Be Charlotte's Charlotte Brimner talks exploring HK, pre-stage nerves, and simply being herself

She was tweeted about by One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson, and just finished touring in Southeast Asia – but what makes Be Charlotte tick?

Lauren James |

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Charlotte explored Hong Kong in between gigs.

The best way to tackle your fears is often by facing them, which is precisely how British singer-songwriter Charlotte Brimner, aka Be Charlotte, deals with her pre-stage nerves. The hotly-tipped 19-year-old performer tells Young Post she used to hate the wait before her live show, but that she’s overcome her stagefright by playing as many gigs as possible.

“I had to push through it, and it gets a bit easier each time. I feel I’m able to be a bit freer onstage at every gig,” she says.

Speaking over the phone from Glasgow, in her native Scotland, Charlotte had just returned from a Southeast Asian tour that ran October to November. After playing in Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, Be Charlotte performed a free show at Hong Kong’s famed music venue The Wanch. Before heading off to Singapore, Charlotte and her bandmate James Smith had a few days to explore the city, so they visited the Big Buddha, the Peak and went to a poetry event.

“The tour was really, really good fun,” she says. “We didn’t know what to expect from any of the gigs, so it was really cool to see how different each of the places were, and chat to people afterwards to find out how they ended up at the gig.”

In only a couple of years, Charlotte has gone from playing open mic nights in Scotland to becoming an award-winning international performer. It turns out the secret is that tried-and-tested formula, hard graft: playing a lot of gigs, meeting people, writing as much as possible, and completely dedicating herself to her music career. It also didn’t hurt when 1D’s Louis Tomlinson tweeted her live performance at a Scottish music festival in July.

Charlotte’s Scottish accent is very important to her, which is why she sings in it.
Photo: Alasdair MacLeod

2016 has been year in which her career has made natural progression, says Charlotte, for whom songwriting is a useful way to express things that she’d find hard to say in person. Although she draws from her own specific experiences, she writes lyrics in an abstract, open way that makes her songs widely relatable.

“I like that people can take their own interpretation of it, and have their own ideas,” she says.

With a sound loosely described as spoken word pop, Be Charlotte incorporates elastic singing, beatboxing and rapping over drummer David Calder’s sparse beats, and keyboard player/bassist Smith’s melodies. Charlotte learned to play guitar aged 14, and began writing her own songs. It wasn’t long before she began playing around with production techniques and exploring different ways to use her voice.

Her sound is inspired by Milky Chance, Lianne La Havas and Kendrick Lamar, but what sets Charlotte’s music apart is her clear Scottish identity. She explains that singing in her natural accent was a conscious decision that she wants others to take notice of.

“I find it quite frustrating when someone’s singing in an American accent and they’re from Scotland,” she says. “I understand why some struggle with it, but it’s important to find your own voice and be confident enough to use it. It’s taken me a while to be confident enough to do the speaking and rap parts. It’s unusual to hear Scottish accents in mainstream music. I’ve been focused on trying to make that happen, and to make other people in Scotland feel that it’s not as big a deal to be able to speak in your own voice.”

The momentum of a busy and successful year is set to continue into 2017. In late November, it was announced that they won the Scottish Music Awards Big Apple prize, which funds bands to take their music to the US. The band hopes to use the cash in March, when they head to Texas to perform at the South by Southwest festival. After that, there might be an album in the works – but only if it feels right.

Charlotte says, “At the moment we’re just releasing singles. An album needs to feel totally right and not something I’d regret in future. We’ll probably wait, but I am thinking about that side of things.”

Edited by Ginny Wong