New York soul-pop extraordinaires Lawrence have had a pretty entertaining 2021. After reaching virality on TikTok thanks to live videos that displayed their infectious, bubbly energy, the band released their record Hotel TV this summer and launched a massive U.S. tour that just announced another leg for 2022. The band somehow got more famous during the pandemic, as they’re now playing larger rooms than ever and quickly gaining a devoted following of fans. Built around the brother and sister duo of Clyde and Gracie Lawrence, the band’s style of soul-pop is designed to work its way into your head with their impressive melodies and eight-piece arrangements, and their talent was prominent enough to earn a spot on Jon Bellion’s Beautiful Mind Records and slots playing some of the biggest festivals in the country. We jumped on a call with Clyde and Gracie to talk about Hotel TV and its ensuing tour:
How’s the tour going?
Clyde Lawrence: I think that it’s mostly going very very well! We’ve heard a variety of responses – we’re lucky to have a passionate and engaged fanbase during and before the pandemic, so we have these two different factions of the fandom. Now that everyone can get together again, it’s been a big party and celebration where these two groups can finally meet.
One thing that’s been amazing to watch of y’all over the past year has been your sudden rise to virality on TikTok. I’ve talked with a ton of artists that experienced similar rises and gains in fans despite being unable to tour for most of the past two years. What do you think you’re doing differently on social media that’s encouraged this fan love?
Gracie Lawrence: I think we try to do it in a way that feels, for lack of better words, authentic. I think that’s the only way to be on social media – I think if you’re too obsessed with following trends, you’ll lose. We’re at our best when we’re just ourselves, and that seems to be what cuts through to our fans the most. On TikTok, our live videos that are messier and off-the-cuff have resonated with our fans the most.
Was there ever a “holy shit” moment when one of your videos went viral?
Gracie: (laughs) We’ve had two songs have these moments: a concert video for “Freckles” before the pandemic that a fan filmed picked up, like, 4 million views overnight. After that happened, we just kept posting clips from the video this guy in the front row took, and that’s what created a mass influx of people to our TikTok. After that, the acoustic version of “Don’t Lose Sight” with some incredible backup singers blew up on TikTok after we posted it to YouTube. It’s kind of crazy to see this influx of people overnight just learning about who you are. But simultaneously, this is the most original form of us — I feel good having people discover us through these means as we are rather than having to put on a front.
It’s fascinating to see instances of songs gaining a new life on platforms like TikTok.
Clyde: Yeah, you know, there are examples of songs from the 90s that TikTok is giving new life in a profound way. This was a little less like that because it’s a new song — we only released it in June — so it had that new bump because of the record’s release but having that acoustic video go viral definitely gave that song a lot of new momentum.
I love the heavy soul inspiration in your sound. Where did that come from?
Gracie: It came from a lot of what we grew up on — classic rock, soul music, Motown, that sort of stuff. It was music we really loved and gravitated towards, and when we started writing we just wrote in the style of that. You know, a lot of artists have really paved the way in bringing soul sounds to pop music — Stevie Wonder is my favorite artist — but I feel like, in modern pop music, there’s a certain space that we’re really excited to occupy. It’s exciting to see soul music creeping into modern-day pop music because I think what’s exciting about soul music or Motown music is the way the songs were written combined the structure and tightness of pop music with chord movement that was accessible but not obvious. What we want to do is take very accessible pop music that makes songs fun and understandable with elements of soul that adds depth and melancholy.
How did your partnership with Jon Bellion come to be?
Gracie: Oh man, Jon’s the greatest. He’s a brilliant songwriter in so many ways — the way he harnesses those genrebending song structures is mindblowing to me.
Clyde: I think what’s cool about Jon is that he has incredible pop instincts, but he’s always adding something really cool to it that’s outside of the genre. We met Jon because we were paired up with him for a college festival; we were actually opening for him and didn’t really know him beyond loving his music. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure he saw the show! (laughs) His band went backstage after the set and let him know we were great, and Jon exchanged his info with us. We bugged him every once in a while for a year on and off, and then when Living Room came out, we sent it to him and he was totally into it. He reached out to get on the label and help us creatively.
Have there been any songs that have taken on a new life in the live set?
Gracie: “Don’t Lose Sight” has been a lot of fun. We have an intro that’s like the acoustic version we put out and people go surprisingly hard to it. I think there are more midtempo tracks that are sleeper picks—
Gracie: Yes, “Jetlag”! Live, everyone knows every word to that one, which is wild because it’s a little different from how it’s on the record. We mix up “The Weather” live, too. It’s a nice moment in a show with a lot of energy to settle down and bring everyone in to sing the song.
Your live show is one of the most energetic and amped-up things I’ve ever seen. How in the world do you get ready to go on and do what you do?
Gracie: I go for a massive coffee run before the show (laughs). Everyone’s different. As an 8-piece band, we all have our own thing. Some are doing breathing techniques/yoga/meditation, some are drinking coffee, and some are doing pushups. I typically eat a meal that’s way too big, regret it before I go on stage, and go on anyway (laughs).
Clyde: I try to get myself ready but keep it as informal as possible. I don’t really think of myself as a performer, so I try to be as loose as possible – if I get too much of a routine going I’ll psyche myself out! I just want to come across like I really love what I’m doing — because, I do! I’m playing music with my sister and my best friends, so life is good.
What’s on the horizon for the band?
Clyde: Well, just tour, tour, and more tour. We just announced new dates for next year, and it’s been really cool to come to venues that we’ve played before. Saturn, in Birmingham, is AMAZING – they’re a venue that treats us with good hospitality and accommodations. As the venues we play get bigger and bigger, hospitality is a given, but Saturn has been incredible from the very beginning when we were playing to not-so-many people (laughs). But yeah, we’ve got this tour that we’re finishing up, then next year with touring, and hopefully some new music sooner than later!