by Griffin Schwab
A newcomer to Nashville, Charlie Brennan has already amassed an impressive resume before making the move from New York City. With three songs well surpassing the 1 million mark on Spotify (and another one about to hit 4 million), Charlie has already proven his chops as a vocalist and songwriter. His new EP, “Same Moon” drops this Friday, and it has all the moody pop one needs to get through quarantine. I talked with Charlie about the move to Nashville, the new music, and what he has in store next.
Describe your background and how you decided to do music full time.
Yeah! Well I started back in 5th grade I guess. They offered a music production elective at my school, it was literally just Garageband class [laughs] and you would make pieces and play it for everyone. And I think from there I fell in love with making music, and I started recording my voice and stuff, but I didn’t really start taking it seriously until High School. That’s when I got more serious about the music theory and songwriting aspects of making music.
In college, at Wake [Forest], I put out a song “Let Me Be” that ended up getting a lot of plays on Spotify. It was at this point in my life that I was deciding what I wanted to do and this song that I kind of put out randomly got on the viral charts on Spotify and it showed me that I could really take this seriously as a career, or at least more than just a hobby.
So after graduation I moved to New York, put out an album, got a band together and played shows all around New York like Arlene’s Grocery, Pianos, venues like that. We actually sold out the Bowery Ballroom which was crazy. And it’s funny, the last show I played pre-COVID was at The High Watt in Nashville. Although I didn’t really realize it at the time, that show kind of convinced me to move here. Like just meeting people in Nashville and just hanging out, I really felt like Nashville was a place to be for me. So after COVID hit, and my lease ended in New York, I decided it was best for me to move here and try to make it in this scene and just take a chance and it’s really been awesome.
So, touching on that a little more, you recently moved from New York to Nashville. What’s that been like? Anything, at least from the music scene perspective, surprise you? I know it’s early, but how do the two scenes, NYC and Nashville, compare?
So, as I kind of mentioned before, I’ve been coming here before COVID so I already had a sense of what the scene was like and more importantly what I liked about it. So it wasn’t this enormous leap of faith that I was making or anything. I’m definitely a go with your gut type person and moving to Nashville just felt right and a good next step for my career.
But what really drew me was how open everyone was to working together and networking and kind of just wanting to be a part of a music community. In that sense, the community was lacking in New York a bit. In New York I was writing alone a lot. I struggled to find a writing community there. When I started taking writing trips to Nashville, I fell in love with the community. Coming here was so refreshing for me, it just felt like the next step.
Also, I knew I wanted to write for other artists and work in a community, and Nashville just seems like the perfect place to do that. Not only because of the community, but also just how everyone really seems to put an emphasis on the lyrics and the message of the song. So yeah, after I thought about it, moving here was really an easy decision.
And also, I know a lot of people view Nashville as just a country music scene, but there’s a really great pop community here that I thought I could thrive in. And even in the first couple months I’ve been here, I’ve had some great writes with some awesome Nashville pop artists.
What’s Nash Pop like, in your opinion?
I’m not sure if I know how to describe it, but I can explain what I think I’ve learned from my brief time working with artists and writers in the community. I feel like since moving here, my approach to songwriting has shifted. Nashville writers are really focused on telling a story, and getting the message across, not just making it sound good. When I write now I often find myself taking a step back and asking myself if I’m saying all that needs to be said to get my point across or tell my story. Also, everyone here is so versatile and up to write any genre. I’ve found myself writing for a couple country artists, which I never thought I would [laughs]. Since moving here I feel like I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and really tested my abilities as a songwriter.
You had three singles come out recently and another one, “Same Moon” on the way. Is there any sort of throughline between these songs, either from a lyrical perspective or maybe how you went about writing them?
It’s interesting because genre-wise they differ from each other, but I always felt they were in the same space content wise. They all focus on feelings of isolation.
We wrote “Little Things” right before COVID. It’s about cherishing small moments with loved ones, which sort of took on a whole new meaning after the pandemic started. We didn’t intend for it to be a “COVID song” but it kind of ended up that way.
“Same Moon” is kind of in the same vein; that during this time of isolation, it’s important to focus on the common ground we share. A reminder of something as simple as looking out at the moon and knowing someone else is too can be very comforting. Even though the song is definitely more of a love song, it has themes in it that I hope everyone can relate to.
“Beach House” and “Underloved” were both written during the pandemic, and appropriately so are more introspective. It’s weird, they’re all kind of about isolation. I honestly never really intended for the EP to have such a clear lyrical throughline, but looking back it kind of just fell into place that way.
Another thing that I was curious about was your earlier stuff definitely tilts toward the more electronic or EDM side of the pop spectrum. This new EP seems like a bit of a departure from that, at least a little bit. Can you talk about how that change happened?
When I write a song, it always starts the same way, piano and lyrics. I sometimes do my own production, but most of the time I outsource to people more talented than me. So if it becomes an EDM song it becomes an EDM song, but they really all start the same.
I genuinely love trying all genres and pushing myself. I think now more than ever versatility as an artist is very important. And I’d like to think that the new EP showcases that versatility; each song has influences from a bunch of different sources from R&B, to folk to pop etc. I just want to take all of those influences and make it me. So what I’m really proud of is the fact that people tell me that no matter what genre I’m singing or writing on, it all sounds like it’s my voice and from me, and I think that really comes down to my lyrics and writing style.
Are there any writers in Nashville that you’re working with currently?
I’ve worked with so many people, it’s hard to keep track. I guess that’s the beauty of this town.
I’ve definitely been making my way through the pop space and working with as many people as possible. Just to name a few, I’ve written with Jacob Noe, Keith William, Tommy Champion, Hera Lynn, and Charli Adams.
What are you most excited about musically post-COVID?
Shows! (laughs) I miss playing live so much it’s crazy.
And what would you say your biggest musical influences are?
I love Vampire Weekend. I’m really inspired by Ezra Koenig’s writing. I also love James Blake, he’s definitely an influence for me both performance and writing wise.
But I also think it’s important to not be influenced by any person or group too easily. I really want to be unique. Like if my song came on the radio I want people to know that it’s me. I really want to work with artists that have a unique voice or style. I want to be able to be recognized instantly.
Any new stuff on the horizon after this EP release?
I’m planning on following up the EP with new music in the early part of 2021. I don’t want to announce anything yet, but definitely expect new music in the early part of next year.