Hit Maker Charlie Puth Addresses Summer Students

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Livingston Taylor interviews Charlie Puth (left) during his August visit to Berklee.
Livingston Taylor interviews Charlie Puth (left) during his August visit to Berklee.
Dave Green

In early August, with his single “See You Again” from the Furious 7 movie soundtrack still perched near the top of the Hot 100 (where it spent 12 weeks at number one), singer/songwriter Charlie Puth ‘13 returned to campus to talk to students enrolled the summer program.

“I’m literally like you in [the] Five-Week [program], just fooling around, making music, and goofing off and I just happened to hit something,” Puth told the students gathered in the Berklee Performance Center. “So it’s very reachable.” Puth spoke about his success in Los Angeles and the fortuitous connections he’s made there—such as running into Meghan Trainor at a party and asking her to listen to his song “Marvin Gaye,” which turned into a Hot 100 hit featuring Trainor.

Professor Livingston Taylor, who interviewed Puth on stage at the Berklee Performance Center, wasn’t about to let the singer downplay all the hard work he’d put in over the years. “I don’t want to get away from the notion of where this started,” Taylor said. “It [didn’t] start in a Warner Bros. studio in Los Angeles with enough visibility and revenue stream to get you on The Ellen Degeneres Show.”

Taylor stressed the fact that Puth’s career started years earlier, when he released one of his first YouTube videos as a student enrolled in Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program. The video, which featured him dancing down Commonwealth Avenue and singing what he now calls a “ridiculous song” entitled “Sexy Sunglasses or something like that” earned 10,000 subscribers by his third week that summer. Years after “Sexy Sunglasses,” Puth enrolled at Berklee and majored in music production and engineering while continuing to release videos—about one per week—on YouTube.

Puth would record covers of well-known songs, such as “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz, and use a hashtag to connect cover songs to videos of his own songs. By the time he graduated, he had racked up 30 million hits on YouTube and was generating a revenue stream and an audience.

“You must develop a following,” Taylor told the students. “And the best way to do that these days is through the path that Charlie took, which is the YouTube path.”

Puth encouraged the students to not let the naysayers discourage them, and to keep plugging away when success seems far off.

“I was always so down on myself and thinking that I didn’t have what it takes,” he said. “You just have to have faith in yourself.”

Puth finished his visit by playing “See You Again” for the crowd before hurrying off to Boston’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion where he and Trainor appeared in concert that evening.

Kimberly Ashton is an editor/writer in Berklee’s Digital Strategy and Communications Department.