Charlie Puth's VMAs Weekend Diary: From Hanging with Mom to Meeting Selena Gomez & Taylor Swift
What was the "See You Again" hitmaker's first VMAs weekend like? We take you inside Charlie's awards show experience.
Of the many nominees from Sunday night’s Video Music Awards, none has had a quicker or more impressive ride to the top than that of 23-year-old Charlie Puth. Around the time of last year’s ceremony, the crooner had just moved to Los Angeles; he invited the few friends he knew in town over to watch the 2014 VMAs on television, wondering if the song he had just recorded, “See You Again,” would someday snag a nomination. Now a full year later, the track (with Wiz Khalifa) has become a ubiquitous radio anthem and wound up scoring two nominations (one for Best Hip-Hop Video and another for Best Collaboration.)
To chronicle his very first visit to the ceremony, Puth had Billboard tag along as he and his team darted around Los Angeles, from the location where he practiced his potential speech, to an after-party at a West Hollywood hot spot. This is Charlie Puth’s VMA weekend, minute by minute.
Friday, August 28, 9:00 AM
As VMA weekend dawns in L.A., Charlie finds himself ... waking up on someone’s lawn after a hard night of drinking? Or perhaps he’s chilling with a gang of groupies? Or maybe he’s planning on sleeping throughout the day? In reality, Puth — not one for the party scene — actually opens his eyes following a full night’s rest at his place and hops on his computer to compose a new beat.
His team arrives at Casa de Charlie for a photo shoot. “The beat was cool, but I couldn’t finish it because everyone came over,” Puth notes. “It’s great having a shoot in your own house since you know where everything is.” The photos include Puth setting off fireworks. “They’ve been using the same pictures over and over again, so this was a chance to get some new ones,” he says.
After a full day of getting his picture taken, Puth and his team — which includes his manager, publicist, and parents, who recently flew in for the weekend from New Jersey — all head over to Silver Lake’s Speranza, which Charlie likes because they make their own pasta. “I had the shrimp and alfredo. It was pretty good,” he notes of the eatery. Following the meal, Puth and some members of his team pop into a bar, though they all split without ordering anything. “It wasn’t my scene so we left,” he later explains. Once back home, Puth continues to work on the beat he started in the morning, and calls it an early night.
Saturday, August 29, 10:33 AM
With one day to go until the big show, Charlie starts his day with some push-ups “just to pretend I work out,” he jokes, and heads over to the Hotel Bel Air, where parents Chuck and Debbie are staying. Charlie’s close with them — part of Puth’s legend is that they once put off buying a dining room table in lieu of a piano when he was a kid, resulting in the family eating dinner on the floor for a month.
Over at the swank Bel Air, Charlie hangs with his mom and dad while sipping a daiquiri by the pool. It’s arguably a notch up from eating on a floor.
Charlie tweets, “i never wanna leave bel air” (Sic). It garners over a thousand favorites in a matter of hours.
From Bel Air, the Puth family makes their way to Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, where later he’s performing at a private function for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman in hotel’s courtyard. “The fact that they asked me to come here is shocking,” Puth explains, noting he’s still getting used to his burgeoning fame. “Viacom played a huge role in my success and I wanted to thank them.”
Originally conceived as an acoustic act, Charlie’s team thought it’d be peppier if he had a full band. Puth’s soundcheck takes place as waiters and waitresses are putting the finishing touches on the space (lighting candles, loading ice and the like). Considering he has perfect pitch, figuring out the right mix is a walk in the park for Puth.
With soundcheck over, Puth hangs out in a side-room with his team and goes over his possible VMAs speech. “I’m not expecting to win — I need some bullet points, just in case,” he says. A liaison for MTV then gives everyone their tickets for the next day and the team is informed that the category of Best Hip-Hop Video, for which Charlie and his “See You Again” cohort Wiz Khalifa are nominated, has just been moved to a prime slot during the main broadcast. As a result, Puth whips out his phone and drafts a speech at the end of which he’s planning on pointing out his mom in the audience.
Showtime at the Four Seasons as Puth performs “See You Again,” his duet with Meghan Trainor “Marvin Gaye,” and his latest track, “One Call Away.” “I think it felt really good,” he says afterward. “When Philippe introduced me, he pointed out that I also wrote and produced ‘See You Again.’ I had no idea he knew that, so that was really cool.”
After hobnobbing a bit, Puth splits to grab diner with his parents at the Hotel Bel Air’s on-site restaurant run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. “I got the chicken pot pie and one vodka drink — pretty ballsy of me,” Puth jokes of his meal. Once back home, while he is planning on having some people by his his pad, an exhausted Puth hits the sack around 10:00 PM instead. A wild party will have to wait for another night. Sorry, tabloids.
Sunday, August 30, 9:00 AM
The big day has arrived. In a few hours, the Video Music Awards finally kick off, with Miley Cyrus hosting. Puth prepares for the day by hopping out of bed, and once again he “pretends” to work out by jumping rope and doing push-ups. Gotta burn off that chicken pot pie!
Puth then heads to meet his team and parents at the ACE Hotel, which lies just a few steps away from this year’s VMA home of the Microsoft Theater at LA Live. Decompressing in a room, Puth listens to a playlist of songs by legendary producer Max Martin, including pop staples “This I Promise You” by *N SYNC and Britney Spears’ “Oops!… I Did It Again.” “These tracks are probably the reason why I make pop music,” he notes. It just so happens that at the show, Puth will be seated near none other than Spears herself. “Maybe I’ll go up to her and say, ‘Hey, I was just listening to your really old songs!’ I’m sure she’d love it if I phrased it that way too,” Charlie mischievously notes.
It’s an hour until the red carpet and Charlie is mentally preparing for the show by listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival and sipping on a glass of 7 Up and Jameson. In all, it takes him about 15 minutes to get ready. “All I have to do is throw on my suit,” he notes, to the envy of girls everywhere.
It’s red carpet time! After Walk the Moon performs their hit “Shut Up and Dance” for MTV’s pre-show, Charlie, wearing a suit by Swedish designer Acne, hits the carpet… but not before grabbing a glass of champagne to take the edge off. More than the actual show, the red carpet is the one part of the night that makes him nervous. “I don’t like people screaming at me and asking for my picture,” he says of the chaotic experience. “I don’t really believe they want my picture. I’m still convincing myself that people like me. It hasn’t hit me yet. Honestly, it really hasn’t.”
Charlie has the good fortune to walk the carpet in the wake of Taylor Swift’s gaggle of supermodel friends, including “Bad Blood” star Karlie Kloss, leading photographers to alternately yell “Charlie! Karlie! Charlie! Karlie!” as if it were a hectic version of Name Game. While on the carpet, Puth chats with multiple news outlets, and later he says of the dealing with the paparazzi, “It’s amazing that we view people in unnatural states and just love it. I don’t really understand it — it just makes me very uncomfortable. But, whatever. I’m so appreciative to be here.”
Showtime! Puth takes his seat with his mom in the fifth row, sitting in close proximity to the ladies of Fifth Harmony and Justin Bieber. “I always promised my mom I’d take her,” he says.
The award for Best Hip-Hop video is announced and it goes to Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” instead of “See You Again.” Puth later says that “it’s an honor just to be nominated,” and the crazy thing is- it seems like he means it. (Charlie and Wiz — who couldn’t attend the broadcast — also lose out on the award for Best Collaboration. That honor instead went to the video for Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” with Kendrick Lamar.)
As Cyrus ends the show putting on a banger of a performance as only she can do, Charlie and his team have already made it on their way back to the ACE Hotel to decompress. While there, he tweets, “Even though we didn't win...it was a very special night!! So happy to be there.”
From the ACE’s downtown location, Team Puth zips to West Hollywood’s Ysabel. From the outside it’s a nondescript hot spot, but inside is where Republic Records is throwing an after-party that’s typically known as the buzziest of the night. Despite that fact he concedes he “doesn’t like parties that much,” Charlie says he’ll enjoy this one. “I don’t mind schmoozing, since that’s just me just thanking people, but I have crowd anxiety. Being in tight crowds makes me anxious.”
Once inside, it’s apparent Republic has pulled out all the stops. Case in point: As Joe Jonas DJs, revelers are greeted with champagne flutes and an In N’ Out truck. Regardless of the star wattage (on one end of the room is Pete Wentz, on the other is Vance Joy and making his way around is the Weeknd), Puth makes it clear he’s going to have one drink, say his hellos, and split. Sounds like a plan!
That plan immediately shatters when he gets word that Selena Gomez — a favorite of Charlie’s, whom he hasn’t met yet — is in attendance, and would he maybe wanna meet her? Puth jumps at the chance and is whisked away to a private area in the back, where Gomez and her best friend, Taylor Swift, hold court alongside the likes of Nick Jonas, Shawn Mendes, Lorde and Hailee Steinfeld. As Gomez greets Charlie, he’s invited into the crew and plops down in between her and Swift — because the mere presence of Taylor herself can soothe an anxiety about being in crowds any day.
great night and great meeting new friends...you know who you are— Charlie Puth (@charlieputh) August 31, 2015
As the party rages on, Charlie says his goodbyes and heads for the door, but not before exchanging numbers with Gomez. Take note: if a relationship is indeed blossoming, nicknaming the two #Pumez has a wayyyy better ring to it than #Guth.
Monday, August 31, 1:25 AM
Heading off to a private soiree with his team, Puth cryptically tweets, “Great night and great meeting new friends, you know who you are,” later writing, “I want to make you happy.” Whether or not these tweets are meant for Gomez, the girl who gave him his In N’Out Burger, or someone else is left up in the air. But as Charlie’s VMA weekend officially comes to a close, he considers it a success — last year he was watching it from home, and this year he ended the night in between Gomez and Swift. Says Puth of his journey so far, “I’ll just be thanking people my entire life for this.”