“Pop” as a descriptor of a musical style has always been nearly useless; it’s a word that has been used to talk about the Backstreet Boys, Train and Rihanna.
So it should be little surprise that the debut album from YouTube star-cum-Billboard charter Charlie Puth seems to borrow from every part of the pop landscape, with R&B impulses on “Some Type of Love,” doo-wop retro on “Marvin Gaye” and the remix-begging “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” with its acoustic guitar ready to be harvested and laid over a club beat.
“I listen to Naughty by Nature, Mozart, The Carpenters, James Taylor, *NSync,” Puth says. “It’s always been like that all my life, so I guess that’s a pure reflection of all these records that I’ve produced over these last couple of years. I get bored easily, so I always want to do different things.”
amNewYork caught up with Puth in advance of his upcoming show at Beacon Theatre to talk about the transition to performing live and what he’d tell an aspiring YouTube performer today.
Your album “Nine Track Mind” plays with sounds and genres from across the music spectrum. How much of that is conscious, and how much of that is trying to find your own voice?
I’ve been producing songs for other artists, so I can stretch myself in different ways, but it’s also me trying to figure out what the sound of the moment for Charlie is going to be. It’s a constant learning process.
Your pop songs are tightly produced and you’ve mentioned elsewhere having a pitch-perfect ear and voice. How does that translate in a live setting?
It’s something I’ve been trying to tackle over this past year. ... When I first started rehearsing for my first tour last year, I would get discouraged — “why were my vocals not 100 percent pitch perfect?“ It’s totally normal, but it bothered me. I used to cringe on stage when I would hit a flat note, but I’ve learned that doing things live is a lot more forgiving than doing things in the studio. It’s all about the energy live, and that can make up for the imperfections that might not be on the records.
You’re in the same room as a 16-year-old with a camera and a keyboard who wants to get started on YouTube. What advice do you give him or her?
My advice would be to not do just covers. Don’t just go to Google, type in “Justin Bieber Cold Water instrumental” and sing over it. Make your own version, make it unique, and write original music. I think we’re going into a golden age of songwriting, and people are appreciative of it. So just write songs.