The French greet each other with an air kiss to either cheek. This custom is called “faire la bise” and it’s a custom that the Normans forgot to bring with them when they took over England. The English, for the most part, have a reserved way of greeting each other. My personal favourite is, “Hiya.” When Charlotte Eriksson (aka The Glass Child) embraces me a half hour before her show, she’s warm and open.
Charlotte is close to wrapping up her UK tour as The Glass Child. This date is in London at a venue called Surya, close to Kings Cross. As tradition would see fit, I walked past it twice — the first, distracted by a sign for Cumming Street; the second a more app-orientated error — and when I got there mistook Charlotte’s dedicated, loyal fan base as being part of the crew and stood talking to them a little.
Seeing how much she inspires her fans was really something. They told me they’d been to every single one of her shows for that tour so far. They asked me if it was my first time seeing her. It was and yes, I was excited. When I met Charlotte, as soon as we started talking, I could see why her fans had taken to her the way they had. She’s engaging and she cares. Her fans and supporters are her family, and it clicked into place.
A musician from Gothenburg in Sweden, Charlotte has lived the life of many in her one. Leaving her home at 18, she came to the UK to follow her dreams as a singer and a songwriter. Always writing and finding inspiration in the small things, she’s also published three books (two of prose and poems) and it’s always nice to meet another Patti Smith obsessive.
Charlotte’s story is inspiring – she also loves Inspirer! I threw some questions her way to learn more about her, her story, and her art, and her answers didn’t disappoint.
“When I sing, I’m not scared anymore.”
Let’s start in your days as a Youngling – mostly because I love that word. How did you fall in love with music? When did the love affair start?
I ”discovered” music and the world of songwriting quite late, when I was around 14/15 years old. I didn’t grow up in a family that played music or even really listened to a lot of music. The thought of playing instruments or writing songs was never in my world. But then I stumbled upon a few songs that just kind made my universe stop for 3 minutes and I felt different.
It was this feeling of hearing that someone else out there sang about things I felt but hadn’t been able to put my ﬁnger on, and suddenly there it was, this beautiful melody combined with the right words and the voice and my world just felt lighter.
I knew right away that I wanted to spend my life creating those moments for other people, and I threw myself into songwriting. It consumed me completely from then on and I never had a thought of doing anything else.
When did you ﬁrst pick up a guitar? Was it the ﬁrst instrument you learned or was it one of those that crept up on you when you least expected?
I picked up a guitar around the same time as I ”discovered” music. I’ve always been writing diaries, short stories, and small prose pieces. So the lyrics and the stories always came naturally to me. I bought a guitar and learned four chords from youtube videos. Then I wrote probably a hundred songs with just those chords! That’s how it starts.
I think a lot of people take lessons or play an instrument for the sake of the instrument, but I learned to play and produce music for the sake of my songwriting. That has always been the core for me, the writing of the song. The story. Then I learned to play instruments and produce myself to make my songs come alive.
“There is no structure or magical formula to how you write a song. If you ﬁgure one out you hold the golden ticket!”
How did your family react to your desire to pursue a career in the arts? Are you close with them?
They didn’t understand it all. They’re from a very different world. Both my parents grew up in Sweden and have lived in the same town their whole lives, so when I was 16 years old and told my mum I was moving to London to become a songwriter, she just kind of laughed and said, ”That’s cute, but no, you’re not.”
You learn to take all these things as motivation instead, to prove them wrong. I think now that I have done this for a while and had some small successes, they’re a little more intrigued by it. My mum still asks when I’m gonna get a ”proper” job though, but I’ve learned to just think to myself ”I’m gonna show her one day.”
You’ve had a hell of a story that a lot of people twice your age will barely have scraped the surface of in their lives. Your track “Coming Home” deals with returning to the place you grew up after many years away from it. What’s your story there? How many years were you away from Gothenburg — your hometown — before you returned?
The concept of feeling at home somewhere has become an important theme in my life. I left home when I was 18 years old and I never really grew roots after that. I love living on the road out of a rucksack but there is this rootless feeling, that you’re always leaving something or running towards something and you miss the feeling of safety.
When you leave your home at an early age you have all these romantic memories of it. The roads you walked with your friends, the pubs you went to, the coffee shops you spent mornings at. You spend a few years wandering and you go home hoping to find the place exactly as you left it. You want the same people to be hanging at the same places and you want to just fall back into safety for a little while. But then you go home and you realise that while you were out making your way and writing your stories, other people lived their lives too and nothing is the same.
So, I went back and walked the same roads, realising that this is not the same town anymore and you can’t live in the past. You have to keep moving. That realisation is a strong one because you learn that your home can’t be a city or a house, a person or material belongings. You have to build your home and safety in moments. Moments of doing what you love, or with people you love, or just sitting by yourself somewhere far away, but still feeling happy for the time being.
I’m learning to build my home in my music, in moments of songwriting or when I get to stand on stage and sing my heart out. When I sing, I’m not scared anymore.
“I threw myself into life.”
The story reminded me a bit of the scene in Garden State when they’re sitting in front of the ﬁre and Zach Braff’s character talks about how once you leave, home isn’t really home again. That you have to make your own and that it’s different for everyone.
I actually love this movie! Yes, I think that’s exactly what I feel too. Once you leave and change because of it, you can’t go back. You have to move forward.
What did you notice had changed the most on your return home?
Well, probably me. Gothenburg is quite a small and safe city. Everything is well organised and people are guarded and polite. I threw myself into the music industry and learned a lot really fast, because you have to. I learned to take rejections, to ﬁght for my dream, to hear ”no” and ”you’re not good enough”… to keep going anyway and make things happen on my own.
Gothenburg is quite a small and safe city. Everything is well organised and people are guarded and polite. I threw myself into the music industry and learned a lot really fast because you have to. I learned to take rejections, to ﬁght for my dream, to hear ”no” and ”you’re not good enough”… to keep going anyway and make things happen on my own.
Most of all, I threw myself into life. When I left, I was so young and new. You experience so much for the ﬁrst time. Love, hurt, leaving, being left, missing, being broke! That changes you, and I went back and felt like I didn’t have a place in that city anymore. I was just a visitor.
When you were in England, you spent time in train stations, couches, living the life of a vagrant wanderer. Did you ﬁnd that easy? There are a lot of people in the world who could never do it, and then there’s the traveller who sort of needs to to feel alive. What do you think the difference there is? Was it natural to you? Something you dreamed of doing?
I deﬁnitely never dreamt of it, it was never in my wildest imagination! It was really something I did because I had to. I couldn’t afford rent, and I refused to take an empty day job just to pay for a roof over my head. I wanted to spend every single second pursuing my dream. So I simply gave up rent and gave everything I had to this call of mine: to write music and share my story.
I tried to rest wherever I could at night, and spent every day playing for whoever was willing to listen. I think, in order to do something like that, you need to do it for a bigger mission or purpose. I could never have done it just for the sake of being a wanderer. I did it because I found this music that made me feel like I had a place in the world, like everything would be okay as long as I kept writing and learning and creating. I believed in it so hard that all the struggles and worried nights became challenges I was willing to take on, if it meant I got to keep pursuing this.
“A feeling or an experience doesn’t feel real to me until I get to write about it in some way.”
You’ve got three books out! “Empty Roads & Broken Bottles” which is your story. Poetry and prose collection “You’re Doing Just Fine” and “Another Vagabond Lost to Love” which is the Berlin part of your story. I keep a lot of notebooks when I travel, too. What time of day is your favourite to sit and write?
My books and the writing part has become what I do to kind of deal with this life of being a songwriter. I work on the productions and the mixes, spend hours and hours every day crafting songs and working on album concepts. Then, when my head is too tired to think, I go out on the streets; to a pub or a coffee shop to be around people. That’s when I ﬁnd myself writing what eventually become pieces for my books. It’s what I do to relax, I guess. It’s like my way to organise my head and the experiences I have, so that I can feel like my life has a context.
I write best super early in the morning or really late at night. I can never sit in my room and write. I have to be out in the world, around people, to feel like I’m a part of it.
Can you tell us about a time when you did sit and write that stands out as particularly irreplaceable for you? A morning, an afternoon; a place, a moment…
I have so many of those moments that pop up in my head now … when I ﬁrst moved to Berlin, the very ﬁrst days there, I woke up before the city did every morning (I just couldn’t sleep with this new place outside my window). I found a small, local coffee shop and sat there writing the whole morning. I didn’t know anyone there, I didn’t speak the language, and I wanted a new start. Leave broken friendships and dreams behind and glue myself back together. I couldn’t stand being alone, so these small cafes were perfect because I could be less alone in my loneliness. People came and went, I listened carefully as they ordered their coffees in this foreign language and I loved just sitting there in my own world but still a part of the rest. I felt anonymous and like I didn’t have to be anyone. I loved that.
What is your songwriting process like? I like asking people this because I ﬁnd it’s always so different, even if some of the steps or the order of what they’re doing is the same, there’s always that something that makes it entirely unique. Guide us through a general day in the life of songwriting, as according to The Glass Child.
I wish I had a beautiful story of how it happens, like some sort of magic, but the boring truth is that it’s different every single time. There is no structure or magical formula to how you write a song, if you ﬁgure one out you hold the golden ticket!
Sometimes the song writes itself. I pick up a guitar or sit by the piano, take some chords and sing. Those songs are done in 5 minutes and are usually the ones that have that ”it” factor. They just had to be written.
Other times, I start with the production. I build a drum comp or program some sort of rhythm, record a simple guitar or piano riff, and then write the vocal melody with it.
Sometimes the lyrics come ﬁrst, sometimes I design and shape the lyrics so that they ﬁt with the rhythm I hear in my head.
I guess the only thing my songwriting process always starts with is this strange feeling in my chest that I need to get something out. It can be a speciﬁc experience or moment, just one single line that has been echoing in my head, or something I’ve been thinking about. It’s born out of an explosion of emotions where I need to put it into some sort of music or art. A feeling or an experience doesn’t feel real to me until I get to write about it in some way.
“I really have the most beautiful people listening to my music, it’s amazing to get to hang with them after every show.”
We had a geeky little chat about Patti Smith, which I loved. Is she a massive inspiration to you? What’s your favorite Patti record?
I’m a huge fan of Patti Smith’s music, but maybe most of all just as a person on this planet. How she’s dedicated her life to art, to her vision of what she wanted to come and create. I love her books, I love her story, I love her power. It’s inspiring. So many artists have a fast ”career”. They make their music a project and then they leave it behind and go on with their lives. I always wanted this to be my whole life. I wanted to live my life through this. Patti Smith has really succeeded with that.
Who else has inspired you, musically, over your time on the road — and couches, ﬂoors, train and bus stations — what artists have you listened to? What songs have been your favorites? I’ll even push you to pick one song and tell us about one of the most standout times when you listened to it. Like, if it’s the soundtrack to the movie you’ve penned about your life, what song would it be and what would the scene be like?
I mean, ﬁrst of all, more than being a songwriter myself I’m just a huge music fan! I still spend way too much time ﬁnding new bands and artists to love. I read about them, watch interviews with them and geek out on everything!
Some of my biggest inﬂuences that I’ve listened to ever since I discovered music are Counting Crows, Ani DiFranco, Bright Eyes, Ben Harper and Copeland. They have all done this for so long and there is this core to their music, this deeper spiritual meaning with it, even though I guess you could call all of them ”pop music”. I learned how to sing by singing along to Ani Difranco, she was the ﬁrst female singer I looked up to and wanted to sound like.
To pick one song is so hard! I think I’ll have to pick ”Round Here” by Counting Crows. That was the very ﬁrst song that made my whole world stop. I remember hearing it on the bus home and I just suddenly felt like a whole new universe had opened because here was this man that I knew nothing about, singing about these feelings that I had never been able to put my ﬁngers on, and it was all so beautiful. What hooked me the most was that it was all so painful, their songs and lyrics and his voice, but that was okay because they had turned it into something beautiful so it all made sense.
I knew right away I wanted to spend my life creating those moments for other people.
You just wrapped up a tour. How was that? Do you miss the road already?
This tour was such a magical experience! The road deﬁnitely brings out the best in me. I always ﬁnd myself writing a lot on tour, documenting things and feeling a lot. I love living out of a rucksack, waking up in new cities every day, knowing I’ll get to share my stories for people.
I really have the most beautiful people listening to my music, it’s amazing to get to hang with them after every show. I can’t wait to be back and play soon!
It was also really neat meeting fans of yours that had been to multiple shows. What’s it like to see the same faces out there, knowing they’re inspired by you the way you’re inspired by, say, Patti?
I honestly don’t know. I still can’t really comprehend that someone takes the time to listen to my music, much less the thought that someone travels to see me play live. It’s magical, I can’t take it in.
It’s deﬁnitely the biggest motivation and inspiration. Whenever I get tired and doubt my ability to do this, the thought of the people who do like what I do, keeps me going.
What advice do you have for any girl out there who either plays music, wants to, or creates art of any kind? Any advice that you were given by anyone when you started out that you’d like to pass on?
If I could say anything to 17 year old me, it would be this: stop being so scared. Stop worrying about the future, about tomorrow, about your abilities; if you’re good enough or if anyone will ever understand. Just do what you came here to do, do it full out and don’t doubt it. Experience it to the fullest and never close your eyes. Throwing yourself into the purse of a dream is the biggest adventure you can take on. It’s an amazing ride with letdowns and successes. All of it matters.
What can we expect next from The Glass Child?
My new EP Coming Home will be out this autumn! The ﬁrst single with the same title is already ﬂying free and another single called This Lonely Town will be out September 29th.
I wrote Coming Home about Gothenburg, and This Lonely Town is about the last two years I’ve spent living in Hamburg, in Germany. I will play some more shows this year, and next year I have a new book coming out!