Words by Emily Hollitt
In an age when money’s hard to come by, the economy’s in shambles and we’re fed an overwhelming amount of ‘hustle culture’ content, country singer/songwriter newcomer Charli Jade comes to the rescue. Just this week, she released her debut single Nicotine & Caffeine, a scathing yet comforting take on burnout culture. Beginning with an infectious, isolated acoustic guitar melody, the track chugs along like the days do during a long, exhausting work week. “We’re running on nicotine and caffeine” she pleads in the chorus, a desperate cry for escape for the shackles of our capitalist culture. Her vocal performance is impressive, detailing the trials and tribulations of just trying to get by in a system that’s never really on your side. At just the ripe of 22, Jade has captured a feeling so many of us struggle with every day.
Inspired by the work of Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert and Carly Pierce, Charli takes the best of traditional country music and making it completely her own. Hunkering down in Bunkr Studios to write and record her music, Nicotine & Caffeine is an exceptional taste of what’s to come. I was so inspired by Charli and what she was doing, I just had to pick her brain about it! Luckily, she had the time to spare.
You’ve just released your new single Nicotine & Caffeine. Congratulations! Can you take as through what this track is about?
Nicotine & Caffeine was inspired from working FIFO in the mines, where I witnessed the culture of living off cigarettes, energy drinks and alcohol. It was written about how society is stuck in a toxic cycle of ‘work, sleep, repeat’, highlighting the issues of working ridiculous hours just to get enough money to pay the bills. This song touches on the dream to not have to work our life away and instead start living life to the fullest.
I love the sound of the single! The chorus melody is super infectious. And that bassline! Where there any songs/ artists that inspired the way you arranged, wrote and produced the song?
Thank you! Yes, I had two reference songs for how I wanted the produced version to sound. If It Hadn’t Been For Love by The Steeldrivers (fronted by Chris Stapleton) and Starting Over by Chris Stapleton. The funky baseline in If it Hadn’t Been for Love really captured me, so I wanted a similar feel to Nicotine & Caffeine. I love the fresh, bright feeling of Starting Over which inspired some of the instrument choices for the chorus of the song.
What does an average songwriting session look like for you? Are you a lyrics/ concept first person? Or do you start with the basis of the chords?
To be completely honest with you, every songwriting session is different for me. Most of the time, I don’t sit down and think “I’m going to write a song”, I usually jump on the guitar or piano when I’m feeling intense emotions and just feel the music. Song writing is therapy for me. Some songs I’ve written have just happened on ‘accident’, as funny as that sounds. However, when I do intend to write a song, I actually mix between both starting with lyrics and starting with the chord progression, it really depends on the day. My songwriting journey is still progressing, so every song I write is done a little bit differently to explore other avenues of music creation.
You’re pretty early on in your career but still got an impressive backlog of achievements such as playing 2022’s Release The Sounds Festival. What would you say is your career highlight so far?
My career highlight would have to be in 2019, winning 888 Agency’s talent contest in the Gold Coast. I performed an original song of mine which had a lot of emotional depth to it. I am quite proud of myself for achieving that, as I had no friends or family there to support me on the day. Winning that contest allowed me to become a part of the talent agency which included free acting courses and photoshoots.
What are your top 3 albums of all time?
I listen to a variety of different music, but some albums that I have loved over the years include Ed Sheeran’s X (Deluxe Edition) album. The acoustic feel of these songs really draws me in, I love how simple they are, yet such good songs. Morgan Wallen’s most recent album One Thing At A Time had me listening on repeat! Cody Johnson is another one of my favourite country artists and his album Ain’t Nothin’ to It has a grip on my heart. His love songs get me good.
If you could support any band or artists, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Hitting me with some hard questions here! If I could be a support act for any artist, it would probably be Luke Combs. He has been an inspiration for me over the recent years, an absolute songwriting machine he is. That would honestly be a dream come true.
Where are you hoping to see your career in 5 years’ time?
In 5 years’, time, I would hope to have an album released and be touring full-time around Australia and Europe doing intimate gigs. I dream to live in a van, so to be able to travel in my van playing music would be amazing. By then, I would also hope to have been to Nashville, Tennessee, to record music and play some shows over there.
How did you get into songwriting?
I got into song writing 4 years ago after going through my first breakup. Like I have mentioned before, songwriting is therapy for me, so I started writing to express my emotions. It just took off from there, with many songs up my sleeve from the past few years.
The industry’s been rocked hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. To give back a little, who are some of your favourite local, emerging artists on the scene right now?
Love this question!! Since moving to Adelaide, I’ve been to some gigs to watch Max Kelly, Tom Harrington, Austin Mackay and Alivan Blue. Not all of these artists are from Adelaide, however I wanted to mention them as they have really been a big inspiration for me over the past 6 months.
Finally, what can we expect next from Charli Jade?
I’ve been in the studio a lot recently so definitely expect some more music to be released this year! I will be showing my face more in the Adelaide area with busking and gigs and hopefully some more shows, supporting other local artists.
Catch Charli Jade LIVE this Friday July 14th alongside Jordan D’Sena, According To Plan, Taylor H, Brandon Buff and James Davies for Renegade Live’s Acoustic Night at The Jade, Adelaide – TICKETS HERE