Charlotte Lawrence hasn’t stopped singing since she was 5 years old, but she’s finally found her voice.
On Friday, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter released her new single, “God Must Be Doing Cocaine,” as a testament to the issues currently going on in the world that matter to her most.
“I think every artist has a responsibility to share their voice and their opinion and their thoughts on what they believe in,” Lawrence tells PEOPLE. “It has been hard for me to put that feeling into words [because I didn’t] know how to do it without offending people or feeling like I’m speaking for anybody but myself. So I just looked at what was going on around me and what was happening to my friends or the people I knew and I wrote about it. [The song] is just what’s happening around me — what I don’t like, what scares me and what I want to change.”
In the song’s first verse, Lawrence references things like people’s addictions to their phones and to plastic surgery through the lyrics, “All of the zombies walking ’round LA / Making the city our stage” and “Everyone’s changin’ their body and face /Don’t like the way we were made.”
“I don’t think everybody should be addicted to their phones and technology and stop living their lives and getting so much plastic surgery,” she explains. “So my whole point of the song is kind of like, ‘Hey, man, if you’re up there — what are you doing? Why aren’t you helping us out? Is this supposed to happen? Are you mad at us? What’s going on?’ So I created the metaphor that [God] must be doing cocaine.”
In the second verse, Lawrence then references the rise in school shootings in America in recent years through the lyrics, “I drove my brothers to school yesterday / Who’s gonna make sure they’re safe? / Feels like sometimes / He goes missing for days / God must be doing cocaine.” (On Thursday, two students were killed in a school shooting in Santa Clarita, California.)
“I strongly believe that America needs new gun control laws,” Lawrence says. “I mean, I think it’s the No. 1 issue in America right now. We have such s— gun control laws and there’s mass shootings daily. It’s so sad and it’s terrifying, especially in Los Angeles. My little brothers go to middle school and they have to do school shooting drills monthly. I’m like, ‘That’s so crazy that that’s what our world is now.’ It’s so terrifying. I wanted to add that into the song because again, I’m somebody that writes my emotions and I write about real experiences and I write about things that happen to me and happen around me because I feel like to be a songwriter and to express emotion, you have to write what you know.”
“With this song, it’s kind of the first time I’ve spoken about something that really matters to me that’s not boyfriends or a personal heartbreak or issue or whatever it may be,” she continues. “I wanted to speak about stuff that terrifies me and should terrify other people.”
For the music video for the single, Lawrence collaborated with one of her closest friends, photographer and videographer Tyler Shields.
“I trust Tyler’s vision on such another level,” she says. “And last minute — I wasn’t even going to do the music video for the song because it was a whole timing thing and expensive and it was very hard to put together — I just said, ‘F— it.’ I called Tyler and I said, ‘Hey, you and me. Let’s make something magical. Let’s just do it ourselves and then show it to my whole team and cross our fingers and hope for the best.’ He was like ‘Okay, down.’ We had two days to do it. Literally two days to do it.”
After getting to Shields’ house, Lawrence says they listened to the song “20 times in a row” and “felt strongly inspired by the fact that the song portrays this feeling of being trapped by society and pulled different ways.”
“We started thinking it’s like we feel pulled and we feel grabbed,” she says. “We’re like, ‘How do we put this into words?’ I just sat in front of a camera and I was like, ‘I’m going to just sing the lyrics emotionless, and I want you guys to grab my face.’ It was me, Tyler and his girlfriend and they were like, ‘Down.'”
“We shot the entire song through of just me staring at the camera and them grabbing my face,” she continues. “That was the main shot of the video, and then all the other stuff we put in the background and had it be flashes of the world and life. The whole video is me staring at the camera, getting grabbed and touched and all that stuff. He’s just a genius.”
“God Must Be Doing Cocaine” follows Lawrence’s similarly vulnerable single, “Navy Blue,” about a toxic relationship.
“With me, I’m a very closed off person in real life in the sense of emotions and saying what’s actually real,” she says. “I think that kind of translates to me sharing everything in my music. I don’t really have that fear of being too vulnerable. I think if you’re not then what’s the point? I want my fans to be able to relate and if I wasn’t being vulnerable, and fully 100% me, there’d be no point. It would be fake.”
Earlier this month, Lawrence kicked off her headlining "Navy Blue" tour, which she says has been “so much fun.”
“When I get the microphone, I get instantly happy,” she says. “Even just [performing] the fun dance songs that everybody’s jumping and singing along to is so incredible because I look out and I see so many smiles and everyone knows all the words. It’s so surreal to me. I’m like, ‘Why do you even care?’ Like, that’s so cool. It’s so hard to comprehend.”
“When I play unreleased songs, and everybody gets quiet and listens to the words, it means so much to me,” she adds. “These are songs that, again, I made either alone or with people so dear to my heart. We write about what’s real and get very vulnerable and then it’s like, now all these people are listening and singing and dancing. It’s really cool.”
Lawrence says she’s been singing since she was 5 years old, which came as a total surprise to her parents: Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence and actress Christa Miller.
“There’s video when I was younger and my parents being like, ‘What? What did you just do? Do that again!'” she says. “Neither of my parents can sing and my grandparents can’t sing and nobody in my family is a musician. I just popped out like, ‘I’m gonna be a singer.’ I never really understood what that meant because I grew up in the entertainment industry, but it was nothing with being a musician. It was always a dream of mine to sing. Everything revolved around music since I’ve been 5 years old, forever. I just never knew it could actually be a reality until I was probably 14 maybe, and I got brought into the studio.”
Soon, Lawrence will return to Los Angeles for a hometown show on Nov. 23 at The Fonda — which she calls a “big full-circle moment.”
“I literally have already the craziest amount of people on my guest list because my friends want to come, which makes me so happy,” she says. “L.A. is just so much fun because it’s where I was born and raised. It’s just such a big full-circle moment. I grew up going to these type of shows. I’ve been to the Fonda a bajillion times to see people and now people are coming to see me. That’s crazy!”
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