Ever wake up one day and realize that, despite years of navigating different relationships, you’ve actually been dating the same person over and over again? Los Angeles singer-songwriter Pearl Charles knows that feeling—so much so that she wrote an ode to it: “All the Boys,” her new single and the first track off her debut album, Sleepless Dreamer (February 2, Kanine Records).
The song’s premise came to Charles, 26, as if in a dream. “It was one of those ideas where I woke up in the middle of the night and scrambled to get my phone [to document it],” she says. “[I was] thinking about all the boys that I know that have really similar names—like Jonathan, or Chris. “They’re all the same, these guys,” she tells me via phone from LA. “They’re a dime a dozen.”
For Charles, the boys’ common thread is their tendency to give her just enough to keep her around. “[In my experience], it kind of feels like you’re just on this carousel of emotion … Men have consistently treated women with these pickup artist kinds of techniques—just enough to still be interested, to still want to play this game. Because it’s such a game; it’s such a dance,” she says. And so the song’s refrain (“All the boys with your name / They all act the same as you”) was born. And, funny enough, when Charles delivers it with her honeyed voice over a warm, upbeat guitar riff, it feels dancey, too—but in a pleasant way. “Someone told me about this term ‘sunny bummer,’” she says. “I’m thinking of Sheryl Crow songs—[where she’s] singing about heartbreak, but the sound is super upbeat. You still feel good! I think [Crow’s] ‘My Favorite Mistake’ is kind of similar to ‘All the Boys.’ They have a similar takeaway; they’re kind of funny.”
Indeed, Charles, a native Angeleno from a family of creatives, is not without a sense of humor or adventure when it comes to her music. Her forthcoming Sleepless Dreamer feels like a natural evolution of her 2015 self-titled EP, which earned her comparisons to Jenny Lewis and Lana Del Rey; stylistically, it nods to everything from classic and psychedelic rock to a genre she calls “disco country,” which she stumbled on while driving through rural Texas on tour in 2016. Her car’s auxiliary cord broke, so she turned on the radio to a local country station. “We were listening, and I heard this song,” she says. “It was this weird, like, disco-country song. I was like, ‘What is this? I’ve never heard anything like this. I love this sound, and I want to develop it a little more.’”
“I’m just a digger,” she continues. “It’s totally a long line. My uncle is an antiques dealer, my grandma loves to thrift, so does my mom, and I’m so into thrifting. I think there’s a joy in finding the hidden treasure. And one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, because obviously, there are tons of people out there who probably would think, ‘Disco country, that sounds terrible!’” She laughs. “But I have to assume that I’m not alone in thinking that it’s actually pretty cool.”
We wager she’s not.
Charles’ debut album, Sleepless Dreamer, is out February 2 via Kanine Records.
Catch Pearl on tour:
2/1 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
2/2 – Long Beach, CA @ Fingerprints
2/14 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
2/20 – Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
2/21 – Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
2/22 – Vancouver, BC @ Wise Hall
2/24 – Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett
2/25 – Boise, ID @ The Olympic
2/26 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
2/28 – Denver, CO @ Ophelia’s
Avery Stone is a writer in New York. Follow her on Twitter.