Charlotte Lawrence dives into the Navy Blue & turns her pain into art with her latest single from her upcoming EP.
Although Charlotte grew up in the haze of Hollywood, a place where it can feel like many things are manufactured, she’s never been the type of artist who will conform to any mold. After releasing Why Do You Love Me, a track co-written by Charlie Puth, Lawrence had a taste of what it was like to really tap into the psyche of artists she loves—like Joni Mitchel and Phoebe Bridgers—to learn how they mastered the art of turning painful experiences into art by incorporating it all into their songwriting. Since her debut EP Young, which was released last year, Lawrence has crafted her sound and focused on what brings her the most joy when it comes to music: songwriting.
Her latest release Navy Blue tells the story of a toxic relationship and the push & pull one feels when they just don’t want to let go of the other person. For Lawrence, the track isn’t about one specific person; it represents a few toxic relationships she’s experienced throughout her life so far, compiled into a single song. Lyrics from Navy Blue, like “Don’t say the words we know are true/Just one more lie, it’s not much to lose,” sound like they could have been written by one of Lawrence’s idols back in the ’70s, really proving how she’s pulling from the same vulnerable & emotional place as inspiration when she writes songs and records them.
Right before she was about to hit the stage to perform in Germany, 1883 caught up with the LA singer/songwriter and talked all about her songwriting process, the current political turmoil happening in America, and why her dad (the great American screenwriter Bill Lawrence!) is her #1 fan.
Your debut EP Young was released last year; how would you say your music has grown since that release?
I think as you grow and age, everything surrounding you—whether it be your personal life or your career—should also grow with those things. Since my career is purely creative I feel like as I grow in my life and as I experience new things and meet new people and learn more, my music kind of grows along with it. I think more of the way my music has grown is that you can hear how I’m tapping into my love for rock and indie music a lot more. Also, artists like Joni Mitchell and Mazzy Star have really influenced the way that I create music. I’ve always loved old rock music and indie female artists, but I never really knew how to incorporate that into my own sound. With my own music now, whether I make a pop song and use rock guitars and live drums or live piano, or if I make a cool alternative song, the lyrics are always going to tell a story. I feel like I’ve finally found my sound in the sense that I’m turning into the music that I love to listen to.
Navy Blue, the lead single of your next EP, is out today. It’s a really incredible song with universal lyrics that, I feel, really summarizes a situation every person has experienced. What’s the inspiration behind the track? What does the track mean to you?
The track, to me, is completely about a toxic relationship. I wanted to write about the toxic relationship in the sort of way that compared it to the colour navy blue. I think if you were asked to think of the darkest colour ever, you would think it’s pitch black, like midnight black, with no light at all. If I were to say, “Oh my gosh, this relationship is midnight black. It’s so dark, there’s nothing left of it,” that would kind of mean that this relationship is so horrible, it’s so toxic, that there’s no saving it, there’s no going back, you can’t have one more moment in this relationship because it’s horrible for you. But the closest colour to black is navy blue and that kind of means this relationship is so dark and so toxic but there’s still a little bit of hope, a little bit of glimmer left, and the tagline of the song is just one more night in navy blue. The whole meaning behind the song is let’s just have one more night in this darkness and enjoy it, just one more night before we have to walk away from each other and let this be.
It is clear lyrics are incredibly important to you as an artist. Who or what has influenced your songwriting?
Everything that I write about in my life and my experiences within my mind, but 100% my writing is influenced by the way Joni Mitchell, Mazzy Star, Fiona Apple, and even Phoebe Bridges tell their own stories through their music. I’ve been really inspired by artists like them and all of this is me speaking on music that isn’t out yet! I’m releasing an EP in November so, hopefully, you can tell that it’s very heavily influenced by my heroes. I feel like I can tell! [Laughs]
Do you find it difficult to tap into a vulnerable or sad place when you’re writing? Navy Blue is, obviously, quite a sad song, but it’s upbeat. I feel like you’re good at contrasting those two things.
Thank you! Honestly, I find so much more inspiration when I’m sad. When I’m genuinely happy and in love, it’s a little harder for me to write, I don’t know why! But, I suppose, it’s part of being an artist. My whole thing is, as I said earlier, my idols are some of the best lyricists, in my opinion, ever. The thing I’m most attracted & drawn to in music is the lyrics. Whether I’m going to release a ballad or whether I’m going to release an upbeat song like Navy Blue, the lyrics are the most important thing to me. I feel like, if you write what you believe in and you write how you feel and you write something that’s authentic to you, it doesn’t really matter what type of music you put behind it as long as you’re conveying that emotion through those lyrics. I think the song could be emotional because I listen to Navy Blue and yeah, it’s fun and it’s kind of empowering in a sense that makes you want to stomp your feet and jump when that chorus hits, but it also still makes me feel sad. I think the whole contrast of the dark lyrics to the upbeat melody kind of reflects my relationship with music; I use writing as this sort of therapy if I’m feeling sad about something like a breakup, I’ll turn it into words and make art out of the pain. It kind of reflects this idea of feeling the emotions behind the sad lyrics just by reading them, but you can make something beautiful out of it. You can just f*cking dance to it and enjoy it and turn something sad into something happy!
You named your upcoming tour after the track, too! Performing music live to your fans can be quite cathartic and, as you said, make something sad into something happy. Will this kind of feel like a way to heal from past toxic situations you’ve been in?
I don’t know really! The song wasn’t about any specific person, but it was about a whole bunch of people. I’m only 19 but I’ve lived a lot and I grew up pretty fast. When I was younger starting dating and going through this or that, and I bundled all of my relationships that affected me negatively into one song and wrote about it. Right when we finished the song and I was in that room with the people I made it with and we heard it, I was like “Oh my god I love this so much. This is so me! This is so special to me.” So I wanted to make the whole tour about that feeling I had then.
The video for your song Why Do You Love Me is very cinematic. Are you somebody that thinks a lot about visuals when you’re writing?
100%! I know, again, it’s the same as what I was saying about finding inspiration for my music. I can picture visuals way better. If it’s more of a sad song or more of a simple piano type song or guitar-driven song, it’s easier for me to picture exactly what I want with it. So with Why Do You Love Me it is a little bit harder because it’s a pop song, but when I made the song I instantly thought the video has to be about some shitty, crazy relationship, but I need something special and it’s something like weird and I want to be painted like super psychotic. If you listen to the lyrics, I do sound crazy.
That’s okay, we’ve all been there.
Exactly! We’ve all been crazy, it’s fine. [Laughs] I’m going to put something in the video that adds that level of psycho so that’s why I burnt the f*cking dude’s car, you know? Alasdair McLellan, who shot and directed the video, is such a genius and I’ve been a fan of his forever, so I kind of let him take the reins. We spoke on the phone for hours and hours before we made the video and it’s 100% a collaboration, but at the end of the day I was like dude, honestly, just go for it & I trust you. I gave him what I wanted it to be and told him to make it his own, and it worked out perfectly.
You’ve worked with some incredibly talented people in the music industry, like Ryan Tedder and Andrew Watt. What have you learned from working people like them?
The people that I’ve been working with, Andrew Watt, Ryan Tedder, Charlie Puth, Louis Bell, & Ali Tamposi, you hear their names and you’re like, holy shit, these are the best of the best. They’ve written the most incredible songs and they’re so talented. It’s mind-blowing but at the core, they’re all some of my best friends; Charlie is one of my best friends, Ryan is one of my best friends, Andrew, Ali, all of them are all my best friends. I never really looked at them as these huge, crazy iconic people because you get so used to chilling with them. It wasn’t until I was actually in the studio and seeing them work and watching them create and seeing how their mind works that I was like, “Oh, my God, these people are geniuses and on some other level!” I was a little nervous going to the studio with five powerhouses who knew exactly what they’re doing. I was afraid that I’m was not going to be good enough, which is just me being insecure. But right when I went in [to the studio], egos are left at the door, there is no competition. Everybody’s equal. Every idea matters. Every voice counts. I’m so grateful that I get to work with them.
Something I found really sweet was your dad posting about your music and talking about how proud he was of you on Twitter. It’s so, so lovely!
He’s the honestly funniest social media user of all time.
He’s such a proud dad, I love it. It’s adorable.
He’s SUCH a Dad! As we’re speaking, I’m in Germany and right now he has to live in London for a show he’s doing and right now he’s flying to Germany to come see me perform! He’s such a roadie, I love him so much. It’s the cutest thing of all time. He’s my number one fan!
He’s been creating amazing work in Hollywood for years. What advice has he given you?
He’s given me the best advice of all time. Ever since I was little he’s been my role model and it’s really cool because I have an idol that I can see all the time. When he was 12 years old, he became obsessed with writing and started studying it in school and working so hard on it. Eventually, he was able to pursue his passion, so I have that creative role model in my life. When I was around 10-years-old and I started showing such a huge interest in singing and writing and playing music he instantly was like, Let’s have you get piano lessons! Let’s start singing! Let’s do this, you got this! He has just always been my number one supporter. I think the biggest advice he gave me as a kid was once you find your passion, it’s special. Not many people in the world have such a strong passion for something that they can genuinely make into a career. It’s rare and I felt so lucky at such a young age. He really just pushed me to work really hard and I did. I’m so grateful because I love what I do so much, I owe it all to him.
A few weeks ago on Instagram, you posted about the #BansOffMyBody petition to support Planned Parenthood and you’ve been vocal about the desperate need for gun control. Some people will shy away from posting about social issues because of the negative feedback they can get from some parties. Why do you feel it’s so important for you, specifically, to be vocal about issues?
I think right now America is really, really dark. Our President is dark, the things that are happening are dark, and it’s sad. Even just thinking about it and talking about it makes me sad. I think the one positive thing out of everything that’s been happening in my generation is finally sticking up for things that they believe in and taking a stand and it never used to be like this. I feel like young people were never really politically vocal or active and just vocal about what they believed in. I really strong strongly believe in issues like women’s rights, gun control laws, basic civil rights, rights for immigrants and people of color. I have some sort of platform on Instagram and if I’m not using it to speak what I believe, to speak my truth, then what’s the f*cking point of having it? In regards to Planned Parenthood and the laws in Atlanta and the laws that Trump is trying to put through in the whole country? That is mindblowing to me. To me, I’m never going to say “I believe in abortion! I believe against abortion!” No, I just believe that it’s the woman’s choice. I don’t want any man telling me what to do with my body. No man should tell me what I should do with my body, nobody but I should be able to decide what’s right for my body, you know? It just bewilders me some people in this world think that’s not how it should be. I feel I want to be as vocal as I can about that issue and doing this partnership with Planned Parenthood and all these other artists that are joining them and speaking up against it has probably been my favorite thing that I’ve done this year.
You were too young to vote in the last election, right?
Yeah, I was too young but now I can! I registered to vote right as soon as I turned 18. I’m not going to be able to speak super-strongly on this point, but wasn’t it like the highest percentage of young people that registered to vote this year than ever?
Probably! It’s insane. Gen-Z is incredible. It just shows you how pissed off young people are.
Yeah. I feel like even in the past when people were pissed off, it was still kind of silent. Politics were never really spoken about and, finally, it’s like everybody from the age of 13 to 25 is standing up and saying “No, no, what’s happening isn’t right and I’m going to try to make the change.”
Exactly. If there is a good thing that can come out of that mess, it was getting young people more politically involved.
It is the one positive thing that came from this f*cking presidency.
What is the one album, book or film that you would say has inspired you the most?
It always changes! I’m a very avid music listener, movie watcher, and book reader, but right now I would say the album is Illinois by Sufjan Stevens, the book is Scar Tissue by still annoyed by book is scar tissue by Anthony Kiedis, and the movie is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I was greatly inspired by that film.
Besides the tour, what’s coming up next?
Navy Blue, the single and the tour. After that, I’m releasing another single, which is also my favourite song I’ve ever written in my entire life called God Must Be Doing Cocaine. Then I’m releasing an EP while I’m on tour and there will be an album next year!
Check out Charlotte on the Navy Blue Tour this fall.
Interview by Kelsey Barnes.