Charlie Puth has spent much of the last couple of years playing big arenas and amphitheaters in front of thousands of fans. But recently, he got the chance to perform an intimate gig at New York City’s Highline Ballroom ― a treat for the singer who’s been on the rise since breaking out in 2015 with the Wiz Khalifa hit “See You Again.”
“I guess when I started doing promo runs and a little bit of touring in 2015 I was playing to a couple hundred people. I would always have so much fun because you could really just feel every single person in the crowd — their yearn to hear more, them screaming out to you — they drove for how many miles to come see you,” Puth told HuffPost. “You don’t get that really get that when you play an arena. I love playing arenas. I love playing amphitheaters. But I don’t get to do this that often. And it always inspires me being so close to my fans.”
That show, part of an partnership with Mastercard & JetBlue, leads into Puth’s fall arena tour where he’ll be back playing for larger venues.
Ahead of the New York concert, we caught up with Puth about the road, new music and why he wasn’t thrilled with his debut album.
When you’re on tour, now that you’ve been in the groove for a few years, do you have any rituals that you abide by?
I just work out a lot now. I never thought that I’d be working out so much on tour. On the Voicenotes tour, I worked out every day, which is not very interesting but it’s important. It’s so easy to not be in a good state of mind because when you’re on tour, as fun as it is, you’re just doing the same thing over and over again. You get a little stir crazy … You’re on a bus. You gotta get up and walk around. So, I try to make it normal as possible, I guess.
I can’t even imagine what the last couple of years have been like for you. If you had to sum it up, how would you describe it?
I feel like people finally understand me now. When I first arrived on the scene there were a lot of assumptions made about me. I think the music industry is a lot like high school, where freshman and sophomore year — the nerd might not be the coolest person ever, but by senior year, they may be because people get to know and get used to their personality and find that they might actually like the nerd. I talk about my not-too-happy thoughts about the first album and how people were writing songs for me. And I said, “Why am I letting people write songs for me?” So, when I produced “Attention” and “How Long” and “Done For Me,” I turned over a new leaf I guess.
You came out of the gate with that first album and it did really well. With your second full-length release, was there extra pressure?
It’s weird, there was no pressure. I didn’t want to think, “Oh gosh, I have to top the first one.” I wasn’t really that proud of that first one. It didn’t feel like me at all. I was proud of a couple of songs. But it was kind of messy. So, I felt like I was starting over with a clean slate. I’m not one to read reviews but the ones that were sent to me — like The New York Times praising my album as one of the best pop albums of the year ― that means a lot. Because I made this thing by myself in a little room. I get inspired by my fans and their love for other music and maybe my music as well. That’s why I always come up with ideas onstage and have a portable recording studio on tour. So, doing events like this JetBlue event where I get to play at one of my favorite smaller venues, I get excited about what my brain is going to do.
You teamed up with a couple of great artists on this last album — James Taylor and Boyz II Men. Do you have any dream collaborators?
This sounds like a made-up sentence, but Herbie Hancock texted me the other evening. And Elton John I talked to this morning — two of which I’d love to make something with. I think collaborations are nowadays so saturated. Everyone’s collaborating. It’s almost like artists don’t have faith that they can actually do a song by themselves. So, I don’t really want to do those type of collaborations, but meaningful collaborations. Like working with James Taylor and Boyz II Men — people that I’ve looked up to and are part of the reason why I even write music — that matters to me the most.
Is there a song on the latest record that really says who you are and what you wanted to come out with this time around?
The record “Boy.” A lot of people always ask me who that song is about. That song is just a figment of my imagination. I wrote that song based off a made-up story in my head. I just think it’s really cool that I was able to fantasize something and make a movie in my head and then put a melody and chord changes to it and a cool little beat. And then it becomes a song with a cult following attached to it. That’s really dope.
Are you already thinking about or jotting down ideas for your next album?
I’m already doing that. You’ll have to wait and hear, but I’ve got some ideas.
Is there something that you haven’t talked that you’d like to do?
I just follow whatever my heart’s feeling. I had no idea I’d make a record like “Dimension.” I am looking forward to myself surprising myself. I’m not the type to follow a trend. I hope that one day I can be fortunate enough to even make a trend. I just want my music to move people as much as possible.