Scene at Berklee: Charlie Puth

At a Visiting Artist Series clinic this week, the pop hitmaker and Berklee alumnus talked about his influences and why his latest single, "Girlfriend," is indebted to Berklee.

September 18, 2020

Charlie Puth B.M. ’13

Scene at Berklee presents snapshots and stories from the hundreds of clinics, workshops, performances, and other events that take place in our community year-round.

For an artist known for his sophisticated pop songwriting and intricate production work, Charlie Puth’s approach to music making couldn’t be more simple: “I make my greatest work by not overthinking,” said Puth B.M. ’13, speaking to more than 1,100 students and other attendees who tuned in to his virtual Visiting Artist Series clinic this week. “Worry about making music that you like.”

But staying true to the music you like doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself; artists should continue seeking out new sounds and styles, Puth emphasized. Raised on a steady diet of folk, soft rock, and R&B—James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and TLC are among his early influences—Puth experimented with jazz at Berklee, which shaped his slick, subtly retro blend of R&B and pop. Puth called his most recent song, “Girlfriend,” his “single for Berklee,” citing the track’s musical complexity.

"Enjoy Berklee because it goes by really quickly. So many life-changing experiences happened to me in Boston."

—Charlie Puth

During the interview, which was moderated by Prince Charles Alexander, professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department, Puth answered questions from students about a wide range of topics, including how to turn TikTok snippets into hit songs, arranging vocal stacks, and his most memorable experience at Berklee: selling out his first show at the Red Room at Cafe 939. “Enjoy Berklee because it goes by really quickly,” Puth said. “So many life-changing experiences happened to me in Boston.”

The event kicked off with an introduction from Berklee President Roger H. Brown, and a performance of Puth’s record-setting 2015 single, “See You Again,” by the a cappella group Pitch Slapped.

Berklee’s Visiting Artist Series connects students with some of the most influential artists and creators in the industry today. Upcoming events will feature Lennon Stella, TeaMarrr and Kareen James, Michael Franti, Audra McDonald, and Jac Ross and Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins.

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