Charli XCX talks new song 'Spinning,' her quarantine documentary, and how she unwinds while working from home


 At 6 p.m. during normal times, you might find Charli XCX in any number of places: writing songs in the studio; doing vocal warmups backstage; getting dressed for a rave. 

These days, you'll find her dancing around her living room in a full face of makeup, blasting "Visions," and holding a glass of bourbon.

"I'm working from home now, as so many people are, and it's nice to actually just give yourself an hour to be like, 'You know what, even though I'm stuck at home, I'm just going to put everything down, I'm going to make a drink and I'm going to enjoy this time for myself,'" she recently told Insider.

"I know I shouldn't be dancing to my own music," she added with a self-aware chuckle, "but I am."

Self-isolation has affected Charli in unexpected, strange, and sometimes valuable ways 

As with many musicians, Charli said being suddenly unable to perform or party has forced her to reevaluate her creative energy stores.

"The amount of time that I spent traveling from one country to another, on a plane, on a tour bus, or whatever it was, that was really something that had kind of crept up on me and was constantly in my life," she said. "So the break was really, really strange at the beginning, and actually super needed for me."

"It was getting to the point where I wasn't really looking after myself, and I wasn't really taking time to myself. I didn't really notice that until I stopped."

This time last year, as the coronavirus began wreaking havoc and self-isolation became the norm, Charli's famously prolific brain began to whir.

She spontaneously decided to write, produce, and master 11 new songs in just five weeks, soliciting virtual feedback from her fans (known as her "Angels") along the way.

On May 15, right on schedule, Charli unveiled "How I'm Feeling Now" — her fourth, brightest, and most discerning album to date, which Insider named the 14th best of 2020

"There was just a point two weeks in when I was like, 'Holy s---, this was a bad idea,'" she said of the album. "But to actually come through on the other side — and really feel so connected with my fans through the other side — that was really, really special."

A new documentary titled "Alone Together," filmed simultaneously with the creation of "How I'm Feeling Now," is slated to premiere at this year's virtual SXSW showcase on March 18.

Charli reflected on how she felt watching the footage, which chronicles the hyper pop maven's mad dash to film music videos, fine-tune the tracklist, and meet her self-imposed deadline — all while grappling with quarantine's early days of cabin fever and misguided hope.

"It's definitely strange, just because there is a real sense of naivete in the documentary," she said. "Myself, my boyfriend, my fans, my two managers who are in it — we're all still talking about COVID as this kind of short-term thing, which obviously is quite ridiculous when you look back at it."

"It feels like such a long time ago. Even though it's under a year, it feels like so much has changed."

Charli said she'sbeginning to think about a new album — but right now, 'Spinning' has the spotlight

After an isolation-fueled project with no features, collaborations have been commanding Charli's attention. She recently hopped on a remix of ELIO's "Charger," and hinted at more guest features in the near future.

On Thursday, fans were finally treated to "Spinning," a team-up with The 1975 and No Rome that's been the stuff of pop mythology for nearly two years.

"Matty [Healy] sent me a track and was like, 'Hey, can you think about anything on this?'" she explained. "I really reacted to it straight away. I recorded something that evening and sent it back to him. Then the next thing I knew, he was tweeting about it."

This was back in 2019, when The 1975's frontman teased "A MONSTER TUNE" with Charli, describing her as "a f---ing force." But the song's existence wasn't officially confirmed until February.

"They take a lot of time to work on ideas," she laughed, explaining the delay. "And that's not shady! I think they know that I like to work really very fast, and I think they probably find that a bit psychotic at times."

"We did spend time really finessing it," Charli said. "Then it was just sort of sitting around for ages, and now it's coming out, which I've been really looking forward to because I think it's super good."

The "Party 4 U" singer is tight-lipped about "what might happen next" in her career but said she's been tempted to revisit pre-pandemic music.

Before her self-imposed creative frenzy, Charli already had an album in the works, a follow-up to her 2019 self-titled blockbuster.

"I'm sort of beginning to think about that again," she offered evasively. "There are thoughts that I'm having, and a direction that I'm taking."

The self-described "workaholic" said she's been trying to embrace "balance" in the interim, so she's teamed up with Jim Beam for "The Happiest Hour" movement, encouraging fans to reclaim an hour after work for self-care and a little self-indulgence.

"Honestly, it's become something that I really look forward to," Charli said.

"I find that if I keep pushing and pushing and pushing and working constantly, that's when I become unproductive," she explained. "I think that's been a really important learning curve for me during quarantine — to make sure that I do take time for myself instead of just continuously go and go and go until I burn out."

There's no telling where Charli's experimental sound and restless mind — not to mention the uncertain state of the world — will take her next.

But if the past year is any indication, she'd even be down to soundtrack the apocalypse.

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