There has been a gradual but strong groundswell around Toronto musician Charlotte Day Wilson over the past few months. In January, she released a track called “After All,” an introspective slow-burn of a song that caught the attention of many people online. Since then, Wilson has gone on to perform and work alongside other rising Canadian acts such as River Tiber, BADBADNOTGOOD and Tennyson.
This week, Wilson released a new single called “Work” on Apple Music's Beats 1 show, another R&B-influenced track, building a strong case for the artist’s ability to craft lush down-tempo gems. CBC Music recently sat down with Wilson to talk about her musical beginnings, her influences and her production goals. Scroll down for five things you need to know about her.
1. Wilson was in a band called the Wayo before going solo
Prior to releasing her own music, Wilson spent a number of years performing in the R&B group the Wayo. Together they created smooth melodies marked by gleaming guitar riffs, dancing hi-hats and Wilson showing off her saxophone skills between verses. While the overall tone of the Wayo has sort of carried over to Wilson’s own music, the Toronto-based artist is able to indulge her own musical ideas better now as a solo artist.
“I’ve always known that I have a vision of where I want a song to go, so working in a band was hard for me because, if you’re working in a collaborative environment, you have to let go of your ideas sometimes,” Wilson explained. “I’m glad that I did that for a bit, learned how to collaborate, but I also knew the whole time that I wanted to write songs. I would feel like I was doing an injustice to myself if I didn’t try to pursue these songs.” Wilson confirmed that this meant the band is no longer active, but in their run they did achieve a notable level of success, performing at festivals such as Arts & Crafts’s Field Trip, North By Northeast and Canadian Music Week.
2. She is a multi-instrumentalist
As previously mentioned, Wilson played the saxophone in the Wayo but she was also raised on piano lessons. Those lessons were forced upon her by her parents at a young age, but Wilson is admittedly grateful for them. “It’s a hard instrument,” she said. “But I was more interested in writing music than practicing any one instrument.” Add that to her developing skills as a producer, using digital programs to form songs, and it’s clear that Wilson’s got a dynamic arsenal that she's ready to use to the fullest in her own music.
3. Soul music has been a long-standing influence
When Wilson first began writing music, she looked to artists such as Feist, Nico and the Velvet Underground for influence but admitted that “soul has always been kind of in the background, it’s part of how my ears developed.” Her father played a lot of soul music in the house, but it was a compilation called The Motown Story that Wilson remembered the most from her formative years: “I listened to that all the time.” She added, “To me, the best kind of music is songs with a pop sensibility and interesting production; eclectic nods of the hat to other genres.”
4. Her debut song “After All” has drawn a lot of comparisons to Rhye and for good reason
Earlier this year, Wilson debuted her single “After All” on the popular site, Rookie Mag. The silky down-tempo number eloquently details the notion of gaining perspective on something. Sonically, the track’s ease and Wilson’s vocal delivery immediately drew comparisons to Canadian-Danish duo Rhye and those similarities are not lost on her. In fact, she was listening to quite a lot of Rhye’s music when recording this. “I was just kind of taking note of some of the vocal tendencies that I really liked,” Wilson said of Rhye singer Mike Milosh. “Rhye is a huge influence of mine and I’m really not scared to show my influences. Some people will write a song and be like, ‘It’s my own thing,’ but I think it’s really important to acknowledge who your influences are and it’s almost an homage to that person. It’s like, I wonder if I showed this to this person, would they like it?
5. She’s focused on becoming a better producer
“I want to make a change and I feel that there are just so few female producers; seeing the underrepresentation is freaky to me and I need to take that upon myself and change that.” In recent months, the conversation surrounding the lack of female producers has ramped up and Wilson is determined to keep it going by adding her name to the list of women producing their own music.
Wilson is the first to admit that she’s still learning, especially from her friends in River Tiber and BADBADNOTGOOD, but she wants to help the move towards a more inclusive working environment. “I’m personally not intimidated when I walk into a studio full of dudes, but it could totally be intimidating for a lot of people,” she noted. “As a producer I still feel like I’m in sponge mode. I’ll go into the studio and just watch, listen and ask what’s going. The only way you’ll get better is to put yourself out there.”