Black Musicians in the UK on a Train to Success: A chat with Nadine Charles

Nadine Charles

Growing up in the UK, I was brought up on a strict diet of soca, soul, funk and what I describe as real RnB! A majority of quality Soul and RnB artists I listened to were American. Of course, there were exceptions such as the UK’s Loose Ends, Soul to Soul, Omar and Total Contrast to name a few. The Brits 2011 ended with Britain’s Tinie Tempah endorsed as an exponent of British Talent. So are UK acts a force to be reckoned with? I’m keen to witness the success of British Soul/RnB’s acts and their world domination! One act I will have the pleasure of working with on a charity project later this year is Nadine Charles.

Since winning the Nokia Prince’s Trust Unsigned Award in 2005, Nadine has performed alongside major recording artists such as Common, Faith Evans, Craig David, Estelle and Kano, going from strength to strength. I asked her a few questions about her career and the industry.

An obvious question to ask is when did you start singing?

From a really young age. I can always remember being surrounded by music and singing along.

You studied Law and Business. Did you ever have an interest in pursuing a different career?

Not really. My parents encouraged all of us to get an education so I decided to do Law which I thought would be interesting. And it was BUT I knew I wasn’t going to be a lawyer because although I enjoyed the course it wasn’t for me.

What has been a determining factor in your success so far?

It’s my passion, my calling. If I gave up I would be doing myself an injustice. When I’m not doing music, I’m not happy so I continue.

Which acts have been most influential on your career?

I was influenced a lot, by the music my parents listened to. Millie Jackson, Minnie Riperton, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Marley to name a few then many 90’s acts like Jodeci, Faith Evans. When I look at the people who have influenced me, like me they are mainly singer/songwriters and put a lot of soul into their music. You can really feel their love or pain when you listen to their material. That’s what I want to do.

What has been the highest accolade in your career to date?

I guess winning Best Unsigned act in 2005 at the Nokia Prince’s Trust Urban Music Festival. But I’m proud of my EP that I did in 2009 too. I wrote most of it and it was well received here and world wide. Currently I’m in the running for an Urban Visual Award for Most visual video for my single “You Are the One”. Apparently I’m doing well, but to be honest, I’m just honoured to have been considered. These awards are being held in Atlanta, Georgia so unfortunately I won’t make the ceremony though.

You’ve worked with numerous successful acts. Is there anyone who stands out and why?

I always enjoy working with Dego from 4hero. He’s like an uncle to me and I can learn so much from him. He’s a musical genius but so humble. It’s refreshing.

The profile of UK based Soul /RnB or so called ‘urban’ acts appears to be on a rise. Do you think the industry’s major labels are more confident to endorse black British acts?

Not really. The amount of “Urban” acts that are successful is not reflective of the talent that is really out here. I’ve been doing this for a while and not much has changed. But it is what it is. You either grumble and moan or get on with it. Try and find an alternative route. Luckily I have many supporters in Europe and the states, actually worldwide. So I feel appreciated nevertheless.

Nadine Charles

You’re an attractive woman modeling in addition to singing. Do you think looks continue to play a big factor in the success of up and coming acts, particularly women?

Thank you. Yep, definitely looks play a role. When you hear an artist and you like them, you do your research and want to find out what they look like etc. The nicer the package, the more interest they will get. However, I think that if someone is really talented, if they don’t fit the mould perfectly, they can still be accepted and marketable. The consumer is not as superficial as some of the industry seems to think, i.e. Adele is not a size zero but she sells out all her shows, because she is a great artist.

A sensitive question for many, do you think your career is hindered anyway through race and colour? It always a controversial issue in most industries but how institutionally racist is the music industry?

Possibly. I think that the industry are more likely to capitalise on a Caucasian with a soulful voice even if they might not even be half as good as some of the many black artists I know that are out there struggling. Maybe they think it’s more marketable and rare. So it’s a bit of a gimmick.

We’re exploring a fund raising art and music event later this year but what else do you have in the pipeline?

I’m supporting a lot of great acts such as Omar, Jon B and Carl Thomas in the next month and I’m doing some collaborations as well as getting back on track with my solo project. I’m going to be very busy this year!

Further information on Nadine is available on the following links