Artist Spotlight: Sage Charmaine talks new video and growing up in the industry
Don’t let her age fool you—Sage Charmaine is an L.A. veteran with acting credits in Nickelodeon’s “Victorious,” production work with Rocky Lynch of R5 and The Driver Era, and her own catalog of singles and an EP. The 16-year-old, in true Gen Z fashion, is multi-talented with pursuits of fashion and style alongside her music career.
Her music is much the same: an addictive collection of crossover aesthetics from dark indie pop with R&B beats to bubblegum trap and cheeky rap verses with collaborators cupcakKe and lil aaron. Influences range from My Chemical Romance to Beyonce to Instagram, and each of her tracks is delivered with her signature bratty attitude and refusal to be messed with.
Sage Charmaine recently dropped her new video for her latest single “Around,” and Atlas got the full scoop.
Atlas Artist Group: You grew up on performances, but was there one moment or event that launched your pursuit of music full time?
Sage Charmaine: I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember—I’m from Amarillo, Texas, and my grandparents owned and pastored a church there. Since I was already singing and I was always at the church, I was always watching their worship team rehearse and perform. And so that’s actually where I started, weird enough. And then as soon as I was performing on stage, I was just like, wow, like this is definitely something I want to do. And then once some grading came into the mix around age seven, I was just positive, like yeah, I want to write songs, sing, and perform forever. It became a passion by that point.
Atlas: You’ve already been on a couple tours, so what has being on the road taught you and how has it impacted your songwriting?
Charmaine: It’s given me a lot of experience. I went on my first tour over the summer of 2018, and that was pretty long. It was an influencer tour that I went on. So it was really cool getting to meet a lot of people that were also in the same age range as me. On the other tours I’ve been on, such as with Hey Violet, they are a little bit older than I am. So it was really cool getting to go on the road and be around other people that are similar in age to me and doing similar things that I am. And so it gave me a lot of experience and just exposed me to a lot of different types of people in the industry.
Atlas: How was that influencer tour different, aside from being around other teens?
Charmaine: It was just a lot of Instagram influencers mostly. So it was a lot of different people, like people that made skits or videos, did Instagram modeling, or are other musicians, just all different types of people. But it was also cool because they were all mostly teenagers. So it was really cool getting to see and be an environment like that, it was a lot of creativity. You got to flow and it was just cool getting to see what different people are doing and how much you can do with being online.
Atlas: Which of your songs has your favorite backstory?
Charmaine: June is a very special song to me. I wrote it about someone who’s very special to me. So that story just has a lot of emotional background for me. So I love performing it, especially because it’s so different from everything else, so it’s a nice like break during a set, or it’s just nice to listen to. It’s just so different from everything else I’ve released, I feel like. But other than that, I also really liked the song “Around,” which was on EP that I released over the summer, and I’m actually releasing the video for it tomorrow. So that’s going to be cool. That song, I actually wrote about growing up in industry and that kind of goes back to changes in the industry as itself since I’ve been around it for so long.
There’s so many people that are older and it just feels like they underestimate you because of your age. They just don’t take you seriously because they feel like, Oh, like you can’t possibly be a serious musician. You’re just a kid or a teenager or whatever. So I kind of wrote around about being just like, you can’t take age and think that that justifies talent, passion or experience because that’s not always the case. So the song, [that’s] the whole backstory. The hook is “bitch, I’ve been around” because it’s like, even though you might not have seen me or you might have more clout than I do, like I’ve been around.
Atlas: Right, so about the video for it that you’re dropping—what about it excites you?
Charmaine: I was really hands on with this video. Not that I haven’t been with my other ones, but this one was basically just me and my manager creating it. Everything from the outfits to just the theme of the video I basically got to come up with, so that was really cool. I wanted to reflect who I am at this specific time, things I’m into, what I want to wear, et cetera, et cetera. So all of the outfits, I basically picked it up from Dollskill, which is a brand that I love. So I love that because the whole, basically every outfit is, is Dollskill (laughs). I thought that that’s pretty accurate representation of what I would wear it usually. And then, since the whole idea of the video is basically just fucking around with friends having fun, I was like, why have the cast when I have my friends that I could just bring in this video. So my favorite part of the video is the fact that the whole cast is actually my real closest friends. Everyone in the video is my boyfriend or my best friends. So that’s awesome.
Atlas: Definitely. And I’m sure that you felt more creatively open working with people you’re close to.
Charmaine: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It definitely made the video feel more [real] like getting the emotion and chemistry out of people was definitely easier because it was already there, so it was just kind of filming us doing our normal everyday thing.
Atlas: That ties right in to authenticity. What do you think the role of authenticity is, especially for younger generations and the direction the industry is going in?
Charmaine: I wanted people to be able to watch it and feel good and happy after watching the video. So I was like, you know what, I might as well like [the video]. So I was like, why not just have all my closest friends in it? Because I feel like being real is very important because how are you going to reach other people if you’re not coming from a place that’s real for yourself?
Atlas: Who are some of your peers that you really admire? You’ve been over your influences and things like that, but like who’s someone that’s on your level that you look up to?
Charmaine: I always love to look at like who is not necessarily my competition, but I guess you would say other artists similar to me or are around just like you said, are at the same level as me. One of the bands that I really, really like—well, before I send anything, I would love to just say, Hey Violet, going on tour the day was really cool for me because I’ve actually been a fan of theirs for a while as well, same as my best friend who came on the tour with me and manager. So I would say them for sure. But there’s also this other band called TV Girl. They’re amazing. They’ve kind of blown up in the past few months, but they’re a really cool indie band. And then other than that, what are they called? Oh, HUNNY, it’s an all caps. H. U. N. N. Y. They’re awesome.
Atlas: For sure. They were just in town over the summer, and they put on a killer show.
Charmaine: Oh my gosh. I need to go. Yeah, I love them. My boyfriend and I love them. Other than that, I would say I kind of have started to get more into the fashion scene—the Instagram scene, I guess. So a few people that I’ve been following that I say that I would say are similar to me. There’s this Instagrammer, her name’s @spicylilracha. She’s just kind of like a fashion Instagrammer. I love her. She’s super cool. I look up to her for like style inspo and then @overgrownchild17. She’s amazing. My whole room is literally based off of her.
Atlas: So I know everyone asks you about your perspective being young, but what are some challenges you’ve faced that you didn’t expect?
Charmaine: I’ve been in the industry for a while and since I was so young, music has always been my passion, but since I was so young moving out here [to LA] and doing everything, I was just like not going to work. Like being an eight year old, you know, you can’t really do much. So I was really underestimated for a while, then I was doing acting, and that just wasn’t really my forte. I was expecting everything to just kind of play out, you know, because everyone who moves out here has a dream, it’s going to play out this way and then it just never does. You know, there’s so many things that pop up that you have to like work through, such as people always underestimating you. And I feel like I’ve had to work really hard to kind of prove to people since I was 12 years old that I am serious and that I’m not just a little kid. That’s been probably my biggest struggle, but now when we do like stuff—just like Billie, who’s a huge staple—we’re leaving a mark on the industry saying like, no bitch, like teenagers are to be taken seriously. And we’re definitely a force to be reckoned with and can be just as an official and amazing as everyone else.
Atlas: That’s getting proven more and more every year.
Charmaine: I like it! Aside from Bille [Eilish], there’s always new teenagers, even 15, 16-year-olds that are just popping up and it’s really great to see that.
Atlas: What else should readers know about you?
Charmaine: I’m a Los Angeles based artist, so if anyone’s out in LA, I do local shows a lot. So you know, you can come to any of those just look for my Instagram, which is @SageCharmaine. Other than that, I’m just going to be making a lot of music for the next year, so look out for that as well.
Check out Sage Charmaine’s video for “Around” here!
Story by Taylor Gilliam
Photo courtesy of Sage Charmaine