Charlotte Lawrence, 18, was born and raised in Los Angeles and has always had an incredible passion for music. Now with over 115 million streams on Spotify, Charlotte is a certified popstar that brings a dark edge, lyrical authenticity, and beautiful vocals to each song she writes. On December 3rd 2018, Charlotte stopped by the KALX studio for a conversation before her show in Berkeley that night.
You’re listening to The Mick on KALX, it’s currently 1:50 in the afternoon and I am extremely lucky today to have the one and only, Charlotte Lawrence, in the studio with me.
She’s very excited to be here. Charlotte has a show in downtown Berkeley tonight that we’re going to be discussing coming up after the break. For now though, enjoy her song “The Few Things”, a duet you did with…
JP Sax. [Song Plays]
Well, Charlotte, welcome to the KALX studio. Thank you for sharing that beautiful song with us.
Thank you for having me.
Of course. Tell us a little about that one, how you and JP Sax met up, and got to be in the studio together.
So, that’s one of my favorite songs of all time. JP wrote it. We’ve been friends for a while, because he’s such a good songwriter and artist in general. But he reached out to me one day, and I was already in love with the song, and he asked me to sing it with him as a duet. And I honestly never do that; I usually only want to sing songs that I write on my own. But I was so in love with the song, and the meaning behind it, and the way that he sang it. Every aspect of the song is just so beautiful, so I immediately said yes, and we were in the studio that week. We recorded it in an hour, it was so natural. And then we put it out, and it’s now one of my favorite songs that I’ve had the pleasure to sing on.
I definitely agree. When did you start singing and playing music? How old were you?
Thank you. Oh my gosh, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been in love with music. I’ve been singing since I was a baby, and started taking piano lessons when I was 5. I got my first guitar when I was 12, and am self-taught. It’s always been within me, you know? It’s weird because my parents aren’t musical really. I grew up around great music, but nobody can really sing in my family. Not even my grandparents, so it was pretty surprising when I came out and said I wanted to be a singer. Everyone at first was like, “Uhhh, what are you talking about? That’s not a Lawrence thing,” but they came around eventually. It all worked out.
Do you remember that first moment when you heard your first song that you wanted to replicate and sing? What really made you want to pursue music and singing?
I mean, the non-serious answer to that is Avril Lavigne. “Complicated” and “Sk8r Boi” were the first songs I learned on the piano.
[Laughs] Exactly. The serious version is that I grew up around a ton of my great music. My mom has the best taste in music. She showed me the most incredible female artists like Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, and Mazzy Star. All these incredible women who were great lyricists. Growing up not only around beautiful voices and beautiful music, but around women who know how to write very well, influenced me at a very young age to write and express my emotions through my music. I wanted to follow their lead and not just do it as a hobby. I guess the turning point you might say, was when I learned how to write.
So you wrote your first song also when you were 12?
Yeah. I’d never kissed a boy or had a boyfriend, but it was called “Your Love”. It was a full love song. Horrible. But I still remember every word, obviously.
You might have to do a re-release for us.
Tell us a little bit about why you’re in Berkeley and what the plan is for the rest of the day.
I have a performance tonight at The Back Room in Downtown Berkeley [retroactively December 3rd]. I’m very excited. I’m doing a little acoustic set with my guitarist that will be very chill. I never really got to live the college life because I just kinda started touring and pursuing music, so there’s always a part of me that misses this college experience. So whenever I get to come to colleges, I love it so much. Seeing people in their school sweaters and going to class, I’m always like “Ahh, I wish I was doing that.” But, you know…
When did you go on your first tour?
I went on my first real tour just this past summer. Full headline set, and full support set for a long time, all in Europe and America. But I would say I technically started touring about a year ago when I did a four-city tour just by myself. I don’t know, I’ve always been so obsessed with music and my parents were actually pretty strict growing up about doing well in school and going to college. But when they started realizing that it wasn’t just a hobby, that this was actually turning into a career that I had to miss school for and could pursue on my own, they decided they could support me if I kept working on my passion. And they did.
Who were you supporting on that European tour last summer?
I was supporting Lauv. He’s incredible. We had so much fun, and it was such a fun ride. So yeah, I did half of the shows out there supporting him and half headlining.
That’s great. Your management team sent over a bio that I got to read over this morning on the plane. What was that first Bon Iver cover that you did that basically became a catalyst for you?
I never released it. But as I said, I always wanted to be a musician and we were at the house I grew up in out in Malibu, and every Sunday night we would have family friends and musicians over. We’d go into the little piano room and everyone would just sing and play along. I sang one time, and there was a producer there who was a good family. And he was like “Whoa! I want to record this. Why didn’t you tell us that Charlotte was a singer?” I don’t know, I was like 11. So we recorded “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver.
One of my favorites, no doubt.
One of my all-time favorites too! Well, he ended up showing it to a few people and I just ended up recording more and meeting with different writers and musicians. Just kinda finding my way around the music industry.
What’s your recording process like? Are you always jotting down thoughts as they come beforehand? Or do you usually write to a specific beat that comes into your studio?
It’s very different every single time. I either will be in my bed and write an entire song by myself on the guitar, or go into the studio with four other people and lock a song down in 10 hours. Or we’ll write the melody first, whatever it is. But the most important thing to me in any song is lyrics. So, whether I write lyrics to a melody that’s already there, or write lyrics first and put a melody to it, whatever, it all has to flow. I think some artists will do this, but just from my perspective, I can’t ever make something up. I feel like when I sing something and I’m telling a story, it has to be my story. It has to be something that I’m feeling in that moment, or that I’ve felt before. I’m very intent on being authentic with that. My recording process is very weird; I never really know where to start or end. It always will eventually come together, but the lyrics always will come beforehand.
I think that’s what separates you from a lot of artists your age. There’s not a lot of people today who have the depth and authenticity in their lyrics like you do. Especially in a music atmosphere where everything has become so repetitive and surface level, it’s nice to hear something that’s actually refreshing and real.
Thank you, Sean.
Of course. So, what is your live setlist looking like for shows these days?
When it’s a headline show, I’ll do about an hour or 75 minutes of songs where I just kinda play everything that’s out, a few unreleased ones, and a cover. I don’t know, it’s very nice because obviously I’m just starting out with this so I don’t have a choreographer, dancers, or crazy lights, you know? It’s just kinda me on stage, being me, like flailing my arms around. I’m very tall and lengthy, and definitely cannot dance [laughs].
In a sense, I can just do whatever I want. Like, if I want to sing a song or a cover tonight, we’ll all get together before and figure it out. I like the stage that I’m at right now with that because I’m in the midst of experimenting and figuring out how I want to be, how I want to sing, how I want to perform on stage, what I wanna see from myself on stage. It’s cool, you know? I think it’s so important to be able to play your heart out and do what you want until you have everything set.
Absolutely. The most recent single of yours is “Stole Your Car”. Tell us a little about that song, and it’s release, and where it came from.
That song is a fun one, it just came out a few months ago. I had a week long writing session with one of my favorite producers, Mag. We had some of my friends, different songwriters, cool people come in. The day before we wrote “Stole Your Car,” I was very emotional and wrote a really sad song that was of course, about a guy, whatever it was. I came in the next day wanting to write a funny, angry song. So, the song is about stealing a guy’s car because he didn’t give you enough attention. Just being kinda crazy. And I always tell people “No, I didn’t actually steal a guy’s car. Don’t worry.”
Can you even drive?
No, I don’t have my license [laughs]. Stealing an Uber, maybe? Ha, I don’t know. The song is more of a fun metaphor because I was feeling sad about a guy who wasn’t giving me the attention I deserved, so me being the crazy girl I am, decided to steal his car. So, yeah then I wrote this.
Alright, we are about to hear the new single Charlotte Lawrence single, “Stole Your Car”. Thank you for tuning into KALX 90.7FM, keep it locked in. [SONG PLAYS]
Great song. What was it like to perform with the Dixie Chicks at the Hollywood Bowl?
So fun and so crazy. I mean, that was my first real performance ever.
First time performing live? At the Hollywood Bowl?!
Yeah [laughs]. I had done talent shows, but that was the real deal. I think I was 14.
Natalie, who is the lead singer, is such an amazing person that has become a mentor to me. She is so lovely, incredible, and inspiring and has pushed to try so many new things and write. She’s our neighbor randomly enough so we became friends through my Mom. She would come over and just play piano and I would be singing along just for fun. And she was like, “Who is this girl? What is this voice?” So we started singing together one night. It was so much fun. I remember one time at my house while we were playing guitar, she was like “You should come up on stage with us!” Me being 14 was just like, “Oh yeah, sure!” thinking she was kidding. We get an email four months later saying: “Hollywood Bowl, next weekend, Charlotte’s gonna come up and sing the song they do together.” Ummmm, excuse me, repeat that? I remember honestly feeling like I was either going to pee myself or die about an half hour before. I couldn’t even put in my in-ears because I was shaking so much. And then right when I walked on stage with a microphone in my hand: so relaxed. Dancing, laughing, singing, not a care in the world. It just felt so natural. From that point on, I knew all I wanted to do was perform.
Sink or swim, basically?
There’s people that either have that trait or they don’t, and you clearly do.
Thank you. Yeah, I didn’t even really know what to expect because of how nervous I was before. I was so out of it and dreading it, I actually wanted to go home. But right as I got on stage, I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
That was the moment. So after that, did you keep doing guest appearances at shows? Or smaller individual shows? What were the next steps from there?
I did a small Spotify studios show with my own band and my own songs, which was super cool. Later that night, I flew to Miami and performed at Ultra Festival with Kaskade.
Yeah, that was really cool. Then I started doing a little tour. My first performances were very random, very all over the place, very big, which I honestly look at as a blessing now. If I’m ever scared before a show now, I remind myself that I’ve performed in front of 100,000 people, so I can definitely do a room of 500, you know?
How early before Ultra did you cut the Kaskade record?
A few months. I really resonated with that song, and with him as an artist, and we became pretty close. We had a lot of fun recording that song, shooting the video, and performing. It was such a cool time. But I never expected to go on stage in Miami. I just loved that song, I thought it was beautiful so I sang on it, and then Ultra just happened. It was incredible.
The song with Kaskade, “Cold as Stone” was played in front of 100,000 people at Ultra Music Festival with Kaskade. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about how you felt after that performance?
That one was crazy. The only other big show I did was at the Hollywood Bowl, and you know, it was only one song and I was very young. It was my first real experience. But Ultra, I mean, it’s just so wild to play at a festival. Because unlike anything else, every single person there is there to dance, to sing, to party, to scream. I walked on stage, obviously nervous right before, and I saw Kaskade behind the booth. I climbed and stood up on the edge of it, and looked out, and just saw so many colors. It looked like a billion people just jumping up and down and screaming. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Right when I got off stage, I was shaking when I went over to say hi to my friends. They were like, “Charlotte! What did you take? What are you on?” And I was so excited, I started screaming “No, nothing! That was just the craziest thing ever!” I was freaking out. That might have been the coolest show. I still vividly remember that performance. Often times during performing, people will black out. Someone after will say, “Oh my god, that song you sang, or that joke you told on stage was so funny” and I won’t remember it [laughs]. But this performance at Ultra, I remembered everything because of how beautiful it was visually.
If you could play a festival tomorrow, which one would you choose to headline?
I know this is cheesy, but I honestly love Coachella and I think that’d be so cool. I have no doubt that playing a festival somewhere like Amsterdam would be amazing. But I’m an LA girl, you know? I’ve been going to Coachella since I was 13. It would just be next level to play there.
I can see it happening soon. Do you mind sharing with us what you’re working on now, and what your fans can expect from you in the near future? As long as your label doesn’t...
I’m independent actually. But I am in the midst of making my next album. I have a lot of songs that are already written, recorded, mastered, fully finished. I also have a lot of session coming up in the next two weeks, every day, just making music. I’m just gonna sit down these two weeks and pick every song that I want to fit into this next album. The first one was called “Young”, and it’s more of a fun, lighter album. There’s one sad song on piano, but most are more young and sweet.
That’s the EP that came out last year, right?
Yes. And the second EP I’m going to call Reckless. Cause I know it’s a little cheesy, but for me as an artist and a person, I’m very young, light, ambitious, and fun. Whatever. I can kinda just play around and have fun. But I also have a wild side. And I think it’s important to be a creative, to live your life and do what you want to do. In a lot of ways, I feel like “Young” and “Reckless” describes who I am.
The second album is going to be, maybe not darker per se, but definitely more mature. And I’m ready for it. But the thing about concepts, you know? I never really think about a full concept for an album or for a song. I just write what I feel and think about, what I’m going through at that moment. Then, I put it all together and it always coincides. I have that few month period where the same thing is happening. So I’ll write 50 songs about the same dude, or 50 songs about one friend that I hurt or hurt me, or whatever. I never really think about what I specifically want the song to sound like. It just kinda comes out.
Absolutely. Where are your recording these days?
Beverly Hills area mostly. There’s a really cool studio that I love there. There’s also one in North Hollywood that’s amazing. I record everything in LA. I think the city has such cool studios, and writers, and producers…
Yeah, very. Everything about LA and music is epic.
At a young age so far, you’ve already played some pretty amazing venues and gigs. What do you think your favorite was so far?
It might have been my last show in New York. I sold out the Bowery Ballroom, which is such an iconic venue. My Dad saw Counting Crows there like 10 years ago, and said it was one of his favorite concerts. It was just so beautiful and so much fun. The fans were so incredible, and everybody was screaming and dancing. I loved it.
If you could collab with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
Oooh… Michael Jackson. Or Freddie Mercury.
Both amazing. So you clearly have a very successful up-and-coming musical career, as well as your ascending modeling career. Do you see yourself expanding into additional art forms in the future? Perhaps acting, or I saw you were in the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack, maybe expanding into different Film/TV spaces as well with your music?
I don’t think I’ll ever do acting. I’m very extroverted and if I set my mind to it and really practiced, I could probably do it. But it’s not my passion, you know? I will 100% explore other art forms around music though. When I make a song or hear a song, I see visuals, and I haven’t fully understood or learned yet, how to turn those visuals into real art with my words or with a director. So I think my first step in expanding is learning how to nail music videos, or doing a documentary in the future. Whatever it is, I mean it’s hard to describe, but when you write a song and you have a feeling behind it, a lot of times the feeling will be very visual and you can see that feeling in one story or a different story. I want to be able to put that into words eventually.
I’m sure you will. What’s the story behind your song “Sleep Talking”?
Everyone thinks it’s a metaphor, but it’s a true story. I was dating a guy for maybe a month, about two years ago. He was falling asleep one night, and I was leaving, all of our friends were going too. So I said goodbye while he was passed out on the couch, and he said bye back, but said a different girls name. I thought he was probably just tired and never thought about it again. Five months into us dating, I found out he was dating that other girl the entire time. We found out on Halloween because we all went to her house before the night started. I had never met her before, but I heard rumors that she had maybe hooked up with my boyfriend. And I guess she had probably heard the same. So we’re all getting ready and our friends leave the room, and now it’s just us two. She starts talking to me about her boyfriend, so I figured “Oh she has a boyfriend, there’s no way she’s hooking up with mine, she would never, this is great.” So I started talking about my boyfriend, and we loosened up. But when I asked to see a picture of hers, it was the same dude. And that was that.
That’s so brutal. How soon after did you write the song?
Very soon after. You know, I was so young. I was 15 and he was my first boyfriend, so I convinced myself that I had to be obsessed or whatever. But I didn’t care too much towards the end. It was more of a relief that I can write a great song out of it and move on [laughs].
And now it’s a hit! I’m sure he just loves hearing it on the radio now too and regrets it.
I know. I would say thank you to him if I saw him. I’m sure he’s not psyched about it, but it is what it is. Can’t change the inspiration for a song.
Charlotte Lawrence, everybody! If you know her music already, I hope you were able to sing along. If you don’t yet, all the more reason to go look her up and play her songs all day. We at KALX wish you nothing but the best.
This interview was aired live and later transcripted for publication.