No one could have predicted Cari Fletcher’s overwhelming success when she started singing at the young age of 6. Now 23 and under the gender-ambiguous moniker FLETCHER (yes, all caps), she’s rapidly gaining ground in the industry after the release of her highly-acclaimed 6-track debut EP Finding Fletcher almost a year ago. Talking self-acceptance and exploration as standpoints, her tracks Wasted Youth and War Paint went immediately viral, crowning her as one of Spotify’s spotlight acts. Hailing from Asbury Park, NJ, FLETCHER is set to redefine the pop music industry, describing herself as the “Jennifer Lawrence of Music.” Ahead of her first headlining tour alongside electro-pop artist Tayler Buono this October, Schön! caught up with her to talk about the blurring between alternative and pop, what it means to be an independent artist nowadays and what the future holds for the modern-age begetter.
You studied at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, a part of New York University. Was music something you always knew you wanted to pursue both academically and professionally?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved music. My mom always tells me that I was singing before I ever even spoke. From a really early age, I found such a passion and love for singing and music and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Ever since I was a little girl and learned that people go to college, NYU was a dream of mine, I’m a first-generation college student in my family and I always envisioned myself living in Manhattan and attending music school there, it was really surreal when it all came true.
The story behind the video for Wasted Youth is quite unique. Can you tell us a bit more about the unplanned shoot with your friend Ryan Hutchins? Why is this video so close to home for you?
Ryan Hutchins is a best friend of mine from childhood. One night we were all hanging out at Dockweiler beach with a big group of friends around a bonfire, and Ryan naturally travels everywhere with his camera and just started shooting. We walked down by the water and for some reason, the ocean felt like it was 85 degrees, which was odd because the Pacific is always freezing cold. He literally was lighting us with an iPhone flashlight in one hand and filming with the other. I remember he yelled over a crashing wave and said: “This would be really cool for Wasted Youth and hence the video idea was born. We just spent the next few days running around LA shooting in everyday sort of mundane regular places that you wouldn’t normally associate with beautiful moments and memories like parking garages and laundromats. The video hit so close to home for me because it was the first time I’ve ever depicted sexuality in a piece of content and it was so liberating. The video is also just such an incredible representation of who I am as a human and artist and just really captured my essence and vibe. It’s been incredible to see everyone’s reaction to it.
Wasted Youth has become a live-in-the-moment, carefree anthem. Same goes with your Spotify playlist #WasteYourYouth. How do you feel about this and how did you first come up with the idea for the song and then the accompanying playlist?
Getting really caught up worrying and trying to plan out my future is something I’m guilty of, and I think it’s something we all naturally do. It’s really easy to spend your time trying to calculate what your future looks like and while it’s super important to plan, and be prepared and have goals and dreams, it’s also really important to just be present in a moment and enjoy exactly what is happening around you. Something I’ve learned through songwriting and Wasted Youth, in particular, is that it’s really essential for our well-being to spend more time in the now with people around you that make you feel like the best version of yourself and make you feel good. The song is about living in the moment because you can and because you feel happy. Maybe it’s not someone or something you’re meant to be with or do forever but if it makes you feel good in the moment then do it. The accompanying Spotify #WasteYourYouth playlist is just an extension of that idea. I’m constantly updating it with songs that make me feel really happy and that remind me to focus on what is currently happening around me.
How did it feel to be named one of Spotify’s Spotlight Acts alongside artists like Troye Sivan or Gallant for War Paint?
I’ve been a fan of Troye Sivan and his songs for a long time so when I was named Spotify Spotlight artist alongside him it felt super surreal. It’s really humbling to be compared alongside with artists I’ve looked up to and really admire their careers.
You had your festival debut this summer. How was the experience knowing you have your first headline tour this month?
I had my very first festival debut on the BMI stage at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores Alabama this summer! I was really nervous and not totally sure what to expect as I have been to festivals before but had never performed one. It definitely goes down as one of my most memorable performances. So many people came out to dance and sing with me, I was shocked how many knew the words to my song. It also was pretty nice performing on the sand with the ocean at our backs.
You’ve decided to deliberately be an unsigned artist, which is becoming more and more in the spotlight these days with bedroom-style artists populating the charts. Why did you decide to do this and how important is it for you to remain independent?
When I first started releasing music, and I saw the reaction online to War Paint, it really gave me the confidence to try to pursue a career independently. I think major labels are still really important and essential to most artist careers, but only if you are a priority for the label. It’s been really incredible and liberating to be able to steer my own ship creatively, work on my own timeline, and pursue my artist vision exactly how I was to without anyone else telling me otherwise. The main reason that these bedroom-style and independent artists are even able to have a career though is because of streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, which have really taken over the digital marketplace. It has really given us a voice and a platform to have our work heard in a major way and be able to compete and have the same exposure as a major label act.
How important of a part does songwriting play in your creative process?
Every song of mine that has come out to date, I’ve written. I love being a part of the creative process and watching a song go from conception of an idea to completion. It’s always blown my mind how we walk in the room with absolutely nothing and leave with a piece of art. The writing process is really therapeutic for me and it’s just really important to me to be a part of the writing process because my songs are just an extension of me as a human and I want them to be personal.
From you EP Finding FLETCHER, which would you say is your favourite track and why?
My favourite track off the Finding FLETCHER EP is Princess because it’s the most personal record to me. I wrote it during a time when several people in my life were going through very trying times and I was going through a lot myself. A friend of mine came out to her parents was kicked out and ended up spending nights on my couch, another friend who almost lost her battle to bulimia, and another who was questioning their gender identity and was abandoned by family masked under their religious beliefs. Princess, was a message I really needed to hear and felt that the people around me needed to be reminded that we need these difficult times in life because they make us stronger, and they are what makes each of us unique, individual and human. It’s a song about holding your head high and embracing all of the hard shit life throws your way because it builds character and we come out the other side as stronger individuals.
For the EP you collaborated with producer/songwriter Jamie Kenney. How did you guys link up and how was it working with him?
I actually met Jamie through a former manager of mine who introduced us and we hit it off immediately. Jamie was actually the first producer I ever worked with on original music and the first song we ever wrote together was “War Paint.” I travelled to Nashville on and off for about 6 months writing and recording my entire EP with him. Writing in Nashville was really amazing. Writers really take the time on the lyrics and crafting a story and Jamie really has a niche for developing artists and really crafting a sound. He pulled the best out of me.
You’ve said that the experience of recording the EP with him was a “self-discovery process”. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience working on the EP and now on your forthcoming album?
Like I mentioned, I wrote and worked on the entire EP in Nashville. It was my first time ever really diving into myself as an artist and figuring out what I wanted to write about and how I wanted to be perceived and represent myself which was such a self-discovery process. I learned so much about myself as a human and because of that, I was able to write about those self-explorations and discoveries. It was scary because I was really vulnerable and was opening myself up to people in a way I never ever had before.
You’ve done a lot to highlight some of the industry’s (and society’s) weak points in general, most notably depicting sex same relationships in a normalized and aspiring way. What do you think about representation in the music industry? Is this something that’s always on the back of your mind to tackle with your music?
I just often think that same-sex relationships, between both men and women, are either overly sexualized and fantasised or dysfunctional and depicted as a major struggle. And while there are still many issues within the LGBTQIA community that should have light shed upon, I also think it is important to recognize that it is normal. I wish 16-year-old FLETCHER had a music video to watch where it was just two humans really being into each other and just having an incredible time being in each other’s presence in everyday places living normal lives doing normal things, regardless of gender. I made that video for her and all the other young females who needed that as well, because I know I did.
You’ve said you love the blurring of the lines between alternative and pop music, pretty much crediting Lorde as your main inspiration for this. Pop being such a constricted genre, especially for female artists, do you think this intersection is something you’d explore further with your future music?
I’m a really big fan of artists who are moving the needle within pop music. The trend of bubble gum hooky pop songs with minimal depth has ended and made way for the rebel cool kids who I like to call anti-pop stars. Artists like Lorde, Halsey, Dua Lipa, Astrid S. have really started this new wave new trend happening within pop music that I’m fully here for and plan on riding out for a long time along these other badass ladies.
Your EP has done magnificently so the anticipation is only natural, when can we expect an album of yours? And what can you tell us about it theme-wise?
My debut EP was very self-empowering and anthemic. While the new music carries over those themes as they’re important to me, it is also a lot more introspective. I’m talking about things I’ve never talked about before. It was inspired by moving across the country to a new city, leaving a relationship on the east coast and the fear of being swallowed up in such a big city and in the industry as a whole. I’ve written songs about trying to figure out how to cope with a broken heart without having any closure and learning how to open myself up to love and loving myself, and I’ve written songs about dealing with sharks and shady people in life and the industry who are out to get you. It’s pretty introspective, self-aware, heart on your sleeve pop music.
What can you tell us about your new single You Should Talk?
For me, You Should Talk is about the end of a relationship, one you never really got any closure from. Going from seeing someone every day of your life to never seeing them at all. I think we’ve all been in the spot before where we’ve been ghosted, and are left in the dark with a million questions about a relationship… Or maybe not, is it just me? This song is about the utter sadness of this realization, but also the insane frustration. It’s about wanting to communicate with that person who hurt you so badly that both of us fucked up, it takes two to mess things up. I’m not the only one at fault here. It was therapeutic for me in the way to write this record in that it helped create some version of closure for myself from my last relationship because I never got it from that person. It’s still an open wound – for better and for worse.
What are you most excited about for FLETCHER in the future?
I’m most excited to get out and meet all of the fans and people who have been so incredibly supportive and responsive to my music. I’m heading out on my first headlining tour next week and I’m beyond excited to perform live for everyone. I’ve never been on tour before so this will be my first experience and I really can’t wait for it.
Interview / Sara Delgado
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