Charlotte Lawrence is in the midst of self-actualization. The 22-year-old artist, who began pursuing music professionally when she was a preteen, is an anomaly in today’s industry. She writes, sings, and plays piano, guitar, and the drums. Her first EP, Young, was released in 2018 and featured tracks such as "Sleep Talking" and "Just the Same"—pop songs laced with honest vulnerability. But as her music reveals, Charlotte has evolved since then. Her latest release, “Bodybag,” is the second single off her upcoming debut album (the first was Morning) and is equally a heart-ache confession and demonstration of her growth. Maintaining her signature songwriting style, she tells a story of infidelity while introducing her listeners to Charlotte 2.0. Although she’s just now finding the sound that feels most true to herself, Charlotte is just getting started.
“I’m sitting in my house in a dark room,” the musician says when I ask where she’s calling from. Our cross-country conversation begins with Charlotte telling me that she was up early with her dogs (she has two, Winnie and Wilbur). Residing in Los Angeles, she’s enjoying a moment of peace before her new album comes out. “Writing it was a really special experience,” the singer says. “I’m proud of it. It gave me this sense of, ‘Ok, this is the kind of music I want to make.’” Arriving at a place of liking her own work might be a product of 10,000 hours. Charlotte wrote her first love song when she was just 11 years old (it was called "Your Love" and detailed a fifth grader’s interpretation of romance, which, to no surprise, was accompanied by a music video tribute to Justin Bieber) and has been chipping away at her career for the last decade.
“It’s always been music for me,” the artist says. “Both of my parents were in entertainment but neither can sing. My grandparents don’t do music either. Nobody does music.” While Charlotte might have been the first in her family to pursue the field professionally, an interest in music already ran in the bloodline. “Growing up, my mom was always playing music from amazing singer-songwriters. Her taste leaned toward indie rock and alternative music,” she tells me. “She showed me The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and Elliott Smith. We listened to songs that had emotion behind them, and that sparked something inside me. I wanted to make music that made people feel what I felt. I wanted to tell the truth like those songs did.”
Charlotte had her first taste of performing at the age of twelve. “My parents would have friends over on Sunday nights. What started as a little party would turn into a jam session,” she says. “It became a ritual. We called it a Hootenanny.” Charlotte recalls her own idols showing up to these sessions, such as Ed Sheeran and Natalie Maines. “Eventually, they forced me to get on the piano. People I respected and had admired for my entire life were encouraging me, and I finally did it,” she tells me. “I played a cover of an Ed Sheeran song, ‘The A Team,’ and he was there cheering me on. He was incredible, and the next day, a guitar showed up at my parents’ house from Ed. That’s when I really put my head down and decided I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.” For Charlotte, the rare opportunity to experience and practice music with family friends, who also happened to be her role models, was part of a perfect storm. “I shouldn’t have been able to be there, in those rooms with such talented people,” she says. “Those Sunday nights are why I’m here now.”
A second encounter with fate took place several years later at the Hollywood Bowl when Charlotte joined Natalie Maines of The Chicks on stage to sing Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games.” “Natalie was our neighbor at the time and became really close with my mom,” Charlotte says. “She really mentored me. She had no reason to be as kind and wonderful as she was.” One day, while Natalie and the singer were harmonizing on the Lana song, Natalie asked Charlotte if she’d like to perform it with her while she’s in LA during her next tour run. Fast forward to a year later, and Charlotte has her first experience playing for an arena. “I remember being backstage before the show, and I couldn’t even put my own in-ears on because my hands were trembling,” she recalls. “I got on stage, mic in hand, looked at the crowd, and the second she started playing the guitar and we started singing, I felt at home. It was the highest ecstasy I’ve ever felt.”
Charlotte’s encounters with luck may have opened the door to the music industry, but her dedication to the craft kept the momentum going. Early on, she started working with music supervisor and manager Tony Von Pervieux (who is still her manager today) on writing and producing music of her own. “We had a little success when we were independent with the first EP,” she says, “That came from having so many experiences of not knowing what I was doing. To become a good writer or a good musician or a good anything, you have to put in work. I wrote every single day, and I still do. I had to write one hundred shitty songs before I wrote one good one. Those first years learning with Tony and other musicians were like school for me, one where I learned how to do what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
It’s no coincidence that Charlotte’s first EP was titled Young. She was merely a high schooler when the album came out, and the songs reflected what she was actually feeling at the time: those raw, teenage emotions that carry the weight of the world. “I was still a kid and didn’t understand my sound yet,” she says. “I didn’t know how to bring my influences into my own work, but I’m still so proud of that music. Some of those initial songs are why I’m still able to do this today.” Charlotte goes on to explain that for her, the most rewarding part of where her music is now is to see how far it’s come. “I finally have a good grasp on who I am as an artist,” she says. “And I know I’ll say ten years from now, ‘What was I talking about? Now I’ve found my sound.’ But that’s the point. Your music should grow with you as a person.”
Now, when Charlotte sits down for a songwriting session, she brings her whole self into the studio. “I ask myself, ‘What do I need to talk about that’s trapped in my body?’” she says. “The songwriting part of the process is for me and me only. It’s intimate. It’s my therapy,” she says. “Releasing it is for everyone else.” The artist worked alongside Death Cab for Cutie bandmate and music producer, Ben Gibbard, on her upcoming album, which Charlotte says was integral to ensuring it mirrored her personal growth. “Besides being a phenomenal artist, Ben is an incredible songwriter and producer. He can play every instrument perfectly,” she tells me.“I’ve learned that the musicians I love most are the ones that are honest about who they are, and you can hear that in their music. You can tell the artist is loving what they’re doing because they’re putting themselves into their art and trusting their gut. I’ve really tried to achieve that, and working with Ben to get better at guitar and understand production on a new level really helped.”
As for the upcoming album, Charlotte says we can expect ‘sad-girl’ music that gives listeners a peek inside her mind. “I’ve always loved sad music,” she says. “I love Phoebe Bridgers and Gracie Abrams. Taylor Swift is one of the best songwriters of our time. She’s a great example of an artist who is nobody else. She’s just herself.” The “Bodybag” singer also drew inspiration from The Strokes while creating this last album. Specifically, she admires the blunt songwriting style of Julian Casablancas. “Songwriting is such an incredible way to get my emotions in order and figure out what I think,” she tells me. “It’s hard to keep life and my music separate because everything I write about is just true. Everyone experiences heartbreak and shame and love and pain. I love songs about doing something wrong, fucking up, and making mistakes. Everyone goes through that, so why not just be honest about it?”
In our final minutes together, Charlotte adds one final thought on her turning point as a musician. “I would not be even remotely where I am if I didn’t have the childhood I had,” she reflects. “But having people believe in you when you’re a kid, people who are willing to take you on a ride and commit to you because of your passion and drive, that’s everything.”Not only is the artist giving her audience an evolved and humbled version of herself that’s well worth the ride—she’s also giving her younger self, the six-year-old who insisted upon learning ‘Blue’ by Joni Mitchell on the piano, the truest and real version of Charlotte, all grown up.
Photographed by Sam Dameshek
Written by Megan O’Sullivan
Styled by Juliann McCandless
Hair by Miles Jeffries
Makeup by Carly Fisher
Flaunt Film: Sabra Binder
Photo Assistant: Carly Hildebrant
Production Assistant: Serafim Mgeladze
Location: Sunset Hollywood Villa