esmerelda is 23-year-old British-Afghan artist, songwriter and producer AKA Charlotte Samady. The artist released her debut EP ‘Nostalgia’ in 2018 under the moniker LUNA, which garnered support from the likes of BBC Introducing London, Earmilk, CLOUT and Spotify’s ‘New Pop Revolution’ playlist. Since then, the artist has evolved sonically to stamp her mark on the music scene as esmerelda, using conceptual worlds to dissect her experiences, and provide an escapist outlet for herself and her listeners to process feelings of isolation and heartbreak.
Who inspired you to make music?
I don’t come from a musical family, but I loved to sing as a kid. My mum saw that and did what she could to get me into music lessons. But it wasn’t until I started going to gigs at 14 in London that I really internalised that this was what I wanted to do. I remember I saw Ben Howard and the Lumineers – two of my first musical loves when I used to make indie music – at shows a couple weeks apart. Feeling the atmosphere and seeing how elated they looked to tell stories was a huge turning point for me. I’d always written poetry, and I’d always sung and played guitar. And I just had this huge ‘duh’ moment of – ‘hang on a second, I can put all of this together and I can write songs. From there all I wanted to do was write, write, write, and try to tell stories in the most convincing way I can.
What is your creative process like?
Songwriting is a deeply emotional and vulnerable process for me, so it’s something I normally do alone. Lyrics are always the thing I’ve found the easiest. I don’t always like expressing my feelings conversationally, so I find lyrics are a great outlet to work through things that have happened to me. Honestly, my creative process has changed a lot over the last couple years…this is totally chaotic, but I used to write lyrics and melody completely a cappella, and just find the strongest melody with no instrumental. Then I’d have to go in and work out retrospectively what chords were meant to be under that. That’s actually how I wrote ‘I’m Not A Princess I’m A God’. Nowadays I tend to write to keys parts initially, which gives me a ton of ideas for production when I get to the studio. For such atmospheric productions, it feels weird to think they start off arranged so simply!
If we were to look at the artists you are listening to, who would be on your playlist?
This is such a great question because I love making playlists, it’s my favourite pastime other than writing songs. At the moment I’m loving artists like Baby Queen and Chloe Lilac – indie or alternative pop artists who use lots of electric guitar textures. I’m always listening to artists like Phoebe Bridgers and MUNA, and I get their song ‘Silk Chiffon’ in my head pretty much every day. I’ve also been listening to a lot of KiNG MALA, who I found from TikTok. A lot of alternatives ‘anti-pop’, stuff you’d imagine the villain from the movie listening to!
What are your plans for any future releases?
This (‘I’m Not A Princess I’m A God’) is the first track from a concept EP I have coming out in 2022 – although I can’t give too much away about that right now. What I can say is there’s one more single coming this year, sooner than you think. I just want to keep creating. Even after the EP comes out, I can’t see myself leaving a big gap before wanting to release more.
Was anyone else involved in writing, recording, or producing the songs?
Yes – I worked with two great producers on ‘I’m Not A Princess I’m A God’, and on other tracks I’ve got coming up soon. The first was electronic artist Solv, who worked with me on the first couple drafts of the track. That airy, ethereal vibe was really shaped by her production style. Then after a lockdown break, I finished the track with BROOKFIELD, a pop producer and engineer, in his studio in East London. It was great to work with two producers on this, and I felt like we all brought our own thing to shaping its sound. Because my songwriting process is quite insular, it’s nice to open things up and be more collaborative when producing.
What was the last thing you dressed up as for fancy dress?
I dressed up as Marina (and the Diamonds) during her Electra Heart era for Halloween pre-pandemic. I wore a blonde wig and drew a little heart on my face in eyeliner like she did, and everything. Electra Heart is one of my favourite albums, so it was really fun to dress up as the title character.
Do you have any superstitions?
My mum always told me that one magpie is bad luck, and two magpies are good luck. Then my dad is Afghan and some Middle Eastern cultures have a superstition where if you accidentally bump your foot into someone else’s under the table, you have to shake hands afterwards to avoid bad energy. Those are the 2 I’ve taken with me!
What was the last TV series you watched on TV?
I’m rewatching Gilmore Girls; it’s a really comforting show and I keep going back to it. Other than that, I just watched ‘Sex Education’ on Netflix, which was great. I love that you can’t really tell what era it’s set in, and the cultural crossovers between US and UK. And Gillian Anderson in general.
Which fictional character do you wish was real?
Nick Miller from New Girl and Shego from Kim Possible. I’m in love with them both, somehow.
If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?
Stop caring so much about what boring people think about you! I’m kidding. I guess I’d say don’t let perfectionism hold you back from creating and remember that being bold is one of your best attributes. And to take more holidays in 2019 before the pandemic hit!