Jendayi and Gyasi Bonds, the sibling pop duo that comprises Charlie Belle, are replanting four feet firmly in the ground of musical prominence. After earlier successes with their debut EP, Get To Know, the Bonds took a break from producing tracks to finish college (Jendayi) and enter college (Gyasi). Now, the pair are overflowing with new projects and stories to tell. On Septemeber 18th Charlie Belle released the incredibly charming and groovy single “Looking For Magic.” Clearly, the Bond siblings have found their magic again, and today, they are releasing an equally electric single entitled “What About Me?”.
In an exclusive interview with American Songwriter, Jendayi Bonds charted the genesis of “What About Me?”.
At first, the logistics of being rising artists in a pandemic placed a strain on production for Charlie Belle. Fortunately, however, the duo quickly shook off the blanket of dismay and followed their instincts — to be the remarkable artists that they are.
“We were worrying about logistics and simultaneously writing more than ever, because that’s what a lot more free time does for you,” Jendayi said. “There was a moment during all of the confusion that Gyasi and I kinda looked at each other and were like ‘What are we waiting for?’”
“We had each other, we had a ton of unreleased songs and video concepts, and we made the choice to take our vision into our own hands. We combined our learned audio knowledge from college and used our dad’s camera to shoot our videos. So the creative process, in general, has definitely changed for us. If anything, this newfound agency makes us feel all the more inspired to create more, try new things, go at our own pace. The way things have changed has shown us just how much we’re capable of on our own.”
With this newfound agency, Charlie Belle adapted to our rapidly moving world while also grasping for some timeless factors of songwriting. Jendayi talked specifically about her relationship with songwriting that led to the discovery of “What About Me?” and this single’s new spin on a familiar story.
“‘What About Me?’ is my attempt at telling someone else’s story. I won’t say who but this is someone that I admire a ton, and one day I asked them if I could interview them. Out of curiosity and as an attempt to find inspiration in perspectives other than my own, I turned this person’s answers from my notes into the narrative for my song. ‘What About Me’ explores what it feels like to be forgotten in a relationship you’ve worked so hard on, by a partner you’ve done so much for.”
She continued, “I remember writing it my first year of college – so lost, all of the growing pains – and for the first time not feeling inspired to write. Interviewing other people started as a way to get out of my head and has become a gem of a songwriting method. Closing your eyes and imagining literally being someone else instantly invites new ideas, thoughts, impulses, perspectives. Almost like writing a song on a different instrument, I found a beautiful way to widen my artistic point-of-view, and I get to tell other people’s stories through music.”
Stepping into someone else’s shoes certainly helped Charlie Belle mine for success. “What About Me?” speaks directly to listeners and quickly draws listeners into its upbeat melodies. Jendayi explained this radiant feeling that she and her brother put out in the world: “I like to think of my songs as time capsules, and this one is no different. They’re always written in the moment, but even after that moment ends, the feelings linger.”
“I think it’s safe to say that ‘What About Me?’ is the final touch to where our heads were at as artists at the time that I wrote it. It’s everything that I wanted it to be — punchy, bright, and validating; Spiced with a blend of rock, finished with a touch of pop. I think you can tell that in the track — there’s so much energy and fun in that recording.”
Jendayi continued, “As artists, Gyasi and I have had the wonderful opportunity to feel our way through new styles. What we’re going through and what we’re listening to inspires us to try new things in our music. ‘What About Me’ is where we tried the upbeat, ‘first-song-your-favorite-band-plays-at-ACL’ sort of vibe to loosen up on stage — it’s truly one of our favorite songs to play live. In lieu of not being able to do that as much anymore, we decided to finally release it.”
To break down this single’s sound even further, Jendayi obligingly explained the finer points of “What About Me?”’s composition. She shared her favorite two chords from the single and provided insight into the marriage of chord and verse (and a subtle challenge for the more musically inclined listeners!).
“I have two favorite chords for this song! One of them is a favorite chord overall, one of them is a chord placement,” she began.
“I wrote the entire song around my love for the E major chord the song starts off with and always returns to. But if I’m being honest, I was taught music by ear and that’s how I write my music: sound first. So it’s a chord that I experimented with because I’ve been playing guitar for so long, but I don’t know its technical name. Honestly, if anyone wants to tell me what it is, that would help our band practices out I’m sure! But I just love playing it with the low E string. Feels like a chord you just want a little more time with, so I wrote it in there more than once.”
“I also just love the transition into the outro of this song. The first chord when the vamp starts is a C# minor 7, and instead of switching to the major chord that begins the chorus, I switch to a minor to indicate a new section has begun. I really love when songs do this and wanted to give it a shot myself — not introducing new chords into the song, but playing instead with the order that the chords are in.”
Overall, however, Charlie Belle just wants you to remember this story. “All stories, though maybe not personal to us, are personal to someone. When I listen to ‘What About Me,’ it doesn’t feel as much like my song as it does a story that’s alive, a story bigger than myself or Charlie Belle. I hope that in some way, this song validates someone out there who just needs to feel validated.”
“What About Me?” deftly rallies around those who have felt left behind and lifts listeners up onto their feet. Jendayi beautifully sings “My home ain’t where my heart is/ ‘Cause I sold my home to the heartless/ And I lost my history/ He’s the one who’s somebody/ What about me/ A particular unfortunate story.”
Listen to “What About Me?” below and keep Charlie Belle on your radar — they’ve only just begun — again.