Royalbaby released her latest single "Selfish Ways" across streaming platforms on Oct. 23, 2020. Photo courtesy of Charlie Kennedy.
This is an installment of exclusive Q+As with our Shifter Fest Vol. III performers. Be sure to check out their performances on our IGTV channel!
Even off stage, Charlie Kennedy embodies her music.
She sits in her family home in Richmond, Virginia dressed in a brightly colored sweater, hair pulled back into an intricate updo and with every blink of the eye, we catch a glimpse of a shimmering shadow. In this moment she is channeling both Charlie and her musical alter-ego, RoyalBaby — the two merging seamlessly into one performer.
Shifter Mag had the opportunity to chat with Charlie to talk about everything from her musical muses to the release of her debut album.
Shifter Mag: You refer to Royalbaby as your alter ego. Who is Royalbaby and how is Charlie working through them?
Royalbaby: Before we were coming up with an idea for the title of the album, what resonated most with me was a self-titled album — because it's me. Lyrically, it's the process of my mid to early twenties. I was going through relationships, different partnerships and my perspective of the world was changing so [Royalbaby] is kind of in the middle of all of that.
If anything it's like my diary, which is very vulnerable, but I'm also trying to be my best self through the lyrics intention-wise. So, if they come off as egotistical, I wanted people to know it was an alter ego; like that's a mood “Hey, I feel like that sometimes.”
SM: What are some obstacles that you have encountered in your professional career so far and how have you overcome them?
Royalbaby: It's been a really long, rocky road even though I'm only 28. Some obstacles include the typical hearing “no” from someone you want to hear a “yes” from or trying to get a big crowd at a show. Even before the pandemic, it wasn't necessarily difficult, but it is hard to have the band be a full time focus when everyone else is either in the same boat having a full-time situation and doing their own thing.
So, it's hard to find the balance between where you meet the people that are going to be your audience or like your music and how you get it out there. What are the kind of best ways and resources for that? That’s a huge challenge, especially because you don't want it to get in the wrong hands and you don't want to do the wrong thing. You always want to find the exact right way, but that's just not how it goes — you kind of just have to play it by ear a lot.
SM: A lot of your songs and your tracks for this album are personal stories and personal reflections. What was it like for you to relive all of these very personal stories and finding ways to tell them creatively?
Royalbaby: It's a challenge, especially live when you really want to get into the emotions and really feel the song to show it and hope everyone around you can feel it too. I get very emotional, so I have to like hone it back and say, you know, this already happened. That was a chapter I've learned from it and now I'm just expressing it. So, I’ve kind of had to compartmentalize it mentally.
I hope that if there's something that if it resonates with you, let it resonate. And if you read something into it, accept whatever comes to your head. I hope that [my listeners] can just kind of have fun with it. Just be free — if you feel sassy, get with it.
SM: You just released a music video for your single, “Selfish Ways.” What was your mentality going into recording that song and what made you choose it as a single?
Royalbaby: I feel like it definitely encompassed and summarized what I was going through for the album. It's definitely a huge perspective shift song and it's kind of a call for reflection. That's why I was thinking if it was going to go out to a large group of people, then maybe this would be the time to ask ourselves to reflect on these thoughts and ask ourselves, are they healthy? Is this normal? What is the social norm? Is this just anxiety or does this really not sit well with me?
I really wanted “Selfish Ways” to come out before the election to ask those questions. Because I feel like that is missing in society today — that vulnerability of checking in with ourselves first.
SM: You’ve mentioned the importance of checking in with yourself. How did you deal with your own mental health both during this album and before?
Royalbaby: It's definitely been a constant emotional balance; I'm always having to stay in check but I think I've come to the conclusion that that is healthy. If I thought everything was great and I was perfect all the time, that's not healthy at all so I think it's a very big deal for people to be conscious and I definitely have been trying even more to be conscious while writing this album.
I was going through what I call young love where you feel crazy or everyone's telling you that you're crazy, but you're like now I have these feelings or intuition for a reason. Especially recently with pandemic, it's been a challenge. But again, music has been super helpful and it's given me time for introspection into what I do like and what does make me happy.
SM: How have you found ways to stay true to yourself? And how have you carved out your personal style in the process?
Royalbaby: Just knowing myself and being open to growing through the process is really important. If you're stuck in one mindset, you might be stuck in there for a while. So I've just been really trying to be open and adaptive and keep learning, because that's the best part about this industry; there's never a dead end.
I'm a really enthusiastic and expressionistic person and that can be very alarming to descend people or it can be comforting. So, I love colors that kind of resemble that brightness. But I'm also slightly emo. I definitely have an alternative background — I love black and colors that go with black. I like the imbalance of the two and how it can be contradictory.
SM: I feel like it would be so wrong of me to continue this interview without asking you who your biggest musical inspirations are.
Royalbaby: Gosh! There's so many big ones, though for me and for this album and for this take on what I want to do as a solo project, it's definitely Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande — she is just killing it and she has an amazing live voice. Tyler, the Creator has a really great unique sound and me and my producer are kind of like working with analog sense to kind of pull in our own unique sound into the pop genre. Those artists are definitely like up there for me. I love them.
SM: Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in 10?
Royalbaby: In five years, I'll be 33. I'm hoping that I can accomplish performing with my band again in a large way. And for my solo music, I really hope that that goes huge too. I hope to be able to travel and also be able to make more music through it. I think that's the goal — to create various albums for music and various music videos.
And in 10 years, I want to be in Martinique, France thinking about all of this. I just want a little French cabin that's on like a tiny farm and a flower garden.
In the meantime, catch Royalbaby’s exclusive performance of “Selfish Ways” for Shifter Fest Vol. III on our IGTV channel:
Parts of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.