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After years of writing songs for dozens of music’s biggest names, Charli Taft is finally ready to take center stage with her own body of work. Born in Liverpool, England, Taft has been a songwriting prodigy ever since she was a child. Creating music for K-pop’s most famous girl groups, including Red Velvet and LOONA, she has showcased her incredible talent behind the scenes. Now, Taft looks to take the reins and stand in the spotlight herself.

The UK’s rising star recently dropped her debut album, DLUXLIFE, a project that perfectly encapsulates who Taft is as an artist. Paying homage to the ’90s R&B that she grew up on, the record features nostalgic beats and glistening harmonies that transport listeners to a different era. At the same time, Taft’s DLUXLIFE remains current thanks to its invigorating production choices.

Along with the album’s release, Taft also dropped the music video for her latest single, “Ride” feat. Justin Starling, which continues to show Taft’s confidence, artistic identity, and love for classic R&B music.

Pop Crave chatted with Charli Taft about her new single, “Ride,” debut album, DLUXLIFE, her favorite K-pop songs she’s worked on, and what’s next for her career as a solo artist.

Congratulations on the release of your debut album, DLUXLIFE, which is a truly incredible listen! After writing music for so many other artists over the years, how does it feel to now have a body of work that you can call your own?

Firstly, thank you! It makes me so happy to hear you’re enjoying the album so much – that means everything to me. To finally have my debut album out is honestly a dream come true!! It’s been a few years in the making, but it’s all been completely worth it. I couldn’t be more proud and overjoyed with how my first project came together!

“Ride” is your latest single from DLUXLIFE. What would you say is the meaning behind the song for you?

To me, “Ride” captures the initial buzz you get when you start hanging out with someone new and you can feel yourself falling for them. It’s the easy, breezy, cool, sexy, and understated soundtrack to that moment. It’s about letting go, not overthinking things, and just being yourself.

The song is special to me because I believe it’s quite unique within female-driven R&B. The music has this laid back, jazzy hip-hop sound that would typically have been made for a rapper back in the ‘90s, not necessarily a female artist. I decided to put my own flip on this type of track and add something new to the palette that would be fresh for now. 

You also just released the music video for “Ride,” which has a very distinct color palette and vibe to it. How did you come up with the concept for the music video?

The song has a very nocturnal feel to it, so I definitely wanted the video to transport the viewer to a late-night, big city atmosphere. The idea of cruising around a city at night seemed to fit perfectly with the mood of the track. My whole project has been inspired by ‘90s/2000s music culture, and I’ve had so much fun including elements of that in my work. The Matrix and Bad Boy were visual inspirations for this video, with striking colours and ‘90s-influenced styling. I particularly loved the all-black leather coat look!

DLUXLIFE is a love letter to the R&B albums you grew up listening to. Which music artists and records would you say inspired DLUXLIFE the most?

There are so many amazing artists I drew inspiration from! If I had to sum it up, I would probably say Brandy’s Full Moon meets Butterfly-era Mariah Carey with a sprinkling of vintage Amerie and late ‘90s Bad Boy sensibilities.

Production wise, I was inspired by the work of Rich Harrison, Just Blaze, Babyface, Q-Tip, and J Dilla… a lot of hip-hop flavoured R&B. I love the juxtaposition of soulful female vocals against heavy, masculine drums. 

In terms of the vocal production on the album, I definitely drew inspiration from Brandy’s Full Moon and her work with the late LaShawn Daniels. Together with my producer, Daniel Obi Klein, we worked to create a lush vocal experience that would really elevate the songwriting. We were always thinking in terms of layers – adlibs, textures, and how we wanted the vocals to hit the listener.

From a performance perspective, I’ve always closely studied my biggest idols: Brandy, Mariah Carey, Faith Evans, Kierra Sheard, Tamia, and Coko. I loved learning their runs and would practice until I had them down perfectly. I still look up to that era of singing. Hopefully upon hearing my album, people will feel I’ve brought that vibe back!

Did organizing the tracklist for DLUXLIFE come naturally, or did you have to take some time to decide where to place each track on the album?

Once I had all the finished songs back from mastering, the tracklist seemed to present itself in a natural way. The album generally has a dusty, hip-hop sonic throughout, so I knew I wanted to open with the title track, “DLUXLIFE,” to open boldly in that lane.

Ultimately, I wanted to capture the sound of records from the golden era of R&B. I organised the tracklist so DLUXLIFE played like my favourite CDs did back in the day – the kind of album you could play from top to bottom on repeat because every song was a favourite.

There’s no doubt that you’re a very in-demand songwriter, with several songs of yours becoming massive K-pop hits. When did you first discover your passion and talent for songwriting?

I’ve pretty much always intuitively written songs. It’s how I get through my day. If I had to distil it into a single moment where I discovered my passion for songwriting, I would say it happened to me at the age of five when my mum (an amazing singer and vocal coach) sat down next to me at my little wooden toy piano and suggested we “write a song” together. We sang melodies out loud, and she somehow found words to fit. I was amazed and totally hooked, and so I never really stopped writing. I’m so lucky that it came naturally to me. 

I remember writing songs in school during break time. I even temporarily started a girl band, and we’d perform my songs at local festivals in my hometown, Liverpool. Later, in my teens, I started to gig my own material and would self-accompany on piano. Writing songs has shaped my personality and really helped me navigate all the different stages of my life.

You’re well-known for writing some of the fan favorite songs for K-pop groups like LOONA, Red Velvet, and SuperM. Personally, what are some of your favorite K-pop songs you’ve worked on?

I have a few standout favourites! I love “Lo Siento,” as it’s such a fun track and it was so enjoyable to write. The song came together so effortlessly with the team that day – Daniel Obi Klein, Andreas Oberg, and myself.

Writing “Automatic” for Red Velvet was particularly memorable too as it came about during my first trip to Korea, and the whole experience was incredible throughout! 

Probably my favourite track to date, though, is “Hush” – a song I wrote with Daniel Obi Klein whilst we were working with Teddy Riley on his writing camp in Seoul. I love the sensuality and romantic feeling of it – it gives me Anita Baker vibes. I really put a lot of myself into that song.

As a songwriter, when do you get the feeling that a song is meant to be kept for your own personal project rather than it being given out to another artist?

When I’m writing for others, I always start with the artist in mind and focus on making the song tailored to them, their sound, and their brand. I want them to hear what I’ve written and really hear themselves singing it.

When I write for myself, I write in a way where I would never want anyone to hear anyone else on that track – it has to be personal to me. I also usually write from scratch, so I’m able to imprint the music with my chords and harmonic sensibilities. 

At this point, I’m super confident in my own musical style, and I know when I start the process if the song will be for me. I’ve taken time to develop myself as an artist, so I really understand the specific musical DNA of my sound by now.

“Sentimental,” “Wish I Could,” and “Ride” are amazing singles from DLUXLIFE. What are some key factors you consider when deciding what songs to make singles?

Thank you so much! I generally go with my gut feeling when choosing the singles. This time around, I wanted to use the singles to introduce the sound of the coming album and to give a sense of my overall aesthetics as an artist. These songs felt like a great way to set the tone!

Do you have a song from DLUXLIFE that is personally your favorite?

Honestly, I’m so proud of them all – they’re all my babies! It totally depends what mood I’m in and what I’m doing at the time. “Wish I Could” has a special place in my heart, as it gives me nostalgic mid-2000s vibes – I think the teenage version of me would love that song!

Also, “Love Like You” is still one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written. To have a legend like T3 on the remix is a bucket list moment.

One of my favorite tracks from the album is “That Work” feat. Barbi Escobar. The chorus is so infectious! How did that song come about?

My producer, Daniel Obi Klein, started making the beat one day, and it quickly evolved into a full production and a full song. We had the idea to write a duet with two strong female voices, as that was something new for me. Barbi Escobar is a talented artist and friend based in Sweden, and she fits perfectly on the track. I love how the two perspectives co-sign one another – it’s so cool when women support other women!

Now that your debut album has officially entered the world, what’s next for Charli Taft?

My next ambition is to put together my dream live show, complete with dancers, a live band, and a full production setup. I grew up with artists putting on a real production when they performed live. Above all, I’m here to entertain, so I’m ready to challenge myself and grow into a killer live performer! 

In terms of future projects, I feel like I’m just getting started and have so much more music in me. I already have ideas for future singles and a next project, so I’ll be in the studio later this year starting to work on that. I’m definitely all in with this now!

Charli Taft’s debut album, DLUXLIFE, is out now.