It’s another musician profile, Leakies! This time we had the opportunity to talk to the lovely Charlie McDonnell about his recent work in videos and song, Chameleon Circuit, and a certain adorable robot.
LeakyNews: How did you get started in music? How did you get involved with the online music community?
Charlie McDonnell: When I started making videos, I also wanted to do music as a part of that. Music was already such a big part of my life, because I started playing the recorder when I was about eleven or twelve. So that was sort of the time when I thought, “Oh, I could do music as a thing. That would be fun.” It had been a part of my life for years, and so when I decided to start making videos, it was pretty natural for me to be like, “Well, I’ll do some songs as well.” It was just a part of this YouTube thing.
LN: Tell us about your most recent song, “Time to Reply.”
CM: I wrote “Time to Reply” thinking that it would be from the perspective of somebody who watches me on YouTube, but then I gradually went away from that – from wanting to write a song that was about me, to more wanting to write a song that could be about anybody watching anybody else.
It’s about those one-way relationships that are really easy and kind of common as a result of people making content on the internet. It’s just quite an interesting thing to think about – to have it in your head that somebody could be sending somebody else messages, and having a full-on relationship with that person, lasting years. I wrote it from the perspective of the writer. It starts with a kind of casual interest, then maybe becomes more obsessive, and then, gradually, the writer loses interest – while the other person (that they’re having all of these emotions about) doesn’t even know that this relationship is happening.
It’s mainly about that. I actually took some of the lyrics from the e-mails that I get – based on what people have said to me in the past. I guess it could also be about the fact that somebody who is sending these messages might think that the other person will never get around to reading them – when in actual fact, I do read the messages. I do see this happening. They might think that I have no idea about them, when in reality, I do. I just haven’t had the chance to respond to them yet.
It also addresses the question of how much time do I spend communicating with people who send me messages, and how much time do I spend actually making videos? I do my best to respond to messages as and when I can, but I also do my best to try to make time to make videos. And the videos have a wider reach.
LN: Tell us about the idea for the “Forever Yours” video?
CM: Originally I wanted to make a very easy video for Alex. I thought we were going to spend a day, with me filming him in my hometown of Bath, hanging out with a girl or something. And then I would edit that and give it to him to put up on his channel. It was just something that I thought would be quite simple and fun. He didn’t actually come to me and say that he wanted to get this onto Christmas No. 1, I just saw the video that he put up about it. I was like, “Oh. Ok. So, I guess this has to be really good, then.” And he said, “Yeah.”
I spent a week trying to think of something, and came up with the idea of zombies and superheroes pretty early on. But I thought that idea was just way out of the range of something I could accomplish. I’d never had a lot of crew members, makeup, or special effects like that, nothing to that extent. So originally I dismissed that as too ambitious. And then I just couldn’t think of anything better.
Eventually Alex convinced me, he basically believed in me, that I could accomplish it. He acted as my producer on that project, getting anyone and everything that I told him to get. That made the process a lot easier. When I decided I had to do this idea, I looked to find all of the talented people that I know in the UK YouTube community, picked people who had certain talents, and brought them on board to help. I found that it was very enjoyable to have lots of other people to work with on a project. I think it took about three or four days just to film it.
The other thing about that is Alex and I were actually going through the process of moving house while we were making that video. We moved into the house, and literally as soon as we got here, before we had even managed to unpack properly, we started trying to film stuff. It was a bit mad, taking on a project that was bigger than anything I’d done before, and moving house at the same time. But it got done!
LN: What is your favorite song to perform?
CM: I’ve only ever done about four or five live performances, and they’re sort of a mixed bag for me. I generally enjoy the performances that I’ve done with other people more than the ones I’ve done on my own. I like having a band around, because it’s pretty much inevitable for me to mess up at some point. It’s nice to have a bunch of other people on stage to help me out.
I think if I had to choose, it would probably be one of the Chameleon Circuit songs, such as “Big Bang Two” or “Exterminate, Regenerate.” “Big Bang Two” was fun when we performed at VidCon because I got to run offstage and come back on wearing a fez. I think I like “Exterminate, Regenerate” because it’s quite wordy, so when I remember all of the words (which I did at VidCon), it’s a nice accomplishment.
If music was more of a focus for me, I’d probably perform more. But music, for me, is a fun extra. Probably as a result of that, people want me to play more gigs than I end up doing. But I try to spend my time making the videos, and I hope they appreciate that.
LN: Plans for your musical future? What’s next?
CM: I think I’ve only written two or three songs since I released my last solo album. So, what I’ll continue to do in terms of my solo music is write songs as and when I feel like it. At some point, when I feel like I have enough songs to put on an album – or like my last album, where I had almost enough songs and just wrote a few more to fill it up – then I’ll do that.
LN: What about Chameleon Circuit?
CM: In terms of a new Chameleon Circuit album, I know that Michael has written the first track, but none of us are really ready to jump into another Chameleon Circuit album just yet. I am definitely open to the idea of doing another one.
LN: Who is your favorite musician/group of all time?
CM: I’d have to say Ben Folds. I have all of his albums, and I find that if I want to listen to something, I can just select “Ben Folds” in iTunes. I put all of his music on shuffle and know that any song that plays will be something that I like. He’s also versatile enough that I don’t know what style the song’s going to be, but I know it’s going to be good.
LN: Favorite movie?
CM: WALL•E. There are lots of other films that I really love, but in terms of emotional investment that I have in a film, I just love WALL•E. It feels quite like an old-timey love film, because it’s so sweet and innocent. And it has so many other layers to it. It’s nice to see a love story like that, but with a modern backdrop. It’s like with Ben Folds, I know when I put on that film that I’m just going to love it to pieces. Also, that’s my shared film with Alex. We saw it about three times in the cinemas.
Don’t forget to have a look at our other Musician Profiles!