How Charlie Puth’s New Jersey Roots Shaped His Music Career

"New Jersey is the state with the most personalities. Growing up around that made me want to have that and then some.”

Charlie Puth
Charlie Puth grew up in Rumson. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cappello

He might be a global superstar now, but  Charlie Puth hasn’t forgotten his Jersey roots.

The Rumson native, 31, is heading home on June 3 for a show at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel—made even more special because that’s where he saw his first concert, James Taylor.

“It’s going to be a full circle, special moment,” says Puth.

Although it’ll be a brief trip (he has a show in Virginia the next day), the “See You Again” singer plans to squeeze in time with loved ones and indulge in his favorite pizza—a must for any true Jersey boy.

“[I’m looking forward to] having Sea Bright pizza backstage after the show, an entire grandma pie to myself,” he says. “But not before because then I won’t be able to sing.”

Puth—who has performed at arenas all over the world, released multiple platinum-selling albums and earned millions of social media followers—says his upbringing in the Garden State heavily influenced his pursuit of a music career, growing up surrounded by local acts and bands who gained small but loyal followings. He says the state has a unique way of making anyone into somewhat of a celebrity.

“Everyone’s a mini celebrity in New Jersey. Whether it’s a suit maker in town making suits for everyone [or] a pizza guy, everyone is a personality,” he says. “New Jersey is the state with the most personalities. Growing up around that made me want to have that and then some.”

Puth has come a long way from those humble Rumson beginnings. He’s gone from idolizing Jersey heroes like Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi to speaking with them occasionally over the phone. He made a name for himself with his first two albums, Nine Track Mind and Voicenotes, and is now touring the continent in promotion of his latest release, the self-titled Charlie, released last October.

This album is his most personal yet, delving heavily into past relationships. Puth says it was a challenge writing and recording the first few songs, but once he got through those, he was able to create the rest of the album in its entirety with more ease.

“The only way to make music that feels real is to tell the truth,” he says. “The most important thing is for people to relate to it and make their own memories and experiences toward the album. If people can relate to it, it’s my pleasure.”

Puth has previously worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, including James Taylor, Selena Gomez, Elton John and Boyz II Men. But this project features his first collaboration with a K-pop artist, Jungkook of the popular boy band BTS on the track “Left and Right.”

“It was one of the most positive experiences I ever had working with a different artist,” Puth says of Jungkook. “When I met him, he didn’t really carry himself like he was a big presence. He was very humble, respectful of my team as we were of theirs. It was such a regimented, easy process filming the music video and getting the vocals done.”

Puth is working on his next album, which he expects to finish by the end of the tour. He says the project will be entirely R&B, a genre he’s worked on before but never put together in a full album.

As for the future, Puth dreams of headlining a show at the Prudential Center in Newark one day, having previously performed there as an opener for Shawn Mendes in 2017. But in the meantime, he’s grateful to perform this weekend at what will be his biggest Jersey concert to date—and to pick up a scooped sesame bagel with butter from Bagel Masters in Shrewsbury (no eggs because he’s allergic).