Hours before Charlie Puth performed at Asia World Expo earlier this month, he was making the most of being surrounded by Hong Kong’s ubiquitous skyline.
“Woah, what floor are we on?” he gasps, as he looks at the line of skyscrapers out of the window at the Upper House, a hotel in Admiralty. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s insane!”
Puth is recovering from back-to-back-flights, all part of his Voicenotes tour, leaving him somewhat ready for a little break.
“I can’t even remember what day we landed,” he jokes. “But it’s been so much fun.”
The artist has come a long way since he started uploading videos to YouTube. In 2011, his cover of Adele's Someone Like You won an online video competition sponsored by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, and that same year, Ellen DeGeneres signed him to her - now defunct - music label, eleveneleven.
But it wasn’t until 2015 that Puth was catapulted into the global spotlight, after being featured on Wiz Khalifa's hit song, See You Again, from the Furious 7 soundtrack.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere without that song,” says Puth. “See You Again will forever be my closing song. I always end a concert with it. It’s shown me that if you are at the right place at the right time, all the stars will align.”
The song went on to become the best-selling song of 2015, owing to its emotional impact after Furious 7 actor, Paul Walker’s death. At just 24 years old, Puth had earned himself three Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe nomination, and a 9x-platinum certification in the US.
But the New Jersey-born singer and songwriter was eager to prove himself as a solo artist.
And over the past three years, he has done just that with the success of his hits One Call Away, Marvin Gaye, and We Don’t Talk Anymore.
Still, something was lacking: Puth was after more autonomy in his work.
“Voicenotes is different to my first album because I was allowed to make it all by myself,” he says. “If I am executive producing an album, I want to ensure that what I’m running by myself is good.”
Puth says that Voicenotes is almost like a conversation that he is having with himself.
“I have drawn inspiration for the album from everywhere; relationships, travelling, touring.”
The first three singles off the album – Attention, How Long, and Done For Me – speak of Puth’s struggle in finding balance amid his chaotic life. Critics have lauded his honestly and raw vulnerability, and the album went gold in just four days. It features other artists including Boyz II Men, James Taylor, and Kehlani.
“Boyz II Men is my favourite collaboration on the album,” he says. “But it’s interesting because we weren’t even in the same studio together. We were in two separate locations when we recorded If You Leave Me Now.”
Puth, who has collaborated with Kehlani in the past on a stripped back cover of Drake’s Hotline Bling says that working with her again was “like coming full circle."
“The soundcloud cover of Hotline Bling was very of-the-moment. And when we made the record for my album, it felt exactly the same. It was great!” But despite the fame, success and worldwide recognition, the singer stays grounded by taking moments to reflect on his journey so far: “I never though I’d ever be this big. I’m very humbled by it. I never thought I’d get to play sold out show after sold out show.”
In fact, he jokes that when he hears his songs on the radio, he thinks, “Oh, I must still be popular then!”
Puth has only scratched the surface of his artistic ability, and judging by his success so far, he can go much further - but, at the end of the day, he's in the industry of no guarantees. But he says he’s not concerned by that.
“I live in the moment and try to make music around that,” he says. “As for my next album, I don’t think about that stuff. I never thought I’d make an album like Voicenotes, and I did.”