Pop/rock artist Charlotte Sands always felt like a lone wolf outside of her loving family’s home. She was desperate to fit in during middle school and high school, but aimlessly floated around on the margins of social circles. She wasn’t into sports, she didn’t feel book smart, and she harbored insecurity about what people would think about her plan to forgo college and pursue music.
Yet, today the electric-blue-haired artist is seemingly a life raft for Gen Z-ers and beyond, who are plagued by these same feelings of angst, anxiety, and alienation. Through tireless hard work, self-reflection, and a winding journey that included stealing her mother’s car; missing a crucial flight; and taking a chance on social media, she channeled those haunting feelings of isolation into empowering art. Her latest single, “Alright,” an ethereal but anthemic pop track, chronicles a profound turning point in her story.
“I want to be the big sister to those who feel like freaks. My intention with my music is to create a safe space for people to feel accepted and celebrated for their weirdness and diversity,” Charlotte reveals. “When people feel seen and supported, the world becomes a better place.”
MTV called 2022 a “banner year” for Charlotte, and they were spot on. She played 103 shows, including national and international summer tours opening for big-name artists like YUNGBLUD, My Chemical Romance, in front of 32,000 people, and The Maine; a fall headlining tour across North America with many sold-out shows; and festival performances at Bonnaroo, Forecastle, Austin City Limits, South by Southwest, So What!, Boston Calling, and Riot Fest. Now, 2023 is almost booked up with a fleet of international dates.
Charlotte’s kaleidoscopic songs are fizzy and irresistibly hooky, sublimely atmospheric, angsty, emo-tinged, punky, and metallic, often in the same song. Her music breaks down biases and stigmas often associated with pop. “My songs are my feelings written down. Often, they’re fun songs you can jump around to that also have depth when you allow yourself to connect to them,” she shares.
Many first discovered Charlotte in 2020 on TikTok through her leaked single, “Dress.” The track was an invigorating f-you to the uptights who were aghast about Harry Styles wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue. “Dress” embedded itself in the US Pop Charts for 10 weeks and was played internationally on 200-plus multi-format stations, making it one of the biggest independent stories of the year. To date, “Dress” has amassed 35 million-plus total streams.
But Charlotte’s career didn’t start with the overnight success of a viral song—she has been grinding it out for nearly a decade, and her success is a testament to her broadly resonant messaging and her tireless work ethic. Since, 2018 Charlotte has released 27 singles and 2 EPS, covering a wide swath of creative real estate with her trusted longtime producer Danen Reed Rector, along with a motley assortment of creative conspirators spanning alt-rock bands such as Underøath and Sleeping With Sirens to pop and alt artists like Mokita and The Maine. Her catalog has amassed over 135 Million cumulative streams, averaging 1.9 million listeners per month.
Charlotte grew up in a creatively vibrant household in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Her father is a musician, and her mother was an aspiring actress who eventually became an English teacher before becoming a superintendent. “She was my elementary school principal! She always stood for something bigger than herself, and made people feel safe to be themselves,” Charlotte says.
Growing up, there was always a guitar around, and her family would play and sing together. Being a songwriter came naturally for Charlotte. Early on, she was inspired by storytelling songwriters like Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Grace Potter. In her teen years, she began writing music and discovered emo and pop-punk bands like All Time Low and Taking Back Sunday. Her music today seeks to find that middle ground between those 2000s rockers and her childhood singer-songwriter favorites.
Coming up as a budding songwriter, Nashville always held a mystical allure. All of her favorite singer-songwriter CDs had some Music City connection. Charlotte made up her mind to move there after high school, and convinced her father to make the drive with her two weeks after she graduated high school. The deal was that before she moved she would have secured an apartment and a job. She recalls: “We were over halfway to Nashville when I turned to my dad and said, ‘I want you to let you know I don’t have a job and don’t have a place to live or know a person there.’ He looked at me and said: ‘Okay, figure it out now, and I won’t tell your mom.’” When they pulled in at 6:00 AM, Charlotte had lined up a place to live and a job at the mall.
Charlotte was faced with another nail-biter when the pandemic hit. She had to make the difficult decision to either stay alone, isolated in Nashville with an uncertain future, or go back home. While she was booking her flight, she was also working with Danen, and a piano melody he was playing lured her to stay. That musical motif became Charlotte’s single, “Alright,” and her lyrics reflect the desperation she was feeling at the time. “Through writing that song, I made a choice for my future self—it was the light at the end of the tunnel—and now I am in that light,” she marvels.
By November of 2020, however, Charlotte’s music career was at a standstill, and her manager suggested she start posting on TikTok. At the time, Charlotte didn’t know if the platform would foster the authentic connections she was seeking with her music. To appease her manager, Charlotte posted a version of her song “Dress,” and then went to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with her family. Within a few hours, the song had racked up over 12,000 comments.
These days Charlotte has finally found the community she craved growing up, and she created it herself for other social misfits. “I was bullied as a kid, but I’ve realized now the support I was seeking as a teen is here,” she says. “This is all bigger than me, and this past year of shows I’ve been able to actually meet people I’ve interacted with online, and that’s given me a lot of hope in humanity.”