Photoshoot + Interview: Charley Chats ‘Arizona,’ Mental Health & Arriving On The Scene
On repeat.
Words by Amar Gera December 27, 2021

Cover image via Maclay Heriot //

We catch up with the Sydney-based muso for a day of chats and shoots…

If you’ve been paying attention to the Aussie music scene, odds are you’d be well-acquainted with pop starlet Charley. Having amassed a large following through her bubbly personality on Instagram and TikTok, along with releasing her smash debut ‘Hard For Me,’ she’s become something of a mainstay in the local scene. But she’s got the talent to match, boasting a seemingly endless vocal range along with stark precision as a songwriter and director; all traits which have propelled her from the Oxford Art Factory to Eurovision Australia Decides in the Gold Coast next year.

Big things are happening for the rising star, but between it all, she’s found the time to explore sentiments of mental health, most notably on her latest single ‘Arizona.’ From the lyrics to visuals and the very sonics themselves, the tune is a top to bottom exploration of anxiety in all of its debilitating effects, and judging by the shitstorm of 2021, it’s timing couldn’t be more appropriate.

We caught up with Charley to to chat about ‘Arizona,’ the mental health message behind the new single and what’s to come. Check it below.

Congrats on the new single! How does it feel to have new music out as everything is now open?

It feels unreal. It’s been six months since my first single came out and I’ve been writing for such a long time now. I’ve got so many songs that are just waiting to be released. So it’s really nice to finally have my second one out and for it to all be about my mental health and what everyone goes through, and for it to come out at a time where everyone was getting used to social situations again was a weird coincidence.

You obviously made big waves when you released your debut ‘Hard For Me’, but with ‘Arizona’ it feels like you’ve really arrived into the scene. Do you feel that?

I hope so. I just love that I put a song out about what’s really true to me. I think that’s all you have to do in music. But what was the question? Did I leave my mark? I think what might have really helped with that, which I’m very grateful for, is having the music video to go along with it because I really wanted that vision out there. So people could understand it more, and just have a world for ‘Arizona’ because I love directing, acting and doing all that stuff.

Now, to dip into the single. It’s easily your most personal yet, being about mental health. Were there any reservations in being that vulnerable on a track?

I don’t think so to be honest. I’m such an open book as a person. And with normal conversation and the right person in front of me, I’m very open and ‘Arizona’ came out quite easily because I was just going through it all. I don’t know why I haven’t written about my anxiety before. I’ve written about depression and everything that I’ve gone through within that world though.

So this was the first song that I wrote about it and it just came out so naturally. Jess Kent wrote it with me along with Rory Adams and Cyrus Vill, and yeah, I’m very grateful for them because they made me feel confident while writing.

Was the track born of a certain low moment or point? Or is it written about an amalgamation of lower moments?

I’ve had anxiety for my whole life. When I’m in social situations, I get so sweaty and my face just gets so hot. Everything just heats up. And then I start to get jitters and my heart starts racing. Whenever I’m talking to someone I’m thinking about what I’m saying and in my head I’m like “Did I say that wrong? Do I sound cocky? Is this nice enough? Am I looking too much?” Like, it’s just a constant dialogue in my head.

I’m sure a lot of people have that, but after the first lockdown in Sydney, cause I just mostly stayed alone, I wasn’t used to being out in the open with other people. So it just hit me so much harder. Everything built up so much more.

Then I went on a writing camp with my friends in Kangaroo Valley and during the time of being there, I’d have to go away and have an anxiety attack and come back and try to be fine, but it would just keep on happening. So after that, it built up so much that I was like “I need to write about this.”

Was writing and releasing it cathartic or healing in a sense?

I still have social anxiety. I don’t know if it’s ever going to go away, but for some reason I feel more accepted because I’ve put that out about myself into the world and people know. 

In saying that though, I put so much pressure on releases and everything being so perfect that sometimes I get so lost within it and don’t feel happy about what is happening. I constantly just want to do more and be better.

Maybe at some point I’ll be able to relax and just be proud of myself. I am proud of myself, but it’s still hard at this point when I want to do a lot more.

I also wanna touch on the music video which is totally top notch. During our photoshoot it was clear how strong your vision is for the visual side of creating, were you similarly involved with the direction of the video?

So I first had this vision of it being at a party and me getting an anxiety attack with everyone there. I wrote up this storyboard and then we pitched it to different directors and Kyle Caulfield had the most amazing vision for it. All the other people we pitched to had a specific opinion on how it should be, but I wanted someone who could collaborate with me on it.  

Kyle stepped in and just had the most amazing ideas. He just made me feel so comfortable and made all of it come to life, while letting me have my vision on everything as well. We also shot the whole thing over Zoom because of lockdown! But everyone was just hands on and it was great. It was a very crazy couple of days.

One of the lyrics is “I need you to slap me and say that I’m fine.” Obviously those are really tough moments to endure. Are there any specific things you wish people would say to you in those moments?

I think that’s the main thing, just to remember where you are. I hope that there’s a person there for someone who is going through an anxiety attack because it really does suck. Whoever is going through an anxiety attack shouldn’t ever force themselves to do it alone. Like call someone up and have them on the phone because that makes it so much more connected to the world, if that’s the right word. 

When you’re having an anxiety attack, everything just zones out and you’re in your own world. But you need to remember that it doesn’t fucking matter, that everything is fine. I think that’s why I wrote that lyric. Like everything really is fine. It’s just how you perceive it.

How do you get through those moments?

I always call someone or someone will usually notice me just walking quickly to the bathroom in a bad state, and they’ll usually come and comfort me. But I mostly just breathe through it and talk with someone. And obviously I love to hear words like “you’re okay, like you’re fine. It’s going to pass.”

I also wanna touch on that video you posted your Instagram recently of you hearing ‘Hard For Me’ come on in Soul Burger. I’d figured you’d be used to that sort of thing by now. What was that experience like?

Yeah Soul Burger. I’ve never even eaten it before, but it was so yummy. But yeah, it’s so crazy. I’ve had people send me videos of the song in Coles and random bars and places around the world, and I’ve been so mad that I haven’t heard either of them out anywhere. But that was so wild. I just heard like the first synth and I was like “Guys, guys” and they were like “What?” But then they picked up on it and they immediately started filming. It was so fun, and it was so cool that they got to be there to film the experience.


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A post shared by CHARLEY (@itmecharley)

Now to cap off, for anyone going through similar stuff you sing about in ‘Arizona,’ do you have any words of wisdom for them at all?

My favourite saying is “just keep going.” You really just need to keep going. But also take time for yourself, whether that be by switching off your phone and just staying in bed for a couple days. And also the gym helped me so much in doing that.

It’s also about eating healthy and even seeing a psychologist if you need to, that really helped me get going, and if you are really depressed and you have suicidal thoughts and so on, that’s not normal. And so, that’s probably when you need to see a psychologist or consider medication because yeah, that’s really not normal.

Lastly, for your first single I noticed you did a lot of challenges to promote it. Do you have any similar things planned for your upcoming releases?

I probably shouldn’t tell you because I think we’re going to save it for another video, but all I’ll say is Between Two Ferns.

Are you going to be Zach Galifianakis?

I’m not saying anything more!

Charley’s latest single ‘Arizona’ is out now. You can buy/stream it here. You can follow her on Instagram here and donate to her Beyond Blue fundraiser here. Check out some pics from our photoshoot with her below. 




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