The Rising Australian/British Indie Singer-Songwriter Rae Charlea Discusses Her Career Thus Far

Despite releasing music for less than a year at the time of publication, the (currently) Melbourne-based singer/songwriter, Rae Charlea, already has a four-song discography that shows off her sonic and thematic range. With the release of her latest track, “He’s Just A Boy,” last month, Rae took the time to answer some questions that Post-Burnout emailed here about her career thus far.


Hi, Rae! To get the obvious question out of the way first, could you tell us a bit about your background and what got you into music? How old were you when you began playing, and what was your first instrument? 

Hi Aaron! Thanks for having me. My name is Rae Charlea, and I am a British/Australian singer/songwriter/musician that’s currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but I’m moving to Liverpool, UK in August to pursue music. I have been a music fan all my life, having grown up in a household with it constantly playing. I’ve been singing since I could talk and playing guitar since I was 14. I credit my mum with getting me into music as she used to play a lot of rock records around the house, specifically The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, etc. I had always thought that making a career out of music was just a pipe dream until I was around 12 years old and 5 Seconds of Summer released their first album which made me want to start my own band and be a rockstar for a living – which my mum fully supported, thankfully haha. 

How did your current musical project begin? 
I had two bands as a teenager, but both of them fell apart before we got to the playing live stage, so at around 16, I started to look at people like Miles Kane and how he turned the breakups of his former bands into a successful solo career, thinking I could do that too. I had always dreamt of escaping Australia and moving abroad to pursue music, but COVID-19 hit when I had just turned 18, so I studied Music Production at university for three years and then did some travelling which is how I met my current producer, Zak Higgins. The hardest part of starting this journey was deciding on the style of songs I’d be making because I love a lot of genres and tend to hover around pop and rock, which is such a wide bracket. I love artists like Arctic Monkeys, Suki Waterhouse, Sam Fender, and Holly Humberstone, so Zak helped me create a world which honours these artists in my music. 

What have been both the trials and opulence of your journey thus far?
Trials: Moving to London on a whim in 2023 and realising I hadn’t thought it through (although, I met Zak and many other creatives so there’s a silver lining haha). As well as the many knockbacks I’ve had from all areas of the industry and realising that to succeed you’ve gotta go at it alone for a while and then your team finds you when you are making waves on your own. The past ten months of releasing music have been a very humbling experience, as you realise how little you actually know, the further you get into it all. Also, realising that no matter how badly you want it, others want it just as much or maybe even more. 

Opulence: Having people respond so warmly to my music as well as friends and family telling me that they like my work. My goal with music has always been to provide comfort in some way; music has saved my life ten times over and I hope to be part of the soundtrack to someone else’s life, the same way that music has soundtracked mine. Also, booking, funding, and playing an international tour on my own in the UK at the beginning of 2024 was pretty cool. 

Beyond your sonic versatility, which is apparent, I feel that your songs explore a diversity of ideas and themes. What inspires you to write, and, generally, do you begin with lyrics or music? What is your process like? 
I don’t want to limit myself to being a one-trick pony and just write about one topic because I’ve never met anyone who just thinks about one thing. Being able to switch up writing songs about unrequited love, jealousy over people you’ve never met, broken homes, and anger over friendship breakups are just some emotions and experiences that people go through and I think it’s important for art to make people feel understood and less alone; it should never be selfish. I’ve always written lyrics and melody first and then found the chords come later. I started singing and writing before I could play an instrument, so it’s kind of ingrained in me now. I’ve only written chords first once, and that was on my song “Father,” where I had the verse chords on loop and then wrote the lyrics in less than half an hour, as they just poured out of me. Whenever I have felt strongly about something, I’ve jotted random one-liners down in my phone’s Notes app or in my notebook. I’ve been so lucky to already have people express how much my music means to them so early on in my career. Writing has always been therapeutic for me, and I hope that people can continue to resonate with my music in the future. 

Photo by Liv McGregor
Courtesy of Rae Charlea

My favourite song of yours might be “Father,” which is a brutally vulnerable and hauntingly beautiful, acoustic-driven number. Do you feel you have self-imposed barriers when deciding what to release or is anything pretty much fair game?
Awe, thank you so much! I’m so happy to hear that you like “Father!” I went back and forth on releasing that one, actually, purely because not many people know that side of me. I remembered the type of music that helped me when I was struggling mentally as a teenager, and I thought that this song could help people who may be going through something similar. “Father” has been the song that I have received the most compliments on, which is really special. I played it at a small house show with Sofar Sounds back in January, and, afterwards, I had someone come up to me and thank me for writing and sharing the track, as he went through the same thing. It’s so special to have someone open up to you like that and it felt like a bucket list item checked off, to have someone tell me how much my art means to them. I don’t think I have any barriers as I am pretty much an open book haha. Those who know me in real life know that I never shut up and I’ll yap for hours about useless stuff, and this definitely translates into my music too. My songs are like extended journal entries really and I tend to decide what to release based on how the track makes me feel and how I think it might make others feel too. “Father” was definitely an uncomfortable one at first, but has since lifted a weight off of my shoulders, both as a songwriter and human. 

Beyond other musical artists that influence you, how do other artistic mediums – like poetry, film, literature, illustrations, paintings, spoken word, or something else that I may not have considered – inspire you? Do you think musicians must explore the full scope of artistic expression to be a fully-engaging artist or can someone whose only artistic consumption is music offer fresh ideas? 
I’m definitely inspired by other artistic mediums, for sure. I was a super crafty kid and I did a lot of painting and drawing growing up, so art galleries are a happy place for me. I love older styles of photography and videography, like Polaroid, film, and camcorders. I’m heavily inspired by ‘90s aesthetics, and I hope to work elements of that into my artistic aesthetic soon.  I’ve always loved Banksy too, and while I don’t see myself writing a song about Banksy, they are so cool and they think their creations through so thoroughly, which inspires me in mine, even though we use different mediums. My debut single, “Portray Innocence,” was written about a toxic friend group that I was in in high school. I struggled to find the words to write this song until I watched the music video for “Time Flies” by Z Berg and turned my experience of a backyard birthday party gone wrong into a whimsical party gone wrong – adding a bit of class to it, y’know? I think everyone is different, but drawing inspiration from more than just music is hugely important not just for songwriting but for artist aesthetics and also just giving your mind a break from music because it can definitely fatigue you sometimes. 

Your latest track, “He’s Just a Boy,” was released last month. The guitar on this song has a kind of shimmering and upbeat jangle that displays an underlying melancholy. For me, it invoked guitarists like Johnny Marr and Robert Smith. Additionally, I think the song might be your most euphonic and dance-inspiring pop track. How do you feel that this song stands out from the others you’ve released thus far? 
Thank you! When I started working with Zak, I showed him a few of my acoustic iPhone demos and we were figuring out which direction to take the production in when he asked if I was influenced by The Cure, to which I said I was a huge fan haha. So, they’ve definitely been an influence since the beginning. We tried implementing Cure-esque guitar parts in earlier tracks, but it eventually came together in “He’s Just A Boy.” The original acoustic demo of this track is a lot slower and feels sadder, so having such a bright and upbeat production on it was much needed, as showing my versatility as an artist is very important to me. In comparison to my other tracks, I’d say that “He’s Just A Boy” is the best representation of myself the majority of the time, as I try not to take things too seriously. Writing “He’s Just A Boy” in a conversation-type narrative allowed me to really relax and take the piss out of the situation that I was writing about. 

Do you feel your musical taste has changed or evolved since you began your current musical project? Are there artists you listen to now that you didn’t when starting out, and, if so, does that dictate your trajectory? How much of what you do is preplanned and how much is dictated by entropy? 
My musical taste has definitely changed since beginning this solo venture. In my early press releases, I was sticking with comparing my sound to artists like Holly Humberstone, Suki Waterhouse, and Mazzy Star, but since I’ve started gigging more, meeting new people and being fortunate enough to have press written about me and my work, I’ve been listening to a lot of the music that people have been saying I remind them of to continue working on my musical landscape as an artist. I recently had the comparisons of Nieve Ella and Clairo and I started listening to both of those artists and really liking their music. I think the world for an indie artist now is both hard and easy, ‘cause we can easily upload our own music and promote it online without a label but there’s also so much noise from other musicians doing the same thing, so standing out is hard. I do try and pre-plan a few things, like the aesthetics for each song that I release, through creating Pinterest boards that my photographer, Liv McGregor, and I use as a reference but a lot of it is just stumbling through and hoping something sticks. I started this project only ten months ago and I decided to give myself the time to grow and learn instead of putting pressure on myself to succeed right away. I am thinking of starting up my TikTok account again and really trying to hammer that, promotion-wise, as well as hopefully get a band together soon and hit the road in the next year. 

If I’m correct, you fluctuate between Australia and the UK. How do you find that geography influences your work? What do you find to be the differences in both countries’ music scenes, from your observations? 
I sure do! I could go on for ages about this topic haha. I was born and raised in Australia and raised by my mum, who is Scottish, so I had a strong British influence growing up, which was awesome. I’ve done a few trips back and forth and I am fortunate to have UK citizenship, as it makes it super easy for me to travel to the UK for music without worrying about visas and such. I find I am a lot happier and more creative in the UK. I love cold weather and I am hanging for the day I get to see snow, having grown up in suburban Melbourne and never seeing it before. Creatives in the UK tend to have a brighter outlook on the music industry too, as Australia has a strong “tall poppy syndrome” mentality where we tend to bring people down who dream big, and the UK doesn’t have that, so everyone that I’ve met over there believes that they can make a living off music which isn’t the way in Australia, sadly. The UK also filters into the American music scene, I’ve found. People like Caity Baser have gone from posting her songs on TikTok to being flown over to L.A., working on songs with producers and then playing Wembley in London. You just don’t see that pipeline here, sadly. The main difference with each scene, though, would be that the UK has more opportunities for gigs at any stage of your career. Australia has cancelled two of its biggest festivals this year because of poor ticket sales and many international acts will pull out of tours down here due to how expensive it is to tour Australia. Australia is also so big that it’s hard to get in a van and tour the country the same way you can in the UK, as it takes ten hours just to get to the next state, let alone capital city. To tour Australia, you really have to fly from city to city, which is super expensive. As for gigs in the UK, my tour at the beginning of 2024 consisted solely of showcases and open mics and the number of open mics in the UK are insane compared to Australia. You can tell that the UK genuinely cares for its music scene, whereas I can’t always say the same about Australia, sadly, even though there are some insanely talented musicians down here. 

Could you tell us about the Irish connection to your music? 
Of course! I have relatives who were Irish and then migrated over to Scotland, so there’s a family connection there, and Ireland is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to explore properly, as I’ve only been to Dublin so far. My producer Zak is from Ireland and half of my songs so far have been recorded in Dublin, and I’ve also got a group of friends there who just make the city feel like a second home. This past year I’ve been travelling a lot and finding out which cities I feel the most creative in, and Dublin is up there with Liverpool. I don’t even know how many songs I wrote in St Stephens Green in June 2023 haha. My family and I play a lot of music from Irish musicians at home, specifically, Hozier, The Pogues, Fontaines D.C., Niall Horan, The Undertones, Inhaler, and Two Door Cinema Club, and those influences seep into my music sometimes. Also, “Fairytale of New York” will forever be my favourite Christmas song. 

What do you have planned for the future (either immediate or distant), and is there anything you would like to plug?
I have two more songs coming out in August and September, which you can hear about via my Instagram page @raecharlea. These tunes are both co-written with one of my Dublin friends, Sean Julian, which I can’t wait for everyone to hear. Aside from that, the goal is to move to Liverpool and figure out the next steps from there J

Thanks Mate!

Rae Charlea’s latest single, “He’s Just a Boy,” is out now on all streaming platforms. You can find Rae’s music, social media accounts and live dates here.

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