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Charlotte Dos Santos on her new album 'Morfo'


CHARLOTTE DOS SANTOS: (Singing) Hello, hello. Are you all right? Keeping occupied? Are you safe? Are you sound?


That's how Charlotte Dos Santos greets you in her new album called "Morfo." The Brazilian Norwegian singer-songwriter blends themes of relationships and identity with sounds of jazz and bossa nova rhythms. Charlotte Dos Santos joins us now.

Welcome to the show.

DOS SANTOS: Thank you so much for having me.

RASCOE: So can you start by telling us what "Morfo" means literally and what it means to you?

DOS SANTOS: So "Morfo" stems from the butterfly Morpho didius, which is that bright, iridescent blue butterfly that you find in the Amazon and some other places in Latin America. So it's kind of native to the tropical forests of Brazil particularly. So it's kind of a nod to my Brazilian heritage.

RASCOE: Let's listen to the song "Away From You."


DOS SANTOS: (Singing) Biking up the hill, looking at the view. It is just us two.

RASCOE: So this song is a vibe, especially when you get to that hook. I mean, and it's all about a love song, who you feening for, who you - the only one you want. So tell me about what space you were when you were writing that.

DOS SANTOS: I mean, most of the album was actually written during lockdown, so it's kind of been a compilation of different processes and different writing times in my life. But for this song, it was just really kind of what I was doing that day. I just remember being with my partner, and we were biking. And I was like, you know, I want to make something that's kind of lighthearted and funny and cute and kind of, like, try a new approach to writing music and being playful with it than maybe I have in the past.


DOS SANTOS: (Singing) You're the only one I'm needing, the only one I'm feelin'. Can't you see it? You keep me breathin'. Like an iOS cellphone, you're the one that I can call home. I don't ever wanna be alone, be alone or away from you. You're so self-assured.

RASCOE: Obviously, during lockdown, everything was very, very heavy. Was it almost like an escape or wanting to give people a way to not have to feel so heavy all the time, to get some lightness in their life?

DOS SANTOS: Definitely 'cause I remember the album itself initially was supposed to be called Metamorphosis, and then I ended up scratching the song called "Metamorphosis," and the album kind of started morphing into something else. And that's kind of how I landed on the name "Morfo." So I wanted, you know, the music to be a little more happy and light. I think as a contrast to everything that was going on in the world, subconsciously, if anything, me trying to be like, OK, I have to have to put some lightness in my days.

RASCOE: I mean, that's a big decision to kind of scrap what you were working on and kind of start all over. What was the thing that made you say, OK, I got to do something different?

DOS SANTOS: Honestly, it sounds like a hard thing to do, but it was just really necessary because this album was really taking shape so well, and it was coming together just kind of perfectly. But it definitely was different than what I initially had thought was going to kind of come out. I still feel like I kept true to what I needed to say and still bring forward the message of transformation.


DOS SANTOS: (Vocalizing).

RASCOE: We mentioned that one of the big themes on this album is identity, and that really comes through in this song, "Filha Do Sol." Let's listen to a little bit of it.


DOS SANTOS: (Singing) The sunrise across the far east. She feels the wind like a gentle breeze. She tickles her skin and the hair that she got from her mom.

RASCOE: I'm hearing your Afro-Brazilian roots here. Can you tell me about what you were exploring in this song?

DOS SANTOS: For me, I just wanted to have the elements that really feels like Brazil to me. And being Afro-Brazilian, you know, obviously, Brazil has a lot of Afro influence and the music and the drumming and everything, so it kind of was a natural thing to add these elements into the music. And it's kind of based off of the song that I really liked by a Brazilian artist called Edu Lobo. And this song is really called "O Acoite Bateu," which means the whip is beating. So it was kind of like a song that had this chant that I wanted to make a twist on and kind of reclaim it in a way.


DOS SANTOS: (Singing in Portuguese).

RASCOE: You grew up in Norway. What was that experience like for you? I mean, being Afro-Brazilian, like, were you able to find community to know more about Brazil and your roots there?

DOS SANTOS: Well, not necessarily. I think it was kind of a lonely experience, but I had music and my father is - he lives in Norway, as well, with me. So I, you know, learned through him. And I always had him as, like, kind of my - what should I say? - my library. And, you know, he was kind of the source for me to learn about Brazil because I didn't go there a lot when I was growing up. But I think music really helped for me to figure out, what is Brazil to me, and what does it mean?

RASCOE: You've lived in so many places. You have all these different relationships to different types of music. So how do you try to tie all of that together in this album?

DOS SANTOS: I think all experiences kind of help shape us, you know, become who we are. And, sometimes, it's just subconsciously. I kind of just want to let things flow and not think too much when I write music and when I produce. So I'm very visceral. Everything kind of happens in my head, and I hear things. And I think what I've learned and experienced in my life is kind of - it just naturally comes out in my music. And then kind of listening to a lot of different music from all over the world - I don't really have a no genre. I just - whatever it is, as long as I find connection to it, it can be anything, really.

RASCOE: That's Charlotte Dos Santos. Her new album is "Morfo." Thank you for being with us.

DOS SANTOS: Thank you so much for having me.


DOS SANTOS: (Singing) Time to wake up, rise and shine. Let me hear what's on your mind. I'll do your hair. I'll do your makeup, talk to you, make you feel better. Touch my panel, I can tell ya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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