I first heard Charlotte Rose Benjamin's music where we all find new music now, on TikTok, the first song I heard was "Slot Machine" and I was hooked on her dreamy voice and instant relatability of her songs. Her new album Dreamtina perfectly incapsulates crushes and romantic relationships in a way that feels like late night chats with your best friend: honest and vulnerable. We talked to her about the concept of a "dreamtina," her journey of being an independent artist, and why we need more pettiness in music.
So let's start with how you got started in music?
CRB: My dad is a musician. He's a really good songwriter, but he does mostly wedding band stuff now in Martha's Vineyard, where I grew up, and my mom was a professional modern dancer. So there was a lot of music in my house growing up. I think that when I was little, I was just like, "I love to sing." I was really shy, but I would sing in front of everyone. My parents would just put me on restaurant tables and be, like, "sing." And I was saying, "I was just, like a performing monkey."
Tell me about Dreamtina. How does it feel to have that out?
CRB: It feels good. I like it. It feels kind of weird but also exciting, and I'm happy that people are responding to it and that I get to show it to people. I've been working on it for so long, and for a year, it's been the only thing that I think about, and I care so much about this album, so it feels good to have it out, but part of me is like, "Now what?" now I don't have anything that I'm working on.
And can you tell me the concept of Tina's?
CRB: One of my close straight male friends, and we're neighbors. He had this joke, like, years ago that I wasn't even a part of with another friend of his where they would see cute girls in the neighborhood and a girl working at a coffee shop was coffee Shop Tina. And a girl riding her bike would be like, "Bike Lane Tina." They would say BLT for Bike Lane Tina. And he just told me about another one, too. If a girl was twisting her hair when she was talking or had, like, played with her hair, they call her "Twisty Tina." And then Dreamtina obviously meant, like, Dreamgirl.
He would say that to me, like, if there were a girl that he thought was that he had a crush out of the neighborhood and be like, "Oh, she's dreamtina." And then just stuck with me because, I don't know, I guess I've always been fascinated with as, like, a boy crazy girl. I've always been so fascinated with what boys think of girls and how people think about me. It's just like this thing that got stuck in my head. I thought the Tina thing was cute, and the record is so much about navigating my way through romantic relationships. It seemed like a good title for the album.
I love that. I think we all want to be Dreamtinas. It's cute. And you worked on this album independently. Why was that important for you?
CRB: I had been with a label for my previous project "Party City." I don't know. I think the music industry is changing so much, especially with having platforms like TikTok, like how you found my music. That's a really good example. I like using Instagram, and I would say that I'm pretty social media savvy, I don't know. I felt that the label that I was with did as much as they could on an indie level budget, but I learned a lot about how things worked from the other side. And I was like, " I care about this so much." And I think that if I put all the work in myself rather than being low on a totem pole of people whose job it is to promote my music, who also have a billion other bands that are making them a ton of money, that they are obviously going to prioritize. If I make it my priority, I'm going to work so much harder. And it's like you're sacrificing connections that maybe people in the label might have, but I think the hard work pays off in the end. So I wanted to take it on as a challenge, and I think I needed a big project to take on, and I was willing to do that. So I'm glad that I did.
When you're releasing the album, is there any song that you're kind of nervous about putting out? Was anything feeling really personal?
CRB: Every song in this album, I'm being so vulnerable. But specifically, the song Satisfied is about a specific person that is in the music scene that I have a lot of friends that know who they are. I told a lot of people this story because I have a big mouth, and if something happens to me, I have to tell everyone. So a lot of people know who it's about, and it's definitely petty and bratty and kind of a silly song, and I hope people see the humor in it. I was afraid to put it out because it just felt so petty and bratty. I don't know, but I hope that the humor comes through and people take it lightly.
I think pettiness is an emotion that we all need to hear more about.
CRB: It feels honest to me, and those are real feelings. Like feeling like you hope someone dies every time you look beautiful online. That is a ridiculous thing to say, but I think we all feel a version of that, like wanting revenge on someone you feel wronged by.
Of course. How do you kind of process putting things out that are so personal? Are you ever nervous about that kind of stuff?
CRB: I mean, my self-esteem, in general, is so up and down. I feel like it's never stable. I either think I'm incredible, or I hate myself. I'm never in a healthy place with it. So when I wrote that song, I was like, "Fuck you. I'm going to put this out, and it's going to be amazing, and it's going to make me famous, and everyone's going to love it," and then I would go down to a place and be like, "Oh, my God. I can't believe I'm doing this. It's like social suicide. Everyone hates you." And I still kind of feel that way. I'm glad I put this song out because I'm proud of the song. I'm proud of the lyrics. I think it's a funny story, but yeah. Every day is different. I don't know how I feel about it.
No, I love that. I feel like it's so hard, especially with artists who have to do TikTok and everything now. It's like posting on TikTok is really scary.
CRB: Totally. I don't know. I feel like it's all so new, and we're all still figuring it out. It's so embarrassing to try.
It's like we live in this era where it is not cool to look like you're trying. And what would you say has been kind of like the biggest challenge for you in the music industry?
CRB: I mean, making money is hard because there's so little money in the music industry unless you're on some massive level of fame and success. That's been a struggle to figure out how to make it lucrative. Yeah, and I guess going along with that, I always wanted to reach as many ears as possible, and the album is doing well, and I've gotten a lot of fans through TikTok, which is so cool. But getting it to reach as many people as possible is always the goal because I'm really proud of the music, and I feel like I know that if it hits the right people, they will love it. It doesn't always get to those ears.
I feel like it's just so nice because TikTok does give you that ability to reach people so fast, and it works so well, but I get why people have a problem with it. Do you ever feel competitive with how much is going on, music-wise, on TikTok?
CRB: Totally. I feel like it can be just exhausting to see how you're really stuck with how many people are trying to do the same thing that you do and people who are really good and people who are getting a lot of attention through TikTok more than Instagram because you just follow the people you follow, and that's kind of all you see. But TikTok is like everyone, so that can be kind of disillusioning. But then, when you have a good day on it, when you get a video that gets a lot of views, you're on top of the world, so you take the good and the bad.
Oh, totally, for sure. I feel like it can be so overwhelming.
CRB: Totally. Also, I mean, I didn't know how to use TikTok, really, until a couple of months ago. I feel like something clicked, and I was like, "Oh, just don't think so much about it." I think that's the secret. I was like in my head with it before, but what everyone does is just like-- I don't know. You don't take it too seriously.
Social media is so of the moment. It's not going to live forever. It'll be fine. What would be your best piece of advice for young women?
CRB: I feel like for a long time, I was waiting for something to happen to me. I thought it was really important that I needed a manager to put out music, or I needed to find the right producer before I started putting out music. So I was really hesitant to just start making stuff and putting stuff out. I wish that I had just gone for it earlier because times have changed, even in the past like five years. That's a lot easier to do now than it was then. But, yeah, I say just start going for it because you never know what's going to happen.