Charlotte Sands, ‘can we start over?’ | The Album Story

Charlotte Sands chats with us at home in Nashville as she prepares for the release of her highly anticipated debut album ‘can we start over?’, out January 24.

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Charlotte Sands had one hell of a 2023. The Nashville-based alt-pop singer won the Heavy Music Award for Best Breakthrough Singer, supported 5 Seconds of Summer on tour, and released a handful of singles from her debut album ‘can we start over?’ to a massive reception. 2024 is set to be bigger yet, with the album release, shows in the US and Australia, and her first headline tour across the UK and Europe.

She’s been working on the recordsince early 2023 – how does she feel ahead of releasing her baby out into the world? “I genuinely have never been so excited or so proud of anything that I’ve made. It’s the first time ever that I’ve been able to make something and curate the entire project as a whole instead of just releasing singles and pushing the song that I felt fit that moment in my life,” she says. “Now I’m creating this whole entire project that speaks for an entire phase of my life, which is a different experience. It’s definitely been a learning experience, but I’m extremely excited and proud.”

Sands, who was raised in Massachusetts by a musician father, has always been heading here. Her career has been growing steadily over the last several years, releasing debut single ‘Phantom Pain’ in 2018, appearing on The Maine’s ‘Loved You a Little’ in 2022 and dropping viral hit ‘Dress’ the same year. Singles ‘get over it’, ‘use me’ and ‘pity’ have gotten fans excited for the powerful, dark pop world of ‘can we start over?’.

We spoke to Charlotte at home in Nashville, where she was settling into not being on the road–for now, anyway.  


The sound of ‘can we start over?’marks a shift for Sands. In parts it’s heavier than her previous releases, but always driven by the same emotion and distinct vocals. While the tracks traverse sonic ground, there’s one unifying vision on the album: “I always went in wanting it to be a really incredible live performance. Every single song we made, the intention was for it to be able to be performed live and still have the same energy and emotion as if you were listening to it on Spotify,” she says. “I knew that I was gonna be touring this album, I wanted this album to feel like a show back to back.” Additionally, she wanted to make sure that it flowed together and reflected the feelings that she was experiencing when writing it: “I wanted it to feel like a rollercoaster. It’s an entire human experience. There are songs where I feel angry, and there are songs where I’m sad, there are songs where I feel really confident and on top of the world.” Sands worked with Keith ‘Ten 4’ Sorrels, Alex Niceforo and Jutes to find that sound, bringing them tracks by bands like Sleep Token and Deftones to convey what she wanted to achieve. “I love how weird some of those tracks sound. I love the pop rock songs that I’ve been making, but I want there to be some things that rub you the wrong way,” she says. “I feel like that’s what makes those songs that I love. You remember those certain chords or certain changes and those elements that make it feel so different. It feels artistic in those senses. I love those little details.”


Sands says that she wasn’t even planning on making an album until she went to LA in March of last year and worked with Sorrels, Niceforo and Jutes. Over three days, they wrote three singles together and she realised that she needed them to be a “family”. “We automatically agreed that I was going to start working on a project and I started working on it with them. It was just uphill from there,” she says. She had already met Jutes on a previous trip, clicking over their shared connection as independent artists. “There are a lot of very isolating things about having a small team in an industry that’s made up of really big, powerful people, so we connected on that.” He introduced her to Keith and Alex, and she says that she loved working with them. “I felt like they really listened to everything that I said that I wanted to sound like, and everything that was important to me was important to them.” She adds that they made the experience feel like a true collaboration: “I felt like they were really trying to amplify everything that I wanted and everything that I was saying. A lot of the songs are about being a woman and about personal experiences of mine. Writing songs like that with three men can be really challenging and interesting, but they were completely supportive and gave me the space to say whatever I wanted to say.” Their teamwork also pushed Sands into exciting new places artistically: “There are certain structures that you feel like you have to stick to, so when you have people that make you question the structure of songs, it pulls you out of your element for a second. Having people that are not afraid to break the rules is really helpful.”


Sands says that she usually heads into a session with her co-writers with a voice memo or some lyrics already prepared. However, for the sessions with her collaborators on ‘can we start over?’ she came in as a “blank page”. “I was like, can we just make something that sounds cool, and I feel like it’s gonna come to me,” she says. “We just started making music and tracks that I love the sound of, and then they inspired the songwriting. It felt like it was very natural, and we’d have these subconscious flows of ideas and words that would match the melodies.” Sands’ lyrics, especially on this record, are very personal. They grapple with her identity, relationships and deepest feelings. That makes collaborating difficult, and it makes releasing tracks a nerve-wracking experience. “You’re with people that you met a few days ago, discussing really personal things that you maybe haven’t discussed with most of the people in your life. There’s a huge trust element.” With her collaborators here, she found that trust: “The second I walked into that space, I completely felt like I could be myself and I could say whatever I wanted to say and there was no judgement. Nobody was trying to change my opinion or my experiences or my perspective. I think that’s why I enjoyed making the song so much and why the album is so special to me, because every song feels that way.” She calls the experience of releasing her songs into the world “vulnerable”: “A lot of the time you’re just writing a flow of whatever comes to your mind, so you don’t really realise how much you’re saying or how much you’re telling. You just feel so comfortable in these spaces and you write whatever you write and then it’s out there and you need to let it go into the world.


On the cover, Sands stands defiant in front of a city in ruin. She always had that image in mind when developing the record, but wasn’t sure how to pull it off–especially with such a small budget. “I’m independent, so there’s not a ton of funding for the creative side of my music. It’s always been a huge struggle trying to finance and do all of these things and make my ideas come to life,” she says. “For the artwork I wanted to be in this destroyed area where it felt like a city had fallen or was being built or both, and build off the concept of starting over. You’re almost walking into this landscape and finding this abandoned place and restarting.” She enlisted a friend, Dawson Waters, who directed her first music video. He’s a digital artist who makes 3D art, so Sands asked him to create a landscape that she would be inserted into. They then asked guitarist and photographer Dillon Jordan to shoot Sands and edited the two together. It worked, and they pulled it off “with no time to spare”. Sands is thrilled with the outcome, but wonders what it would be like to have a big budget: “Would I be crying myself to sleep every night? Probably not.” She laughs, adding, “I’m so much more intentional about every detail because it’s so important for it to be right. We cannot reshoot. It has taught me so much about the value of a dollar and how to take advantage of it.”


The title of the record is taken from the track of the same name. Sands wrote ‘can we start over?’ with the producer Kodeblooded and writer Matthew Marino. Sands brought in an unusual combination to the session: a Sleep Token song and a poem from Pinterest. She sang one line from the poem, “can we start over”, over and over again, and they worked from there. “It just came really naturally. I was like, what would somebody say if they wanted to restart?” She sees the phrase as applying to this current phase in her life and artistry: “I feel like a different person than I have been for the last few years. I have learned a lot, I’ve changed a lot, we all have,” she says. “As someone who has been in the public eye since she was 21, Sands is now 27 and wants to reintroduce herself. It felt like reintroducing myself to these people that have known me for a while. I don’t feel like I would do anything differently, but this is who I am right now. This is how I want you to see me. This is what I expect. These are my boundaries and rules for myself. This is the new standard of my life and what I allow and what I won’t. It’s about restarting with people. I felt like I needed to reset in my entire personal and professional life.” She wanted to pay homage to the “beauty of meeting people where they are instead of where they used to be”, choosing that title as it represented where she’s at so well. “I am asking people to meet me where I am now and start here. Let’s move forward together and forget anything that has happened in the past that didn’t help our relationship and help us to grow.”


When we catch up with Sands, she’s at home in Nashville, settled down for the first time in a while. Her headline tour is due to begin in March, and she’s excited: “The entire year is booked. They’re my first ever headline shows in Europe and the UK and I couldn’t be more thrilled,” she says. She’s also excited to tour Australia, a country she’s never been but where she inexplicably has the biggest audience. “Of my top 10 cities for streaming, three are in Australia. I’m so excited to go there and finally meet everybody and be a part of that.” After that? She’ll be working on new songs before you know it, something she says is “terrifying”, “but I’m so grateful I get to do it.”

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