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WPGM Commentary: Charli Taft Leaves Herself Open To Heartbreak On ‘Sentimental’

Hi, I’m Charli Taft, an R&B artist and songwriter from Liverpool, UK. My latest single “Sentimental” sets the sonic tone for my upcoming debut album, out in Spring 2022 and is a love letter to the golden era of R&B from the 90’s/early 2000’s.

I believe in the craft of timeless songwriting and strive for excellence when I make music. Over the past 10 years working in the industry, my whole identity has been shaped by being a female creator – it really feels like my superpower!

A lot of people don’t know I actually play keys and usually set the harmonic foundation for my songs through the chord progressions. I like to put my imprint on every layer of the track so an audience can really step into my world when they hear the music.

As the daughter of a jazz guitarist and a singer/vocal teacher, I was raised in a professional musical household and always knew I wanted to become an artist. I wrote my first song at the age of 6 years old and was instantly hooked. As a child, I began singing and accompanying myself on piano, performing in concerts across my hometown.

At school, I started a girl band and took on the role as songwriter for the group. I was the kid in the playground with my rough book writing songs during break time and making up dance routines to my own tunes – I couldn’t just hear the melodies and lyrics in my head, I could hear whole arrangements, complete with chord progressions and adlibs!

As long as I can remember, I’ve been lucky and driven enough to have the focus of someone who knows exactly what they’re meant to do with their life.

At age 12, I experienced my first taste of stardom when I was chosen for my singing/dancing abilities as a finalist in Disney Channel’s UK talent search ‘Star Ticket’. After performing several times on national television, I was more determined than ever to make a long term career in the music industry.

I graduated from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts with 1st Class Hons Bachelor of Music degree, winning “The Beatles Story” prize for Songwriting and was presented with my award by Sir Paul McCartney in a private masterclass session, where I had the opportunity to perform my songs to him live in a one-on-one setting.

I soon relocated to London, secured management and began to work as an in-demand songwriter for UK artists including Becky Hill and Ella Eyre. I paid my dues doing the rounds as a songwriter to fully learn the craft, develop my network and figure out my own sound.

After years doing sessions back and forth between London, New York and LA, I met GRAMMY winning Danish R&B/Hip-Hop producer Daniel ‘Obi’ Klein (Method Man, Fat Joe) and instantly struck up a strong working partnership with him.

We clicked instantly – he was the first producer who spoke my language musically and who instinctively knew how to build a track around my jazzy chord progressions and melodies. I’ve worked with some great people but Obi’s talent, taste and overall musical aesthetic are what made sure he was the right person to work with!

Since 2012, I’ve become most known for writing #1 hits for some of the biggest selling K-Pop groups in the world (Red Velvet, EXO, Girls Generation, Super M). My sound has always had a sophisticated R&B sensibility that found a home in the world of K-Pop and I’ve had amazing opportunities to work with legends like Teddy Riley (Michael Jackson, Blackstreet) whilst working on songs for my own project.

“Sentimental” marks the first official release from my debut album and is an R&B/bluesy uptempo travk about being stuck in an impossible relationship with someone that you just can’t bring yourself to leave. I wrote the song with Obi and a longtime collaborator of ours, Andreas Oberg, in Los Angeles on a writing trip.

Obi and I knew we wanted to make something 2000’s R&B inspired with a nostalgic, organic vibe. We were blasting songs to get us in the mood, including a track we love called “Alright” by rapper Freeway; listening to that record gave us such a good feeling that we ended up carrying all that energy forward and made “Sentimental”.

The guitar parts were played by Andreas and recorded in LA on the same day, whereas vocal recording took place a few weeks later at Obi’s studio in Copenhagen. Obi and I went back and forth writing the melodies/lyrics and just bounced off each-other seamlessly. As soon as we’d finished writing the chorus part, we made a bounce of the track and immediately wanted to play it loud in the car – we obviously knew we had something special.

When I hear “Sentimental”, it evokes feelings of Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard it All Before” and also brings back Neo-Soul vibes akin to Musiq Soulchild. On the one hand, the lyrics are personal and intimate; I’m generally a glass-half-full person and I always want to see the best in people, so I’ve definitely left myself open to having my heart broken in the past.

I think so many people can relate to that! On the other hand, the track has this soulful, hip-hop flavour. I love exploring that push-pull in my music. Even when I’m singing a song about heartbreak, I still want people to feel uplifted when they hear it.

Because the track has a dusty backdrop, I wanted the music video to have a grainy, underground feel that would complement the track. A friend of mine, Korean underground music video director MADSCENE (BamBam, N.Flying) was keen to shoot the video and I felt like he had just the right vision to bring the song to life.

I’m really inspired by fashion and street style so I wanted the cinematography to have an edgy, fashion-forward approach, distinctly capturing the vibe of MTV’s 90’s and 2000’s heyday.

The music video was filmed during a twelve-hour shoot on my last day in Seoul, Korea. Obi and I had just finished up a week-long writing camp so we had a really tight schedule to fit everything in. As soon as we started shooting, the energy was amazing and everyone gave everything they had, even in the insane July heat!

We filmed in an interior design store, a really cool clothing boutique and in the streets of Seoul during the middle of the night. For the final scenes, We even managed to catch the most beautiful sunrise on a bridge over the Hahn river – I had to pinch myself when we wrapped, it was so special!

For true R&B fans, there should be so much on my project to get into. Vocally, I really hope it hits like Brandy’s ‘Full Moon’ or gives people that feeling they used to get from albums back in the day! Authenticity is really important to me. I’ve really stood on the shoulders of all my idols making these records and I’m so excited to be putting out an entire body of work.

There are a lot of female artists in the R&B space at the moment, which is awesome for the genre. I believe my sound stands out because it’s both modern and nostalgic at the same time and definitely puts vocals and musicality in the driving seat.

Starting with “Sentimental”, I’m finally ready to share my music with the world, take control as an artist and make a mark that’s uniquely my own.

Watch the video for my new single “Sentimental” here.

Words by Charli Taft // Follow her on Twitter + Instagram

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