my own, just being like yeah it is a bad day. I also lean into your sentiment of sometimes having to accept rock bottom and feel it in order to move on from it. Is there a story behind where this song came from?

The story is actually really weird. It plays into the whole social media thing. We wrote it on a Zoom session with Pat Mencel and Danen Reed. Right before that, I was laying in my bed with a sweatshirt over my head, tied under my face with sunglasses on drinking a coffee. I wasn’t in a good place emotionally, and physically I was not taking care of myself. I was not excited to work, I didn’t really want to do the session at all — no offense to those creators. It was more of a “me” thing.

I was on Instagram and I posted a story and I didn’t know that this filter on Instagram created captions on it. One of them said “it’s okay to have a bad day.” I posted the story and I was in bed in sunglasses and a sweatshirt, looking like a potato. We got into the session and Dan — who’s one of my best friends and I do everything with him music-wise — was like, “I just saw your story, how are you feeling?” He said “bad day is kind of a cool concept if that’s how you feel.” It was funny because it kind of accidentally happened: I was having a bad day, I found this random caption that happened to appear on my photo that I didn’t even know existed, and then he brought it up. It just turned into this thing where I was like, what if we wrote this song?

It’s not a “feel bad for me” song. There’s so many songs that want pity or sympathy, and I just didn’t. I just want to be upset for a second. I’m super emotional and super sensitive, but I’m almost self-aware to a point where I’m not ever able to feel this one emotion. Sometimes I so badly want to get angry and just be angry, throw a plate and break something. I don’t want to have to sit there and be like, “I’m angry, but I think it stems from my fear of being alone, which stems from me being self-conscious of the fact that when I was 14, you know–” and it goes into this whole entire thing, and that’s how my brain works.

Sometimes it’s really draining. I just want to be sad and that’s the deepest level that it is, you know? This song really came from a place of being like… I just want to be angry and I just want to break something. I just want to be in that feeling and validate my anger or how upset I am, and the fact that it’s been a really rough time and I’m not happy and I don’t want to pretend to be. And I also don’t want to explain it, you know? I just want to be what I am and not feel guilty about that. So we rolled with it and wrote this song and had a great time. It was super therapeutic for me.

The second I was able to sing that song, I started feeling a lot better. Just knowing that it was okay to be upset and sit in this feeling of being like, “this is the worst day of my life,” but knowing it wasn’t going to be. Like if this is the worst day, that means tomorrow is at least going to be a little better, you know? Being able to be dramatic, pity yourself for a second, and get over it. We had fun and went with it and here we are.

I think that’s nice. I mean, nobody ever makes you psychoanalyze why you’re happy, but when you have negative emotions, you have to pull it to pieces. Sometimes it’s good to feel it and then keep going.

I’m like, I’m just in a bad mood, you know? I’m always smiley and very optimistic, I try to always be positive. I never go somewhere unless I’m in a good mood, because I’m self-conscious of burdening people with my emotions, you know? I’m jealous of the people who can just be angry and upset and sit there and sulk and be annoyed. And I’m like, I just want to be that for a day. So we created this space where I could be, and we created this mini three minute universe where I could be the sad emo person that I am.

It’s great, ’cause now you’ve created that space for everybody else too, where we can listen to “Bad Day” and feel that and then figure out what to do from there. It’s wonderful.

Blast it in your car and scream it and then let yourself be upset and feel bad for yourself. And then start again tomorrow.

I’m so excited to have places to be again so I can get in my car and blast music.

Yes. Just drive around the block. People are like, “this girl is crazy. All she does is drive around and listen to this one song.”

“Has that car gone past our house like seven times?”

“Is she crying?”

“Every day at this exact time…”

Daily emo drives. Dude, I love that idea.

You’ve been able to turn these negative days into creative moments and create this whole EP in this weird year. How have you been feeling creatively now that things are starting to reopen and there’s like… hope?

I mean, it’s really weird. I’m a super extroverted person and I always have been. It’s been a personality shift for me over the last year that I didn’t even really recognize. The thing that’s so stressful to me right now is the fact that I think we’ve all changed so much over the last year and we don’t even realize. I’m a more independent person than I was at the beginning of this. I’m more of an introverted person than I was. I get my energy from being alone or around one person, when I used to get my energy from being in a crowd of 100. As a performer, that’s a huge shift as well. We’ve changed so much, yet the second things open back up it’s like we’re getting picked up and dropped right back into our lives — where they were, our relationships where they were and where they ended up. We’re expected to have the same friendships, have the same personality, have the same reaction or feelings about everything. And we just won’t. I don’t want to be around the same people that I used to, and I don’t want to give as much of myself as I used to. I’m not physically capable of doing that anymore. I think that it’s a huge learning curve for all of us.

But I think that the reflection it’s going to have in my art is a better understanding of who my true identity is. This change that’s happening for everyone, it’s happening to me too. So hopefully I’ll be able to create music that will really represent the way that people feel, because I know that I’m not alone in that feeling and I know that it’s going to be a crazy change. Hopefully I’ll be able to turn that into music that will benefit other people, so they know they’re not crazy for not wanting to be friends with the same people they haven’t seen in a long time, or don’t want to go to bars till four in the morning or whatever. That’s normal, we’ve changed tremendously. I hope I can create stuff that makes people feel supported and heard in that as well.

It’s going to be interesting. I’m trying to make stuff as I go. And as all of this is happening and as we’re going through all these different phases in this year and in this pandemic and in my life, I’m just taking it a day at a time. I’m getting inspired by whatever inspires me and not thinking too much about it. I’ve honestly been having a lot of fun. My priority right now is to enjoy what I’m doing. I want to make music that I want to scream in the car and that I’m proud of. That’s my only standard right now.

It’s true. It’s like the world stayed still, but we kept going and now nothing lines up anymore. This year we went through a lot of big social events too. I feel like diversity and equality is hopefully going to come to the forefront. I’m watching tour announcements to see if they reflect what we learned and what was brought forward.

There’s been so much needed change and hopefully so much more to come. Everything’s been under a magnifying glass, and for a lot of reasons that’s been really beneficial. I’m hopeful for change and the future of the music industry, and the representation within it. I’m glad that was something that became a focus during quarantine. I’m thankful for those moments, that things are actually on the forefront and brought up during this time. Hopefully we continue to benefit them more.

Yeah. Even with accessibility and shows… I know people are celebrating the end of live stream concerts, but there are so many people that finally got to attend shows this year because we made it more accessible. There’s so much we’ve learned and as long as we don’t unlearn it and forget about it, we could have a really positive change.

I completely agree. It’s the same thing for sessions. 90% of my writing sessions this year have been over Zoom, but I ended up working with so many people that I would’ve never met because if I’d ever tried to get a session with them before, they’d be like, “okay, let me know when you’re in LA” or “let me know when you end up in London or Stockholm” or all these different places all over the world. And instead I’d have a session on Tuesday with someone from Sweden, on Wednesday it was someone from South Africa and then LA. Every day I have these sessions that beforehand would have never happened, which means these songs would have never existed. Every single song I’ve written over the last year only happened because of Zoom and because of the fact that this all happened in the world. I’m so grateful that those songs exist, therefore I’m grateful for all of this terrible stuff that’s happened as well. Hopefully it sticks.

Do you write songs for other people as well as yourself?

Yeah, I love writing for other artists. It feels like a different part of my brain. I love being a writer and not just an artist. Being an artist in the room can be a ton of pressure, in the sense that you’re responsible for what happens with the song. Everyone wants you to release it and everyone in the room is trying to make it sound like you. You have to be the one who’s like, “oh, I wouldn’t say that” or “I don’t know if this is really the direction I want to go in” and you have to be constantly paying attention to all aspects and be responsible for pointing everyone in the right direction.

Being a songwriter, I can show up and be a guide, and then I leave the room and I don’t have to do anything ever again for that song. It’s not in my hands. Hopefully they love it and hopefully the artist wants to cut it, but if they don’t, it’s not my responsibility. I did my job, my responsibility for the song starts and ends there. It’s a really nice position to be in sometimes — to translate emotions for someone else, instead of being the one who constantly has to vent about their deepest insecurities. I can guide other people and help them get out what they want to say. There’s absolutely no pressure. I just do the best I can and hope that they like it and try to tell their story as well as possible.

I feel like that gives you such a range as a songwriter, to test out different things that wouldn’t work for your own project. I was reading about your history as an artist and how you started out in more of a singer-songwriter world. Did growing up with that style of music help you in writing for others, as well as crafting that sort of universe around your music?

I grew up basically only listening to artists with a guitar and a vocal and that was it. It was like, Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt and Grace Potter and Alanis Morissette. As a songwriter, these women would… it was such storytelling in the sense where it was like a character they were talking about in all these songs. It was like watching a movie, I didn’t know that other kinds of songwriting existed. This is a songwriter: you have a guitar and you write a story and that’s it. I’m super grateful for it, because that’s exactly why I write the way that I do now.

I’m just trying to create that feeling they gave me when I was a child. And the fact that they used to write so many songs in third person — it was about a different character, a different woman, a different relationship. The way they’re able to write that gives you such an insight into how to write about other characters and other people’s emotions and not having it be a “me me me” thing all the time. You can narrate someone else’s life, or at least help them translate it. They did that so easily and so gracefully, it’s inspiring. If I could do anything close to what they were able to capture, I would be thrilled.

You’ve done so much over the last year and your career is showing such success for everything you’ve done. What’s next?

Whew, what a question. Thank you so much. First of all, I am so lucky and so grateful and overwhelmed in the best possible way. I’d rather be busy than bored. Next up, we’re going to be consistently releasing music for the rest of the year, so there will be new tons of new music. I’m playing Bonnaroo in September, so I’m super excited about that. Hopefully touring in the fall, we’re just trying to figure out who we want to go out with and what we want to do for that. I want to be on the road and I haven’t been able to play most of that EP, if any of it, live before. I have so much music on top of that, but I just want to be able to perform live.

And I want to finally meet everybody that I’ve created relationships with over social media. I want to hug everybody, I can’t wait to be able to interact with people and be able to share these songs and these emotions live in person instead of just seeing people listen to it. I want to be able to be there and experience it, cause that energy is something I miss so much. It’s the only thing that makes me happy. So it’s been rough, but um, no, I’m, I’m super excited. So just shows and more music constantly and more videos and more growth on all aspects. And um, yeah, I’m just so excited and I’m glad that you guys heard listening means a lot.

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