Charlotte Sabina

By almost any measure, Charlotte Sabina is a typical ten year-old girl. She lives in Manhattan with her parents and younger brother and has attended the same school since kindergarten. She plays tennis, lacrosse and flag football and she surfs competitively; she spends her free time playing in her tree house with her friends and her brother and she likes to dig her toes into the sand at the beach during the summer when she’s not training as a junior lifeguard. Most of all, Sabina has the joyous, short-attention span of a ten-year old. That is, unless she’s making music. When Charlotte Sabina sits down at the piano, a transformation comes over her. She suddenly displays an intensity and competence that artists twice her age struggle to find, working at her creations with a dogged determination that inspires awe in her teachers and her artistic collaborators.

Charlotte Sabina began to learn piano at seven years old and guitar when she was eight, and started composing music almost immediately. These early works were of a classical persuasion, influenced by her piano teacher and by trips to the New York Philharmonic. Charlotte wrote a piece for her father entitled “Father’s Day,” and played it for her music class at school. The piece itself and Charlotte’s emotional performance reinforced what her music teacher had already suspected, and prompted a letter home: Charlotte had something very special that must be nurtured.

Together teachers, family and friends encouraged Charlotte, but it was the music itself that drove her. She would play the piano in the middle of the night, to the chagrin of neighbors in her apartment building, and sneak away during recess to play in the school music room. Charlotte wrote a special piece for an all-school event for Grandparents’ Day, which would be Charlotte’s first formal performance. She dedicated the piece to her brother and left the audience breathless.

In the winter of 2010 Charlotte was selected to appear at the Guggenheim museum in New York in an interactive piece by Tino Sehgal. While not a musical exhibit, it was the first time Charlotte was exposed to how large audiences of strangers responded to art, and to the spoken word. At the same time Sabina’s friends, who were also intrigued by her burgeoning talent, encouraged her to begin writing pop songs and lyrics. Little did they know what they were setting in motion.

Sabina writes the sort of pop music that makes you happy; that makes you want to sing in the shower. In spite of her tender age, Sabina writes articulate songs full of brilliant hooks and emotion. If you were to hear a Charlotte Sabina song on the radio you’d assume it was written by an established 20-something artist. When you see the reality, you’ll be amazed. Unusual beauty and poise aside, Charlotte Sabina is an all-American ten year old girl.

After seeing Sabina progress so far over her first two years as a musician, her parents surprised her for her tenth birthday with time in a professional recording studio. Working with producer/guitarist Jeffrey Lee Campbell (Jon Bon Jovi, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Michael BublĂ©), Sabina has begun to make good on the world of potential inside of her. With four pop songs under her belt to date (“Green,” “Moonlight,” the girl-rock anthem “Not the Girl,” and her second, tear-jerking dedication to her brother, “Partner in Crime” ) Sabina is deserving of the sort of buzz that launched artists such as Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Miranda Lambert. Some may think that a ten year old writing and performing is quaint, but those who listen will be humming and singing along with the pop incandescence of this young musician. You’ll cheer for the unconscious joy and innocent grace of Charlotte Sabina. You can’t help but be moved.

With comparisons to artists such as Taylor Swift, Joan Jett and Fiona Apple, it seems like the world stands at the ready for Charlotte Sabina to take the stage. For the time being, however, music is her passion; not a business. Sabina acknowledges that she’d someday like to make music and perform as a career, but for now music is all about having fun; mastering the rules and then breaking them; creation.

How do you describe your music to people?
It's definitely pop and rock.  I think it would sound more rock like if I weren't so little.  I think my music sounds a lot like Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac when she sings, but younger.  Mostly I try to make it emotional but fun and I try to make it catchy but not too repetitive.  I usually start by writing something more classical and then make it more poppy. I write the lyrics mostly to create strong images, or sometimes with words that shouldn'y usually go together.  All my songs are different.  Every time I try to do something new.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
My parents got a piano and guitar for my brother and me and we started taking lessons.  I was 7.  I started getting interested in it right away and when I was 8 I began writing small classical pieces on the piano including one for my dad called "Father's Day."  I began playing for my friends at school and my music teacher really encouraged me a lot by having me write pieces for different school events. Then she wanted me to add lyrics and sing, and my friends wanted me to make more pop music. So I did, and I loved it.  Then for my tenth birthday I received a gift to have one of my songs produced and recorded, and I had so much fun that I kept going.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Surf and write music.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
My biggest challenge is balancing school, sports, friends and music.  I have to do my homework when I get home so most of my time for music comes at night or on the weekends. So I got permission to use the Music Room at school whenever it's free.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I am a kid and I think I'm going to be a singer songwriter.  I'm also interested in ideas for new kinds of businesses.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
New York is awesome.  I have the best teachers and friends and parents of friends who are serious professional musicians and who help me and give me advice and support all the time.  I never would have met any of them if I didn't live here. And I get to go to the Philharmonic and to the gospel choir and Broadway shows and hear music in restaurants all the time.  And I can play music in restaurants here too.

What other artists out there do you love?
Stevie Nicks, K.T. Tunstall, Guns n Roses, Bon Jovi, Vampire Weekend, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Blondie, Joan Jett

What does your future hold?
In my latest song I say "I don't know what the future holds, millions of possible ways I can go."  In another song I say "I can be anything a rock star maybe." I really love writing and performing music and I know music will be my life but I don't know exactly how.