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Charli Taft on Working With K-Pop’s Biggest Stars: ‘I’d Love to Write For EXO and NCT’

Charli Taft
Courtesy of Charli Taft

Charli Taft is a big hit on the K-pop charts, but even the most active K-netizens may not be directly familiar with her name.

For a few years now, the Liverpool-born singer-songwriter has been working passionately behind the scenes with some of the South Korean music industry’s biggest and buzziest acts, writing for groups like Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation and LOONA. Now, however, she’s breaking out on her own… with a little help from SM Station.

In July, the pop artist debuted her luxurious, flirty new single, “Love Like You.” A sparkling, glossy R&B bop, Taft’s sweet vocals melt like strawberry ice cream all over the ’90s-inspired bedroom jam—“The way you hold me playing me close / Just ain’t right / A love like you just won’t do”—while the music video, filmed with help by SM in the capital of South Korea, is a pink-hued fantasy of teddy bears, neon lights and

Below, Taft opens up about her new single, working with K-pop artists and filming in Seoul.

“Love Like You” is such a badass breakup anthem. Was it inspired by a real
breakup in your life, or is it just more universal?
Thank you! To be honest, the message in “Love Like You” is really universal. As I
was writing it, I was inspired by the groove and the vibe of the music and I felt
compelled to write confident, empowering lyrics that any woman could relate to.

What message do you hope girls in particular will take from the lyrics?
I hope girls feel strong, sassy and confident when they hear the song—whether
they’re going through a breakup or not! Women often have more power in
relationships than we realize and sometimes it takes an uplifting song to help us
remember that! Whenever “Love Like You” comes on, I’m definitely in the mood to
dress up, do my hair, wear something sexy and go out dancing. Hopefully it can
create that feeling for other girls out there.

What was the experience like filming “Love Like You” in Seoul? Do you have a favorite set-piece or outfit from the video?
It was an amazing one-day shoot in Seoul. We had a great female director and a cool
crew and the whole day was just relaxed and fun. I absolutely fell in love with the
neon sign that had been made for the video. I was so tempted to take it home with
me! I also loved the ’90s styling: the black mini dresses and big hoop earrings. That
was SO my style!

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How did you get involved with SM Station?
I’ve been collaborating with SM for several years now and they’ve cut several of my
songs for various projects (Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation, LOONA, Taemin, SES). I was
personally asked to be involved in this season’s Station by an A&R from SM during a
lunch meeting in Copenhagen at the studio where I make most of my music. I
played my latest material and they happened to love “Love Like You” so we went
ahead and made plans to release it together.

Do you have any favorite things to do or see when you’re in South Korea?
I love being in Seoul, it’s so vibrant and has great energy! I always make time to visit
the fashion markets at Dongdaemun. It’s seriously like, shopping heaven! SM has
now opened a great restaurant called SMT, which is perfect for having a casual
dinner with friends. In terms of nightlife, I also like to hang out at a cool spot called
Cakeshop in Itaewon.

You’ve done quite a bit of writing for Red Velvet. What’s that experience been like? Have you met the girls and been able to collaborate in person?
I’ve been involved in writing for the Red Velvet project since the very beginning so it’s
been fun to see the girls grow and develop such a loyal fan-base over the past few
years. As a writer, this project has been particularly enjoyable as I’ve been able to
make music for the group that is very girly, flirty and feminine. It’s been great to explore their “velvet” side and create a sound that is sophisticated and musically rich.
So far, I’ve written for the girls in Europe and in Korea but we’ve yet to meet. I’m
sure it will happen one day!

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Which K-pop artists would you totally geek out over writing for if you had the chance?
In terms of female artists, I’d like to continue to be a “go to”writer for girl groups like
Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation. I’d also love to write more for boy bands like EXO
and NCT. I think they’re doing a cool hybrid of classic R&B with contemporary urban
and rap elements and it would be fun to put my spin on that. I’d also love to
collaborate with singer Dean at some point. Who knows, maybe we could even work
on a duet!

From your perspective as an artist, how do the music industries in the U.K. and South Korea differ? How are they similar?
In my experience, I think the two industries are in quite different places right now.
The U.K. industry has more of an underground approach in terms of how new music is
discovered, often on blogs and through radio stations that break new tracks, like BBC
Introducing. I feel that the U.K. prides itself on being at the cutting edge of cool where
music is concerned, and from an artist perspective, that’s really inspiring. The Korean
music industry seems to be really thriving. It’s all about the gloss and high
production value, particularly with regards to music videos. I think I’m in a unique
position to be able to take the best elements of both industries as I move forward with
my artist career. Hopefully I can create a brand for my music that is universal and
truly global.

I know you’re very inspired by R&B and pop artists from the ‘90s. Who are your ultimate faves from that era?
Oh wow, I have so many! Some of my favorite female artists are Faith Evans, Coko
from SVW, Mariah Carey, Anita Baker, Brandy, Athena Cage, Karyn White, Aaliyah and
Janet Jackson. Producer wise, I love Babyface, Rich Harrison, Jimmy Jam & Terry
Lewis, The Underdogs and Teddy Riley, whom I actually worked with in Korea a
few years ago!

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What’s the best or most iconic thing about ‘90s R&B, in your opinion?
To me, the most iconic thing about ’90s R&B was the sheer level of musicality and
talent out there: mind-blowing singers, skilled producers/songwriters and timeless,
chord-rich songs that were as musically sophisticated as they were memorable.
There was just such a high level of musicianship and craftsmanship across the
board!

If you could have written any (already existing) song from the ‘90s, which would you choose?
I wish I’d written “Rain” by SWV. To me, that song is especially soulful and beautiful
and is built around one of the dopest chord progressions ever! A close second would
be “Is It Good To You” by Teddy Riley and Tammy Lucas. I love this song so much I
actually did a cover version of my own that’s available on my YouTube channel.

What are you working on right now?
I’ve been steadily working on material for an album for the past few years and I can’t
wait to put it out when the time is right. In the meantime, I’ll be releasing an EP later
this year. It will definitely have my signature sound and will be something fresh for all
of the R&B fans out there.

“Love Like You” is available now on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music.

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