• UO Interviews: Charlotte Dos Santos

    Ahead of her UO Live performance at Space Ninety 8 this past Friday (see the recap here!), we visited the Crown Heights home of musician and producer Charlotte Dos Santos to talk about what inspires and influences her music.
    Photos by Heidi Lee

    Tell us a bit about yourself: who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?
    A nomadic vocalist, composer and producer born and raised in Oslo, Norway to a Brazilian father and Norwegian mother, currently residing in Brooklyn.

    Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
    My biggest musical inspiration is actually sound/rhythm and the phenomena of music itself, how we react to it and how it affects both the receiver and the musician. It's always difficult for me to give a set list of musicians who inspire me because there is so much music that inspires me and in different ways and it's usually instrumental music. There are the musicians who are able to make my eyes tear when I listen to their compositions or transport me to a certain place in time, there are musicians whose music tickle my belly and make me smile or laugh out loud when I am walking by myself with my headphones, even make me bust out dancing and start drumming with all my limbs, and there are the musicians who inspire me for the effort they have done in communities, who are invested politically and are proactive within a community and it's all so inspiring in different ways! 

    That being said, recently I have been revisiting my favorite flamenco artists like Camaron De La Isla and Buika, Carmen McRae, and Sarah Vaughan I like to call my musical mothers. They taught me a lot by studying them musically as well as their background. And I’ve also lately been very inspired by Sven Grünberg, Wimple Winch, and some obscure disco. 

    What are three words that describe your music?
    Hmm. Eclectic, vivid, honest?

    You are originally from Norway, tell us about your life path to NYC?
    I came to the US for school in 2013 to do a BA in Contemporary Writing and Production and Jazz Performance at Berklee College of Music. I lived in Boston for three years, which led me to NYC on a post-graduate music visa for a year- expiring now in July already so my NY adventure is coming to an end!

    How has living in Brooklyn influenced the music you make?
    You know when you move somewhere you tend to get a stronger identity or bond to where you originate from-, so I have actually written a lot of Brazilian/Latin fusion stuff after moving here. But, living in Brooklyn is a constant fuel of impressions and inspiration. Seeing how hard everyone works and how there is a community for everyone is inspirational. The New York hustle has been beyond insane and super difficult at times(most of the time) which has led me to write a lot. I really like my neighborhood. I knew I needed to be somewhere where I could get different inputs. I am in Crown Heights and I love the diversity. On one side of my building, it's primarily Caribbean and West Indian and on the other side is primarily Jewish Orthodox. I go past someone and hear someone speak a language I don't understand that reminds of a melody and I'll go home and write.

    You have a new EP, CLEO, coming out. What can we expect from it?
    CLEO is a project featuring tracks from the past four years. It's production based, self-produced and features tracks from Oslo producer FredFades. I decided that the EP was going to be called CLEO after living in Valencia in 2015 for an exchange semester where I studied flamenco arranging and Spanish history and art. It was also where I shot my video for my track "Watching You". The Medieval and Moorish history resonated in me so strongly and I fell in love with the idea of a woman being in power, ruling these incredible castles I visited. I already had a track called "Cleo" on the EP and the song is about a girl who wants to follow her dreams but is struggling to find the courage to do so. CLEO to me is a woman who represents femininity, strength, royalty, independence and courage and I want her to be a symbol and role model for all girls out there, especially to all POC/WOC back home in Norway.

    What is your process like for creating new music?
    I use my piano to write. I don't necessarily know what the end result is going to be or sound like but I might start with a bass line or hear certain string arrangements in my head. It's a journey! And all depending on my mood. I also always have my phone with me and record whenever I come up with something. On the plane ride back from Berlin a few days ago I was recording different parts for strings and the guy next to be probably thought I was crazy.

    What was the creative process like working on the new EP?
    It sort of started with the tracks I already had with producer Fredfades. I recorded them a long time ago but I didn't want them to die. I am really happy with them and thought they deserved a proper release. But I wanted to introduce myself a producer and composer, which is what I do, and a lot of people don't know that. I have so much music lying around on my computer and chose a few I thought would fit well with the concept of CLEO and developed them as well as writing new material. So it's an eclectic mix of sounds and old and new material!

    What's next for you? Any special projects that you’re currently working? Upcoming tours?
    I am planning to do a Europe tour in relation to CLEO EP. My US visa is running out so I am relocating back to Europe, but I hope to be able to do a US tour as well! I started recording project number 2 last summer, which is called Neve Azul meaning blue snow in Portuguese. That album is an introduction to who I am as a composer and was inspired by a trip to the French Pyrenees during my time in Valencia. Very excited to continue working on that project as soon as CLEO is out. So watch out for that!

    Finally, what are your favorite spots in your neighborhood?
    The Brooklyn Museum, the Farmers Market in front of Prospect Park on Sundays, Colina Cuervo is a cute Ecuadorian cafe around my block, Doris is a Mexican-inspired bar who only plays vinyl records and has a great Mezcal selection!

    Follow Charlotte on Instagram and Soundcloud