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Charlene Soraia (London, UK)

We talk on the roof of the Dazed office to the 21-year old about recording in colours, Robert Fripp and the joys of lutherie...

It’s easy to criticise a saturated genre, especially if it’s the flurry of solo female singer/songwriters that have emerged over the last few years creating a general ‘ennui’ about anyone who falls into that bracket. Although, like any saturated market, the positive outcome is a heightened sense of competition which in turn necessitates innovation finally culminating in the bar being raised by someone. 21-year-old Charlene Soraia doesn’t seem to be influenced by the competition per se but she’s certainly doing her part in raising that bar. Picking up her first guitar aged five, her command of guitar chords is just as important to her as the command she has over her god-given vocal chords. Often ethereal and quite delicate, the listener is invited into different areas of Charlene’s world in each of her songs. As she gets set to release her six and a half minute long single ‘When We Were Five’ with her debut album ‘Moonchild’ released in October, we have a chat on the roof of the Dazed office...

Dazed Digital: In this climate of solo, female, singer/songwriters, would you say its more difficult than ever to set yourself apart or doesn’t it concern you?
Charlene Soraia: I don’t know, sometimes it concerns me because people want to put you in a box. People want to be able to relate to you in some way and they want to compare you to someone all the time, which is fair enough because we all do that but I think I am different to everyone else out there just because I am actually really playing the guitar. I’m not just strumming or pressing a few notes down not really knowing what I’m doing. I’m quite particular about my note of choice.

DD: When you’re writing, do you draw a lot of your material from real-life experiences?
Charlene Soraia: I am quite autobiographical with my writing. Most of my songs are sort of about something or someone or you know, I might have read something and it might have inspired me. When I write music, I sort of sit in a colour and I write to that colour, write in that mood and I sometimes find it difficult to go back and to start adding extra things onto it once I’ve moved on from it. It’s more of a therapeutic thing really, which people seem to like, which is fine.

DD: The previous singles you’ve put out have generally been quite tranquil - are you looking to experiment a bit more with your first album?
Charlene Soraia: I haven’t added too much onto the first album, everything’s been quite considered. There’s one flugel horn, there’s a trumpet, there’s a cello, lots of mellotrons, I love mellotrons, some synths and some pianos but you know, as long as you can really hear the guitar and the voice, everything else is just for colour, just for ambience and just to kind of create the mood I was in when I actually wrote that song.

DD: What’s your favourite thing about summer?
Charlene Soraia: My favourite thing about summer? Other than Pimms?

DD: Other than Pimms…
Charlene Soraia: I love strawberries, I want to go strawberry picking. I used to go strawberry picking when I was little and I haven’t been for years. What else do I like? Summers my birthday! My birthday is in the middle of Summer so I love summer, I’m a summer baby. I don’t like the winter, I’m quite a seasonal beast. I hibernate, go into hiding.

DD: How did you get into lutherie? Its not a line of work people usually ‘fall into’, especially at 21…
Charlene Soraia: I’m not really a luthier. When I was younger I wanted to be a luthier if everything else went wrong and that’s what I was going to do. Unless I lost my hands where I wouldn’t really be able to do anything. What happened was that I was at college and lots of people were like ‘mummy and daddy bought me this 7-string Ibanez’ and you know, lots of nice instruments and I didn’t have anything and in my loft I found this old guitar that was my dads and when I was 8, I took all the pick-ups out to see how it all worked and it accidentally got thrown away and when I was 17 I just sort of thought ‘right, I’ll get some pick-ups made for me and I’ll get some volume knobs and I’ll learn how to solder it all together’. So me and my tutor fixed it all up and we made a bridge and he set it all up for me and that’s why I really got into it; because I’m poor (laughs). So I like to rebuild instruments to make them work again. Some of my friends have bought some really cheap, rubbish guitars and I’ve got these pick-ups made for them and I’ve re-set it all up and they sound even better than the proper ones but hey, it’s all taste. Most of the tone anyone gets is out of their fingers anyway so if you’re a good guitarist you can make any guitar sound nice. I’ve got a couple of Danelectros which a lot of people are like ‘er, don’t like them’ but I love them, I think they’re great.

DD: Who would you say your idol was growing up?
Charlene Soraia: When I was 8, I fell in love with a man called David Bowie. Then when I was 10 I fell in love with the Beatles and then when I was a bit older I discovered Pink Floyd and then a couple years later I discovered Led Zeppelin and then a little while after that I discovered King Crimson and really got into psychedelia and prog rock . I don’t know, who’s my idol? It would probably be a strange love-child of David Bowie, Lennon, McCartney, George Harrison and Robert Fripp. A lot of Robert Fripp, I love Robert Fripp. If Robert Fripp is out there, please marry me?

Charlene's single ‘When We Were Five’ is released August 9th on Seesaw Records, taken from her upcoming album ‘Moonchild’ due in October.
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