Charlotte OC reveals her most vulnerable and honest work to date with ‘Here Comes Trouble’. She speaks unguardedly of trauma, heartbreak, and soul-searching, guiding us through its evolution into a beautiful sophomore album.
We’re getting a taste of the album with a double bill of pre-released singles, “Bad Bitch” and “Forest”, anticipating the full album release in October. The established alt-pop artist has caught the hearts of millions of listeners since her teens as she’s untangled her long-lasting internal journey of self-discovery over the years.
The past year has been a brutal psychological awakening for Charlotte as she was faced with extraordinary hardship and consuming emotional upheaval. Her ability to spin the turbulence into an observantly delicate and sonically refined album echoes the depth of her artistry. Charlotte has flourished through her music to heal the wounds, she says, “as much as nobody needs trauma it does shape you, I’m a lot tougher than I used to be… I am such a softy, the most sensitive person you’ll ever meet but I’ve definitely grown more of a spine than I’ve ever had before and I’m grateful for it”.
“Bad Bitch” and “Forest” reveal contrasting sides of Charlotte’s psyche through her distinguished alternative sound and unmistakably effortless vocals that speak straight to the soul. Consistently championed by BBC Introducing on Radio 1 and BBC Introducing Lancashire, Charlotte OC has also caught the ears of Jack Saunders and Elton John. She’s back with a finespun body of work that will undoubtedly see support from the masses as she bares her heart with commendable raw vulnerability.
We caught up with Charlotte over Zoom where she’s finally feeling settled in her new flat in Haggerston. With Blue the cat on her lap she talks us through her highs and lows, her journey through music and the metamorphosis of darkness into artistry.
It looks like this drawn-out period of isolation seeded your sophomore album ‘Here Comes Trouble’, you say it’s your most vulnerable and honest work to date. How has the past year been for you?
I mean this year has still maintained its difficult tint but I feel like it’s starting to pick up and I don’t know whether it’s just me taking myself out of Blackburn or I guess the dust is just starting to settle. There’s a lot of excitement around getting this album out. I rang my mum up the other day and told her I actually feel happy for the first time in ages, she just said ‘thank god for that!’.
This is your “broken and on the floor, mending the shattered pieces of your heart and forced to face your inner demons”. Was it a challenge to anchor and grow the creative process? Tell us about your demons…
When I started this album everything that could have possibly gone wrong did. It came from one of the most heartbreaking breakups I’ve ever gone through, my dad becoming ill, my grandma dying and another series of a couple of things where I just thought, ‘is this really happening?’ It was one of those times where everything just piles in all at once. My manager rang me and I told her what was going on and she told me we have got to get this record done, we can prolong it but this is the time. And I just realised, shit ok… and got on a train to London. It was another one of those moments of taking myself away from everything and not being in it. I was separated from all the shit I had left behind and I really had to sit with my thoughts and digest everything, with that came me realising a lot of things and spinning off the edge of it all. It’s hard to explain but I felt like I was looking over it all.
The album exudes a myriad of emotions from love and heartbreak to anger and soul-searching, what is the narrative underwriting this intricate internal reflection?
Someone asked me the other day if I would have been able to make this album had all that crap not happened and I honestly don’t know. But I’m kind of glad it had its benefits. This album is about accepting that you are soul-searching, there’s a song called ‘Working On It’ where I’m addressing all the things that I know are pretty shit about myself and working on that. Just even the fact where I thought fuck that I need to fix this and I’m ready to talk about it and be honest with myself. That’s what’s going on and I don’t think I’ve done that for a long time. I think that with all that crap happening I found myself, I found my music, I found everything. Being able to accept myself, be honest and talk about it is what I gained. It was just a massive turning point, all of it. It was horrible and beautiful at the same time.
“Bad Bitch” was born out of ‘one of the most horrific meetings with an A&R’, how did this saga evolve into an upbeat hypnosis of alt-pop?
Oh my god, it was so bad, I was so flabbergasted by the whole thing. But he said a lot of things that annoyingly I agreed with and I was fascinated by the way I could be so flippant with my emotions, one moment I’d feel so confident then all of a sudden I’d think I was the worst person on the planet or feel so self-conscious. I wanted to make a song that did that because the verses are really bleak, the whole premise of it is that as soon as I have a drink I’m like you know what, I’m fucking amazing… but then I’ll wake up. It’s just this ongoing thing that this A&R really tapped into, he was building me up then bringing me down again and I was on the rollercoaster with him agreeing with him, this is where the song came from.
“Forest” reveals your loving side drawing inspiration from watching Ricky Gervais’ Afterlife. Can you tell us more about this and what “Forest” means to you?
Through that period of lockdown, I was with my ex-boyfriend and we hadn’t seen each other for a long time, I was watching Afterlife and relating it to him thinking to myself what would I do if I lost him? What would I do if that person no one else can compare to disappeared and how would I move on from it? The whole meaning of it was that I was reflecting on all these beautiful things I would remember about my ex and if anything bad were to happen these are the things that remind me of him. But isn’t it such a fucking crazy thing to do to fall in love with somebody? One way or another whether it be death or break-up, you’re going to have to say goodbye and whether it’s amicable or not it’s still sad, it’s still heartbreaking.
Who has inspired your sound musically? Who are you listening to at the moment?
When I was making the album we started each day with a different genre. One day I would decide to do something in the vein of a trip-hop beat like a Portishead vibe, then another one that’s got an Alabama Shakes thing going on. There’s this artist Blake Mills who I absolutely love and I think that there’s an element of his production that inspired me and my producer. I was listening to a lot of Julia Jacklin and a lot of Prince. There was so much stuff that I would play and a lot of it wouldn’t necessarily sound anything like the track that I’d made but it took us somewhere. Right now I’m listening to a lot of Depeche Mode and a lot of a band called Cancer — really risky name but they have a track “Die One More Time” and it’s absolutely stunning. A lot of Chromatics, Chelsea Wolfe I absolutely love. A lot of Westerman as well, there’s a song called “Confirmation” that I have on repeat that actually influenced the album a lot.
You’ve been in the music game since your teens, journeying from Blackburn to Berlin and LA to London. Where do you feel most at home now?
Well for the first time in my life I feel settled. I think there is something about knowing I have a base here instead of staying at a friend’s and living out of a suitcase. To actually unpack my stuff into a wardrobe and walk out into Dalston with the sun shining, I just realised, ‘oh my god I’m home’ and I’ve never ever felt that. I felt it in Blackburn but that’s where I grew up but this is the first time I’ve felt settled in my whole life. I’m gonna say London has my heart, it lost it for a while but it has it again.
How has your experience over the years shaped you as an artist both sonically and personally?
There’s been times where it’s definitely fucked with me and there were moments where the thought of talking about music and even listening to music would scare me, there was a long period of time where I didn’t listen to anything. It can affect you, it’s not even just about being signed, it’s about your management and the people that you chose to be on your team. Getting that right is difficult, some people are very lucky and I don’t think I have been in the past. Finally, I’ve found my home with my manager, she’s absolutely unbelievable and she’s helped me get to this point encouraging me in ways that I’ve never had before. With labels I’m taking that less seriously now, there’s that element of not thinking about it so much. It’s that repetitive narrative of me caring way too much then not caring at all — I’m finding that balance of not taking myself too seriously but also sticking up for myself, which is something I’ve always struggled with but I’m definitely getting better at it.
You’ve performed at Radio 1’s Big Weekend and supported the likes of James Arthur and Tom Walker on tour, are you excited to get back on stage?
I had a couple of festivals that I was already meant to be doing last year and maybe they’re still going but it’s very difficult to say. I am dying to get back on stage again and perform this stuff, I just cannot wait. I’m thinking hopefully by the end of the year maybe doing a little mini-tour or something but again we’ve just gotta wait and see, I’m hoping things will start picking up and we can get back to being normal.
Finally, what’s at the top of your post-lockdown to-do list?
Just to go out to the pub! I would love to do a show, that’s a top priority. Also, go out to a restaurant and hug my mates, go see relatives I’ve not seen. Just go get pissed and have fun!