Early this spring, the singer Charlotte Lawrence shared some personal news with her 800K+ Instagram followers: She was grounded. Not in the go-to-your-room-young-lady sense—the 20-year-old bought a house this year and is officially out on her own—but in a shit-just-got-real sense. She had tested positive for COVID-19, so Charlotte locked herself down.
Everything was going to be okay for her, she assured fans, but supportive messages were not what she was after: What would *actually* help was staying informed and, if you weren’t feeling so hot, “for the love of god, self-fucking quarantine or you’ll be on my shit list,” she posted on March 18.
At a time when the threat to young people was being downplayed, “honestly, I felt like I had a responsibility to say: This is a real thing!” the artist—whose voice has been stuck in your head since at least summer 2019, when her moody hit “Why Do You Love Me” hit airwaves—said, frustration bursting through. “I was super sick. My dude was really fucking sick. It was scary.” Ultimately, Charlotte isolated for almost 50 days.
As of now, she’s fully recovered. And while sure, it would be wonderful to be doing this interview from some chic hotel or from the road on a low-key, socially distanced tour, Charlotte is taking this call from the comfort of her bed—one of two places she primarily prefers to chill these days.
The other: the studio—which is really anywhere with a guitar and good acoustics. In 2020, she’s made it a point to keep playing and singing every night. Sometimes these solo performances make their way to Instagram: gorgeous cover songs that contrast with the edgy pop vibes that made her famous, but also provide clear proof of a talent with serious staying power.
And the thing is, despite her smaller orbit—or maybe even because of it—she’s managed to turn this bizarre time into a period of hyper-productivity. See: the visually stunning music video she made for “Slow Motion” that’s a lesson in the virtues of pared-down production, (much like this road trip-inspired fashion shoot). See also: the ‘80s-inspired Alesso collab coming out very soon; a new single in November; a full album drop in January. (Read on for deets about those upcoming debuts!)
“I think we grow when we’re a little afraid,” she explains, looking back on this year. “Having this scary illness, buying a house, releasing a whole project—I feel like a full-on adult.” So while, of course, she’s looking forward to getting back out there IRL again, for now she’s making the most of this moment. And at least when it comes to her career, Charlotte is exactly where she wants to be.
First of all, can you talk a little bit more about your COVID-19 experience? You were very frank about it at a time when other people were … not so much.
As much as people can believe that COVID is scary, personal connection to it can be the thing that makes that realization stick. My boyfriend and I got it so early that it wasn’t even really a thing in the States yet—and we were out that week with friends, so I felt important for me to post because it was like: If I was with you, be safe. Even now, my close circle is taking it seriously, but there are so many people who are being stupid. So I wanted to do my part because I thought maybe it would help prevent other people from getting sick because they would take it seriously and wear a mask.
Watching the video for “Slow Motion,” you’d never know that it was a three-person production. How did you pull that off?
We had to keep it super small to be safe, so it was just director Tyler Shields, choreographer Tia Rivera, and me, which turned out to be really freeing. I’m so used to being on set with a million people and so many opinions. But as much as I love and respect all the pros, it was really empowering to do this by ourselves and be in total creative control.
For example, when it comes to my everyday appearance, I like to keep things simple—I don’t wear much makeup, I’m not really one to brush my hair. So for the video, I wore red lips and that was it. I picked out the clothes I wore. I didn’t compromise on anything. The final result was authentically me.
What else have you been up to while the world is paused?
Well, I have a puppy, Win, who is my little best friend. I get up early every day to feed her and take her on walks. I also bought a house this year and I’m living on my own for the first time, so getting used to that. I feel like a true adult. My big thing these days is dishes. Before the night ends, I have to do the dishes. I can’t leave them in the sink. My parents are shocked.
I also realized, during quarantine, that I don’t need to compromise what I want to do to make somebody else happy. I used to be such a people pleaser: I’d say yes to doing things even if I didn’t feel like hanging out or going anywhere. Obviously we all have the best excuse to stay home right now. But now it’s like: If I want to stay in bed all day, I’m staying in bed. Or if I want to work all day, I’ll do that.
You’ve also been giving some great Instagram concerts.
You know, I have a very back-and-forth relationship with social media. I’m grateful for it because I wouldn’t have a career without it. But I also think it can be horrible for your mental health, so I decided during quarantine that I was going to focus on using it to share my music, not scrolling through stories. I play the guitar and sing every single night, whether I’m writing something or covering someone else. A lot of pop songs start off as acoustic melodies, so I wanted to share that side of myself. Once my EP comes out in January, I’m planning to start work on an acoustic album.
You’re voting for the first time this year. What are you thinking about, going into November?
Even if I woke up one day and thought ‘I’m never using Instagram again,’ I would stay on it just to post about voting. We are the voice of the future. Our president is a morally corrupt human being. His views—on women’s rights, on immigrants, on everything—sadden me. It’s been upsetting every day for four years, and I know I don’t want to live through four more years of this. But we can’t just expect it to go our way. That’s why it’s so, so important for young people to vote. You can’t get what you want unless you step up.
On Charlotte: First look: Miu Miu jumpsuit and belt. Miron Crosby boots. Roxanne Assoulin earrings. Shourouk ring. Bounkit ring. Second look: Staud top and skirt. Maryam Nassir Zadeh heels. Roxanne Assoulin earrings. Third look: Fendi top, shirt, and skirt. Nicholas Kirkwood heels. ARK Fine Jewelry rings. Omi Woods earrings and necklaces. Gucci suitcase, fashionphile.com. Fourth look: Maggie Marilyn top and skirt. Stuart Weitzman heels. Fifth look: Brock Collection dress. Rochas platforms. Larkspur & Hawk earrings. Sixth look: Valentino top, skirt, boots and belt. Lana Jewelry necklace. Seventh look: Carolina Herrera dress. Miron Crosby boots.