“I started writing music when I was a teenager living in the Bahamas,” Nuela Charles told American Songwriter. “It was during the rise of Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, etc. Seeing all of these women who were writing and playing their own instruments really inspired me.”
While it’s easy for the legacy of acts like Lavigne, Branch and Carlton to be overshadowed by the impact of some of their contemporaries like, say, Birtney Spears, the story of Nuela Charles is a testament to just how enduring the influence of those singer-songwriters was for folks all over the world. Twenty years after that scene blossomed, Charles is keeping their spirit alive with a unique R&B twist, augmented by her signature style. On April 29, she put out her newest single, “Nerve,” a groovy, string-clad number demonstrating the adhesion to authenticity those early 2000s stars inspired all those years ago.
“When I write songs, I want them to be universal and relatable, but also stay true to myself and my experiences,” Charles explained. “I like taking bad situations and turning them into positive or empowering moments. ‘Nerve’ points to a failed relationship and the impact that that person had on you. Sometimes they leave you as a better person, but in this case, you came to a realization that you didn’t like who you became. You also don’t like the fact that now that it’s over, they’re crawling back for a second chance, as if nothing happened. Ultimately, you’re better off and stronger for it. Stand up for your own worth.”
A lot of songs these days tout an “empowering message,” but with the way the minor chord progression turns around with a IV7 into a ♭VII—especially with the James Bond-esque strings carrying the change—the inspiring nature of “Nerve” is just as palpable musically as it is lyrically. For her part, Charles thanks her collaborators for helping her bring this vision to life. Originally written with Don Mills (Juice WRLD, Giveon, Snoh Aalegra), Laura Welsh and James Thomas, she brought the track to Ryan Worsley for all the finishing touches.
“Writing for me is such an expression of who I am and collaboration is such a key part to that,” she explained. “For me, it’s really important that I can relate to what I’m saying, and that I ask myself ‘Is this true to who I am, and what I want to be about?’ With ‘Nerve,’ it was a process of bringing my perspective to a song that I was drawn to already. I also have a deep love for the James Bond soundtrack and tend to lean in that dramatic direction, even if only a little. So, when I enlisted the help of Ryan Worsley, he was able to take this song to its finished state. Knowing I’m a big James Bond fan, he was able to add in those dramatic strings in the last choruses, and just brought it all together in such a great way.”
Coming alongside a new EP—entitled Beautiful Madness, also released on April 30—”Nerve” carries the legacy of the past two decades along with it, honoring the authentic artists who’ve been beating the drum. Yet, at the same time, it’s an exciting encapsulation of everything Charles has to offer, and to that end, is a great peek at even more good music that’s yet to come.
Nuela Charles’ new EP, Beautiful Madness, featuring the song “Nerve” is out now and available everywhere. Listen to “Nerve” below: