Image: Charlie Sputnik Live in Havana, Cuba with La Bête Noire during the Musicabana festival
Charlie Sputnik is a L.A. vocalist and DJ who performs worldwide, and releases records with house music heavyweights. He’s recorded with Chaka Khan and her sister Taka Boom, released tracks with DJ Sneak and Phil Weeks and was invited by Cuba’s Ministry of Culture for live performances with his project La Bête Noire.
We asked Charlie to share with other singers how he keeps up his musical energy and recording-performing output day after day:
A favorite quote that inspires you
“I have my ignorance to thank for the few things I know.” – Sacha Guitry
A time of day you like for your musical work?
The morning – My voice sounds different and it’s fun to sing at that time of the day, you don’t know what to expect.
In terms of your own singing, what have been your key turning points in developing your own unique vocal work?
Not second-guessing myself and trusting my instincts. Trusting the first take and its original emotional intent. Listening to feedback from musicians I respect. Listening, in general is a good idea for a musician.
People remember rough edges. Don’t try to please everyone.Charlie Sputnik
What’s an important lesson you’ve learned in terms of vocal health and/or technique?
Relax. Breathe with your diaphragm and don’t strain. Thinking about the lyrics you sing makes them sound better than focusing on how you deliver them.
A vocal artist who inspires you?
Marvin Gaye, particularly his sense of musical time. He was a drummer first and it shows in his delivery
What’s a lesson with tech you want to pass onto singers as they make or share their music?
When comp’ing vocals and choosing the best takes, remember that simplicity is key. Everyone else is trying to be a fancy as possible.
What’s your relationship with social media – what “works for you?
It’s a love/hate relationship. I find my peers (Generation X) don’t usually like self-promoting or boasting, but it seems to be inevitable nowadays.
Any social media “fails” or “successes”?
I don’t have a strategy, and I probably should, but getting personal about a topic usually goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to take a stand. People remember rough edges. Don’t try to please everyone.
What are you currently working on in terms of your music-career?
A few high-profile upcoming releases on prestigious European labels collaborating with established house music producers, recording DJ mixes for my weekly radio show on Dash Radio’s FANTOM channel, working with my longtime musical partner Art Bleek on a dozen new music library commissions and preparing for my down-tempo project’s upcoming debut EP release in July. It’s called “La Bête Noire”.
What performance would you single out as being a “turning point” & why?
A long time ago, I sang “Me and Mrs. Jones” accompanied by just a guitar. It was at The Mint in Los Angeles, on a very intimate night during which legends Jody Watley and Evelyne “Champagne” King were also performing. The crowd was 100% African-American and I was nervous tackling a treasured Soul music number as a young white man. In the end, they liked it and cheered. It gave me tremendous confidence and a sense of validation.
One or two critical steps you took to reach larger audiences with your music?
I wouldn’t say it is to reach larger audiences necessarily, but remaining open to working with various people, in many different styles of music probably helped that too. By taking on unusual and challenging projects, I met some incredible people whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise, some of which have become my closest friends.
What are some of your career dreams/goals?
Continue connecting with people through music. It’s a special feeling when someone reminds you of a song you wrote years ago, and tells you when they first heard it, what they were going through at the time, and why it’s important to them.
Charlie Sputnik is a versatile Franco-American vocalist and DJ, comfortable with Reggae, Soul, Rock and scatting. Charlie has performed in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, Helsinki, Bahia, Casablanca, Seoul etc. Charlie has released records with Chaka Khan, DJ Sneak, Joachim Garraud, Phil Weeks, among many others. Charlie’s list of clients includes the American Film Institute, Audi, American Airlines, WB, Universal, Netflix, Sony, Fox, E!, Disney, Taschen, The French Consulate in LA, Westfield, USC, LAX among others.