Slouching underneath a vintage Macklemore “Wings” poster in his childhood bedroom, 19-year-old singer CHARLIEONNAFRIDAY pulls up his hoodie and explains how he got here. [...] Read More
Here meaning far beyond the bedrooms and basements of Seattle, which is where he started making music just a few years ago.
Here meaning songs with tens of millions of streams (“After Hours”); signed to a major label; co-managed by the same team as Young Thug; and aiming to be “the biggest artist in the world.”
Right now his vehicle to do that is his pan-genre pop debut album ONNAFRIDAY, which features rap stars like Lil Keed (RIP) and country stars like Kidd G. He says his top five artists are Mack, Thug, Drake, Mac Miller and Justin Bieber –– and their influence is all over the album.
But to rewind, how he got here is simple: “I just like capturing moments.” Elaborating, he says what might seem like an overnight success story started in elementary school. “Ever since I was six, I was making videos on YouTube, posting vlogs of my friends. I used to make Pokemon card collection videos, hot pepper challenge videos, prank videos where we’d go to like McDonalds and order a ‘McFlip,’ and my friend would do a backflip off the counter.”
The content got thousands of views and also a good amount of hate — he says it comes with the territory when you grow up online.
But he gained a thick skin. And when he was at Edmonds-Woodway High School, he started making songs, which he saw as another form of online content –– and which he looked at a different way of capturing moments. Then COVID hit.
He says quarantining junior year was the best thing that ever happened to him. Like many of us, Charlie started thinking big-picture about what he wanted to do with his life. He reflected on what brought him the most joy, and decided music was it. And then he manifested a career.
“With this new digital generation of music, and with TikTok, and how you have to break yourself [as an artist]…it was almost perfect. I knew how to create the music but I almost knew better how to create the content for the music. I would just get on TikTok and be like, ‘Hey, my name’s Charlie and I just made this song in my closet.’And those videos started to work. I think that doing those vlogs and those things, got me comfortable with me showing my personality on camera. It just felt really natural.” He also credits his days as a football star with contributing to his success (“work ethic and discipline”), as well as good old fashioned trial and error (“I would make hundreds of songs and save them on Google Drive”).
By senior year — which didn’t really feel like school, since the experience was all digital, except for the epic house parties — he focused his songwriting and landed a hit with the slow banger “After Hours.” The song distilled the essence of the party, connecting with young people all over the world, as well as older adults remembering the good old days. From there things happened fast. Just a few months later, Lil Keed wandered into the studio where Charlie was recording in L.A., heard what Charlie was working on, and demanded a track together immediately.
“He said, ‘I wanna make a song with you right now, get the engineer in here right now.’And that’s when we made ‘Misfit,’ right on the spot. One of the craziest experiences of my life.”
That was lucky. But writing anthems like “Colorado Boulder” with Kidd G, about college girls who blow all their money on “Titos and weed” — that’s not luck, that’s skill.
While Charlie knows some people will hear ONNAFRIDAY write him off as a good-looking, white jock for whom life is one big party, he says he’s just writing what is authentic to him. And also that he hasn’t necessarily had the easiest life, either.
Lately he’s starting to consider life after the party, dissecting a toxic relationship on “Enough” (“Please stop calling / you’ve been dishonest / I’ve been through enough”). Pathos is starting to enter his work. He’s changing as a person and honing his craft.
But right now the party songs are still the main thing, which only makes sense for an artist who says he’s “way more of an optimist than a pessimist” –– another aspect of how he got here. Here meaning mentored & close friends with his childhood hero Macklemore, certifying CHARLIEONNAFRIDAY in his city. For him it all comes back to the genesis of Seattle, and that penchant for bottling life.
“I’m not the same person I was in high school,” he says, having seen the world a few times now. “But I’m still making songs in my bedroom. I’m still capturing moments. And hopefully people want to live through what I capture.”