Above: Photo by Nathan Bajar.
The 2017 news cycle has forced me to indulge in self-care, reflection and my need to embrace my roots. As a child, I was allowed to define my Blackness and remix it in any way I choose. I was a big fan of music from outside of the U.S. along with a real love for classical music. So, finding Charlotte dos Santos and her latest project Cleo brought me back to my true love of music. Here is our chat about her inspirations, musical roots and who Cleo really is.
Your music is quite rich! Tell me about your musical and songwriting background.
Thank you! I started writing songs seriously when I was around twenty-one – I played around with it before, but the real process of songwriting started around that age. I got my degree in contemporary writing and production and jazz vocals at Berklee College of Music in 2016 and had been writing seriously for a few years before then. I did a focus in art history and arranging so when I studied abroad in Valencia for a semester I had classes as Mediterranean arranging and flamenco arranging. That was the first time I really got to dig deep into that type of music- I grew up with a mother listening to a lot of Mediterranean music, so it was amazing to learn more about a genre that I already was very infatuated with./em>
Your music is both nostalgic and new. What are your musical influences?
My musical influences are very diverse due to my parents listening to a lot of varied music, but it’s mostly musicians in the Jazz, Afro-Cuban, R&B and Soul world. I love everything with a personality and charm, so anything quirky but with quality always catches my ears. I always go through phases of listening to all kinds of music and sound, but right now I am re-discovering Caetono Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Djavan and Arthur Verocai. I’ve also been listening to a lot to Japanese funk and experimental music like Jiro Inagaki and
Above: Photo by Tiago Mena Abrantes
Tell me about Cleo. What inspired this album?
I think the build up to ‘Cleo’ has been going on for years, and I knew that I wanted to create a body of work that had some sort of meaning. I like working conceptually, and I basically collected my favorite tracks over the years and added some new compositions that I’ve been writing the past months. It was hard to select the works for on ‘Cleo.’ I do have a lot of music that’s been written the past years. Up until now, considering it would be the introduction of who I am as a musician- but the final concept of Cleo was after I moved to New York and thought about what name would fit this female power figure that I created in my head that I suddenly was so obsessed with. Then after a bit, it was obvious that this woman, who is partially every woman out there and me- is Cleo – which happened to be a track on there. I like to think it’s all women combined into one, strong royal, unbreakable and motherly character.
What are you listening to right now? Are there any arists that you would recommend?
I am not too good at listening to new music, but I really like SZA new album- her lyrics are real and vulnerable and absolutely relatable. Many girls tell me CTRL and Cleo are two important albums to them. She has a very different approach then my own lyrical writing, but I have had people tell me that when they feel sad and need something disconsolate, they’ll listen to her and when they want to feel empowered they listen to me. Those are two such opposite and powerful moods, and it’s so important that we are allowed to feel both. Either mood is followed by some kind of release or feeling of purification, so either is positive in the end /em>
Now that Cleo is out and is well recieved, what’s next for you?
I am hoping to do some touring in the fall and to finish my second project that I started recording while back- you learn to take things day by day as a musician, but hopefully, it will be a fruitful time ahead! I am feeling hopeful and relieved now that the project is out – and I hope it inspires as many people as possible- so far I am just extremely grateful for amazing feedback! Exciting times for sure!
Above: Photo by Mostafa Douban