Name: Charlotte OC aka Charlotte Mary O'Connor
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current release: Charlotte OC's new full-length album Here Comes Trouble is out via Embassy Of Music.
If you enjoyed this interview with Charlotte OC and would like to find out more about her work, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Where does the Impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I hear melodies and lyrics more when I'm full of stress or feeling lost. Or if I've heard a beautiful piece of music. I think I've realised music becomes my mate when I feel rock bottom low which is nice isn’t it. (laughs)
I heard the most beautiful song in one of my dreams the other night and I'm still kicking myself that I didn’t wake up and record it when I woke up as it’s now vanished forever.
I'm quite an observant person so most of my lyrics come from things I've noticed from others or myself.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I think it's I'mportant to have a general idea before you start. I usually have the verse and chorus idea but I think it's important to not be too precious as that verse may be the middle 8 in the end.
Sometimes when I start writing, especially with a co-writer in the room, and have nothing, I always find it a slight struggle. But also sometimes it works to be free and let whatever may happen, happen
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Exercise is something that definitely helps. However I am one of those people that write their best stuff when shit hit the fan. So sadness and a bit of cardio and kettlebell do the trick for me usually.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
It depends. It's usually the melody for me, or both lyric and melody.
Sometimes I have the full song ready and it needs tweaking. Every song is different.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Sometimes they come together, usually when I write on my own.
I remember when I wrote "Inevitable" I wrote all the lyrics down on the tube on my the way to the session whilst crying my eyes out in front of lots of strangers.
But then sometimes lyrics can take a while - months or even a year – to feel fully happy with how you’ve said something.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I’m finding my feet with lyrics.
I spent my early years doing a lot of co writing and I think it dumbed me down a little. I started looking at lyrics and even melodies as this weird equation.
When lockdown happened, I felt so free. I sat in my bedroom with no sense of pressure of “the chorus has to sound like this“ or “that lyric has to rhyme with that”. I wrote some of the best lyrics I'd written in a long time because I was forced to be myself and decided to not succumb to the scientific method I'd reluctantly learnt.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I used to be so strict, but with the Here Comes Trouble album we let whatever happen, happen.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I think that’s sometimes the best part of it. If a song has come from nowhere, it can go anywhere (if that makes any sense). I tend to let it happen more than I used to.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Again it’s one of those unfortunate things for me, I need to be full of a certain emotion, or there needs to be an element of not giving a shit. All or nothing. My general vibe.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
With this album, the demos sounded like finished pieces. We left them for a month, then came back to them. Breathing space is important and we made a conscious effort to not listen back to the demos after we’d done them. Which was very hard, but it gave us a clearer idea when revisiting.
The song hits you differently and you hear it for what it is instead of making a demo and listening to it till you have no idea what it is anymore.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I am very much involved with all of it.
I find the mixing a difficult one as you know something doesn’t quite feel right but knowing how to explain it is another thing. I always seek help from ears that I trust when I comes to mixing and mastering but when it comes to production I know exactly what I want.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I felt relieved in a way. (laughs) I had the best time making this but it took a lot out of me mentally as there was a lot going on.
I think I missed the writing part of it when we started mixing and mastering. It’s taken me a while to want to write again after writing that album.