The artist formerly known as ARK, Charlotte Clark is so much more than a member of Harry Styles’ band and it’s time that everyone realizes that. The talented musician, who has been around music her entire life, has been doing her own artist project for years. While she used to perform under her pseudonym, she decided in 2020 that she’s just going by her real name instead. As Charlotte, she’s rolled out two new songs so far in 2020 — “Disarray” and “Warm Weather” — and her EP Warm Weather is coming in February next year.
Clark didn’t originally have a plan to start releasing music this year, but with the COVID-19 pandemic putting Styles’ tour on hold, Clark has had the time to finesse the tracks and give them to the world. She’s not stopping there, though. The British musician is already working on her next project, though she’s not saying much about what we can expect. For now, we’re happy enjoying what’s to come from Warm Weather and her ethereal vocals that carry each song.
I caught up with Clark bright and early one Friday morning over Zoom — from New York to England — to talk about growing up with music, how she got the job with Styles, and to meet her new fur baby, Domino. Though her kitten tried to commandeer the interview more than once, I’ve cut out all our cat lady talk here so you at least have the appearance that we stayed on track the whole time. Check it out ahead.
I’d just like to start at the top with your background in music. I read that you’ve been musical your whole life.
It’s always a funny one, because there’s no specific place where it started or point where it began. I grew up with my parents taking us to lots of music festivals, specifically like world music festivals, so it was just kind of music from everywhere.
I remember my dad one day was like, “Oh, my friend’s selling a violin. Does anyone want to learn to play a violin?” And I was like, “Sure.” Just lots of instruments in the house. It just kind of really naturally came about like that. I’m one of four sisters as well, and all of us used to sing together and just kind of play music. That’s sort of how it started, but I think because it was always there, it’s almost like I didn’t really know it was a thing. I just thought that everyone’s parents did the same. I grew up to realize that I was very lucky to have that.
It’s funny you mention that, because I similarly grew up playing the piano because my brothers did and I assumed that was just what you did when you were old enough. But mine just turned out to be a hobby.
It’s a funny one though, because I also just thought it was like a hobby and the whole kind of like, “Oh, I want to be a musician.” I don’t know when that moment kind of happened. It was just such a natural thing and I’m so lucky that it was because I know some people it’s like, their parents, for example, really didn’t want them to do that and they wanted them to have these kinds of set careers.
You’ve gone through an evolution with having the stage name ARK and now you’re just going by Charlotte. What was the story behind originally using a stage name and why the change?
I never played under my own name ever until this year. I think I actually just thought my name was really boring. I was like, “Oh, it doesn’t represent me. It’s not an artist name.” And it was kind of all of those things, where I just thought I want to be this cool artist, I guess, when I was younger. So, I was always playing under different names and then ARK was, I don’t know, it’s one of those things that you just, you think about so much, like an artist name, but actually I don’t think it ever needs that much thought. Unless you’ve got something that’s really strong and it fully identifies you and it’s like, I don’t know, like people have really good ones. Like Lorde, is just great. And that’s her.
I was playing under ARK and it was kind of like this whole pseudonym for this one specific part of my personality I think. I was writing a lot of sad, emotional, vulnerable love songs. And it was just that part of me. And then I grew out of that phase in life and I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t want to write sad songs anymore. I’m not that person anymore.” My own name is the only thing that I guess encompasses all sides of me.
So I thought, “I’m just going to play with my own name.” And it just feels so nice because I don’t have to be anyone but myself.
I want to talk about the two songs you’ve brought out this year so far. Can you tell me the stories?
This whole EP that I’m about to release, I’ve had for so long. “Disarray” was a funny one because I have this thing where I don’t really know how I’m feeling until I look back on something. Like when I’m in the middle of something I’m kind of just in it. I’m navigating my way through this kind of moment that you don’t really know what’s going on, like you can’t gather your feelings about it.
For “Disarray,” I went to my friend Scott’s house. I’ve been writing with him for about four years. We wrote the chorus and the whole chorus just came to us straight away and we thought it was something that had already been written. I remember actually putting something on my Instagram story, being like, “Hey, singing this melody, does anyone know where this song’s from?” And we both thought that it was something, I don’t know why, we just felt like we’d heard it before. And then, so we had that chorus and I just left it for ages.
Then my manager at the time was like, “That song’s really cool. You should finish that.” I didn’t really know what it was about, so I didn’t know how to approach it. And then about six months later, I came out of this relationship that I was in and listened back to that thing and I realized the whole song was about that. And I was like, “Oh my god, how did I not know?” I managed to finish the rest of it on my own, just at the piano in about 20 minutes.
And with “Warm Weather”?
I don’t even know how many jobs I was working in London. I’d been there for ages and had been in the cycles of struggling to pay my rent every month and then the months would just go on and on and on, and I would never leave or never really do much of the stuff that I wanted to do. I’d met this guy Odd Martin who came over from Bergen in Norway a couple of months before, and we’d had this amazing day and he was like, “You should come out to Bergen and do some writing.” So, I’d managed to sort out this trip with a few writers there.
I was on the plane and I just had this, I wouldn’t say it was a panic attack, but my thoughts were just spiraling. I was like, “I hope that I can actually write something and I hope this isn’t just a waste of money,” because I didn’t have enough. I was just stressed about money and all of that and just feeling like I didn’t belong. Like I wasn’t worthy of flying to a different country and spending money and having this week of writing songs, because all I’d known was just grinding and working and working.
I got there and it’s just the most beautiful place. Everyone is so lovely and welcoming. There’s a really nice kind of sense of community in the studio where there’s like, there’s probably four studios in this one space, but everyone kind of comes in and collaborates with each other. I just sat down and had a tea, and I don’t even remember how it started. I think I actually have a voice memo of it somewhere, but again, it was just like the whole chorus came and the lyric of, “It’s no wonder that I’ve been acting cold under this warm weather,” and how everything around you can be great, but you’re still stuck in your head and the moment I wrote that, funnily enough, I was out of that moment. So, yeah.
You said you’ve had this EP for a little bit. Is this the timeline you originally planned or did it change because this year is all out of whack?
It’s been a weird one with an EP because it kind of was done and then I went through some stuff with some old management that I’m not working with anymore and that delayed things. Then I changed it because there was a song that they didn’t want on it and now I was like, “No, I really want it on it,” and now I can have it on there.
I guess it’s been done for the last year or so, just finishing up things here and there. But I didn’t have a plan, I really didn’t know how I was going to release it. I didn’t know if I was going to get it out this year because obviously I was meant to be going on this tour and then it came to March and we were all at home and I just thought, right, I’ve got it. I’m just going to get it mastered and actually just say that it’s finished and just see how I feel about it from there.
And also for my own creativity, I find when I let go of songs and put them out into the world, I can then crack on with the new stuff and actually write new things. I find it hard to move on from it until it’s out.
So you’re not working on the next project yet?
I am now. Over the last sort of six months, being at home and everything I’ve been like, “Okay, well I guess I should just write.” But I’m not actively trying to do it. It just has been coming out. The last two songs that I’ve finished, I feel like it’s a completely new direction, but I really, really like it. It’s just a lot more raw and bandy and upbeat and I just want to make stuff that makes me feel good.
Now as for your other job that you mentioned with Harry Styles. You joined his band last year? How did you get that gig?
It was a surprise for me. I was camping on holiday with my friends. Ny Oh, who is the other new girl in the band, I knew her from uni and I hadn’t seen her in ages. And she sent me a message like, “What’s your email?” And I gave her my email and I asked why, and she was like, “Just know that the universe wants good things for you.” I was like, “Okay, what’s this?”
And then I think she’d gotten the gig [with Harry] and then she’d recommended me. I obviously had just been doing my own stuff and was like, “Okay, I’ll go to this audition.” And then next thing you know, it was like, “Cool, I guess I’m doing this now,” which has been amazing. It’s such a cool experience.
The band has always seemed so close and just like this little family. Are you guys close?
It’s really lovely. For something on that scale and to have people that are really close and really look out for each other. It’s so refreshing to be around. I just forget the level of fame Harry has because he and everyone are just so down to earth and then we’ll do a show and be like, “Oh my god. Wow. Okay.”
It’s unfortunate that everything’s been on pause now, but before that, you guys played some huge shows like Saturday Night Live. What was that like?
I had no idea really about it because it’s not big in the UK. And that was my first time in America.
Oh! Did you have a chance to see the city?
I’ve been there a few times now but I keep finding new things. One day I was like, “Oh, I’m going to go to Madison Square Garden.” I thought it was a garden! I walked and it was like, “Yeah, you’re here.” And it wasn’t a garden. I mean, that’s how clueless I am on New York.
Most people associated with Harry end up inheriting his fans, and I’ve noticed you’ve already got some fan pages on social media now that have crept up in recent months.
It’s just so different from my musical life before because then I really had to self-promote. I really had to push for people to listen to it. And there were listeners, but not people that would read every bit of press or anything. And now it’s so lovely. There’s this feeling, I’m like, “Okay, there’s all these people,” but I feel really at ease with it because everyone is so sweet and complimentary. Yeah, it’s lovely.
It’s amazing that you’ve been able to still do your own music this year and have Harry’s band as a side job, allowing you to do everything.
I didn’t realize how much it means to me to do my music until this time off, because, it sounds really cheesy, but it is really how I understand myself. Like how I’m feeling and who I am just as an individual to make music and to just put it out and to still do my artist project. It means so much to me. And obviously, that had kind of fallen to the side a bit over the last year, which has not been any kind of bad thing at all. I’ve just been taking all these new experiences, but having this time off and just being at home in a silent house, I feel really lucky that I have it as an outlet as well.
What else can we expect from you soon?
Definitely, more music coming very soon and I think there will be merch. And of course, the EP, which I’m very excited about!