- Catie Laffoon/Atlantic Records
Pop singer Charlie Puth originally studied jazz before his YouTube videos turned him into an Internet sensation. Last year, he released his major label debut, Nine Track Mind
, a collection of catchy pop tunes that has already yielded singles such as “Marvin Gaye,” a duet with Meghan Trainor that possesses a soulful vibe, and the ballad “One Call Away.” For "We Don't Talk Anymore," a song that features pop singer Selena Gomez, Puth adopts a falsetto and successfully incorporates some synths into the mix. Puth, who performs at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday at House of Blues Cambridge Room
, spoke to us via phone from a Louisville tour stop.
I believe you started out studying and playing jazz. How did you gravitate to pop music?
I studied jazz and classical piano at Manhattan School of Music and at Berklee School of Music. When I went to Berklee is when I fell in love with writing pop music. That’s where it all started for me..
Did you have a role model?
Someone like Max Martin who is a fantastic and brilliant producer who has kept up with the times. Now, he’s a good friend of mine too.
What inspired you to start your own YouTube channel?
I was kind of discouraged by my peers to upload things on YouTube, but I did it anyway and pursued music. I used YouTube as an engine to give myself confidence while performing and writing music. I saw it as a way to get fans around the world. That was the original motivation.
Did you see it as a way to launch your career?
It totally did. I’m not ashamed of it but I wanted to be known for my work and be famous in a way. I thought it was cool that you could make YouTube part of your job. I never wanted to have a conventional job. I successfully pulled that off. I was writing singles when I was in college and making money.
Talk about the songwriting process for Nine Track Mind. When did you start assembling the tunes?
I started assembling them last year when I signed my publishing deal and started writing songs and we wrote some of the ones that end up on the album.
You share a songwriting credit on all the songs but also worked with co-writers. How did the collaborations take place?
I got to know the co-writers from my publisher setting up songwriting sessions and some of them are really big writers. I’m really happy I got to work with them. After working on music with them for other artists and collaborating with them, they took interest in my artistry and I’m so happy that they did.
And what about the recording process? Did you use one studio or multiple studios?
I produced it on my laptop. I started everything off on my laptop while I was traveling and doing promo. I would have my producer friends take some shots at things. My friend Johan Carlsson, who’s worked with Ariana Grande, worked on some of it. My friend Max Martin had a bit to do it with it too. I could rely on them to take the productions home during the busiest part of my life. It would be a pleasure to work with them again.
Did you ever work in the studio?
It was a laptop record. The piano on “Marvin Gaye” was recorded on this iPhone I’m speaking to you on. So was the guitar on “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” It was recorded on an iPhone in the Philippines.
It sounds like you and Meghan Trainor had fun singing “Marvin Gaye” together. Were you in the same room at the same time when you cut the track?
We recorded that in a studio. I ended up re-singing my part. I get stressed out when I sing in a studio. It’s an hourly rate. I was straining my vocal. I took the track home and set up a microphone and re-recorded my vocal. I produced “Marvin Gaye” too from the ground up. There’s a lot of different Charlie elments in there, like beatboxing and piano. I was super comfortable and I had lived with the track for a really long time. I just set up my mic in my room and recorded the whole thing.
Did you write it with her in mind?
When I met Meghan, it was at this random party. I played the demo for it and she fell in love with it and asked to a part of it. She’s a super talent. She’s one of the best writers out there.
And what about Selena Gomez? Did you record “We Don’t Talk Anymore” with her in the same room?
We recorded that in my lawyer’s closet the day before I had to travel to my show in London. She came over at midnight and recorded like a champ. She killed it. It really worked out. I’m so happy I got to collaborate with her. She’s really talented and really nice. She’s super cool.
You’ve been performing for a few years now. Talk about what’s it like to be on such an extensive tour.
It’s great to have an assembled team because I obviously can’t do everything on my own. It’s great to have all the help I can get, and I can focus on the musical side of things. I have a great radio team and a great management team. It’s going really well. The fact that this tour is sold out is really inspiring.
Have you been to Cleveland?
I think I stopped in Cleveland once for a hot dog but I haven’t spent a lot of time there. I’ve never played in Cleveland. I’m excited to play. The town is really legendary.