I’m intrigued by the idea of separating Charli from the XCX. How would you define Charli?
I suppose it works because it’s the most human version of me. I don’t even feel like I’m an artist who puts on a character and then it’s like performing a character. I’m very real in the sense that if you get me on a bad day, it’s a fucking bad day. Like you asked me at the beginning of the interview, “You excited for your album?” I was like, “Yeah, cool.” I’m not going to be like, “Yeah, baby, it’s fucking Charli season.” No. I’m just, it’s another day and there will be another album. I don’t know. I’m not that person. So yeah, it’s just like Charli works because it’s my fucking name, and these songs are representative of the emotions that I felt whilst I recorded them. Separating it from the XCX, I don’t know, man. You can theorize it as much as you want, it’s just my name and it’s on the album and it’s sick.
Do you feel like you ever have a pressure to maintain a sort of veneer of always being this fearless person for all of your fans and all these people? Especially since Pop 2, and kind of watching you embark on this new path of your career.
No, I don’t. I mean, I have very public emotional moments, so I don’t feel pressure to be on all the time, at all, or to be positive all the time, because I’m not. I’m very volatile when it comes to day to day life. Some days I am so up, peak, cocky, arrogant. Fucking feeling myself, don’t come for me. I’m the shit. I’m the best popstar in the world. I’m blah, blah, whatever. Other days it’s like I just 180 and it’s so, “I hate myself. I’m not good enough. I’m an emotional wreck. I’m crying on Instagram.” I don’t care. In the moment, I just don’t even think about it. Some days when I’m like that, I would hide in my room, whatever. Other days, I decide to post it online. Then sometimes I’m like, “Why did I do that?”
But I don’t feel pressure to be perfect or strong or whatever. I mean, I definitely am a strong person. But I think I have learned that what’s best for me is I just want to feel my feelings. I think it’s okay to be vulnerable. I think that’s kind of what I’ve learned through this album process. I didn’t set out to make it about my vulnerability or my kind of emotional state or anything. It just happened that way. But yeah, it feels just natural to kind of, I don’t know, to just say what’s on my mind. I hope that people who are watching me or fans or whatever, they can see that it’s okay to be vulnerable and to feel your vulnerability. We’re all human and we have good days and bad days. I think Instagram is so about the good days, and sometimes, when you’re having a bad day and you see everybody else curating their best days, living their best life, whatever, it’s really hard and you feel like, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I …” But nothing’s real. It’s not real. This is a hole I could really spiral down.
I think it’s really appreciated when you do get to that —
Yeah, because when I … Sorry to cut you off. When I posted, I was in Zürich, and I was really low. Honestly, I don’t even remember what triggered it, but it was like the lowest I’d felt for a really, really long time. I felt really, really upset and sad, and I was crying all day. I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I posted about it, and I actually had some really great conversations with peers, friends, fans that day, who totally understood where I was coming from and had totally been in that moment, but hadn’t kind of vocalized it because they felt like they didn’t really have the right to.
I feel like, as a creative person, especially if you’re doing what you want to do for a living, no matter what area of creativity, it’s like we are so lucky to be creative, because some people really try all their life to make their creative passion their actual job and don’t succeed, even though they’re probably extremely, extremely talented and deserve that. But some people just can’t manage to do it for whatever reason. So, when you do get the opportunity to live your creative dream and be able to make the work, the art, the music, the painting, the writing, whatever it is that you’re making, sometimes I feel like people think you can’t complain about it. Like, “Shut up, you’re doing your thing. If you don’t like it, don’t fucking do it.” I get that, because we’re very lucky, but sometimes there’s a lot of pressure around that, too. There’s a lot of competitiveness in creativity, I think, sometimes.
Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of kind of cerebral hand wringing from my world about what your role is to pop music. For me, hearing this, it feels like you found a way to create space in pop music, which I think is really important. I mean, talking about a song like “Gone,” and collaborating with Chris on that, it’s so powerful, and it’s so towering, and you hear that song and it feels like a real breakthrough for both of you guys, but it’s like because you created that space and you made that opportunity happen. Talk me through that song a little bit.
That song was started really right at the beginning of the year. I went to Stockholm and I was working with Noonie Bao and Linus Wiklund, who are two people who I collaborate with a lot, and we had like five days together where we literally wrote the worst songs in the world. We were like, “Fuck, it’s done. We’ve lost it. Can’t do this anymore, better find some new shit to do.” It was so bad. Every song we wrote, we were like, “This is great,” and then we would listen back and we were like, “This is so bad. What the fuck is happening?” Every song we couldn’t finish, the lyrics were terrible, the melodies were bad, the production was awful. We were just bombing constantly, which has never happened to me before. Like I’ve had writer’s block, but I’ve always been able to, in the same day, come back and be like, “Okay, cool. I like this song.” Maybe it doesn’t end up being the best song in the world, but I can finish a song. But this was just like five days of it being so hard to make anything.
So we finally got to “Gone,” and I had this pre-chorus idea with this lyric, and I had a verse melody, and we had this track, rough track, and it felt cool, and we were like, “Fuck. Okay, this is cool. We can’t fuck it up. Don’t fuck it up. Let’s not even try and finish it.” I had been texting Chris. I was like, “I’m just going to send it to her.” She loved it, and really, honestly, within 15 minutes, she sent me back a demo of the chorus with lyrics and that was kind of it. Then I sang it, and we were just sending stuff back and forth, really, and that’s how we finished the song. I asked her to write my verse lyrics, because I just felt like, I don’t know … I would never write lyrics that she writes, and I kind of wanted to tie it together a little bit. So it just felt right for her to do that for me.