Five years in the making, Charli XCX scrapped most of her early work for debut album True Romance, but after half a decade's worth of toil, re-writes and re-records the record has finally been released. Understandably, the 20-year-old is somewhat relieved.
After penning Icona Pop's current worldwide smash 'I Love It', the pop youngster is now ready for mainstream success herself, with experience on stage with the likes of Justice and Coldplay driving her ambition and love for her craft. We caught up with the Londoner to discuss writing international hits, making fans 'cry and dance' and why she ditched so much of her early work for the debut release...
Hello Charli. You must be pleased to have the album finally finished.
I'm so excited. I can't wait to tour it and to see everyone hopefully singing along to it. It has been a long, crazy journey for me and I am glad to have finished the record and put it out. It's sad and emotional that it has come to an end but on the other hand I've been living life in a box trying to get it finished.
Why has it taken you so long?
I wasn't happy with the stuff I was writing before, I didn't feel ready to put out an album. I'm going to turn 21 in August, but I still felt really childish. I didn't feel like I knew who I was, let alone what kind of music I wanted to make. I was just experimenting and dabbling. It didn't sound like me. When I first wrote 'Stay Away' I felt like that was my sound. It felt right. I'd always wanted to be patient and never rush this. Luckily the people I worked with agreed with me and they weren't pushing me, so I got to play it my way.
Charli XCX's debut album is out now - at last
The growing up you do between 16 and 20 is pretty huge...
Yeah. I feel like this record is a coming of age album, it's like my whole outlook on life and inparticular love, is documented on the album. You do do a lot of growing up in that time and that's why the songs vary so much on the record. There are some that are more about younger feelings, like 'Ha Ha Ha', which is more like a childish response to a bad break up. Then there are songs about falling in this epic pool of love and being consumed by it.
Watch the video for 'You (Ha Ha Ha)' below
You say your intention is to 'make people dance and cry'. That's not a good look.
I don't mean in a hipster way, I mean in a euphoric way. When I went to see Robyn live for the first time that's what happened to me. I danced and I cried, her song 'Dancing On My Own' is the saddest song ever. I meant that sensation, rather than any Avril Lavigne s**t.
You've performed alongside the likes of Coldplay and Justice. Who is more fun to perform with?
I did one show with them in Toronto with M83 and Justice and then I did some shows with them at Parklife festival in Australia. Justice are like my favourite band, ever. Justice inspired me to get into music. Justice and Uffie. They were my two go-to artists, so naturally when I realised I was playing shows with them, I was very nervous, because they are very cool guys - and I'm not very cool. They are French and cool, which makes them automatically cooler. The whole thing was really awkward. My keyboardist is an avid smoker and so are they, so they bonded over cigarettes. My game wasn't there. I was just being a bit weird all the time and trying to impress them with my French - and I am terrible at French. It wasn't a good moment for me.
Playing to the huge audiences with Coldplay was amazing, they are one of the biggest bands in the world. Getting to play with them and Chris Martin told me he had some of my songs on his iPod. It was dope. It was a crazy experience.
Did performing with Coldplay raise your ambitions and make you want to be headlining shows that big yourself?
Yes! I don't think you can not feel like that. Every other show after that is a disappointment. The crowd and the stage, it is every performer's dream to play a gig like that. On the other hand I love club shows, when it's sweat, blood and tears. I can hear everyone and I can smell everyone, get into the crowd. It's much more feral.
Watch Charli XCX's latest release, 'What I Like' below
You're among the who's who of the 'cool' pop world, but who in the mainstream pop world do you think is making great pop?
I'm a big fan of mainstream pop. Rihanna always ends up getting great songs. 'Diamonds' is a really good song, and so is 'Stay'. Most mainstream pop artists are having all these cool writers work for them, all these freaky weirdos which I love, like Sia. She's incredible and amazing, with crazy lyrics and I love that. I grew up on Britney Spears and stuff like that, so I will always have time for stuff like that.
Speaking of writing songs for other people, you recently scored a huge hit with a song you wrote, 'I Love It' by Icona Pop...
It's so weird! This song that I wrote in half an hour in a hotel is suddently huge. It's f**king cool. I saw them perform it on Dancing With The Stars and they had massive bouncy balls and they were dressed like cyborgs. It was so good. I'm proud of them.
Watch Icona Pop perform 'I Love It' on Dancing With The Stars
Are the songs written in half an hour often the best ones?
Definitely. Now I know that, whenever I am asked to write a song I panic if I haven't written in within an hour. The best moments are when it is quick and easy.
Do you ever wish you hadn't given that track away?
No, never. My album doesn't sound like that and it took me so long to make this album. If I had taken that song I would have had to re-write the whole f**king album. It wouldn't have come out until 2018.
Thank you very much, Charli XCX. The debut album, True Romance, is out now.
Charli performs at London's Old Blue Last on Wednesday 17 April 2013. For more information and tickets, visit Gigwise Gig Tickets.