LISTEN HERE! ARTIST PROFILE CHARMIE DELLER
Illustration by Erin McPhee
In the lead-up to our spring music issue, we reached out to a few young emerging musicians to learn about how they got into their craft and what tips they have for artists just starting out.
Charmie Deller’s musical life started in Haiti at age nine when she began singing and playing music. Today at 20, she’s a self taught-musician versed in piano, guitar, bass and drums. With Toronto as her home, Charmie’s musical talent, humble demeanor and soulful voice has led her to performing at venues downtown, open mics, Pride and charity events. She was one of the finalists in CBC Toronto’s “Song in the 6ix” competition this year, a search for an anthem that pays tribute to the city and recently won the 2016 Toronto Soul Slam competition.
Photo courtesy of Charmie Deller
What’s your writing process like? How do you go about crafting songs and where do you find inspiration?
I’m always writing. Like, every day I write. I don’t really think about creating a song, I just write. And if I want to make it a song, then I would just throw a melody on it, or I would do both at the same time, or I would either just have something that I would play over and over again on the piano or guitar and then would write to it.
What’s your first instrument? What were you trained on?
My first instrument is piano. I started playing piano when I was nine, and mom forced me [to practice] two hours a day in my room with a radio. Then I picked up the guitar and bass and drums.
When did you move to Canada? What did that experience teach you? Has it shaped you as an artist in any way?
I actually moved from Haiti to the States and then Montreal, then Toronto. Toronto is where I first really started doing my music, my original music. I feel like Toronto has played a big part in my sound. My music is kind of like a bit of everywhere that I’ve been, a bit of everything that I’ve done.
Who are your music idols? Do they have an impact on the music you make?
I don’t have idols, I have influences. I look up to John Mayer. His writing is beautiful. Ed Sheeran. Tracey Chapman. Stevie Ray Vaughan.
I’d say John Mayer has the most impact because he really taught me that you can literally just write like you speak to people. He writes the way he talks to people, and I feel like he’s just such a beautiful writer.
That [question is] so hard for me to answer because I listen to someone and I don’t know how they impact my music. I just listen to them and I do my music. I don’t listen to them before I do my music. It’s like I listen to them and then whatever happens happens in my head and my heart, they connect and a song is created.
Did anything strike a chord with you in writing your submission for CBC Toronto’s “Song in the 6ix?”
That one, it needed to be an anthem. I took my skateboard and I went outside for a little bit… I just wanted to feel victorious. I wanted to feel like Rocky [Balboa] when he was running down those stairs. The chorus just came to me. “We are the north,” it just felt like I needed to make a stand for myself. “We are the north, we are the strong and free. Love is our symphony, the city beats inside of me. So lift up your voice, let it be heard and seen. Love is our symphony, Toronto beats inside of me.” That’s how it came about.
Are there downsides to being a musician in Toronto? What are the city’s strengths?
The city’s strengths is that there are so many amazing and talented musicians everywhere you go. It’s good because it inspires you to be better, it inspires you to go out and listen to them, so you can be inspired. It’s just really good for not feeling alone when it comes to chasing the dream.
The downfall of Toronto is sometimes people want to ask for favours from you. You can phrase it how you want to, but people don’t take you seriously until they see that you take yourself seriously. So if people are in a position to pay you for your craft, sometimes they won’t because they feel like if you don’t mention it, sometimes they’ll let it slide and they won’t pay you.
So you have to learn how to stand up for yourself?
What has been your favourite moment in your music career so far?
I recently did a singer/songwriter competition called Soul Slam, hosted by Dwayne Morgan. And prior to the event, I didn’t really think about it too much. I wrote the songs and had the three songs ready. I didn’t really practice too much. I just went there and, I don’t know, my vibe was just like, I’m just going to sing these three songs and if I win, I win.
I just showed up and I was just myself…I just want to say that maybe just being yourself is all you need to do to get to where you want to be.
Charmie’s top 5 songs:
You can find Laura Beaulne-Stuebing on Twitter.