In this September 8 episode, K Lounge hosts MRSHLL and Samuel Ku discussed K-Pop songwriting with UK musician Charlotte Wilson. She is part of THE HUB and is credited on Kang Daniel’s songs “Jealous” from album CYAN and “Runaway” from album MAGENTA.

In the first part of the interview, Charlotte discusses how she started around 2011. When she was studying sound engineering in college, she wanted to write for K-Pop after discovering Rain opening for a concert and then looked into other artists from Girls’ Generation to H.O.T. She put her dreams on hold due to family circumstances and then studied music entertainment industry management. Having a Korean girl in her class reminded Charlotte of her original dreams. She reached out to a professor who had a publishing company and gave him her demos. He cut one of her songs with a girl group called D-UNIT (Note: “Cut” means the song is accepted). She also worked on a WonderBoyz song “Tarzan” and then took a 5-year break until 2017 to figure out what she wanted to do. In 2018, she started getting cuts in J-Pop and then THE BOYZ after recruiting two songwriting members Frankie Day and Jacob Aaron. Behind-the-scenes, Brian U (current CEO of THE HUB Music Group) reached out to Charlotte despite not knowing one another well since he was thinking of starting a production company, which is also what she wanted to do. In the beginning of 2019, around 15 songs Charlotte, Frankie, and Jacob wrote were cut. Samuel said that was what gave the group the boost to publish under a name. Brian didn’t have a name idea, and then Charlotte suggested, “We’re a hub of people. Call it THE HUB.” Following that, Charlotte recruited more members from a Sweden camp. The team had their first camp at the end of 2020.

Note: From hereon, the speakers will be referred to by their first name’s initials.

C: [Brian from THE HUB] trusted me to collect everyone and say this person’s good. This person can do this. This person can do that and just get everyone on together. And when we had that camp, we called that the “Kang Daniel camp” only because we did a lot of songs for Kang Daniel.
S: And he was the—well, he still had, and back then he was the hottest.
C: Yeah, I didn’t even know.
S: Because he was chosen by the people to be number one. It’s not like you debut and you go number one. He was chosen before he debuted to be number one. He won Produce 101.
M: I did not know that.
C: He was in Wanna One, right?
M: I didn’t know he was the main like—
S: No, he was the main. He was the center.
M: No wonder!
S: So no, it’s kind of crazy. It’s like if you imagine the Korean people actually voting for this person to be number one. And you got a cut for that album?!
C: Yes, so Kang Daniel. At the time I didn’t know who he was. So Brian kind of explained, and I was like “Man, Brian. I don’t know who this man is. What do you mean?”
M: That’s you with everybody though, let’s be honest! And we’re like “so-and-so”, and you’re like “Who? I don’t know that.” And then later when you see a picture, [you’d] be like “OHH!”
S: So MRSHLL, is that how Charlotte is all the time?
M: Well, you know I don’t want to air out all her dirty laundry, but you know…
C: I kinda am. I’m like “Man, I don’t know who this person is. I’m like “Let me see a picture” and I’m like “Rrright… Okay, so he coming to the studio? Alright, just tell me ‘cause I need to look good that day. They have to remember me, alright?” So I didn’t know who Kang Daniel was. Andy and Charles were his A&R at the time. Dope guys. The song that I cut with him was called “Runaway”. And I wrote that on the first day of the camp. We had the producers advance give us 20 tracks to pick from. And I just went through them. I was like “Nah, this is it.” I just heard it and I was like “No, this is it. It’s different. And it’s just cool.”
S: The timing is crazy because you know when you’re an artist, it’s hard for you to go number one and start your own label. Right after he made a lot of money off that Produce 101 show, he got that investment and he started his own label. So musically if there were other Korean people involved in it, then you probably would have had a harder time making that cut. But it was him calling the shots. That’s why it was like if he liked it, it’ll— (nods)

C: And that’s what I was shocked about.
M: Which is rare with the artist actually calling the shots.
C: Right? He was personally invested. And so I was really shocked about that. I think at the time I didn’t know how significant that was. But now I do. Because now we have A&Rs, we have CEOs making the shots. But it was Kang Daniel that was doing it. He’s a very chill guy. When he came into the studio, he was just normal like… you know? And so that track. It was originally called “Yeah”. I think they called it “Runaway”, but it was just called “Yeah”. And when I wrote it, I imagined Kang Daniel singing it. So when I heard that it cut, I was like “Yesss, that’s so dope. We’re just gonna have a dope-sounding track, reggae vibes. And then I heard about YUMDDA. You know I didn’t know who YUMDDA was. So I’m like, but who is this guy now? Someone showed me his Instagram.
M: He’s been around for a while. But he blew up too recently.
S: It took him so long, but I think it was meant to be because back then he didn’t have that vibe and at the same time Korea wasn’t ready for that vibe either. And now… they’re flexin’, you know? Everybody flexin’.
C: He seems like that guy. Like he’s got that swag and stuff. And he’s that vibe. He seemed really cool as well. So then off of that first camp, we also cut a song called “Jealous”. And we wrote that at that camp too. So then obviously we built momentum now. We’re like “Yeahhh, let’s go as a team.” And then after that I think we got the ASTRO title.
S: That Kang Daniel title. That made the drive. I talked with Brian about this too. I don’t know if you felt it as much as he felt it, but if you could go out there and be like “Oh, who’d you write for? I mean, who did THE HUB write for?” (pause) “Kang Daniel.” “OH! Give us some tracks! Give us some music!” So I think that—even the “Tarzan” and THE BOYZ and all that, I don’t think that was—
C: No, it was Kang Daniel that really did it for THE HUB, and Brian was so proud of that. And I didn’t know at the time how significant that was. I really didn’t. I just didn’t know.
S: After you guys made that cut, I went out for a cigarette with Brian and he just had this aura. Like his shoulders were up there. Like “I made it.” (nods) “So Sam, how’d you get that investment? I’m trying to get the investment to what we’re doing.” Oh, so you want to talk business now, right? No, it gave him that boost. I was so happy for him. I was really happy for him because he worked hard to build that studio, run that studio, finding you, finding the right people.

(They talked about Brian trusting a random person like her to help establish THE HUB and how her melody is hitting different ears)

C: Yo, he’s got a big fandom out there. Like they’re strong for him, and I really appreciate the fans. Like they do everything, so that was really dope.

(They discussed ITZY’s “Not Shy” coming out between “Jealous” and “Runaway”)

C: [Brian] went and told everybody. So everybody knew and so when I came back to Korea, I came when “Not Shy” came out. So then before I even met everyone, everyone knew. ”Oh, congratulations!” Even Kang Daniel’s people were like ”’Congrats on ‘Not Shy’!” the day after I told Brian. I was like Brian boy, you went and told everyone. He was like “Of course. I have to tell everyone. We’re THE HUB. I have to.”

(Charlotte discussed moving to Korea in 2020)

S: And now you’re financially kind of—you could kind of build yourself here. You got a job.
C: I was like yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, Kang Daniel sells as well. So from that I was already… (nods) That was kind of nice. And then ASTRO kind of sells as well. So that was cool. And then I got ITZY. And I just couldn’t believe that I was doing what I set out to do. That I was achieving what I wanted to.

S: Imagine how many people listen to your craft. It’s crazy.
C: It is. When I sometimes listen back to a song, I’m like how did I even write that? Was that even me? But it was. I just don’t know how.
S: If you add up all of your catalog—the streams and music videos and everything—it’s probably like a billion. Literally. It’s crazy.
C: Yeah, it really is. But I appreciate it. Sometimes you’re so focused on your goal, you don’t take time to appreciate it all and everything and stuff like I said with the Kang Daniel process. I didn’t realize that was so… the magnitude of it. But now I’m trying to step back and just look at everything that I’m doing, who it reaches, and just try and appreciate everything.

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