Charlie Puth on "Furious 7" OST, "See You Again"
Writer: Erny Suzira
23-year-old Charlie Puth is an American pop singer from New Jersey.
"Furious 7", the latest instalment of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, has been a box office hit and the movie has land on first place at the weekend box office for four weeks in a row – this means it's officially bigger than "Frozen" now.
Not only has the movie become a huge hit, even the original soundtrack "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth is enjoying a successful run. The song has topped the iTunes all-genre single sales chart. It also topped Billboard Hot 100 chart for two consecutive weeks, knocking Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" off the top spot after 14 weeks at number one.
According to Billboard, the song has sold over 1 million copies in the United States.
Last week, Cinema Online had the chance to interview the young and talented Charlie Puth, who is also one of the writers and producers of the song "See You Again".
The 23-year-old singer-songwriter shares his journey behind the successful hit as well as his latest project.
Cinema Online: Hi, Charlie, the song "See You Again" is a huge success here and received a lot of positive feedback. Can you tell us the journey behind the song and was it meant to be written for "Furious 7"?
Charlie Puth: Yes. The music company approached me to write something. They approached a lot of songwriters. During the submission, I wrote something called "See You Again", obviously. I wrote it in ten minutes, which is very unusual, and then the song echoes through my mind. It sounds very special when I was writing it for Paul, honouring his legacy. That's pretty much how it started.
Did you have Paul in your mind when you were writing it?
Yes. I did have Paul in my mind. When I came up with the line "And I tell you all about it when I see you again...", I was thinking of my friend who passed away a couple of years before, in a very similar way to Paul and I realised that the song was also for myself, like how I feel about my friend. It's a song that pretty much provides closure to all the Paul Walker's fans to have a song to remember him by.
The original single cover photo of "See You Again".
How do you feel about this song being successful even though you only spent ten minutes to write it?
I feel really great about it, it's just amazing. I think one year ago, none of this would have happened to me, and now when you fast forward one year later, it's amazing what hard work can do.
How did the collaboration with Wiz Khalifa happen?
It happened when I was writing the chorus for "See You Again" and I also produced the song too. I published it and sent it to Wiz; Wiz read it and loved it. He wrote a few verses on it which perfectly tie up the message about Paul Walker. It's a really beautiful rap and a brilliant pre-chorus. He's a really talented guy. I never recorded in the same studio with him, but we sent files back and forth. I actually got to meet him for the first time at Jimmy Fallon show. He's just an amazing and a really talented guy.
So, have you met any of the "Fast and Furious" guys? Can you tell me how they're like? And did they give any sort of feedback for your song?
Yeah, the first person who I got feedback from "See You Again" is .... You know what let me tell you the story this way. I got a text message one time on my phone, and it says "Hey brother, I'm really excited about 'See You Again'. I've been singing it in interviews and I really can't wait to see you at the premier." Then, below it says "Sign: Dom", and I was thinking to myself, "Who's Dom?" While my thought played itself, then I thought "Wait a second, Dom is the name of the main character in 'Fast and Furious', there's Paul and I just did a song for 'Fast and Furious', so I think Vin Diesel just texted me!" So I texted him back, "Is this Vin? Is this Mr. Vin Diesel?" Then he replied, "Yeah, bro! Loved the song it made me cry." Then I was like, "Oh my god, Vin Diesel just texted me!" I also got to meet Tyrese when I performed on REVOLT TV in Los Angeles with Wiz. There was only two so far, I know everyone is really busy but I hope I get to meet all the cast one day.
When you see other people doing covers of "See You Again" especially like Vin Diesel at the MTV Movie Awards, how do you feel about that?
I could cry, because thinking about my friend who passed away and also thinking about Paul Walker, like how devastated all of his fans were around the world when he passed away, knowing that the whole world is singing along, meant a lot to me. Even right now I get a little choked up. It's amazing where fifty thousand people were singing along to it at the concert. Everyone's around the world is joining in the song. Because "See You Again" is not just about death, it can be about a friend that you haven't seen in a long time like a boyfriend or girlfriend that you want to reunite with, like "I want to tell you everything that I have been doing when I see you again."
Can you tell us about your previous single with Meghan Trainor, what's the direction of the music that you follow?
Obviously, I want to make a song that was soulful. I want the song to make people that listen to it fall in love with each other, which is why if you see the music video of "Marvin Gaye", everyone falls in love with each other at the prom and they start to make out with each other, even I kind of kissed Meghan at the end of the video. I want to make songs that people can listen to and forever fall in love. As far as my other music that follows "Marvin Gaye", it's going to be soulful but not every song is going to have a throwback vibe to it like "Marvin Gaye". But it's definitely going to be soulful with catchy melody and lyrics.
Charlie Puth is a huge fan of Marvin Gaye and Motown records.
Does that mean that you're going to infuse Motown feel into your works?
I don't want every song to sound the same, so not every song will have a Motown feel. Truly, I think that my song "Marvin Gaye" is just specially deserved for Marvin Gaye. It would feel so weird to have another version of that song, but everything will be super soulful, I'll show you.
You already work with two major artistes. Who else would you want to work with?
Actually, I came out to Los Angeles to be a songwriter and I got to work with a lot of great artistes like Jason Derulo, Akon and Trey Songz, a lot of their songs are already out and some of them are coming out this year. The person that I love to add to that list is Bruno Mars because I think we would make something really crazy.
What are you working on this year?
This year I have my EP which is almost done in a couple of months and then after that comes the album. Then I'm going to join Meghan on some tour dates around the United States, as well as travelling around the world and performing in different places. That's pretty much all I have next, and then finishing all these other songs from other artistes.
Will there be any collaboration with other artistes in your latest EP?
No, it's just Meghan on this EP, it's a short EP. It's a little simpler of what people can expect from the album. So I do not want to give away every feature.
Was there a time when you doubted yourself and was it hard for you to build your name in this industry considering you're so young and new to all of this?
I got a full scholarship to Berklee College in music on jazz piano, so I was trying to break into the music industry while I was in college. It's just really important to me to finish college because I went for free and if I drop out, that would just be a slap in the face to all the people who pay for college. I always make sure that before I do anything I should finish college. I never really thought of anything; I just always want to make music that I like and that one day I can also make music that people would like.
Do you have plans to have your own tour in the future?
Absolutely! I would really love that.
Will you come to Malaysia?
That will be the first place I go to.
Charlie Puth gained his fame through YouTube and was discovered by Ellen DeGeneres in 2011.
Has your life changed much since being discovered by Ellen or do you think you're still the same guy on YouTube?
No matter how many amount of success I get, I'm always going to remain humble and nice to others. Because it's other people who helped get me to where I am today, so why would I be mean to them? I'll always be nice to my fans, and my life has definitely changed a bit there. I mean, Ellen did start the change in my life, and recently with the success of "See You Again" and "Marvin Gaye", those obviously accelerated my popularity a lot more. I go outside and people take pictures, but that doesn't matter to me. As long as my music can make them happy, that's all that I care about. I really want to make music that will really mean something to the world.
In your opinion, what do you think of people who are going into the music industry, what are the personal attributes they should have?
Just be yourself. For so long I tried to be something I'm not. On my very first start in YouTube, I tried to be a comedian and it turns out, I'm not very funny. Don't try and be something else. If you're true to yourself, people will appreciate that. People are generally interested in other people because of their personalities. There is no person on this earth that is exactly similar. There are similar traits but not super similar, there's no point in trying to be someone else. That's why in short, to make it into the music industry, be yourself, write music that you want to write and that you like, don't try to make music that you think other people are going to like, because no one is going to buy it. Just be yourself.
You started your career on YouTube. With the tough competition, how do you actually keep your momentum while maintaining it? Is there any strategy to it?
You just have to motivate yourself to make something even better. So when I was doing YouTube while I was in school, YouTube was also my job as well. I was paying my rent from YouTube. Sometimes it was really challenging coming back from hours and hours of classes while figuring out what music I was going to make, but I always just kind of saw the bigger picture and just thought to myself that one day, YouTube will be my base and will lead me somewhere even bigger and it had, and I'm really happy about that.
So, last question, how did your passion in music first started?
I started playing classical piano while I was three years old. I discovered that I had perfect pitch which means when you play on the piano, I can tell you what it is. I wasn't good at anything else; music is the only thing I'm good at. I always knew I was very weird in musical and I always tried to make sounds with my mouth (beatboxing). Then I moved to Manhattan school of music and eventually graduated from Berklee University. It wasn't until I moved to LA that I admitted to myself that I was going to do pop music even though I initially started with jazz and classical piano, which is an amazing experience but I always wanted to try something a little bit more like exploring the pop field. And it all started with my mom showing me how to play the piano when I was three years old.
Watch "See You Again" music video here.
Cinema Online, 27 April 2015