In February 2020, Charlotte Lawrence was on fire — well, almost. The music video for her bouncy, mischievous song “Joke’s on You” found the 20-year-old singer strutting amid blazing inferno as she laid out a tale of emotional revenge. The tune soundtracked Harley Quinn’s misanthropic adventures in the Birds of Prey blockbuster film, sitting alongside killer cuts from artists like Halsey, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and more on its soundtrack.
A month later, she was among the first wave of highly visible virus cases, as she announced her COVID-19 diagnosis on Instagram on March 18. “I am going to be completely fine,” she wrote in a note that scans as quaint nearly five months later. “But many who get it won’t be if too many people get sick too quickly.” She’s since recovered, and she told MTV News that she’s spent these past few months reading, listening to Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift, and learning some intense new choreography.
“I’m not a fucking dancer. I can’t dance,” she said. “I’m 5’10” with, like, flailing arms and legs everywhere.” But that didn’t stop her from working toward a vision — one she realized in the dazzling new “Slow Motion” visual on a team with director Tyler Shields and choreographer Tia Rivera. The trio created and filmed it in quarantine, and it radiates with the kind of spark-plug creative energy of a passion project. It might not have towering fires like “Joke’s on You,” but it has Lawrence’s intensity and a little editing flair.
MTV News caught up with Lawrence to talk “Slow Motion” and quarantine creativity on a recent video call that featured a memorable cameo from her dog Winnie. “She’s more of a star than I am, for real,” Lawrence said. “She radiates star power.” Below, Lawrence unpacks how she made the video and how her song “Everybody Loves You” ended up on the new album from The Chicks.
MTV News: Some music videos made in quarantine are looking more and more professionally shot, even when they’ve been scaled down out of necessity. “Slow Motion” is one of those. How did you make it?
Charlotte Lawrence: It’s about a breakup, so then you expect the music video [to be], OK, girl, guy, or whatever it is, going through a breakup. So I was like, how do we shoot a video in quarantine with no budget, no lighting, no extras, no dude or girl — just me — and portray emotion through that? So we started with the idea of this song doesn’t have to be about necessarily losing a partner, but it could maybe be about just losing somebody in general, grief, or losing a friend, or losing something like that. Just that feeling of loss. So I was like, let’s highlight the crazy emotions through the five stages of grief through dance and facial expressions.
MTV News: You mentioned on Instagram that the portion of the video on the staircase was your favorite part. Is that because the moment that it represents is one of your favorites in the song?
Lawrence: That stairs scene was so cool because there are some aspects of the choreography that are pretty and beautiful and still have that light. But then there are some aspects of it that are crazy and messy and not the prettiest and slumped over, a little bit messy, you know what I mean? And I think it portrays the lyrics really well. And I watch it and it’s like, I can feel the emotion from the song.
Tyler Shields is the director, and he filmed the whole thing. And Tia Rivera is the choreographer. And we all did it, just us three collaboratively, together, everything. Every aspect of it we did completely together. Built it, did it, filmed it, just us. And it was just amazing. I’m not a fucking dancer. I can’t dance. I’m 5’10” with, like, flailing arms and legs everywhere. And I just worked my ass off with Tia and got it to the point that I felt like it was as good as I could get it.
MTV News: In March, you announced that you had tested positive for COVID-19. As you moved through that from then until now and recovered, how did you stay positive during that time, when you were in quarantine?
Lawrence: I mean, I was quarantined with somebody who had it a lot worse than I had it. So I think my mindset was very much on taking care of that person. And I wasn’t really focusing on myself, which was kind of a blessing in disguise, even though it was really scary. I was sick, but I knew that I was going to be OK. I mean, I’m 20 years old and I’m young and I’m healthy. And I just took care of my friend for a long time, and it was really scary, but it definitely brought us so much closer, and he’s completely fine now. And we’re very, very close now, and it ended up being OK, but it was just terrifying because it was kind of like at the very beginning of [the coronavirus pandemic] in the [United] States. So we had no idea what anything meant. And it even took us, like, a week to get a test after pleading, can we please have tests? And having to go to the hospital. It was crazy.
After, when I was better and not sick anymore, I felt a lot of inspiration to write and sing and paint and do all these artsy things and keep my mind very creative and very on it. And as time goes on, it’s like, I’m somebody that everything I write, music-wise, lyric-wise, and even like paint, like everything artistically, I have to be authentic with it. It’s very much me and my own thoughts and my own experiences, what I’ve gone through, what I feel in the moment. But when I’m not doing things that inspire me or not really going out or seeing people… I just lose that inspiration. And it’s hard for me to write and keep that alive. So this music video, going back to that, was a huge, huge, amazing experience because I felt like I could really tone in and be as creative as I possibly could after having a little dry stage.
MTV News: Were you listening to anything in particular over the past few months that helped?
Lawrence: Phoebe Bridgers released an album, and I was like, so incredible. I’ve listened to it on repeat. I’m literally her number-one fan. Like, it’s honestly creepy how much I mention her name and her music all the time. And if she sees it, she’s probably like, “This girl is fucking weird,” but I just think she’s such an incredible writer and the best of our generation, for real. I think that she talks like an old poet, and it’s so cool. Obviously, the Taylor [Swift] album came out a few days ago. Incredible and unexpected. I was like, holy shit, you just went the full opposite direction of your last album. And it’s amazing. I think it’s so cool and beautiful. And my two favorite bands, The National and Bon Iver, are involved with the album. On repeat are “Cardigan,” “Exile,” “This Is Me Trying,” “My Tears Ricochet,” and I’ve been loving “Betty.”
MTV News: From what music you’ve been working on while in quarantine, have you found any common themes or any certain kinds of songs that you’re writing more of?
Lawrence: It depends. I’m such a visual person and an experience person. If I have a sad fight with a boyfriend or a crazy whatever with a friend, I can write about it. But when everything’s so continuous and just… it’s just been the same for a long time, especially since I’m supposed to be on tour right now. And we prepared for that. I did a session a day all year, and I don’t need to do any more sessions. You know what I mean? It’s very much like I have all the music prepared for literally like two years. Like, I’m fucking ready. I’ve also been like acting a tiny bit. Like, I’m not an actor at all. I’m not the best, but I’m very extroverted and it’s fun to try and be creative. It’s just been fun to have something to do that’s in a creative light.
MTV News: In the celebratory mode of the past couple weeks, The Chicks recently covered your song “Everybody Loves You” on their new album. You’ve talked in the past about how important that relationship has been with them and how Natalie [Maines] has been a great mentor to you. But how does your song end up on their album?
Lawrence: Man, I couldn’t even tell you how it happened. It happened out of nowhere. I don’t even know how to describe it. She’s my neighbor, Natalie, like actually my next-door neighbor, and is one of my mom’s best friends and has been such an incredible influence and mentor and all-around helper to me since I’ve been a little younger. She heard me sing when I was like 12 or 13 and just took an actual liking to me. And it wasn’t anything my mom was asking her to do. Every time I would see her, she would play me songs. I would play her songs. I would play her half-written songs. She would tell me what to do to finish them. I would play her not fully produced songs. And she would [give] super constructive criticism. She just always helped me out like that.
And I played her “Everybody Loves You” when it came out few years ago, and she just loved it and was like, “This is so beautiful and special.” And whenever we were at a party or at my family’s house and had people over, we would always play it and sing it. That was where my expectations ended, like, Natalie from The Chicks likes my song that much that she knows the words and stuff. Sick. Awesome. And then one day she was just like, “Emily [Strayer] and Martie [Maguire] and I kind of want to cover ‘Everybody Loves You’ because we keep listening to it and we think it’s so incredible.” It doesn’t comprehend in your mind. Like, cover it for what? On Instagram? When they released it, they stripped it just like I had it originally and just did it with Natalie’s voice and the piano, and there’s a little violin solo in there, and I just thought it was so incredible. And I could feel how much she related to that song when she sings it. I think her voice is, I mean, it’s otherworldly.
MTV News: What’s something that you’re optimistic about right now, something that you’re looking forward to?
Lawrence: I’m looking forward to releasing more music. I’m ready. I’ve been sitting on so many fucking songs for so long. I just want people to start hearing it. I have another single coming out in September, and it’s one of my favorite songs. It’s so cool. And I’m about to film the video and it’s going to be — very obviously, we’re still in quarantine — it’ll be the same situation as what I did with Tyler. And I’m excited for Winnie to go to the trainer so she stops shitting at my mom’s house.