Grand Oblivion: Charlotte Lawrence's Relentless Creativity
Charlotte Lawrence is a blizzard of ideas, a whirlwind of enthusiasm, an unrelenting torrent of positive energy. She’s in London for a short promo trip, and she wants to make each moment count – barely sleeping, she sits working patiently with her guitar in a hotel room, before going to meetings, and then hitting up Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s superlative inducing Fleabag monologue.
Sparing a few minutes for Clash, she’s essentially here to preview her superb new single ‘Navy Blue’, a super-charged emotional juggernaut that effortlessly propels her to a new level. Along the way, though, we touch on the nature of art, her disdain for the fame-chasing culture that sucks down Los Angeles, and her desperation to pursue songwriting goals.
We start with the single. Laid down in her native LA, ‘Navy Blue’ emerged from sessions with a series of close confidants, people she terms “my best friends, and my favourite people in the world. There are honestly the most talented, individual, insanely inspirational people I know.”
“It was so easy making this song, in that sense,” she continues. “We were talking about toxic relationships, and how people don’t leave toxic relationships because you still have this little sliver of hope that things are going to be fine and that it’ll work out. It’s classic. You always convince yourself that it’s not happening.”
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Set around her acoustic guitar strum, ‘Navy Blue’ is this conversation between intimate songwriting and bold pop production – beautifully endearing, it takes risks at every turn. The lyric finds Charlotte opening up in a new way, dealing with damaged emotions and collapsed relationships.
“The darkest colour is black, and when you think of that it’s like: the relationship is done, it’s damaged, you can’t come back from it. It’s no more,” she says. “The closest thing to black is navy blue, so the song is about this relationship that is so dark, and so toxic, and so bad… but it’s not all gone yet. It’s not lost. It’s one more night in this dark space, one more night of trying to be happy, before it’s gone,” she finishes, before insisting with a smile: “I also just like the colour blue.”
Charlotte’s unrelenting love of music dominates our conversation, intruding on virtually every topic. She feels inspired by Maggie Rogers’ open-ended creativity, by Sufjan Stevens’ almost novelistic approach on ‘Illinois’. She’s a fan of Bowie, and wants something classic in her own music, while also insisting that each idea has to be fresh, something she can truly own.
“As a songwriter, as an artist, as a creative person in general, you can’t succeed without failing a million times. I mean, oh my God I have written horrible songs in my life!” she says, before breaking out into gales of laughter. “I write for me. I don’t write for other people. I don’t write other people’s stories, I write what I feel and I write because I feel like I need to let out my emotions and express myself in that way. That’s the only way I know how to do it and the only way I want to do it.”
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Brought up in a creative family, Charlotte has a deep, abiding respect for the impact art can have on your life. Perhaps this is why she feels so distant from much of that Los Angeles circuit, the endless parade of openings, galas, and glitzy parties.
“Growing up in Los Angeles I was interested in every aspect of art,” she recalls. “Nowadays, my main thing is music but I feel like there are many different aspects of being creative in music. And it’s like, I want to do all of it! I want to be able to play the best drum solo you’ve ever heard in your life. I want to write a book one day! In that vein everything can coincide. If you’re doing it for the right reasons.”
“A lot of people I’ve met in Los Angeles, in a negative sense… I call them the slashers – like, I’m a model/singer/actress. And I’m like: you just want to be famous!” she screams. “I don’t see any passion there. But I feel so passionate about this art form, it’s so expressive, and I feel like if you’re the type of person that expresses themselves through art and can turn pain or sadness or whatever it may be into something beautiful that other people can also share and enjoy… it’s so special.”
Perhaps this is why she drives herself so hard. Charlotte Lawrence is wide open, moving from project to project, making each single distinct. “I don’t think there’s any frame,” she says at one point in our conversation. “The frame is me. I consider myself in the vein of having no boundaries. I’m not trying to brand myself in any sort of way I’m just trying to be me. My favourite thing in the world – honestly – is just writing a great fucking piano song, or a guitar song, and having it be sad, and being able to let me emotions out like that. I’ll always say that’s my number one.”
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Steadfast and confident, Charlotte is in complete control of every aspect of her art, and this produce an incredible sense of fulfilment. It’s a cliché, but it’s correct – this is truly what she lives for.
“In a sense it’s nice because music is a therapy, you know what I mean? Growing up, I used music as therapy in the sense that I would listen to other people’s music and feel better instantly about whatever I was going through because I felt like what they were saying was what I wanted to say but I didn’t know how to say it. And now, as I’ve grown older, it’s my way of healing myself – writing my problems or hardships into art.”
‘Navy Blue’ is out now but she wants to get straight back into the studio. At one point Charlotte muses on making an acoustic album –perhaps in the vein of her inspiration Phoebe Bridgers – or even taking things in a more explicitly DIY direction. She explains: “It would even be cool to make a full voice memo album – just and my guitar, recorded on my phone, and just put it out.”
Charlotte Lawrence literally never stops. Constantly writing in her notebook, she’s rarely out of sight of a piano, or at least her guitar. It’s the first thing she unpacks, and the last thing she touches at night. “I brought my guitar with me,” she tells Clash. “And that’s why I never sleep – I’m up until 6am playing the guitar. I swear I saw the sunrise two nights ago. In the middle of playing guitar. I was like: shit… I should put this down!”
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'Navy Blue' is out now.
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