On the Road, for the Record: Charlotte Dos Santos
This Saturday, Brazilian-Norwegian musician Charlotte Dos Santos was scheduled to close out her debut tour at Brooklyn’s Public Records. As the world rapidly evolves in the wake of COVID-19, Dos Santos and the music community-at-large have been massively affected; tours have been canceled, festivals have been postponed, album roll-outs have been restructured, yet artists are adapting. To reflect this shift, Milk is speaking to the musicians who were scheduled to be On the Road regarding their new life indoors.
Two days after her 30th birthday, five days after her first EP release, and halfway through her tour-interrupted, we spoke to Dos Santos about how she’s staying creative, what songs she’s listening to pass the time, and the importance of looking inward.
Charlotte’s Quarantine Playlist:
Now that the most recent leg of your tour has been canceled due to the current pandemic, how are you using this time? How are you staying creative in the comfort of your home?
My life as a musician is pretty…not isolated…but I’m used to spending a lot of time by myself writing. That’s kind of what my days look like, I’m to myself all the time. The fact that I can’t do my work, and share the music with people that were excited about things, it’s been really strange.
I’m gonna try out this streaming thing, actually. I’m trying to play some of the EP that just released because it’s really weird not to be able to perform.
Normally we ask the question, “What are five things that you must pack in your bag when you’re going on tour,” but now, what are the five things that you are keeping around yourself to spark creativity?
Plants, actually. I need some green around me. It just makes everything so homey, even if you don’t really have much. I’m sure this call is echoing right now because we don’t really have anything else but plants. My keyboard. I like to have a nice comfortable space to sit, if it’s a couch, or a rug, or something where I can sit for hours. Because when I do get creative, I just kind of get stuck there, if you know what I mean. I like to have a view when I write music and I’m used to having that — so happy that my place also has that.
Listening to music really helps. Candles. Making a cozy environment helps my creativity.
How is your productivity? Are you keeping a routine?
Normally my creativity develops as I sit down and write, sometimes it’s completely spontaneous, but I try to have a routine. I always get up really early. I like to have the morning to my self. Then I start making music pretty soon after getting up. Sometimes later in the evening, but I like to try to have full days of writing.
Now I’m in a bit of a transition, I got home from the first part of tour, and then just moved into the apartment that we were supposed to move into at the end of the tour, so I’m just now setting up my music station now. But as of now, I haven’t really been able to use the time. As I mentioned, I’m used to this quarantine lifestyle, and then now it just feels like it’s loaded with this weird fear, so it’s kind of distracting.
So far, what do you think was the biggest misconception that people have about being on tour and being on the road?
Well, I guess it always looks really glamorous, in the sense of it being easy, but it’s just like no sleep at all. Very often you’re staying in airport hotels so you can catch the earliest flight. It’s hard to do laundry because you change hotels every night! Lol definitely not as glamorous as it seems. We also have to pack light for our own good!
Do you have any pre-stage rituals or lucky talismans?
Yes, I like to keep to myself before I go on stage. I need this moment to just sort of breathe. I think breathing is really important. And I always do my warm-up exercise. I like to visualize the stage, and the people, and the songs, and sort of go through everything before I go on. And then just tea; lots of hot water and honey.
Do you get nervous still? Or are you past that?
No, I still get nervous. I think I always will.
What’s one place you’ve never played but hope to?
Greece, I would love to play in Athens. There is this beautiful Coliseum, like a half-arch arena inside of the Parthenon, this beautiful space called the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. I really want to hold a show there.
Can you describe your first ever show on tour?
Well, this is technically my first tour. So the first show was Copenhagen, it was sold out and that was actually one of the most memorable shows on tour. It was amazing. It was intimate and personal, maybe it was the stage. It was pretty low so I was almost like level eyes with everyone. It was really, really beautiful. And it was just sharing. I like when I’m on stage, and I feel like it’s a mutual give and take experience, not just me up there and people just glaring.
How has your own stage presence changed since then?
I get more and more used to performing the more shows I have. Depending on the day, I can be pretty introverted, so I’m still working on talking to the audience and remembering that they are actually there for me, which is still hard to believe sometimes.
When you get on stage do you work with lighting people or do you have a stylist? Who is the team that kind of makes it all happen?
It depends on the show. For this tour, I went on a solo tour, so it like an individual experience after each show because I was using the in-house light person, in-house sound person, so I had to sort of develop a new relationship every night with the new person. But thankfully, they were all really sweet. It is really important that you understand each other for it to be a good show, and thankfully they were all on the same sort of like frequency as I was. When I do bigger shows like London and Oslo, I have lighting person with me, who did an amazing job at Village Underground, where we had the last show.
Styling, as of now, I’ve been styling myself. Just trying to hit up designers, and working with some stylists here and there, but mostly to bring all the pieces that I want, and then I’ll just do the styling on the spot of the show. When I do music videos and shoots, I like to sometimes bring in stylists, but I like the process of styling. I think fashion is really fun.
The earrings that you were wearing in the video you just put out are so beautiful.
Thank you, a stylist pulled those.
They’re so cool. What designers have you worn so far? And what do you feel most comfortable on stage in?
Azura Lovisa is a friend and designer from Sweden/Miami based in London. I love wearing her garments. They reflect her heritage as Swedish and Southeast Asian, and her garments are also very comfortable as they are beautiful. But it depends, sometimes I wear pieces that are a little bit challenging, or they demand not so much movement and stuff like that. The designer that I was wearing for London’s show — she’s called T Label. She’s an independent designer, just started, and her style is really unique. She uses gloves as a staple. The bra is basically just two pairs of gloves, and I was really scared that my nipples would fall out like the entire show. So nothing is really super comfortable, but I just try to work around whatever I’m wearing.
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London 🤍 it was amazing performing for you 💕 the energy in that room is something I will never forget- staring at a full venue!! Aaron it was a pleasure having you on tour w me! It is very unfortunate Madrid has gotten cancelled tomorrow, but due to the situation the city council of Madrid has decided to suspend all activities throughout March. I promise I will come back at a later date. USA tour begins 20/3 and I am still excited for that, hoping that nothing changes – and on some positive news onwards. Stay healthy 🌹
It’s almost like you’re just wearing an art piece on stage.
Yeah, that’s what I love with fashion. It’s just like the same as music, it’s just expression.
What has been your most memorable moment with a fan so far?
There have been so many wonderful moments. Usually, people come up to me after shows and tell me something about the music, or how they got through depression, or that the song came at the right time — those are the things that I love. It’s just the most wonderful thing when you can connect with them through those things.
And also, when people ask how old I am. I remember the stress of being like, “Oh my god, I’m so old! I’m never gonna do anything!” And it’s still sort of gets to me, but then I have these girls that are really young and they’re like, “Ah, I feel like I’m never gonna be able to do it.” And I’m like, “Girl, I’m turning 30 on Saturday.” Don’t worry you have so much time!
You just released Harvest Time. Is there anything specific that you wanted to talk about with that EP or anything you wanted to get across to people that are listening to it?
I like when people sort of interpret things their own way or to give space to whatever they’re feeling. Harvest Time is very much that. For me, it was a time for introspective harvest. It was like this renaissance and rebirth I was going through during a time with a lot of changes.
I think what kind of grounds me, or what found me to feel like home was nature and the things that were found around me as a comfort; everything that is cyclical, sort of to just go in rhythm with life, and that’s kind of what Harvest Time was to me.
I was also going through a breakup and a lot of things that made me question. I was just like, “Okay, hold up, who am I? Who do I want to be? What is important to me?” And then I was like, “Okay, I want to get rid of all these things that don’t serve me at all.”
Personally: my thoughts, patterns, things that were just not healthy. Get rid of that, kill that, bury that, and then harvest the things that are gonna benefit you and help you flourish and grow.
I feel like it’s so relevant to the time because now with everyone staying indoors and needing to isolate themselves, we’re really having to discover what is important to us. This record really came out at such a perfect time.
Wow, that’s so true. I didn’t even think of that.
A lot of your inspiration came from personal experience, but when you were pulling it all together, were there certain records you were listening to? Or movies that you were watching? Or visuals that you tapped into?
The title comes from one of my favorite tracks by a saxophonist called Pharoah Sanders. He has this really beautiful track called “Harvest Time.” So it’s always been sort of on loop in the back of my mind, just kind of layering there. It has nothing to do with the song itself, but just the name “Harvest Time,” that’s what I sort of got from him.
I lived in Berlin when I was writing the music, so I was listening to a lot to Bjork’s most recent album. And I was listening to some Massive Attack. I was listening to classical music like [Maurice] Ravel. I was listening to Judy Collins and this group called Sisters Unlimited who have beautiful vocal harmonies.
And then in terms of movies, I was watching a lot of like Studio Ghibli anime type of films.
So when you get back onto the road, what do you look forward to the most?
Now that I’ve done this first round of it, I’m really looking forward to talking to my fans after the show, and getting to know them, and see who they are, because they all sort of represent me out there.
That’s just as much of a part as the performing part. Maybe that’s something that we don’t think about as much. Sometimes you think you’re going on tour, and you’re gonna play the music, and that’s it. That’s really just half of it, because you really do have to talk and connect, and it’s part of why you’re there. So I’ve really, really enjoyed that: getting to know them and seeing them.
Last question — what advice do you have for people that are performing for the first time, whether it is on the road or if even they’re just live streaming from their bedroom?
There’s are so many things to say. It sounds cheesy, but be yourself. That’s, at the end of the day, what people are going to connect to anyways. They just want you for who you are, and that’s how you’re gonna connect, and be able to communicate you the best way. Also know that you always get better, and nothing is perfect at once, you know?
Images + Video Courtesy of Charlotte Dos Santos.
Stay tuned to Milk for more stories on how artists are dealing with COVID-19.