Charli XCX On Outgrowing Her Underdog Status, And Why The Time For An Album Is Now
"I feel like now is my time to do a record and back it fully and be confident in myself."
Charli XCX is feeling confident. Cocky, even.
But then, she has every reason to be. Over the past two years, the woman born Charlotte Aitchison has leveraged her firebrand songwriting talent — which blew up the careers of Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea, to name but a couple — into a seriously successful solo project, with a legion of hopelessly devoted fans that follow her every move and ‘gram.
Her currency spiked in earnest in the last 12 months, thanks to a globe-conquering tour alongside Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello, a string of sweaty club shows in support of recent mixtape Pop 2, and a certain ear-worm called ‘1999‘.
So yeah, Charli XCX is feeling cocky — and feeling good about it.
“I think Pop 2 really gave me confidence,” she tells Music Junkee on a recent afternoon in West Hollywood, as she reclines on a lounge in a hotel suite. “Number 1 Angel gave me a little bit of confidence. Pop 2 really pushed it over the edge. I really feel like I found myself during the creation of those two bodies of work.
“I’ve always felt like an underdog. It used to really bother me,” she continues. “I’m now, over the past couple of years, beginning to embrace my underdog status. I think Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 united me with my fans — and they are really intense and really amazing. It really feels like we are all the weirdos at the party in one room together.
“They are all maybe in their lives have been considered the underdogs too. We are all together. We all believe in each other. I feel like they really get me know, and I really get them. We bond over those two mix tapes so much. I’m not an underdog anymore — I’m just as unique and as valid of a pop star as so many others.”
She’s certainly marked herself as one of the most chameleonic, being just as comfortable at sweltering 3am raves as she is playing stadiums alongside the biggest artist in the world; a support slot, she says, which will be her last.
“I’m not an underdog anymore – I’m just as unique and as valid of a pop star as so many others.”
“I think opening for Taylor was just a really good opportunity for me to travel in America and play to a load of new people,” she says. “And a load of new people who probably knew a lot of the songs that I was playing, but maybe didn’t necessarily know that I was the person who was singing them. It was cool for that purpose and to share the stage with two women who I really admire.
“I think everybody enjoys their own shows more than opening for someone, and that’s no disrespect to the headliner. I think you would be lying if you said you preferred playing other people’s shows. The audience are there to see you at your own show. They know your personality. They know your music. They are there to hear it.”
We’re in this strangely darkened hotel suite to talk about ‘Blame It On Your Love’, the new collaboration with her friend and Warner Music labelmate, Lizzo — another artist who has seen their stock rise in recent months.
XCX had been a admirer of hers for a while (“I’m fan of everything that she stands for. Her message of body positivity is so inspiring”), but it wasn’t until they ran into each other at a house party that the prospect of working together came up.
“I threw a house party at my friend’s house, and Lizzo came, and then I mentioned [the song] to her,” she says now. “I remember being, at the time it was like, ‘I want to do this song with 10 features, all girls. Do you want to do it?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah. Cool, whatever.’
“‘Blame It On Your Love’ is actually a song that has been around for really really long time. It appears on Pop 2 as ‘Track 10’. The original was actually ‘Blame It On Your Love’, then I made ‘Track 10’, and then went back to it. So I’ve had this song in my life for four years probably.
“It just never felt complete until Lizzo and I went to the studio one night, pretty recently, and she recorded her part. She just wrote her part and recorded it. And that’s it — party, studio, done.”
Both artists are fast writers, and the track came together really quickly — they were only in the studio for an hour, XCX estimates.
“She just has key words and phrases that she uses that are so specifically unique to her, and that’s really nice because it really injects her personality into the track,” she says. “I have that, I guess, with what I do too, so it was cool to just watch her do her thing. She’s so on fire at the moment.”
Collaboration is key for XCX. She’s developed incredibly close relationships with the likes of A.G. Cook and SOPHIE — PC Music producers who have helped shape XCX’s sound post Sucker (an album which she’s less than fond of now). She and ‘1999’ collaborator Troye Sivan are good friends — who also met at a house party, funnily enough — and she’s worked repeatedly with artists like Tove Lo, CupcakKe, and Rita Ora.
“Obviously some of my collaborators I’m closer with than others. I mean, A.G. Cook…I imagine that when I die he would go to my funeral, you know?” She says. “He’s one of my close friends. One thing I hate is the label being like, ‘You should collaborate with this person.’ I try as much as possible to connect with people because I want to work with my friends and work with people who I bond with and respect and enjoy their company. It’s important to kind of get to know someone and their vibe.”
“Now is my time to do a record and back it fully.”
XCX is a little hesitant to talk about her long-awaited new album — a release that has been pinballing around her head for years — but she confirms that one is coming, and she’s finally ready for it.
“The reason I want to…I don’t know the answer,” she laughs, when I ask her why now is finally the time for an album, and not another mixtape. “I don’t really know. It felt like the time. I feel like now is my time to do a record and back it fully and be confident in myself.”
She pauses, then smiles: “I feel ready.”
‘Blame It On Your Love’ is out now through Warner Music Australia.
Jules LeFevre is Junkee’s Music Editor. She is still waiting for ‘Taxi’. She is on Twitter.