Charlotte Lawrence Finds Her Power
On her new single "Bodybag," the singer-songwriter reclaims her heartbreak.
It was tough to be in Los Angeles in March. For nearly three weeks straight, the famously sunny city was overtaken with heavy rains — and even a snowstorm at one point. But now that it’s finally stopped, Charlotte Lawrence is reframing the situation. “It’s caused all the mountains to super bloom. All the flowers are blooming,” she says, calling from Malibu, where she spent a good amount of her childhood. “There's wild flowers on every turn, and it's just so magical up here. I try to be here as much as I can. I’m totally happy.”
The 22 year old singer-songwriter has a habit of turning something hard into something magical. On Friday, she’ll release “Bodybag,” a searing take on the end of a relationship that you’re not quite ready to leave. Three years ago, Lawrence wrote it on the heels of a personal heartbreak; today, she’s thrilled to be talking about it. “The first time I listened to the song, I felt like, ‘Oh, shit. I'm going through it. That heartbreak, that pain, it's coming out.’ But the feeling that overpowered that was the pride of, "Wow, I'm really proud of myself that I turned something shitty into something that I view as beautiful." And, it felt f*cking amazing.”
The ballad is the second single off of Lawrence’s forthcoming album (out later this year), and the most indicative of what’s to come, according to the singer. “I have some really fun songs on there, as well,” she notes, but, “Something that is a pattern though is even my most fun upbeat dance songs, is that most of them have sad-leaning lyrics. I just think it's the curse of the f*cking tortured artist. And anybody will say this —and even though people mock it and I mock it — but it's easier to write sad things when you're sad than to write sad things when you're happy. [Overall], the album feels very fateful. It's just like everything just came into place, and I'm so excited to get it the f*ck out.”
Here, Lawrence details the story behind “Bodybag,” admiring her peers, and finding power in being vulnerable.
How are you feeling ahead of the release?
I'm really excited about it. I'm so proud of this song. So, I couldn't be more excited. I would listen to it if I didn't write it, and feel so excited to put it out into the world. It’s nice to be so proud of something, because as much as I would love for people to love it, I'm not counting on people to love it to get validation, because I feel like I have enough validation within myself. It makes me feel like a talented songwriter, and I always wanted to be that.
When did you write this one?
Three years, so I’ve been living with it for a minute.
Was it the type of thing that you kept going back to and tweaking?
No! I had a session booked with these incredible people, and it was the first time we ever wrote together. My day started of me literally calling my managers being like, "I don't want to f*cking go to this session. I want to stay in bed and do nothing. I don't want to go." And, they were like, "Charlotte, we both know it's really impolite to cancel the day of when you have to be there in two hours." So on the drive over, I was like, “Let’s get this over, so I get back in bed and resume my crying and Postmates.” Then I showed up and was met by the most kind and warm and cozy people [Mark Landon, Aidan Rodriguez, Sean Douglas, and Jason Hahs], and also so f*cking talented. I felt really safe in being able to have a literal two-hour therapy session before we actually started writing. They allowed me the space to talk about my feelings and tell them what I was going through, and I really trusted them. I f*cking spilled all the tea. And then it just happened.
How did you go from essentially venting to writing this kind of beautiful piece of songwriting?
We got on the piano, and me and Aidan, started playing these very simple chords, and we wrote the song in two hours. I was so hurt and I was in so much pain and felt really defeated at this moment and wrote this song. I remember leaving being like, "I feel f*cking great and I don't even know what we wrote.” I literally blacked out. I had no idea what would be sent to me, but also didn’t care. It just made me feel so relieved, like therapy does. I got sent the song a week later, more produced and finished. And I was like, "What? We did this. This is so sick."
Was there ever a moment when after they first sent you the track back that you thought about not listening to it at all, so you didn’t have to relive whatever emotions you were feeling at the time of recording?
Oh, completely. But, I think the curiosity overpowered the uncomfortableness and the pain of it, because I genuinely feel like we were so in it [together] and we were so deep in this. They were also the first people outside of my best friends and family that I shared this story with. And even more than that, they were random people. I met them that day. So, it was very scary to revisit that and even just to have that anxiety of like, "Oh, did I say too much? Can I trust them?" But, I can trust them and they're so wonderful.
The curiosity of “What did we write? What came out of that deep therapy session with these guys I just met today?" overpowered the fear of it. I literally blacked out when we wrote that song. You could have told me that I wrote a club dance song that day and I would've been like, "Okay."
How soon after the breakup and heartbreak that inspired the song was it written?
I was literally in the middle of it. It was in the f*cking thick of it. And it was the first song I wrote [about it]. I have a few songs written about the same heartbreak, as you do, and I'll probably write songs about heartbreaks from five years ago until I'm 85 years old, or until I experience something that hurts a little bit more.
This song really helped me heal, honestly. I do also go to therapy, as therapy is very important, and real therapy with a professional is important. But songwriting is also therapy for me. I'm a very extroverted person. I always want to have fun and talk and do crazy things and laugh and be the jokester of the group, but through that, I kind of bottle up maybe not as much fun emotions inside of me. It's hard for me to talk to my friends and my family about real shit. It's hard for me to be vulnerable, but I don't feel that at all with music. And also through my songwriting, through my subconscious thoughts that are pieced together on paper, I kind of felt like I understood what I was going through versus having that confusion of, "What am I supposed to do? What do I want? What am I feeling? What's going on?"
To write the song was to go, "Okay, I know what I want. I know who I am. I know what I went through. I know what my truth is. I know what I feel." Everything just felt right in that, and I felt so reassured by myself. That’s a weird feeling, but it felt f*cking amazing.
Good music has a way of putting certain things, like heartbreak, into perspective, especially when the songs stay with you much longer than the heartbreak itself.
Everything passes. All my first breakups when I was 15, 16, I was like, "I'm going to die." And it's not even an age thing. You can through heartbreak in your 50s, deep-rooted heartbreak, but you find love, or you move on, or you heal from it, and a few years later, you forget the feeling. Everything moves through.
One of my best friends called me the other day, she was like, "I just cried for three hours." And I was like, "Are you okay? What's going on? Do you need me to come over?" And she was like, "No. My psychiatrist told me that if you feel better after a cry, it was a good f*cking cry. And if you feel worse after a cry, it was a bad cry. And I feel much better, so I don't need anything. I feel it was a good cry." And it's true. Sometimes you need to f*cking cry and feel your shit.
Has the song changed at all in the three years since you made it on that first day?
I lived with the song for so long, and I played it for so many of my friends because I was so proud of it, that so many of my musician friends were like, "Okay, you should do this, or you should try this, or you should add this." Or, "Oh, you should rerecord the vocals with this microphone that I just tried the other night. It's such a great new microphone." We did so much to it. I rer-ecorded the vocals twice. We did so many different productions, all this shit. And then, there was one day I was like, "Everybody, I'm so sorry. Let's go back to the original vocal that we recorded on a shitty SM7 in a room with four people, in a tiny room. Let's strip everything back because that was where the emotion was." And we did, and I'm so proud of it.
Have the emotions attached to the song changed?
I think that the feeling of power that comes with that song switched. I feel like I was in a place of weakness when I wrote it, not really knowing who I was and feeling really small and hurt. Now I listen to it and I feel really powerful and really big. The meaning hasn't changed in regards to what it's about and what it signifies and the shit that I went through, but the feeling around it has changed. There’s a feeling now of, "I took my power back and I wrote about it and I figured out what I wanted." It makes me feel strong.
On paper, it could be looked at as a weaker moment, admitting that even though you've been hurt or betrayed or heartbroken or whatever it is, and that the love still overpowers the pain, you're willing to work through it and come back and you want to be held by the person that hurt you. ButI don't. I look at it as a very strong thing. Vulnerability has such power in showing the insides of my body and my mind and my soul and everything that I've trapped inside of me. Here, I'm letting it out, and I'm screaming it at the end.
Do you feel nervous ahead of letting the world see this vulnerability in you?
It's definitely nerve-wracking. It's definitely a little fearful, but I'm just excited. I'm really grateful that I waited to release this song, because I feel like if I released it when I wrote it and was still in that heartbreak, I would've not ever done a single interview and I would've never played it. I'm so thankful that I allowed myself to heal before putting it out.
After “Morning,” this is the first single off your upcoming debut album? How did you select this one as the one to be an introduction into that world?
I always gravitate towards authenticity in music. When I hear a song and can go, "Holy f*ck. This artist really is feeling what she's saying. She went through whatever she went through and still interpret my own meaning from it, but understand her feeling and hear it seeping through the song.” That's always been my favorite type of music.
I was going to say I tried to do that, but I didn't try. I did. I was just like, "I'm going to write exactly what I'm feeling in this exact moment. I'm not going to compromise for anybody. I'm not going to try and be anyone. I'm not going to try and make somebody else's song. I'm just going to write what I want and run with it and see if we can get some good shit out of it.” “Bodybag” was that for me, obviously, but I'm so f*cking proud of every song on this album. It's so me and it's so my sound, and it doesn't sound like anybody else. I wasn't trying to do or be anything. I wrote “Bodybag” from the bottom of my heart and it’s always been in my mind as the single that I wanted to really focus on leading up into the album.
What stage is the album in right now?
All the music's done and being mixed right now, which is its final stage. “Bodybag” is definitely one of the slower ballad leaning songs, and I have a few very, very fun, dance-y, upbeat ones, but all the songs have a sort of pattern to them. They are very detailed stories that are genuine and my truth, with a cool live music behind it. I'm obsessed with Joni Mitchell and Elliott Smith and The Beatles, of course, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jeff Buckley and all these incredible singer-songwriters that had live awesome rock music behind them and live guitars, live drums.
Who else did you collaborate with when creating the album?
Most of the album I wrote with Ben Gibbard and Andy Park. I used to reference Ben in songwriting sessions. I'd literally go into a session and be like, "I love ‘Soul Meets Body.’ Can we do a really cool guitar line like that?" To get to work with a hero of mine that I literally would reference in my music was so sick. He's my musical dad; we meshed on such an amazing level. Everything that he would do and say and play was exactly what I heard and wanted and needed.
Are you looking forward to eventually touring the music?
I literally couldn't be more excited to go on tour. Obviously I want to go on my own tour but I want to open up for someone too, because I want to play this music for as many people as I can.
Who would be your dream person to open for?
I could name a million people. I love Phoebe Bridgers. I love Lana Del Rey. I love The 1975, and I love their tour, their set design, the story. I love Olivia Rodrigo. I'm friends with her and I think she's the kindest, most loveliest, sweetest, and literally maybe the most talented person of our generation. I'd die for her. Same with Billie Eilish. I think she's a force of nature and a 90-year-old soul trapped in a 21- year-old's body.
I feel very grateful to have friends in the industry that I can learn from, and peers that I can idolize, but also love as humans. All the Olivia's and Billie's and Phoebe's and Gracie's. I feel like I’m a child at school writing down on how to do things better. I just love them so much.
“Bodybag” is available to stream now.