For music performer Lady Charles, the idea of ambiguity is where they were born. The Ottawa musician got their start in school coffee houses at age ten and moved to playing in high school bands as a singer, guitarist, and drummer. In university, they focused on sonics and production. After releasing a string of self-recorded records, they began to get noticed and were featured in music blogs like Silent Shout and BlogTO. During the pandemic, they began to dig into the ambiguous persona they felt naturally drawn to.
Can you describe your music and the performing aspect of it? What are your shows like?
My music is inspired by classic rock, indie CanRock from the 2000s, hip hop, and classical. I like blending different sounds and moods and creating layered and unpredictable compositions. In a live setting, I like to blend in theatricality, fashion, drag influence, and dance — I’ve always been fond of art that breaks the barriers between genres and appeals to multiple senses simultaneously.
Can you share a bit about your Ottawa life and how you got to where you are now?
I grew up in Stittsville, went to university in Toronto, lived briefly in Montreal, and now I live in Ottawa in Centretown. Having lived in large cities, small suburban towns, and now in Ottawa proper, I appreciate that we’re a smaller, kind of underestimated city for music.
Ottawa is a beautiful, underrated place. The things that make it boring to many make Ottawa a pretty unique city. I think the perspective I gained being in a place that is rural, urban, and suburban and has multiple official languages and so many different cultures has been really important to my writing.
What music do you listen to? Where do you find inspiration?
I grew up on David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, and Prince, and they’re still all very important to me. In high school, I was also into the indie rock that was popular at the time — people like Feist, Metric, Late of the Pier, MGMT, Of Montreal — and later, I got big into hip hop and some outsider pop. I’m pretty into a lot of contemporary pop too. The music industry is in such chaos that a lot of the chart-toppers are people who blew up before being signed, so there’s a bit more variety and excitement in my mind when you have people like Dorian Elektra filling the space that used to be occupied by artists who were developed by a label and often chosen for a pretty narrow view of what was marketable.
Are you Lady Charles? Or is Lady Charles a band name?
I am Lady Charles, but Lady Charles isn’t me if that makes sense. It’s a persona closer to the real me than I think many people would realize. It’s not a drag persona, for example, but it’s definitely exaggerated and romanticized in the way that my favourite rock artists’ public personae are. There’s Mick Jagger, the phenomenon, and Mick Jagger, the person, for example, and they’re not entirely separate but not entirely the same. I’m not trying to compare myself to one of the most amazing frontmen of all time; just pointing out that even artists who use their own names aren’t really being themselves in a literal sense. I love that about rock and roll. It’s fun, strutting, showing off, and living a fantasy. But fundamentally, this is a solo project, and I play most of the instruments on the albums.