F Word’s editor-in-chief, Maisie Daniels, caught up with top Northern lass and singer-songwriter, Charlotte OC, ahead of her latest single release ‘Bad News’. Charlotte’s wicked sense of humour, warmth and infectious laugh had us hooked as this self-proclaimed softie shared her soul. From the meaning behind her heartbreakingly raw and emotional single ‘Inevitable’, how it feels being a female in a predominately male-dominated industry, to the struggles that come with singing from the heart, plus much more.
Maisie Daniels: You’re a Lancashire lass, like me! How long have you been in London? Charlotte OC: I moved this March! So really recently. I’ve been back and fourth since I was sixteen but I signed a contract, got a record deal, made a bit of money, so can afford to pay rent and it was the right time for me to just get away. I’d been up North for the whole of lockdown and it was the beginning of this year when it started to ease and I thought “fuck it!” And it’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made.
MD: It’s so comforting being around someone from Lancashire, that accent, it gives me so much joy! CO: And you! You can tell when you are around like a “Lancashire lass”, even just the way you are… sometimes I can meet people from other parts of the North and I can tell the difference. There’s a temperament that I love.
MD: Awh, thank you. What’s your favourite thing about London living?
CO: The fact that everything is on my doorstep. The fact I don’t have to drive because I can’t drive so I’d be fucked if I needed to. When I’m up North I revert back to being a twelve-year-old, even my attitude and my everything. I have to wait for my mum to take me somewhere because I can’t get anywhere. And I love that I’ve got so much freedom here and I don’t think that there’s anywhere quite like London in the summertime. Everything! I remember ringing my dad up when I’d settled in and I told him “Oh my god, I’m so happy”. There was a moment walking down Dalston and the sun was shining and I had my headphones in and I was like “oh my god, I’m happy”. And that was such a feeling and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that. I was single, and I didn’t have anyone to answer to, everything was going okay and it was such a moment and that is why I love London because it gave me that.
MD: So you grew up in Lancashire but with a surname like O'Connor, I'm sensing you've got the luck of the Irish in you?
CO: [laughs] Yes! So my Grandparents are from Dublin and my dad was born in the Wirral in a town called Bromborough, and there’s also Spanish on his Grandma’s side. And then my mum is half Malawian and half Indian.
MD: What an amazing blend!
CO: And then there’s also Scottish on my Grandma’s side, from the African side, so she’s quite pale - it’s such a weird mix, man! I’m a mongrel! [laughs]
MD: How long have you been a singer/ songwriter?
CO: Since I was fifteen! My dad booked guitar lessons behind my back - I didn’t ever want to play - but he went and booked them for me and I started putting the lyrics with the music.
Charlotte wears suit MATILDA ABERG; shoes STYLIST'S OWN; earrings CHANEL c/o 4ELEMENT; necklace GIVENCHY c/o 4ELEMENT; top RUBY JANE
MD: There’s a line in your beautiful single ‘Inevitable’ that states ‘you’re the only reason that I sing’ and so I thought that your dad might have been involved...
CO: Yeah, he was a massive part of it, as soon as he found out that I could sing, he really pushed it for me. He was like ‘she can’t do anything else, she’s useless at everything’ [laughs] ‘if she can do this, let’s just let her fucking do it’. There was a time when my parents were so worried about what I was going to do. Every report that I got back from school was “we worry about Charlotte, Charlotte lacks depth”.
MD: [laughs] Bloody hell! OC: [laughs] and baring in mind my mum and dad were paying £30k a year for this education that they couldn’t actually afford and they’re getting reports like this! But they were worried and I was a bit weird… I still am! So as soon as they could see that I could do something they were like ‘let’s support!’.
MD: Was your dad musical at all? CO: Yeah! So my dad played in a couple of bands when he was younger. Right, I’m going to tell it you but I’m not sure if it’s true [laughs] So I’ve been telling this story on like Radio 2, telling them the reason I made music was because my dad was in this band called The Mersey Beats and he was on Top of the Pops. And I’d say to the people at Radio 2 please can you search for this tape of my dad on Top Of The Pops, he was only standing in for his mate but we’ve listed to this record he was on and he’s always pointed out his voice like “this is me”. And they couldn’t find this tape, and as years have passed, my mum said “Charlotte, you need to stop telling this story, I don’t think it’s real”.
MD: [laughs] That’s hilarious! So he was a bit of a joker….
CO: Massively but I think he believed his own bullshit sometimes. So when I say my dad was in bands, I’d love to say yes that’s true but I honestly just don’t know anymore. MD: Let’s talk about your latest single ‘Inevitable’, I cried when I listened to it for the first time. It’s extremely emotive, raw and heartfelt track. Can you tell me more about this, in your own words?
CO: I wrote ‘Inevitable’ the day I got to London, after I found out that my dad had been diagnosed with cancer. I got there and I was in this state where I didn’t know what it was. We knew it was throat cancer but we didn’t know what stage, how long he had. And I was waiting every day for this phone call from the Doctor to find out what everything was. And then the girl I was working with said “I know this is an awkward thing to say but why don’t we write about this, whilst we are in this mood” and part of me was like “fucking hell, I really don’t know if I can do it but there’s no better time than now”. And I just did it, and on the way to the session I had already written all those lyrics down and I was sobbing with snot all over my mask, writing everything I felt and not knowing that I was going to write this song. And luckily we just did it and yeah… it was one of those where we did it live in the room. The mic was over one side, we did it in one take, I couldn’t sing it again, it was a one moment thing.
MD: Do you think writing that song helped with your grief at all?
CO: I don’t know. I think… there’s nothing that can heal what I was going through. When I write about a breakup - yes. This didn’t make me feel better or worse but I wrote a really beautiful song for him that came from the heart and I think he can hear that. It was one of those that I couldn’t get much from.
Charlotte wears suit HOLLY MACLEOD DESIGNS; earrings CHANEL c/o 4ELEMENT; necklace CHRISTIAN DIOR c/o 4ELEMENT
MD: Have your family listed to it?
CO: So they could only listen to it once but the main thing is just before my dad passed… we never knew how long he had… but just before I moved to London I wanted to make sure he had the album and I had to get it burned on a CD. Nobody has fucking CD’s anymore, it was so difficult… so I had to get my producer to get his dad to burn the album! So he got it but then I realised ‘Inevitable’ wasn’t on it and I was worried he hadn’t heard it. So that was one of those things that was hanging over me when he passed. And I found out when we played it the day after my dad died, we all sat in his favourite room and we all listened to the album and I just cried to my mum and I was like ‘I can’t believe he didn’t hear it’ and she said ‘he did, you sent it to him and I caught him listening to it’. So it made me so happy that he heard it because it was my way of saying thank you.
MD: What a beautiful thing to have done for him and after all the amazing support he gave you.
OC: I know, thank you. To think that he hadn’t heard it, was such weight but I’m so happy he did. We never spoke about it though, I think it was too sad for him to listen to.
MD: Your new single ‘Bad News’ is out on the 18th [of June] I’ve read you describe it as your “angst-filled breakup anthem”. I’m sensing you really draw from personal experiences?
OC: Yeah, annoyingly so! I wish I didn’t because it’s fucking exhausting and I think the main thing with my lyrics is that it’s so relatable with how I write, and I would really love for it to be a bit abstract but it’s impossible basically because I wear my heart on my sleeve. But with this one, especially with writing about this breakup, I almost feel guilty about it because I’m really pouring it out and I feel sorry for the person I’ve written it about. I feel like that about all of my songs, like are they going to be okay that I’ve written about this? It’s like writing a fucking memoir. And I’ve had to ring people up and say “I hope you don’t mind me writing about this”.
MD: What do you want people to take away from your music?
CO: I think the reason that I started writing was because I remember when I used to listen to music, it was a way of thinking I wasn’t on my own. And I’d like people to feel like that when they listen to my music.
MD: It’s so true, I love listening to music that I can relate to - they’ve been through this too, I’m not alone and there’s a real comfort in that. CO: Yeah! Because when something bad happens you do feel like you’re the only person going through it and that’s what I’d like to give. I struggled at school, I didn’t have many friends, so to feel like I had a friend in whoever I was listening to was such a huge thing.
MD: Have you ever had people reach out to you and let you know you’ve helped them?
CO: Yeah, I get a lot of those messaged and it doesn’t get boring, it’s so lovely. I love it!
MD: Yeah, to think that you’ve helped someone!
CO: I wouldn’t say that’s me as a person either. I’ve gotten better with age and doing therapy - I’m a bit more clued up with what’s right or wrong but I’m a little but useless [laughs] So to help someone… I never expected I would do that, you know?
Charlotte wears suit ESTER KUBISZ; corset AGENT PROVOCATEUR; gloves COLIN HORGAN; earrings CHRISTIAN DIORc/o 4ELEMENT; necklace: YVES SAINT LAURENT c/o 4ELEMENT
MD: What a beautiful gift to have. You put a lot of soul and emotion into your music - when do you feel at your best to write? Are you more reflective or in the moment?
CO: It’s when I’m it it, it’s when I’m in the thick of it annoyingly. Someone said to me “do you think you could have made that album when you were happy?” and I said no, I don’t think it would have been as good. But I would like to write something where I don’t have to go to the depths of fucking hell! But at the moment I think I am in the experimental stage, I’m obviously grieving, but things are looking up and it’s been interesting to write not being in this manic, anxious state. So we will see what way I end up writing because it is quite unhealthy to feel like you can only write when you’re horrifically sad. MD: I guess you now have this body of work that you can look back on your life and say ‘this is how far I have come, I’ve got through this and this is where I am now’ you know? CO: I know. And it’s nice sometimes to feel like, I don’t feel anything like I did when I wrote that song. It’s almost foreign, and it’s a way of looking back… like when you think about an ex boyfriend and you think ‘I can’t believe I felt that way about the person’.
MD: Tell me about it! To come out of something and become happy again, and know you’re okay, is an amazing feeling. Do you remember the first song you listened to that truly moved you?
CO: Yeah. It was Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. That was the first song where I was like, him, this song, Waynes World. I was like woah, woah, woah, what the fuck is this?! And I needed to learn all the words and I needed it, it got me into music that song. MD: Who else do have you been influenced by? It doesn’t have to be anyone in music… CO: Erm, I think there was one artist that got me excited about being an artist when I was feeling really insecure and self aware. I was with this management company that was trying to make me really ‘Poppy’ and I was loosing my real artist self and I read ‘Just Kids’ by Patty Smith and there was something about it. She was making all these shrines and she was being emotional as fuck and I was like that’s an artist that I can relate to. Not saying I’m anywhere near as good as Patty Smith but that’s what an artist is! Not someone that’s on a podium you know.
MD: Yeah, and I think sometimes female artists are put into a box and you’re labelled as ‘Pop’, ‘RnB’ etc but why do you have to be labelled? And compared to other female artists… You can just be your own person!
CO: Yeah! They do that though, especially with females, it’s all categorised otherwise it “doesn’t make sense and nobody will get it”. And it’s like “what the fuck?!”.
MD: And how do you find being a female artist in a very male dominated industry?
CO: I’ve never had any #MeToo moments however I have definitely had moments when I haven’t been taken seriously, when my age is a fucking big part of it, because I’m 30 and I’m like you know… get me a Stannah lift immediately…
CO: I’ve had some moments when I’ve thought ‘this would be a lot different if I was a guy’ but that’s why I have a female manager, a female team, and keep it that way. If we can eliminate the ‘boys club’ as much as possible, it would be a better place for everybody. It’s been tough, I don’t like to dwell on it and say ‘woe is me’.
MD: You seem like a strong woman that wouldn’t put up with a lot of shit but have you ever faced any difficulties?
CO: Yeah I do feel like that. And I might come across like a strong woman but I’m not, I’m very sensitive. I’m bolshy and I swear a lot but I’m the biggest softie ever. And all this rejection, it get’s to you and it’s a tough place to be when you’re an artist but yeah I’ve had lots unfair moments and you have to pick yourself up, and grow from it, and get a bit more of a spine and I guess that’s what’s happening.
MD: I love that you surround yourself with females and that’s what we need more of - opportunities for women within the industry. What makes you feel empowered? CO: When I’ve written something that I really believe in and I can’t argue with it. I will listen to it over and over again, it’s like meeting the love of your life, writing that song and to feel that way is so rare because it takes a lot to write an amazing song. And being around my family, us girls, and I keep thinking how proud my dad would be of how well we are all doing, and that’s powerful in its self.
MD: We’ve unfortunately just found out that it’ll now the 19th July that we come out of lockdown but have you got any live performances in the pipeline? CO: I’ve got a gig in Babington House on Sunday…
MD: Will this be your first live performance in a while? And how are you feeling about it?
CO: Yeah. And I’ve just found out it’ll be Fathers Day on Sunday so it kind of makes me happy that I’ve got a gig, it’s almost perfect. So I’m so excited, I’ve got rehearsals this week and I’ve got a tour happening in October time for when the album is out (that’ll be announced soon) but whether that happens, God knows! And then there’s a festival that I’m doing Best Prem and Highest Point festival.
MD: What would you say your biggest gift in life has been?
CO: Probably the ability to laugh at shit that’s shit!
MD: That’s our headline! CO: [laughs] It’s true though! Someone said to me, “you’ve just lost your Dad and you’re cracking jokes” but it’s that bad that you have to and I think finding things funny in the darkest times… and just because something is crap… I would never want someone to feel what I’m feeling. I’ll cry and then I’ll make a joke because I want to lift it up and life is hard enough as it is.
MD: We know about the 'Bad News' EP and the album drop, and and hopefully these festivals but is there anything else we should know?
CO: I’ve got a music video coming out for ‘Bad News’ and more singles dropping throughout the whole year.
MD: It’s all shifted a bit now, hasn’t it? It’s rare to drops a full albums these days!
CO: I’d love to just drop it! Because then you can listen to it in it’s entirety and can go on a little journey with it because it is a fucking journey! Each song is very different but it all ties in nicely and it all makes sense together.
MD: What would you say the narrative of the album is? CO: It’s called ‘Here Come Trouble’ so it represents my life at the time where, honestly Maisie, I felt like every corner I turned down, there was something waiting for me and it almost became a bit of a joke. By the end of it I wasn’t eating much, I was drinking too much and I was staying up way too fucking late and I became trouble myself. And it’s about what a bit of trauma can do to you as a person and it’s a lot of self discovery and I feel like lyrically it’s the best stuff I’ve ever done. And it’s about a brutal time and I think I needed it as a human, I needed to go through it. I feel human now. It sounds mad… MD: It doesn’t. I often think about my parents, I used to only see them as parents, that there was no life before I existed [laughs] and now as an adult, I'm thinking ‘wow you’d have gone through all this shit I am and life isn’t always easy.’ There's no book on how life will be and how it will affect you. CO: Yeah. And another thing, thinking about my mum it’s like she’s gone through a whole lifetime with my dad, that I don’t even know about, it’s triple the amount of time I’ve had with him. She’s lost him and so many other people, there’s so much hurt and that’s the thing. The way a human can carry on…
MD: Yeah, humans can show incredible resilience. CO: It’s not easy but there’s something in the human body that I noticed when grieving for my dad that allows you to carry on and cope.
MD: And finally, what’s your favourite F Word? I think I might know the answer to this one! BOTH [laugh]