Charlie Puth was looking for a sound.
Not just any sound, though. It needed to be random, a bit obscure. Maybe a hit against a table, a slap on the guitar? And then, as he documented to his dedicated TikTok following, a light bulb turned on. Or rather, a light switch.
And with that one flip of a switch, he created the foundation of his titular song, the first release from his upcoming album, Charlie. "I always knew I wanted to make a song with a sound effect in it," he explained to E! News while promoting his Frito-Lay Super Bowl commercial. "You see my face mid-TikTok as I start to realize, Wait, this is actually kind of good."
Unlike anything he's done before—or, really, any musician, to be honest—he created the entire album in front of an audience of 15 million and counting. "The whole point in my downloading TikTok originally wasn't to make a career advancement," he admitted. "It was really just to educate people on how I make music."
So no, his behind-the-scenes experience isn't for attention, haters be damned. (You know who you are and so does he, acknowledging as much as he views the app as a safe space, there's "a lot of negative stuff.") Still, his intention remains simple: "Inspire people musically."
In turn, he's been inspired to open up like never before. Because while he is documenting how he makes beats by tapping tequila bottles, rubbing his pants or just coughing—Charlie, if you're reading this, the computer's keyboard makes a g sharp...maybe—he's also laying it all out, writing songs about the hickeys on his neck and the scent he left behind on a lover's jacket.
"It's scary for people to know more about me than I know about me," the Grammy nominee shared. "But that's probably why the music is resonating more than ever before." (Take, for instance, his "I'm such a loser / how could I lose her" lyric: "It's just another way to describe a painful time in my life.")
Ultimately, Charlie will be the most personal—and most anticipated—of his three albums. Though he teased new music to E! in 2019, "I wasn't really telling all of the truth, in my humble opinion," he revealed. "There was no creative direction with me." Today, there's no "fabricating anything," the 30-year-old added. "I'm just oversharing life experiences and putting melody sprinkles on top of that."
And, perhaps, the cherry on top of it all was the journey getting there. "I'm proud of myself that I opened up," he said. "I'm calling it Charlie for that reason…I love oversharing and I'm going to continue to do it. I can't really see putting out music a different way."
With an actual release date TBD—he played coy, teasing a mid-year drop—he is keeping himself busy with new extracurriculars, like his Super Bowl spot for Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Centered around unleashing your fiery side, "I could definitely relate to the sentiment," Charlie, who voices a beatboxing fox, shared, adding, "When you watch the commercial, all of these musical tendencies just come out. They're augmented like crazy when these animals eat these flamin' hot snacks."
With one gig under his belt—"Clearly I'm such a great actor now," he joked—he wouldn't say no to another, especially if good friend and Euphoria star Jacob Elordi came knocking with a cameo on the teen drama. "I love how dark it is," Charlie said. "It's so twisted in the most grandiose kind of way. It takes pride in being twisted."
Hey, HBO, he's only one call away...