There are two things in this life that are undeniably great and a source of joy for millions of people all over the world. One of those things is good pop music, and the other is the Fast & Furious franchise. If neither of these things make you happy then you need to have a serious word with whoever raised you to work out exactly what went wrong in your formative years.
Someone who appreciates and embodies both these glorious things is Charlie Puth. He's a “future hot 100 hitmaker” according to Billboard; Selena’s replacement for Justin according to a bunch of creepy websites; and, most importantly, the dude that wrote, produced and sang the hook on "See You Again" with Wiz Khalifa. In case you missed out on the most important cinematic event of last year, 2015 saw the release of the F&F movie that was being filmed when Paul Walker tragically died in a car crash, and Puth wrote the song that we all wept to as the credits rolled and Paul smiled his too-beautiful-for-this-earth smile one last time before driving off into the sunset.
Anyway, to find out more about the talented Charlie Puth, I decided to ask him out for a date. The location and day of our date changed a few times (famous dudes, what are they like eh?) but eventually he ended up taking me to… Paris. Yes, the city of light, love, romance, and unfathomably perfect baguettes, accessible within two hours from London thanks to the Eurostar.
After we’d popped a bottle of champagne on the balcony of his hotel room overlooking the Eiffel Tower, we sat down to discuss his accidental rise to fame and how I'll probs steal him away from Selena Gomez.
Noisey: Cheers, to one night in Paris!
Charlie Puth: To the best date ever.
You have to drink it after you cheers. And you have to look me in the eye.
Or else you'll have bad sex for a year!
Do you have any New Year's resolutions?
I have this idea that in 2016 I'm gonna become more—mo' betta—social in crowds. Learn how to deal with my social anxiety a little bit.
That must be quite hard to deal with when you're in the limelight constantly.
When I was in college I could never go to parties in basements and stuff, I would always get too claustrophobic… I just hated it. But when I'm performing it's a completely different thing because it's like I'm working, I'm putting on a show. It's better.
What did you order from room service?
*mimics my accent*
Is that your best British accent?
*mimics my accent again* I think it’s cute. I just can’t mimic it very well.
You sound like Dick van fucking Dyke. Why do all Americans have the same weird "British" accent? It sounds so bad.
That sucks because when you guys imitate us it's always really good.
You've done a few covers in your time, one of them being an Adele one. I was half hoping your single "One Call Away" was a Chingy cover.
Oh my god, that's so funny! Every once in a while someone will say that to me. I didn't realize that when me and my friends wrote it. The song is doing really well at the moment actually, I'm really excited about it because it's not necessarily a departure from "Marvin Gaye," but I don't want people to think I'm a Meghan Trainor Jr. I want to show that I'm diverse musically. Meghan gave me my first huge start so I'll always be her number one fan.
Were you guys friends before "Marvin Gaye"?
No I met her at a party and went up to her with "Marvin Gaye." Well, not with Marvin Gaye, but with the song.
Did you start serenading her with it?
I had the finished version on my phone, but I never planned for it to be my song. I wrote it to be pitched to other artists. I was like, "I know you can’t sing this type of chorus because it wouldn't make much sense for you but I'd love it if you could somehow be involved on this record, I feel like it would be really cool." And she said, "I can't sing that, but you can sing that and I can sing it with you!" That's how it all started.
What was the deal with you and Meghan's notorious kiss at your AMAs performance? Did you rehearse it or was it totally unplanned?
It was rehearsed, we knew that we were gonna do it.
Why did it go on for so long? It was a bit uncomfortable to watch to be honest.
They kept saying in my ear, "Keep going, keep going, keep going," because they had to let the divider go down. It wasn't the worst thing in the world, Meghan's a pleasure to kiss and it was a pleasure performing with her. She gave me my first big song so I wanted the performance to end with a splash. The thing that I couldn't deal with was all the paparazzi following me the next day because of it.
How do you deal with the "ARE THEY DATING!!!" tabloid headlines every time you work with a member of the opposite sex? So far you've got fake relationships with Meghan Trainor and Selena Gomez under your belt.
I think it's expected. Me and Selena were teasing our song ("We Don't Talk Any More") and we'd just finished performing at the Jingle Ball.
The Jingle Bell Ball.
So many jingling balls.
It was in Philadelphia, and afterwards me and Selena were on my tour bus just jumping around and singing along. I uploaded the video to Instagram in black and white and I guess people just assumed that it was romantic.
The black and white filter is known for being sexy.
We're not dating, we're just friends and now musical collaborators, which is really cool.
Do you see yourself as the new Justin Bieber?
[Laughs] No! Although I do love Bieber's music.
Have you always been a fan or are you a 2016-era Belieber?
I've always been a fan, from "One Less Lonely Girl" to "One Time." I've been a Belieber for a minute, but I'm also a Directioner.
Can you still be a Directioner now that they've split up?
Sure. Listen, let me ask a question. What do you get when you go to McDonald's?
Oh wow, have you been doing research on me? I love McDonald's so much. Just a standard double cheeseburger usually. Although when I went to New York a couple years ago I found this crazy burger off the secret dollar menu that had ranch sauce and crushed up nachos in it. It was insane. It's been discontinued now. Probably for health reasons.
Have you ever had a double Filet-o-Fish before? Do you like the Filet-o-Fish?
I was raised on that shit.
I LOVE THE FILET O FISH! I could inhale a Filet-o-Fish! I could eat a Filet-o-Fish right now! A steamed bun and tartare sauce—how can you go wrong?
A lot of people in the UK are Filet-o-Fish haters.
I don't understand how you can't like it. I can't have it before I sing though, anything creamy makes mucus and acid reflux. Didn't you go on a date with Ty Dolla $ign once?
Oh! Yeah I think he hated me as a date—we were super incompatible. He wouldn't eat the damn bread.
Ty used to be really fat.
Yeah, he told me.
We could facetime him right now.
No, let's not do that. Are you a picky eater too?
They keep sending me on incompatible dates, I'm not sure how I'm meant to get this US visa. Anyway, let's talk about your upcoming album—it's called Nine Track Mind but doesn't have nine tracks. What gives?
I want people to hear this album and realize that I'm not just another fucking pop star. I'm not a pop star, I don't think I'll ever be a pop star. I'm behind the record as much as I am the frontman. I'm more interested in the craftsmanship of the record and making it perfect when you deliver it to people, and they hear it on the radio and it hits them a certain way so they can make their own memories. I wanna be the soundtrack to people's lives—I'm not so concerned about being in tabloids. That's why I said I don't care about people saying that I'm dating Selena—I'm not, but if that's what draws them to the song then cool.
You're originally a producer right? Would you say you accidentally became an artist?
Yeah totally. I wasn't even supposed to sing "See You Again." I wrote it for Sam Smith. What you hear on the radio was my demo.
I cried when I first heard it because the first time I came across it was at the end of Fast & Furious 7 with the whole Paul Walker memorial montage thing.
Are you a big fan of the franchise?
Yeah I saw the 7th film twice in the cinema.
I didn't know Paul Walker personally though, so when they gave me the brief to try and write it for Paul Walker, I was like: I don't know how I'm gonna do this, I didn't even know the guy. But my best friend passed away in a car accident the same way that Paul passed away, one year prior, and I always wanted to write a song for him but I didn't know how. I think that day all the stars just aligned—the guy who I wrote it with had just lost someone too. So I ended up with this song for my friend and a song for Paul.
It's nominated for three Grammys, one Golden Globe, and it just won best song at the Critics' Choice Awards. How did that feel?
It felt great. No Oscar though, a lot of people were asking if I felt upset about that.
Have you ever been accused of having a one track mind?
No, I've been accused of having a boggled mind, like thinking of too many things at once. Like right now I'm talking to you and I'm also aware that the AC is blowing in A flat, and I'm thinking of different combinations of chords from the piano I was playing today. I have multiple thoughts going in my head at all times which kind of affects me socially like I was saying before. Every time I try to talk to people I'm unconsciously or consciously thinking about music. So yeah, I have a nine track mind, because I'm talking to you and also thinking of a million other things right now. It's nothing to do with the songs on the album. It's like Songs in A Minor by Alicia Keys; none of the songs are actually in A minor.
Do you prefer producing or performing?
I love performing, but I love producing a couple percent more, because I like being holed up in my little cave.
They're very different personality styles.
I'm super confident in the studio. I'm getting more confident on stage, but the studio is my happy place.
Do you have any surprising skills or party tricks?
I can beatbox. *starts beatboxing "Drop It Like It's Hot"*
Have you ever asked Siri to beatbox?
*siri beatboxes* No fucking way!
What's dating like for you at the moment?
Lately girls have been kind of trouble for me because I can't tell if they want to be around me for pure intentions or if they just want to climb up their social ladder.
So that means you're officially famous.
I think they think I am, but I'm not really in the spotlight so it's not that big of a deal to me.
If we were dating would you like other girls’ photos on Instagram?
Out of respect for you, no, because that's just kind of like a lose-lose situation.
Do you think a double tap on Instagram counts as flirting?
Maybe a couple steps below flirting… It's like more of a "notice me." I'm more invested in the music rather than Instagram and the social media side of things I guess. Not to say I'm not into pop culture—I used to read like teen mags and stuff when I was younger, you know the ones with like "What to do if your crush walks past?"
I don't know what the boys' magazines are like but the shit I used to read in teenage girls' magazines was poison. It's all like, "How to make a guy like you by basically morphing into him but also having a vagina." Why couldn't they just tell girls to be themselves and that's enough?
I hate to bring this back to me but that's exactly what I want to achieve with this album. I want people of all ages to be inspired to express their individuality. Like, I grew up in a town that was all business men and women and they always discouraged me from going into music, but look at me now! One year after moving out of my parent's basement making beats I've just bought a house in the Hollywood Hills. I want people to hear it and think they can accomplish their dreams too.
You grew up in New Jersey, right? I told a friend from New York that I was going to interview you and he told me to ask you what it was like growing up in "the armpit of America."
Tell him I grew up where all the blueberries he puts on his fucking cereal are coming from. It's not an armpit.
Was it anything like the Sopranos? Were there loads of mob wives on the school run?
No, I pretty much grew up on a farm surrounded by ocean, so it was a totally different vibe to that part of New Jersey.
Where is home for you right now?
Home for me right now is California and New Jersey for my parents, but they're moving to California soon too.
That’s cute. Are you tight with your parents?
Oh yeah, my parents supported me from day one. We couldn't afford a dining room table in 2001 but my dad bought me my first synthesizer when I was nine and I learned how to produce beats on it and make records. They completely supported me and without that initial investment I wouldn't be where I am now. I think they realized they had a musical kid one day when we went to church and the organist didn't show up and I played the entire mass from memory.
And now you're living the dream. You performed at Miss Universe a few weeks back…
You looked like you were having a hard time concentrating.
I have the gift that I don't have to look at my fingers when I'm playing the piano so I was just looking around.
I think you should have been looking at your fingers personally.
I really enjoyed my time there.
I bet you did.
I just love pretty girls! I love all girls. Girls inspire me. I was just looking around thinking about making music, like, "What would Miss Venezuela wanna put on when she goes back to her home country and is riding around in a convertible with her girls?"
Was Miss Venezuela your favorite?
My favorite was Miss Australia, she was really hot.
I mean they were all really hot, but I had trouble telling the difference between a lot of them to be honest.
Yeah I got a little confused… they're all wearing the same thing. I liked Miss Philippines too.
Well she did win. Wait, were you there when…
Yeah. It was the most painfully awkward thing ever and I was right there. I had like 14 of them around me crying and I was like, "You guys listen I used to audition for America's Got Talent and I used to get rejected and told that I sucked, this is not the all end of things."
It kind of is the end for them though. This is the peak of their career.
You never know! I was just trying to motivate them, and as I was saying that Steve Harvey was like, "There's been a mistake."
You have an eyebrow scar—it's a scar right, not just like a slit you shave in yourself?
It's a scar.
Wait I have an eyebrow scar too, how have I only just realized this!
Where? Oh it's pretty small. What happened?
I was eight and I was in a friend's back garden with a slide and a swing set. The protective plastic bit had come off the back of one of those double-seated swings and as I came down the slide it smashed into my eyebrow. If I'd come down the slide even like 0.25 seconds later it would've gone straight through my left eye.
Someone was watching over you.
I think so too. What's your eyebrow story?
I was mauled by a black lab. I was almost blinded too—it ripped this part of my face off. I was only two so I nearly died actually.
Was it your own dog?
No, it was my parent's friend's. But I love dogs.
Have you seen We Are Your Friends?
It's the best movie ever because it's the worst movie ever.
Like a Sharknado.
Zac Efron's character has an eyebrow scar just like yours, so if it doesn't work out for you as a producer or an artist you might have a career ahead of you as an EDM DJ.
Thank you, what a great way to end this date. It's working out great thankfully, I'm really happy.
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