Charlotte Day Wilson on Patti Smith's Cover of Her Song: 'One of the Most Significant Moments in My Career'
"To hear my song flow through her is completely surreal," the Canadian R&B/soul singer tells Billboard Canada.
An artist knows they've written an immortal song when they hear one of their heroes playing it. That's what happened to Toronto R&B/soul singer Charlotte Day Wilson, whose song "Work" has recently been covered by punk poet Patti Smith.
Smith played the hypnotic, slow-burning 2016 track at two shows in Germany, in Berlin and Leipzig in October. After seeing fan-shot videos on YouTube, Wilson shared clips on her Instagram story this week.
Patti Smith - Berlin - WORK (Charlotte Day WIlson) -- Pierre Boulez Saal - 12 october 2023
Patti Smith NEW SONG! ©"WORK" nach Charlotte Day Wilson, live 16.10.23, Leipzig
At the Berlin performance, Smith said she often listens to the song at home while writing but this was the "world debut" of her singing it. It's become a regular part of her recent shows, and setlist.fm says she's played it at least six times.
In an email to Billboard Canada, Wilson says the cover couldn't have come from a more important artist. She shares that she read Smith's memoir Just Kids at a pivotal time in her life and it inspired her to pursue "an alternative lifestyle in the arts."
"Patti Smith," Wilson begins in her email, with intentional formatting.
One of the most significant moments in my career to be honest...As a singer, Patti reaches and connects with something intangible and so arresting. To hear my song flow through her is completely surreal. I hope I can see her sing it live one day and tell her that my music might not have existed if it weren’t for her. I can’t help but think that maybe she knew she was cosmically connected to my art and gravitated towards it for a reason."
This isn't the first time Smith has expressed her admiration for "Work." In 2021, she dedicated an issue of her Substack newsletter to it. Praising its "early rhythm and blues style" and Wilson's "lyrically plain yet powerful" delivery, she pointed to a YouTube link where the song loops for an hour. She often listens to it several times in a row, she wrote, "lost in its light, spiritual groove."
Charlotte Day Wilson - Work (1 Hour)
"This humble yet self-assured song touches me," Smith wrote. "As I listen, I feel our slow motion world speeding up again, and the mix of relief and regret it produces. The song is also gently propelling, and I see myself walking down the steps to the street, mingling with a few passersby that slowly multiply. The clouds overhead move past the sun and I can feel the warmth of its rays upon my shoulders."
"Work" has more than 100 million streams across platforms. Wilson reached No. 27 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart in 2019 as a featured artist for her collaboration with Kaytranada, "What You Need."