Interview with Charlotte Wessels — “If you like what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life… or all of the days of your life.”


During the pandemic, Charlotte Wessels started a Patreon to share a song of the month with subscribers. One year later, Wessels released a collection of these diverse tracks via Napalm Records on September 17th, 2021, called Tales from Six Feet Under.” We had the opportunity talk with the singer/songwriter about her Patreon, Nick Cave, her songs, and the future. Watch the interview here or read the complete transcription below.

First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. How have you been during these crazy times?

I’m good, thank you so much. Thanks for having me. Thanks for the interview, for covering the record. I’m doing alright. It’s been a crazy time, of course, but it has been for everyone and I’m excited about the upcoming release, so yeah, things are things are good in house Wessels.

Well, first of all, congratulations on your release of your first solo album. Of course, these tracks have been released beforehand but I was wondering, how are you feeling about the upcoming like physical release of the album?

It’s different. It’s different from the Patreon space, of course. That’s kind of a space where everyone’s really coming along for all of the parts of what you’re doing, it’s a really tight knit community, so the songs going out on to the digital format as well as on the vinyl, it’s still exciting. It’s also… reviews are coming through, it makes me a little bit nervous but it’s also also very good. I figured, straight early into the Patreon process, that I tried to make the Patreon as accessible as possible. But I’m still very aware of my own privilege and the fact that three euros a month, or, you know three euros and download everything and then move on, it’s still a lot for some people, so I wanted my music outside of that as well, or at least a part of it. So yeah, it’s exciting.

Well, before we talk more about the album, I was actually wondering about creating this Patreon account and your solo album. Is that something that you always wanted to do… write your own music do everything for your own accounts? Or was it something that happened because you left DELAIN?

No, it’s kind of… when I started thinking about the Patreon account, it was just out of the fact that I was always writing a lot of music and, of course, a portion of that ended up on the DELAIN albums. There were also things that didn’t fit that realm, because they were just too different in style or just because there were surplus or whatever. There was just a point where I started feeling bad about the number of songs that were on a hard drive somewhere and no one was listening to them and I thought that was a shame. So I started thinking about, what can I do to release these songs anyway. And I’ve considered doing like a side project, but that’s something that I’ve done before, like enthusiastically as well, in 2015, for example, I did the “The Deviant Heart,” which was a record and a book with PHANTASMA. But there, I always felt like I was keeping the rest of the group back because DELAIN was very ambitious and we were touring a lot and there was simply not a lot of space for me to do that on the side. So I figured, whatever, I was going to do to the songs, it should be something where I could really do it independently, so that I can make up the rules and it wouldn’t fight with DELAIN, you know. So, when I started it, that was the idea to have a home for the songs that were not going to make it to DELAIN albums,

I started in 2020 and obviously, it also became a great pandemic activity, because we were not touring. Behind the scenes, we were working through our issues with the band. So it was something really positive to keep me creatively invested at that time, and when DELAIN ended up splitting, became my full-time thing now. The approach to my songs on Patreon is also different because, whereas when I was beginning, it was only a place for two songs that will never fit on a DELAIN album, which is why a lot of people were so shocked when they found that “oh my god, where’s the metal?” No, it’s kind of a different approach and all of the things can find their way onto the Patreon. In the more recent months, there are also some more metal tracks on there. But yeah, this release, “Tales From Six Feet Under,” is from the first year, so there’s mostly all things that are different from that. So yeah, it started with a different idea than what it ended up with, but I’m really glad it ended up like this because now I’ve got… it’s been it’s a great safety net and I’m happy to have it now all out there.

Now, you mentioned it already, the record is very diverse and it contains a lot of non-metal songs. Do you listen to a lot of non-metal music, because we mostly know you from the symphonic metal world, so I’m quite curious to know what you listen to on a daily basis.

If I’d describe my taste in music, it’s a lot of heavy music, but it’s mostly somber music… it’s music that’s dramatic, that’s dark, but I also listened to a lot of alternative music that’s dramatic and dark, I also listen to pop music that’s dramatic and dark, so I definitely have a flair for the Goth side of things. But within that, it can really go, from pop like in the pop realm, I really like. And I will think of AURORA, or FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, then you know, my favorite band ever is RADIOHEAD. I love Nick Cave and so I think that the darker, dramatic side of it is the connecting factor in there. For me, it makes total sense but yeah it still resulted in a quiet, eclectic record when I put all the songs together.

It’s interesting when I was asking, I was immediately thinking whether you might be a Nick Cave fan, because I think his lyrics also take such an important role in the music and I felt the same with your record.

Yeah, I’m a big Nick Cave fan. One of the last shows I’ve seen pre-pandemic, was his Evening With Nick Cave, the one where he sits down with a piano in the middle of the audience and people just ask questions and he doesn’t have a setlist, he doesn’t have a band, he just talks to the audience and play songs and it was… my heart.

Is that a show format that you would also like to experiment with?

I think you have to be older and wiser to do that. There was a lot of, “Hey, Nick share your wisdom about this or that topic,” and I feel that if people would do that to me, that I would give a lot of bad advice. [laughter] However, I mean I did enjoy the format and I enjoyed the fact that I think it takes a very good musician also to sit down for an evening like that, without a plan, and then be entertaining for 2+ hours.

I guess with Patreon, you’re kind of having the same format but then online, you include your fans a little bit more than in the past. I think a lot of other artists have been trying Patreon and Twitch out during this time that there are not a lot of tours. Do you think that this is maybe the future of the music industry or where do you see these online platforms going?

I am obviously a big fan of these platforms. I think Patreon has really been a revelation to me. I’ve given it a lot of thought before I started. And for me, it really… when I thought of what I wanted to do. It really came out on top of making albums in a traditional way or getting funds the traditional way. I think that for me and for a lot of people who’ve chosen this, it can be a really good way of both connecting with their audience and releasing their things, whatever it is, you know. I do think that also a lot of people – and this is something to realize – during the pandemic, a lot of people have also kind of been finding for ways to keep making music, like it was a problem, they didn’t have the shows anymore, and then it kind of became a solution to the pandemic problem to them. And maybe for them, it’s more like a short-term solution, it wouldn’t surprise me if, when things go back to normal, a lot of people think, okay, maybe this is now not necessary for me anymore or I’m going to do it differently. Maybe a lot of people will stick around, even though they never expected to work this way, and they just got into it because of the pandemic. For me, it is something that I set up way before. I mean, I started in the middle of the pandemic. I even considered for a little bit, because I just put the release date or like the publish date of my Patreon, I put it on my birthday because I thought oh that’s nice. When the pandemic started I thought this is not the time to start asking people for money, I’ve got to postpone it, I’ve got to wait until the pandemic is over. I am so glad that I didn’t do that. But yeah, that’s just to say that I think, especially since so many people joined in during the pandemic, I’m sure a lot of them will jump out, but I am very convinced that it can be like a long term way of living and making art.

Actually, I’m an artist too, a photographer, and it’s amazing how many people expect you to do things for free. I guess Patreon is also a good platform for artists to get paid, instead of gaining “exposure.”

Oh God… isn’t that annoying? Oh, you are an artist… do it for exposure. That’s all right, I will just take that exposure to the supermarket and ask if I can pay for my groceries with that. [laughter] I think is a great solution for those kinds of things.

It’s literally the worst! Now, having this Patreon account, do you feel that it provides you with more artistic freedom than being in the institution that band is?

Yeah, of course it does. But in a lot of different ways. Way number one is actually every time that you start something new, you have that kind of freedom. When I started doing a project with PHANTASMA, for example, that didn’t exist and then it came into existence, so people didn’t have an expectation of what you’re going to do. Every time you start something new, you have that… lack of the previous thing, so you can start fresh so that’s the one thing why it’s liberating versus the fact that I’m doing it myself. Which is… it has its pros and cons. For me, the pro is that I’ve got total freedom and I only have to take my own tastes into consideration. On the other hand, I do believe that good creative cooperation can also make you end up with something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. So, I’m not saying that that’s only a positive thing, but in terms of creative freedom, obviously, it’s a factor. And then, I think the third thing that kind of amounts to the freedom is the fact that I’m not working on an album basis right now, but with the song of the month. I can really start each month and think like what am I going to do this month, and I am completely free in that. I do notice now that I’ve been going on for a little bit longer, also since it’s not new anymore, now I’ve been doing this for a year and a half. So I noticed that also now I’m like, maybe I should do this kind of song again or maybe I should do this kind of song and I should take the balancing consideration. So, even with a free format like that, after a while you start getting those kinds of things again.

It’s kind of dependent on how you set it up yourself, because I know a lot of bands – existing bands – they set up a Patreon, and then, of course, people expect exactly the same as what they’ve already been doing so there are multiple factors… the alone-factor is a thing, the new-factor is a thing, the monthly or even… treating songs as autonomous songs instead of as an album is a thing. And yeah, I would also like to make an album as an album again, because then you have a longer flow. I have a longer attention span, I like longer things. So, if I would look at this record, “Tales From Six Feet Under,” it’s a bit eclectic… so you have to pay attention as a listener, you’re not taken by the head, you have to be an active listener. But the good part about that for me is that every song itself is uncompromising. I didn’t have to make the pop song less pop, because it had to fit into the album. I didn’t have to make the metal song less metal because it had to [fit into the album]. So that’s what I like about it.

As I mentioned before, I thought that the lyrics play an important factor in your music and I was wondering how you usually go about writing them? Is it more like a creative flow or do you usually have a topic in mind that you want to write about?

It kind of differs. Usually, I start with a line or a feeling, and then I work from there. And then sometimes that will take me all the way until the end of the song. Sometimes it will take me one verse and then I have to think whether I want to make an entire song based on this thing or do I want to kind of put it into a different perspective. And now, every now and then – this is something that didn’t happen to me so often – but now sometimes I’m working on the instrumental things and I can be halfway with the song and then I still have to think about the first word that’s going to be on there, but then there’s always a feeling. So, I have different ways of approaching it. For me, it’s obviously important to get the story across. I often try to write in a way that makes it. I tried to center it not so much about my own feeling but also what someone going through a similar feeling might want to hear, and maybe making them feel better in that for me kind of the goal, I would say.

I think this is also the first time that I heard you sing in Dutch. Is that something you would like to experiment more with in the future?

Yeah, I mean, it was also something where I thought in this particular case, like that first sentence that popped up… I was thinking about the baseline and the beginning of the verse, that was the first thing that was there for this song. So the thing that I started which happened to be in Dutch and normally or with the band I would then see if I liked the idea okay let’s translate it to English and see if it still works, but as I’m kind of treating every song autonomously, or for this song of the month, I just thought, let’s roll with it and see what’s going to happen. And I liked what happened. It was a different process from writing English, for sure, but I liked both how it was more comfortable because it was my own language and then how it was more challenging because you’re more critical of your own language. So it’s not necessarily a goal for me to do that more often, but if something pops up again and it happens to be Dutch, I’m definitely going to let it be what it wants to be, because I feel like it can be done.

What did your fans think of that song?

Oh, they rather enjoyed it. Of course, there were some questions about what the lyrics are and whether I have a translation, what are we talking about here? But I think it’s one of the more popular songs on the record and I’m going to try… I really want to make a video with this one. Who knows, maybe I’ll get foot on the ground in my own country for once. No, but I really liked the song and I would like to kind of expand the creative world around it and give it a visual world as well, so I’m not done with it yet.

There was also the duet with Alissa White-Gluz on the album. Are there any other collaborations in the works or is there anyone particular you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

There’s definitely… I’m friends with a lot of talented people and I’ve always liked to get together to work with them. It’s not… for the songs of the month, I kind of also like the introspectiveness of it, so it’s not like, oh I have to work with this and that person, but I do really like to work with others or for others maybe even I’d love to write songs for other artists. Then, I guess that’s what every songwriter kind of really wants to do, I don’t even have to be the one performing the things. But yeah, I definitely like to collaborate more, it’s always interesting to see what comes out of it and like I mentioned earlier, it’s lovely to be the one, you know, deciding everything from A to Z, but I also believe that if you have a team of people that works well together, you can get to a result that’s bigger than what you each could do individually, or the sum of its parts. So, yeah, I do see more collaborations in the future.

You also did a cover song “Cry Little Sister.” What made you pick that specific song?

I didn’t even set out to record a cover. It’s actually quite funny because I had been kind of overworking myself for a while before I started working on this track. I told myself I’m going to have a quiet weekend. I’m going to actually take a weekend I’m not going to work, I’m not going to head into the studio because even if it’s the thing that I love to do most, of course, it’s now my full-time job so it’s also work, and I needed to quiet down my mind. So, I said I’m not going to do anything and I’m going to watch a movie and that’s it and I wanted to watch The Lost Boys because it’s a cult classic, I’ve seen a lot of art based on it that I really liked you know, the vampires with the mullets and the leather jackets, but it’s from the year that I was born so it was before my time. Anyways – sorry I’m making this story too long – so I was not going to do anything. I was just going to watch a movie and then the movie started and it started with “Cry Little Sister” and I heard the little choirs and it was obsessed straight away and then I spent the weekend that I was not going to do anything recording the cover, so there’s that. So, as they say, if you like what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life… or all of the days of your life, depending on how you look at it, it’s like that.

I totally understand! Now, during this whole process, did you learn anything about yourself or just about music and your music while you were writing these songs?

So much. Still going to. I think… I don’t even know where to start. So, I’ve learned a lot from doing the song per month because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I used to be someone who only started projects and never finished them. So, I remember, for example, that when I was writing the novella, “The Deviant Heart,” I had days where I wrote like two sentences a day just because everything that I would write I would delete again. This crippling fear of failure, you know. I wanted to get past that and I must say that, forcing myself to have a release every month, that that really helped me with overcoming that fear and overcoming that perfectionism in a way.

On the other hand, what I also learned a lot because I’ve been doing everything myself. All these all the songs, with the exception of the cover are written here… I recorded or programmed everything with the exception of the duet with the Alissa White-Gluz, where she recorded her own vocals, obviously, and also worked on the drum and guitar arrangements. [I] produced a bunch and that was very new to me, so it was both on a personal level and on a music level. I’m still figuring out how a lot of things work. That’s also why I’m keeping the song every month going. I’m still doing a song every month on the Patreon and I really want to keep that going. And another thing that I’m now learning is… I am learning a lot from that and I have a lot to learn from that, but I also want to do long-term things again, so now I’m going to have to see because… when I started this, with DELAIN, we would do the things where we would write with a team and then re-write and re-arrange, and then everyone kind of took it to their own hand, and rework their parts again and those were more long-term projects. Now that I’m doing this, I realized that I really enjoyed this spontaneous way of making music but I kind of miss having those long-term projects as well, so I’ve got to figure out a way to do that at the same time as doing this song of the month. And that’s something that I’m now working on, so I’ve never had such a steep learning curve in my life and I’ve got a lot more to go, so I guess I’ll be busy for a while longer.

Now you mentioned already a little bit, but what do you think the future holds for you? Are you going to focus on continuing Patreon… and tour?

I’m going to keep focusing on this Patreon, and I hope to be on stage again with that. I’m not sure what band I could join that would be both so cool that I would dedicate my time to that, and then if it will be so cool, I don’t think that it will leave me the time to do this. I don’t feel like giving up on this. No. So yeah, I’m going to keep doing this song per month and I’m going to also work on long-term projects. And I’m going to find a way to bring the songs to the stage as well.

That’s going to be very cool once it’s possible! Looking forward to it. I guess our time is almost up. Do you have any last thoughts you want to share?

I just want to thank people for checking out the interview and for checking out the record if they do. If they do enjoy it, I’m still going at the Patreon, there are still more songs coming, so people can check that out as well. And I’m happy to keep going and I’d like to thank you for taking time for the interview as well!