Charlotte, great to have you.
Thank you for having me.
Can you give me first of all a little bit of background to yourself?
Yea, I’m from Sweden, Gothenberg and I moved to London 3 years ago when I was 18. Then I started my record label, and since then I released 3 EPs and just release my full-length and have been touring and had my single on the iTunes chart. I’ve been fighting for 3 years.
So you started off in Sweden and came here. When did you start your music?
Well I started to write music when I was in Sweden – probably 17, but I didn’t release anything, and didn’t even play live until I came to London. Basically in Gothenberg, we have 1 venue (Gothenberg is where I’m from), and then I came here [London] where you can play every night if you want to. So I guess I didn’t really do any music in Sweden – like I didn’t release or anything, so I guess it started when I came to London.
Ok, so you started your own record label in London?
How was that? It doesn’t seem like the easiest thing to set up.
It definitely wasn’t. When I moved to London, I think that as a musician, as a band and as a song-writer, there are two options you have. You can either spend your time (years) chasing the industry, chasing the label, trying to convince them to like your music, and spend your time trying to make them like you… or you can make it happen yourself. So I thought “I don’t want to compromise my art, I don’t want to compromise my music or myself”, so I thought I want to learn what they know so I can do that myself. So the first year was basically a learning experience – I tried to learn from everyone – from my managers, labels, I did an internship at a record label, and I just tried to learn as much as possible. When I thought ‘ok, I know enough’, I thought let’s make it happen. So then I tried to do it, and I made a mistake and then a mistake and then a mistake, but I learned, and sooner or later I had my record label.
What kind of mistakes did you make?
Oh, I made so many. First, you have to register and have all these numbers. Everything was so new, I had no idea what to do and I had no-one to talk to, and I was really young too, so when I actually went to see people to ask about these things no-one really took me seriously because they thought ‘she’s just a young girl – let’s just give her some information’, you know. But I learned, and I made mistakes mostly I think with the marketing and everything. How to pitch my album, how to pitch my music, but I learned from that too.
You were learning from pitching to people and getting feedback off them?
Yea, exactly. I think I realized quite fast what’s actually working – when I wrote my press releases and stuff, and I did some different alternatives and realised ‘ok, that doesn’t work, but this works’, and then I learned off that. You just have to try your way in to see what works and what doesn’t work, I think.
After you’d set up your own label and everything, you got your first EP out. How does that process work?
Well, first I had to make sure that I had a finished EP – with the music, with the productions and recording. And I’ve always been recording and producing everything myself, so that just took a long time to make the songs to a high quality. Then it was the release, and it’s all about registering it with all of these organisations like PRS and PBL. Then it was the whole release process with all the marketing – which takes 2 months to get some kind of exposure. So I sat for 2 months sending out press releases to every single blog, every single indie radio, magazine, any kind of person that could possibly write something about my music. And I sent so many emails I had to open (I think) 12 different email accounts because I’d reached a limit and got suspended for sending too many emails.
Wow, that must have been a lot!
But I figured ‘I don’t have any money to promote it, I can’t pay for promotion, and this was my only way of actually getting exposure’, so I just did it… and it paid off, because I got a lot of exposure from it. That was my first EP, and I learned so much from that – so when I had my second EP, first of all I had a little following, and I had learned my lessons for how to do it, so I learned from that, and then it was my third EP, you just build on it all the time.
So you started that all in London. It was your first time to London, was it?
How did you deal with moving to a new country and still trying to set up a record label?
It was really hard, because I was quite young, and I was really lost when I came here – I was 18. I moved because I never felt at home in Sweden – I knew that ‘I didn’t really belong here’, and I wanted so much more than people expected of me in Sweden. So first of all just to deal with living alone and learning to live with yourself – not having your friends or parents. I didn’t know anyone when I came here, so it was really, really hard, but I learned so much and grew so much. I don’t regret any of it.
How did you market your music & connect with your fans?
I think I realized quite fast that my way to connect with people is through the Internet – online, social media – because I’m not very good at going out and taking contact with people face-to-face, because I’m quite shy when it comes to that. So I quite fast gained a big following on Twitter and I had my blog Tumblr, and on Facebook and stuff like that, and so I realized ‘ok – we kind of became this community with people who wanted to support my music and who understood my music’, and it just grew, and that kind of became my way to promote my music. I inspired them to share my music and then it became this mouth-to-mouth thing and then the blog started to pick up. It was all online basically and on no budget at all, which is amazing with social media because you can reach so many people with no money.
I was very personal in the beginning. I didn’t go out and say ‘buy my music’ – I went out to take contact personally, and talk with my fans every single day and answer everyone, and I think that’s important because if there’s a band approaching me I don’t want to share their music if they don’t talk to me as a person – if they just talk to me as someone who can buy my product. It’s really important to be personal on social media.
Did you have any money to fund setting up your business and marketing it?
I had no money whatsoever. That’s why after I lived a year in London I spent everyday on my music – trying to get it out. After a while I couldn’t afford my rent anymore, so I had a choice either to get a day job or to give up my flat. And I thought ‘I can’t spend my day doing something I don’t love’, so I gave it up and then I spent a year on the road. I didn’t pay rent, I didn’t have a key. I had my guitar in my bag.
So where were you? What were you doing?
I went to bed everywhere – wherever I could sleep really. I crashed on my friends’ floors and fans’ floors and just tried to play and sell albums – that’s how I could afford the train to the next place. I think that when you love something so much you know that ‘this is what I have to do’. I couldn’t see myself working at a pub or something just to make money so I could afford a roof – it just didn’t make sense to me.
How did you feel when you were going from person to person’s floor? Did you ever think ‘what am I doing?’
Oh my God, every single day! Every single day I knew that ‘I can’t live like this my whole life’, but at the same time, I had this voice in my head saying ‘this is going to lead you to wherever you want to be. You just have to keep pushing’. I think that that’s the key – is when you find something you love so much that you actually define yourself with that thing. If you ask me ‘who am I?’, I would say ‘I do music’ – that’s who I am. I think when you find that thing, you just know what you have to do and you just do it – no questions about it. And sure, I doubted it – every single second, still I knew that I have to do this.
Was there ever a cut-off if you weren’t making money by a certain point?
No, and I think that’s why I am where I am today, because I never had a plan B. I never had this thought that if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go and study and become a nurse – or whatever. I never had a plan B. This was the only alternative, and I think that’s what you have to have, because then you don’t doubt it and you know what you have to do. If you wake up every morning and say ‘well if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just do this instead’, then you’re not going to give everything. You have to have ‘this is everything I’m going to do’, and that’s when you give everything you have, I think.
So you just released your latest album. What’s the name of that one?
“I’d Like to Remain a Mystery”.
So how has pickup been on that?
Better than I ever thought. I was so nervous, but it’s now two days ago that I released it and my Twitter has been just overflowing with beautiful words and I’ve had a lot of sold albums and I’ve had so many blogs and features. I’m overwhelmed. I did expect because I’ve been doing a lot of promo – I was hoping for a lot, but never expected this amount. So yea, it’s been amazing.
Do you have a goal of what you want to hit?
Definitely, yea. I had my album up for pre-sales, and so I had a goal for how many I wanted there. And I wanted to have this kind of features and you know, it’s been better than I ever, ever thought. It’s amazing.
That’s really cool. So what’s next after this?
Well now I’m going to keep focus on promoting the album because I want to get as much exposure as I possibly can, but then I have my book finished that I want to publish later this Spring. Hopefully in June. It’s about me on the road – just my journey, and what I learned and stuff. So I’m really excited about that, because it’s also a new kind of learning experience to publish a book and market a book – because literature is a big passion for me too, so I really want to pursue that. And after that, I want to tour. I’m trying to get a proper UK tour together for the Summer, and then hopefully album number 2.
Would you ever have other people on your record label as well?
I’d love to – that’s actually definitely a dream. My dream is to create this community with not just musicians, but with all kinds of artists – with writers, dancers, painters, photographers, film-makers, musicians, and all create this art community where the band can create an album and we’ll make an exhibit to it and the dancers might dance in the music video. I want it to be a whole art community. So that’s the goal, but I think that to do that I have to have the contacts and the ability to promote that and to get there I need to learn from my own music first… so in the future.
So your book. How do you get started writing one? How do you go about making that happen?
Well I’ve always been writing – just journaling and writing and poetry and novels and everything. So during my year on the road, of course I wrote a lot – just for comforting myself and my own heart, and so it just kind of became a natural step to think that maybe someone wants to read this because I learned a lot and had a lot of lessons and had a lot of stories to tell, so I thought ‘well I just try to put it up on my blog’. So first I just started to put up my small pieces of writing for my blog, and at some point I actually got more responses to these than I did my music, so I realized ‘okay – well maybe if I try to actually make something of this’. It just kind of happened naturally really.
Is that going to be self-published, or are you hoping to find a publisher?
No, self-published, definitely.
What advice would you give to anyone else thinking of starting up something on their own?
I would say know what you want. There are so many bands – that’s the saddest thing – I have so many friends in bands and they are so talented and are such good musicians. When I ask them what they want, they say that ‘my goal is to play Wembley Arena’, and I’m like ‘well that’s not a goal – you have to know what you’re going to do tomorrow to get there’. And they say ‘well I’m going to practise’, but that’s not going to get your music out. You need to know exactly what you want to do and where you want to go, and then you break it down so you know exactly - every single day - how to get there. So if your goal is ‘well I’m going to play Wembley Arena in 10 years’, you’re going to wake up tomorrow and still not know what to do. But if you have ‘well in a month, I want 2000 followers on Twitter’, you know what you’re going to do tomorrow, because you’re going to go on Twitter and try to promote it. So I would say know what to do and know where you want to go.
Break down your big dreams into smaller wins!
Brilliant, great. Well it’s been fantastic having you and interviewing you.
Thank you so much for doing an interview with me.
You can listen to and purchase Charlotte Eriksson's album here: I’d Like to Remain a Mystery