Indigo Charlie: Emerging indie-soul talent speaks on individuality, fashion & work ethic

Hard work, passion, intense creativity (and big hair) encapsulates 19-year-old Indigo Charlie. A student at FIDM university in Los Angeles and Solange Knowles’ former PA, Indigo recently found time to begin launching her music career, releasing her debut cut, “Never Change”.

Last month SoulCulture spoke to the up-and-coming indie-soul songstress about individuality, record labels and her love of fashion.

Indigo Charlie’s first musical offering, “Never Change,” emerged on the blogsphere in December, followed by a remix featuring Khleo Thomas. Accompanying the song was a strong visual formed of a montage of still photographs telling the narrative of a conflicted young couple.

“‘Never Change’ was a couple of different guys’ stories wrapped into one. Each of them bring out a different emotion in you but it ends up being the same, whether anger or pain,” says Indigo, explaining why she feels writing from experience is important. “I definitely write from personal experience whether it be mine, or some of my friends. Some of my friends; they’ve gone through bad experiences and I’ve seen them cry or be hurt and been a firsthand witness to their emotions, and then obviously I’m a firsthand witness to mine, so I take all of that and put it into music.”

Still in the process of getting comfortable in the studio, Indigo has begun work on her first EP. She talks me through her song-making process, explaining, “We really have an organic process where we go, we sit, we vibe, we listen to new music and create a beat from that, and I’m still learning how to find melodies, so I’ve been working on that.”

“And also writing down all my feelings, then we’ll go back in and try and form lyrics and verses. Really, most of my songs right now have been taking two-to-three months, which I don’t mind, I don’t want to put out something that I don’t believe in or something that is rushed so I’ve definitely been putting the time into it.”

The decision to pursue a career is music is a relatively fresh one for the 19 year old, who realised a year ago that she was ready to make her mark on the industry. Exposed to the music industry at a young age through her mother’s career as a publicist, Indigo expressed an interest in making music, but was persuaded to wait a while.

“I always wanted to do music from when I was younger but my mom being in the music industry kind of really against it, she was like, ‘I want you to go to school, I want you to go to college and get a great career.’

“It’s not that she didn’t believe in me, it’s that she’s seen that it can be so harsh and when I wanted to pursuit it younger I didn’t exactly know who I was. So I got to the point where I knew who I was, I knew what I wanted to sound like – I knew the artist I wanted to be.”

Assured of her self-image she describes herself as, “someone who smiles a lot and really likes to explore the beautiful sadness in the world.”

“I love things that are beautiful and I love things that are sad,” she says, “and the expression in my music is kind of the deeper, darker side of me that nobody really gets to see because I am always smiling. You don’t wanna be around somebody who’s constantly moody; it’s nice to get through the day smiling, and then I can express myself in that darker side of myself in my music and it’s okay, and people are going to understand the expression. I think that’s me as an artist, I’m happy, and smiley, and dark all at the same time.”

Influenced heavily by the European indie scene, Indigo cites Swedish singer Lykke Li as an inspiration and gushes at the mention of The xx, and most specifically, the group’s talented producer and frontman Jamie Smith, who has recently received a spate of attention in the Hip Hop scene for his remixes of Notorious BIG, Gil Scott Heron and features with Theophilus London.

“He’s so dope!” Indigo swoons, “It’s like, you almost feel like you’re touching his soul when he sings. He’s singing and I swear it’s like I’ve heard someone speak for the first time. It’s almost like he could say no words and just breathe, and it’d be so emotional. I don’t know, I get so stumbly over my words when I talk about him because he’s so dope! When people ask who in The xx really inspired me, it’d be Jamie; I listen to a lot of Jamie verses over and over again – really what inspires me from him is the way he conveys emotion, it’s so incredible.”

Indigo’s creative influences go beyond music, as the young California native is also completing a fashion degree at Los Angeles’ FIDM with the intention to pursue an alternate career as a fashion trendspotter. Currently committed to both passions, Indigo at this stage struggles to choose between the two – a decision which will be an inevitable eventuality at some point.

After a lot of pressure, she relents through giggles. “Okay, okay, for now I’m going to say music, for the simple fact that I’m such a good place with it, and I’ve seen people connect to it and be happy; I’ve seen people sing my lyrics – it makes me so happy inside. I believe in what I’m doing and I want to push forward and share what’s in my soul with whoever I can. And it’s a dream for me to perform at [music festival] Coachella so I don’t know if I could give that up.”

From my own experience of juggling a barrage of coursework deadlines in the final year of my degree with the demands of working in the creative industries, I marvel at Indigo’s extensive workload and ask how she balances, in essence, three full time jobs – working as Solange Knowles personal assistant, studying full time and developing herself as an artist.

“When it comes to time, I don’t B.S. Where most people would sit, or make time, maybe go out, or party, I just don’t do it. With the time I have in the day I purely focus on things that are gonna better my life and help me in my career. I go to school, I make sure I give enough time in school, I make sure I give enough time to recording; there’s been many times I got out of school at 6 o’clock, got in my car and drove to the studio and been in there until 2 in the morning.

“I don’t let time go by where I’m not working on what I want to do because eventually the hard work is gonna pay off and I’ll be able to take the time to relax, so for now I’ve just gotta hit the pavement and make it happen for myself.”

The impetus behind her impressive drive comes from her biggest influence and closest friend; her mother, Chanel.

“I’ve watched my mom make a career for herself out of nothing. She started with nothing and she’s hit the pavement, worked hard, had a good work ethic and I’ve watched her make it as a single parent and make a really good life for herself, and be really successful. It would be such a blessing to do half of what she’s done in her career, and so it drives me because I wanna be able to buy her a house with a pool-boy or something.”

She laughs. “That’s why it means so much, because it’s my turn to turn around and give her twenty years, thirty years, where she gets to do what she loves like I have.”

While Indigo has an ardent inspiration which fuels her, she has some choice advice for her peers who are still trying to find their way and carve out a similar career path.

“My two things are be yourself, and work on who you are, and work on making the best, strongest, flyest, most beautiful YOU that you can. Nothing is gonna get you further in life than having a good work ethic. And a good work ethic whether you put in countless hours or you just work hard and you never step over somebody.

“I think being a good businesswoman or businessman and having a good work ethic is gonna take you further than anything. Hit the pavement and go – and while you go and work hard, be yourself. Those are my two things that will get people [to where they want to go]. I mean, that’s all I’ve done… be myself and work hard.”

Indigo Charlie’s next single, “On The Edge,” is out February 21st.

Indigo Charlie online: Twitter / YouTube

Photography by Carmen Chan