One of the greatest strengths an artist can have is versatility, something that's become quite clear with how filmmakers have been treating the sounds of Charlotte Day Wilson's "Work." You might have caught the Toronto singer-songwriter's soulful single earlier this year in an iPhone TV spot where a determined ant pushes a piece of bone up a sandy dune. Then again, maybe you heard it in the background of Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie, right about the time Jane Fonda jumps into a candle-lit grind-out with the always fabulously-moustached Sam Elliott. Wilson admits to knowing about the song's use in the latter, but was still caught by surprise when it came up during her second season binge.
"I didn't watch that specific episode [right away] on Netflix. You know how they all show up at once, the whole season? It's in episode 10," she tells us from her cell phone while ordering an Americano from the coffee shop by her place. "I didn't want to watch that one first because I didn't want to know what had happened. And then when that episode rolled around, I completely forgot that ["Work"] was even in it, and all of a sudden Jane Fonda starts making out with her dude as my song came on. Oh, my God, it was too weird."
While not as wide-reaching as the streaming service's sex scene, Wilson's heard about her music scoring some real-life romantic moments too, whether she's wanted to or not. "People have always suggested that my music is 'sensual'," the vocalist explains. "It's really awkward when people tell me that, but also hilarious. "
As for "Work," which now rests on the singer's newly-released CDW, the single is a slow-melt masterpiece of gospel organ, deep sigh snare clacking, and gorgeously layered vocal harmonies. Upon first listen, its lyrics could be interpreted as relationship-geared, a pledge to hold together ("'Cause people come and go/ But I think you should know that I think this will work"). Its drive, however, is more about linking up with people that have helped her career grow.
"At the time I wrote it, I was feeling like I wanted to take this seriously," she says of the career-focused narrative. "Other people are taking interest me and helping me out, so I've got to step my game up and really spend as much time as I possibly can to get great songs out of myself."
As it stands, the six-song CDW is full of sterling tracks. The quiet storm of "After All" channels the vibes of peak period Anita Baker and Sade, while "Find You" has Wilson's rich vocals running elastic on its fluttery R&B finale. Working outside of those parameters completely is "On Your Own," a stunning, symphonic drone full of "oohs."
Even before CDW, Wilson spent her time experimenting with various sounds. After issuing the folk-mining Palimpsest EP in 2012, Wilson developed her vocal chops on the road with "smooth-ass R&B" band the Wayo. She's since left the group to focus on her solo work, a move that's had her finessing her production skills in the studio and discovering the possibilities of her natural gift.
"My voice has changed a lot," Wilson reflects. "When I listen to recordings from three or four years back, it's pretty much night and day. I wasn't really singing with my full voice back then; I was scared of my voice, singing quite thin and hesitantly. That's what's different: I've got more confidence now."
It's been a landmark year for Wilson. In addition to CDW, she popped-up on jazz fusionists BADBADNOTGOOD's much-hyped IV LP. She also tells Ion that she's almost always working on new music at her Toronto studio, and hints that she just made "a couple of bangers" with a to-be-revealed producer out in L.A.. It only gets better from here.
But while Wilson's become much more confident with her craft, that doesn't mean she won't squirm if tell her about how her music has been instrumental in you perfecting your own work in the bedroom.