Pop artist Charlie Puth steps back onto the stage after nearly four years away with his limited tour of intimate shows, "One Night Only," which he's bringing to the Auditorium Theatre Thursday, Nov. 3. // Courtesy of Kenneth Cappello

Charlie Puth offers fans a pure dose of himself on intimate tour stop at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre 

On his latest album, “CHARLIE,” released in early October, it seems like Charlie Puth is finally ready to let the real Charlie out.

The New Jersey-raised pop artist will be sharing songs from this third studio album, as well as other favorites, when he plays Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre Thursday, Nov. 3, with his intimate “One Night Only” limited tour.

Puth said the 12 stops at cozier-sized venues are a warm-up for his larger arena tour next year, giving him a chance to get back into a performance mindset after not playing in front of crowds for nearly four years.

“It felt incredible. It felt better than any video going viral to be in front of real people,” he said. “I can see every person right in front of me, and to see their reactions unfold as the show goes on … words don’t do it justice. It’s just so special.”

Connecting with others through his music is the core of Puth’s mission. Taking some heat in recent years for trying to take on a persona he’s not, the now-30-year-old Puth stepped back into his own true skin during the pandemic to write “CHARLIE,” showcasing a newfound vulnerability alongside a growing musical maturity.

Charlie Puth’s new album, “CHARLIE,” is already streaming like mad, but his biggest joy comes in sharing it in person with fans. “It felt better than any video going viral to be in front of real people.” // Courtesy of Kenneth Cappello

“I really want to show fans that it’s possible to go about your life and experience heartbreak and really great things at the same time. And to be confused about those feelings. Like why is my life so good, but why am I experiencing such heartache right now? And to put all of that mixed bag of emotions into art,” he said. “That’s what I did. And that’s how this show came about. I want them to leave wanting to put on their own show and wanting to make their own art. That’s what I want [the audience] to take away.”

On the new album, the Berklee College of Music-educated artist opens up to listeners about his own heartbreak in 12 tracks rippling with emotions and sly humor, most set atop sparkling rhythms and bursts of ’80s synth-pop in an homage to his mother and the music she inspired him to love.

“This was my way of processing the parting of ways with two, but also with many, important people in my life. Processing that and dealing with that in private by myself due to the pandemic, not really having the ability to confide in too many people,” Puth said. “When something significant happens to me, I deal with it myself and with my music. And this album is the different stages of that healing.”

Through his songs, Puth gives a more truthful voice to much of the standard post-heartache posturing and pop tropes — the snarky retaliation in “That’s Hilarious,” the inundation of memories (“Left and Right”), a healthy dose of self-flaggelation in “Loser” — imbuing each with a confidence gained from coming out the other side rather than diving into “woe is me” territory. In the charming “Charlie Be Quiet!” he admonishes himself for oversharing and overexposing his heart too easily. “Smells Like Me” is a clever how-does-it-feel-now-that-I’m-gone anthem. And the lovely “When You’re Sad I’m Sad” is the oddball ballad in a generally up-tempo collection, but its heartfelt sentiment and gorgeous harmonies are both successful and earned — Puth put in a lot of hard work to create this album, and that merits taking a risk or two.

“Music helps me express myself. It helps me stutter less. It gets the words out easier when I’m up against a piano,” he explained. “There’s chord progressions that just lubricate the words. They’re able to fall out easier when I have a piano in front of me. I feel so complete.”

With new confidence and a fresh vulnerability, Charlie Puth is ready to share his heart with fans at the Auditorium Theatre Thursday, Nov. 3. // Courtesy of Kenneth Cappello

Puth has seemingly always pulled his life into his music. His 2015 feature on Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” drew inspiration from the loss of a good friend. And while it earned him Grammy nominations and two Billboard Music Awards, it also posed a new challenge.

“Once ‘See You Again’ came out, I kind of catapulted into ‘popularity,’ I guess. But it almost was a disservice because I had to work backward into proving to the general public that I was, in fact, a musician and that I wasn’t just given a hit song to record,” he said. “I actually went through what the song’s lyrical content is about. So I had to figure out not only who I was as a musical artist in front of millions of people, but I had to show them that I actually was worthy of their time.”

For “CHARLIE,” which he self-produced during COVID quarantines, Puth ditched a lot of the outside voices telling him what he should be doing and offers up pure, unadulterated Charlie. Despite only being out for just over three weeks, the album has already broken a billion streams. And through collaborations with Elton John, Selena Gomez and Jung Kook (of BTS), among others, in his catalog, it seems like Puth has proven himself to both fans and fellow artists.

“My first album was critically panned, and I agreed with those assessments because it just didn’t feel very like me. But it was mostly me trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do as an artist,” he said. “I still feel like I’m on my way up. I’ve been doing this for six-plus years now, and I still feel like I have a long way to go figuring out what else I can do musically, and how many more people I can reach.”

• • •

Charlie Puth “One Night Only”

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3
Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago, auditoriumtheatre.org
Tickets: $49-$99

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