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Inside the Coffee Tent: Meet Charlie by Yasmin Norvill

Over the past year the coffee tent on PATS field has become a student hub, serving affordable coffee accompanied by chilled acoustics and comfy beanbags, perfect for a breather between lectures or more typically, an Instagram opportunity. Most of you will know barista Charlie for his beautiful latte art, but he is also the face of Life Like Charlie. His musical inspirations of Coldplay, Mumford and Sons and Paolo Nutini are clearly heard within his new EP, Beautiful Curse.

I sat down with Charlie in the coffee tent to discuss his upcoming music, writing process and musical ambitions for the future. First we spoke about his stage name ‘Life like Charlie’ which he explained came about due to his experience being called ‘Charlie Ballwank’ in school due to his surname. From Charlie’s unfavourable nickname, ‘Life Like Charlie’ was born.

Charlie’s first EP follows his most recent break up. He describes both his ex and the situation as a ‘beautiful curse.’ Though the experience pushed him to hardship, it awakened the happiest and most comfortable place he’s ever been in after finding new love and self-appreciation. This is prevalent in Charlie’s new song – ‘Someone to Love’ which portrays his enthusiasm for what the future has to hold as he experiences full self-acceptance. Notably, this is Charlie’s favourite song he’s ever written. Much of the EP was composed while Charlie sat at his desk, mumbling different harmonies, singing melodies and repeating his favourite poetic lines. Whereas other songs such as ‘Second Date’ (his first single) depicts a more developed narrative and called for a more concentrated writing session.

He shared that working in the tent has boosted his confidence in unimaginable ways as he is greeted by like-minded individuals who enjoy spending time with him. Subsequently, this self-assurance has translated into his music. Prior to becoming Life Like Charlie, Charlie was part of a folk duo. Though he enjoyed the experience, he wasn’t passionate about the music he was creating and therefore experienced intense nerves before performing. Nowadays, he loves his art and creates the kind of songs he himself enjoys listening to. Consequently, his nerves have lessened and he is assured in his ability as a songwriter. Charlie particularly enjoys writing choruses and this message is noticeable within his favourite chorus that he’s written in ‘Gold’, which depicts Charlie now knowing his “worth in gold.” His vulnerability as a songwriter results in heartfelt lyrics such as the imagery created in ‘Mr Right’ (one of my personal favourites) whereby Charlie expresses even the most perfect man will still only achieve as much as himself.

When attending Charlie’s local gig at The King’s Head, I was blown away by the immense support of the crowd who celebrated Charlie and his music. It is rare a smaller talent achieves such a dedicated fan base and Charlie confesses many of these individuals are customers and friends he has met through his work at the coffee tent. This is not to undermine his success, in Charlie’s most recent Sofar Sounds in London he received a two minute long applause which triggered a big emotional response for him. He admitted one of his career dreams is to sell out Wembley and we discussed his dream collaboration of working with Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin.

After our chat Charlie shared his upcoming summer release, ‘Love is Gone’. Personally, I think it’s fair to say it’s Charlie’s best work yet. The single exudes uplifting summer vibes. Additionally, fitting with most of Charlie’s work, features an extremely catchy chorus. Life Like Charlie’s new (homemade) EP is available to stream on Spotify now.

Next time you find yourself craving an oat milk latte in the coffee tent make sure you request to hear Charlie’s EP over the speakers.

Additionally, you can catch Charlie performing live in the coffee tent from 7pm on Monday 18th March in aid of Surrey Surf.

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