ARTIST ON THE RISE: CHARLOTTE BUMGARnER
words BY JOE WHITE iii
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CLAIRE GIBSON
At first listen, Charlotte Bumgarner’s music sounds beautiful and simple-- pure and unadulterated. Something like a warm cup of coffee sipped over a sweet contemplation. The chords move easy and the tune sounds instantly familiar---a comfort that most songwriters never learn how to deliver. Here, we chat with the Tulsa native singer/song writer about her journey to this point, her inspirations, and what's to come.
What is something that not many people know about you and your style/approach to songwriting and life?
One thing people may not know about my approach to songwriting is my songs are either written in a really short amount of time, or they take months. Honey touch for example was written in around 30 minutes but I have other songs that will be out in the future that took me months to finish. I don’t know why my brain works this way, but it just does!
After listening to your music, I find myself loving the simplicity in your writing. Sometimes less is more, no?
Thank you! Yeah, I definitely think there’s a lot to love about a shorter simpler song. In my opinion it’s more impressive than a 6-minute intricate song. I think the longest song i’ve ever written was 5 minutes and i ended up cutting it because I know most people don’t have the attention span for that. Sometimes i’ll write a melody or a chord progression really trying to make it complicated and interesting and usually the simpler option is the best option. It took me a while to learn that.
You have a very cool aesthetic. Who/what do you draw inspiration from?
Thank you I appreciate that! I draw inspiration from a lot of drastically different things which I always found funny. I love Halloween and everything spooky and horror-esque-- I always have, but I also love Hello Kitty and the color pink? I’m obsessed with the virgin suicides, (the book and the movie) and I think that’s evident through my style and even my lyrics. My musical inspirations are kind of all over the place. My two favorite genres are probably folk and punk. I love Bikini Kill and Sonic Youth, but I also love Joni Mitchell and Bright Eyes. I don’t know if you can really hear that in my music, but I’d be happy if you could!
As far as fashion/style influences, they are constantly changing, but I’m very obsessed with vintage clothing, specifically ridiculous dresses that I definitely don’t need. I like being able to completely switch my look day to day-- I think it’s more fun than trying to stick to just one because I’d get so tired of that. I think Chloë Sevigny and Dilara Findikoglu are my biggest fashion inspirations at the moment. I’m constantly inspired by women in general, but some women who particularly mean a lot to me are Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Bell Hooks, Sylvia Plath, Frida Kahlo and Hilma Af Klint.
What is it about songwriting that keeps you excited to get your guitar out and put pen to paper?
I think songwriting is just the art form that comes easiest to me. I really like the idea of story telling and being able to work through my thoughts in a song. I can choose to be very transparent or keep the secret more and the song can just be something for myself. I think the reason I get nervous performing is because my songs feel like diary entries and I think I'm just publicly over sharing. As soon as I get off stage, I usually feel a little embarrassed and I kind of want people to forget I was just on stage.
If you could ask one of your hero’s one question, who/what would it be?
Oh wow, this has always been the hardest question to me! I’m a little scared to meet my heroes because I don’t want to say something stupid and think about it for the rest of my life. I think I would just like to hang out with Patti Smith and talk to her about her life.
Do you have a full length or maybe an ep on the horizon?
I do have a full length in the works! This single series was just me being too excited to wait for the album. There’s a single in January and another in February and then hopefully the album in the spring.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing? Do you have an audience you’re trying to reach out to?
I don’t really know what I’m trying to achieve with my writing besides just learning and improving. I would like to reach other young women who might relate to what I’m writing about. But if my songs resonate with anyone that is meaningful to me.
Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I wish I had a great answer to this, but I really don’t. I’d like to have a lot more music out and hopefully be happy? Be able to tour again and see friends I’ve met through music? I have very small goals right now because of how crazy this year has been.
Charlotte seems to be a songwriter with a purpose. Her individuality and nuanced confidence are evident. She will soon be making a splash, or possibly a tidal wave in the Oklahoma music scene. She understands that words and music matter and this sentiment shines through in her careful tendencies. We will very much be looking forward to her releases in 2021.
Be on the lookout for Charlotte's new single release, Haunted House, coming on January 22. To stay up to date, follow her on Instagram for more.