Charlotte Lawrence’s first official single, a 2017 cover of “You’re The One That I Want” turned the upbeat Grease bop completely on its head. Re-worked with a slick, dark-pop edge, it cut a clear mark of the sound Charlotte would embark upon.
When we catch up (over Zoom, where else?), Charlotte is just starting her day in L.A. and mine is drawing to an end. Still snuggled in her PJs and with the curtains drawn, we agree that some of the best conversations happen in the dark. Without any visual distractions, you can just let the words flow. So, one day in September, that’s exactly what happens.
While some artists grind for years in the hope that one of their tunes might take off, Charlotte didn’t have to wait long before she had a hit. Her third single, Sleep Talking—an electro-pop number about an unfaithful lover—was an immediate success, positioning Charlotte Lawrence as one to watch and amassed nearly six million plays within a few weeks of its release. Now at 72 million streams, it remains one of her most popular songs to date. It was a sign of things to come. A string of addictive singles appeared over the following year, each demonstrating Charlotte’s wide vocal range as she danced effortlessly between deep and soulful to high and ethereal. 2018’s work was then collectivised on the culminating EP, Young.
For any emerging artist, the first EP stands as an important introduction—both as a recording artist and as an individual. At just 18, it was clear that Charlotte was already a talented young star with an impassioned fanbase, something that would only snowball in the years to come. This success may have appeared to happen overnight but Charlotte had been honing her craft from a young age. Beginning singing lessons at five years old, she was trained classically in piano, as well as teching herself the guitar and has even taken up drumming.
Over the next two years, Charlotte’s career went from strength to strength. Each song more pop-pitch-perfect than the last with her singles becoming increasingly popular, especially so with standout singles Why Do You Love Me, Stole Your Car and a collaboration with JP Saxe, The Few Things.
So what’s the appeal? What makes Charlotte Lawrence really stand out?
Think of it like this—when you hear a pop song and you already feel like you’ve heard it a million times? And you can practically sing along to the words on the first listen? Well, Charlotte Lawrence’s music is the opposite of that.
It’s beguiling, with each brooding melody richly textured with twists and turns, it’s the same pop fabric that draws you in that pulls the rug out from under your feet when you listen to the lyrics. “I’ve always connected with songs that are lyrically driven to spark an emotion, that tells a story and you’re like, I feel for this girl or I feel for him, I’ve been there before, I’ve done that”, Charlotte explains. “Even if I write a super poppy dance song, most of my songs have an underlying negative emotion to it”.
Charlotte has always said that she finds it easier to channel sad emotions into music, but she’s never quite been sure why it’s easier for her to harness those feelings. “It’s really hard for me to write if I’m super happy”.
“I use writing as such a vessel. It’s a therapy that when I feel sad, I need to write about it and get it out and just have the words flow out of me onto paper and create a song. I love it so much. I instantly feel such gratitude and relief. Not only do I feel better about the situation, but I also made a song [that I love] and I just feel so grateful that I have this music. I want to actually show real emotion in my work and be more vulnerable and just honest. I just like when songs have meaning. And I think that all the meaning that I can get from myself in my brain of writing is the darker stuff”.
Bringing an unrestrained frankness to her music, Charlotte sings on the opening lines of Why Do You Love Me: “Hate your friends / I hate your mom and dad / I hope they hate me back / I guess for once, I’m being honest”.
This honesty is something of a pattern for Charlotte—our conversation was as candid as her music. With such attributes, then, it’s no wonder that Charlotte was tapped up to write an original song for the Birds Of Prey soundtrack.
“Music has always been such a personal thing for me and so much more than a job that writing a more happy, poppy, dancey song feels more like a job than it does natural if that makes sense” Charlotte reveals. “I can write a fun song but it has darker words. Why Do You Love Me is definitely a pop song, but it’s a very angry sad song. I think it’s just my style”.
In the midst of the global pandemic, Charlotte has kept busy by releasing music. In summer, she dropped the tender pop ballad, Slow Motion, about the breakdown of a relationship. Not only did the song showcase her ability to delicately hit those high notes, but it also featured a stunning music video shot in quarantine.
Charlotte’s second single, Talk You Down, is in her words, “about anxiety, mental breakdowns, depression and feeling a flurry of crazy emotions and not really knowing how to deal with it properly”.
Whilst on first listen, the track may seem like it is meant to address a romantic partner, Charlotte tells me that it was actually written as a note to herself. “You can listen to it and feel like it’s more about a relationship—that I’m telling my partner that I’m here for them to talk them down and make them feel okay, you don’t need to be sad”, she explains, “or you could also hear it like I’m talking to myself. I’m like, okay, I’m panicking. I’m freaking out. I’m having a panic attack. It’s okay, calm down, it’s alright, everything’s gonna be fine”.
Now, Charlotte is gearing up to drop an EP early next year, a record that’s filled with a few as-yet-unreleased fan favourites, and work on her debut album is said to be complete.
Speaking about the EP, Charlotte told us that “90% of it is about a relationship”, with a mixture of “some fun songs… some slow songs”. She’s particularly excited, however, about a few songs in particular. “There are like three songs on it that I’ve been holding for so long that I haven’t released but I’ve played live and that I just love just more than anything, but I couldn’t really find the right timing or figure it out completely”, Charlotte shares. “My fans and supporters all know these songs because I play them live and I’ll post Instagram videos, so I’m excited to get them out”.
While Charlotte may have located her own unique sound, she’s never shy of testing the waters. Charlotte’s forthcoming EP marks the beginning of yet another evolution. “It’s definitely more alternative than my last EP”, she tells me. “I was younger [then]. As you grow as a human being, your art should grow with you. I grew as a musician and as a writer, a guitar player, piano player, a singer, so my music grows with me. I love old music and I’ve gathered so much inspiration over the past few years from it. I feel like a lot of that has come into my music while still keeping my own individual artistic sound”.
One thing Charlotte is keen to see change in the music industry is the lack of female producers and engineers. “I’ve only worked with one female producer in my entire career”, she reveals. “She was so cool. Her name is Alex Hope, and she’s so talented and she’s a really fucking good producer and produces some of the best songs. It’s very much dominated by men. And I just wish that women had more of an opportunity. I work with female writers all the time, I work with female musicians. But when it’s a producer and an engineer, it seems like it’s still stigmatised as such a man’s job. So that’s one thing that I would like to change. If any female producers are reading this, please, please DM me!”.
- Swimsuit TOMMY JEANS
Another obstacle that women in the music industry face is the way we are constantly pitted against each other.
“Whenever I get compared to other women, even if it’s in a negative way against me, I take it as a compliment”, Charlotte says. “I’ve been compared to Billie Eilish and Gracie Abrams and really fucking awesome girls that are my age and doing the same thing and releasing dope music. I’m like, ‘oh, you think my voice sounded like Billie Eilish in this one song? Fuck yeah, thank you. She has the coolest voice in the world’. I’m honoured that I’m in the same sentence as the artists that I’m compared to”.
However, comparison isn’t just limited to the traditional media, women are also bombarded with pressure online as well—particularly when a fanbase is as ‘online’ as Charlotte’s. “My opinion of social media is very back and forth”, she begins. “There’s a lot of blessings and there’s a lot of negativity. Privacy is completely gone. People expect that everybody in the public eye’s life is theirs to see and theirs to own. When you’re a celebrity, you’re broadcast across the world with such judgement. With social media, everybody knows everything about everyone and everyone seems so accessible”.
“I think social media can be toxic. You scroll through Instagram and no one is posting real shit. All I see is beautiful people smiling in beautiful houses with fun, beautiful friends and it’s so easy to compare yourself to other people. It’s all just fake. I admitted to myself that I’m not going to post a picture of me looking sad or crazy. I’m going to post one of me smiling and happy. From a young age, you grow up perceiving what the ideal beauty standards and life expectations are, like, this person is beautiful and rich and famous, and that’s what I’m supposed to be because she looks so happy doing it and everybody loves her”.
But, without social media, Charlotte wouldn’t be able to communicate with her fans around the world. “I feel such gratitude for that aspect of it”, she says. “Without my Instagram and without my platform, I wouldn’t have the job that I have”.
She even has a group chat with a few select fans, ranging from Japan to Australia and beyond. But, “as a parent, I’m not letting my kids have an Instagram until I’m till they’re like 20”, she half-jokes.
The past few months have been tumultuous for Charlotte, with “a lot of ups and downs” including battling coronavirus. However, this time has allowed her to reflect. “It’s definitely been hard, but I think I’ve learned how to deal with my emotions a bit better”, she says, revealing that at the start of the lockdown, she began talking to a therapist.
For Charlotte, this was huge. At first, she resisted the notion of needing therapy, mainly believing that she could work on her own problems, but also because “[It] has such a negative connotation around it. It’s looked at as kind of weird and mysterious and embarrassing and that you’re admitting weakness. But I love it. I recommend it to everybody. It’s just nice to have somebody that’s fully unbiased and can just help”.
Usually rushed off her feet by a fast-moving music industry career, one upside of lockdown was the emotional and physical space that it gifted Charlotte. “I’ve also learned to appreciate free time”, she says. “After this pandemic is over and everything is back to normal, work is going to be on another high and people are going to be doing everything possible, because we haven’t been able to for so long”.
Whilst she’s by no means goading a second lockdown, the past few months have given Charlotte a chance to appreciate time with her family and close friends. With many of her network also in the spotlight, it’s easy to imagine how difficult it must be to capture those moments on a normal day. “You’re never going to have this much free time to see your family and people that are really important to you, especially people that have crazy busy jobs”, she affirms. “I think that you’ve got to value the time that you’re getting to spend with your loved ones because when we start working again, it’s gonna go back to normal”.
As our hour-long conversation drew to a close, I had one last question for Charlotte Lawrence. If she could talk to herself at the start of her career, what would she say? “I would say calm down. Don’t freak out. You don’t need to rush anything, you can take it easy and enjoy every moment like it’s your last”, she reflected. “When I was younger I was a very forward thinker, I would be doing something and thinking about the next move, or I would be writing a song and thinking about the exact release plan for it. Growing up, I definitely look back on some memories and experiences that I got to have and think how lucky I was and wish that I sat in that experience a little bit longer and cherished it. Just be happy with what you’re doing”.