Millennials — a generation the mainstream media loves to tarnish as entitled, lazy and self-absorbed. But stereotypes like these fail to speak to the extensive research that proves millennials are driven by much more than a desire to capture the perfect selfie — in fact, on the whole, they’re well educated, civic-oriented, progressive and incredibly entrepreneurial. Look no further than 23-year old Cari Fletcher, otherwise known as FLETCHER. A self-described “power pop” artist, she represents the kind of fearlessness, unbridled ambition, self-determination and desire to change the world that has catapulted so many millennials to success.
Ever since “War Paint” was included as part of Spotify’s Spotlight on 2016 list — a song she wrote and self-published online while studying at NYU — Fletcher has become a viral sensation. “War Paint” has amassed over 19 million Spotify listens to date, and the video for “Wasted Youth” — from her debut EP, Finding Fletcher — has already racked up 1.3 million views since being released in March 2017. Even more impressive than her level of notoriety is the absence of a major label to credit for her success.
Instead, hard work, honesty, and an entrepreneurial approach — and irrefutable talent, of course — have solidified FLETCHER’s position as a refreshingly authentic pop star whose legions of fans value her message of self-acceptance and female empowerment.
Set for release in just a few months’ time, Fletcher’s first full-length effort is inspired by her recent experience of ending a relationship and moving across the country, and will include the highly anticipated single, “You Should Talk”. In between song-writing sessions, Georgie caught up with Fletcher to discuss using her platform for good, the relationship with her fans, and the pros and cons of being an independent artist.
Georgie—Can you give us any insight into your new album?
FLETCHER—My EP [Finding Fletcher] and all my other music that’s out there right now is pretty introspective, and it’s very anthemic and empowering. And while my music sort of carries those themes over — like female empowerment, which is something that’s very important to me — this project dives a little bit more deeply into myself and talks about things I haven’t really spoken about before. I just recently moved to Los Angeles and it’s really about the fear of being in a new city and leaving a relationship back on the East Coast, and learning to love myself and love again. It’s talking about the new experiences I’ve had —moving across the country away from my family and friends is something I’ve never done before. There are definitely a lot of those concepts and themes throughout the new music — like, the fear that naturally comes with unfamiliarity.
G—Are you able to tell us who’s producing it, or if you’re working with any other artists?
F—I’m still sorting out all of those details. I’ve been working with a lot of different producers — every song and song-writing session has been with different people and different writers. I’m still figuring out who I vibe with.
G—How does the experience of putting this album together compare to your EP?
F—I actually wrote all of the music for my EP down in Nashville with one other co-writer, named Jamie Kenny. So the process has been totally different, because this has been my first time writing in LA — and there’s definitely a different style here than writing in Nashville. In Nashville, people really take their time crafting the story of the lyrics, and I think that comes from the country quality of Nashville — country songs are whole stories from start to finish. It was really amazing to think about my lyrics in that way, so I try to do that wherever I am, even now. I try to have my songs paint a really clear picture and story.
G—You’ve achieved a lot of success in a relatively short space of time — does it all feel a bit surreal sometimes?
F—It feels really surreal to me, all the time! I think it’s important to be around good people that keep you grounded and keep you humble, and who love you and support you regardless of what you’re doing in your life. Anything like this can all just kind of stop happening tomorrow — nothing’s ever guaranteed. I’m just super humbled that this is happening to me and I’m getting to write music and have people respond to it. To have people tell me that it’s helped them through a time in their life… that’s really the surreal part about it all — the reaction that I’ve gotten from people.
G—You talk a lot about wanting to normalize same-sex relationships, and I imagine that message really resonates with your fans. What sort of feedback have you received? Are there any other messages that speak to your fans, or ways that you’ve influenced them?
F—I wrote the song “Princess” at a time when I was personally going through a lot of struggles, as were a lot of people around me. I had a friend who was gender transitioning and their family kicked them out of their house, masked under the cover of their religious beliefs. And I had another person in my life whose father was dying of terminal cancer, and a friend who almost lost her battle with bulimia. So there were all these people around me at the time who were on this really crazy emotional rollercoaster, and I found so many people reaching out to me with their stories saying, “You know, I had an eating disorder for X amount of time, and this song gives me hope in a way”. People were just reaching out to me with their personal stories and their own experience of what I had talked about in the songs. And you know, to be able to look at the “Wasted Youth” video and see a same-sex couple normalized in everyday settings… I think that’s so important, because it gives people something to look to and to look up to, and to see an example of themselves in some way or relate to in some capacity.
G—Is it difficult to be so open in your music and put yourself out there? Or is it somehow empowering?
F—I used to have a lot of trouble opening up to people. I struggled a lot with the idea of vulnerability and the idea of people having any sort of pity or feeling bad if you were going through a hard time. The idea of people thinking I was struggling with something made me so uncomfortable. And I thought a lot about other people feeling uncomfortable, and I think that was a really difficult thing with me. It was like, I don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable so I should compromise myself for that. That was something that I realized I just needed to get over if I wanted to have any sort of happiness in this life — you know, to care about other people but also to worry about yourself first and foremost. The more I’ve been writing over the last few years the more it’s been therapeutic to talk about myself, because it’s really helped me to accept myself and love myself. And the people that have been responding to my music have played such a huge role, too; it’s like my feelings are validated. It’s a healing process, being vulnerable — and letting people into your life. I think it’s really important to do that. That’s what people connect with — people are attracted to human flaws, so it’s important to share them.
G—How does social media allow you to connect with your fans in that way?
F—I think it’s really the only way that I’m able to connect — I mean, of course I connect through music, but with social media I can have a direct, personal relationship with fans and see them react in real-time to my content. I can go to their profiles and comment back to them, or look at their pictures or fan accounts and interact in that way. It’s immediate and it’s the most personal way that artists can be with their fan base, other than physically seeing them. We’re fully living in the social media generation — where music, brands, aesthetic, and personality really shine and thrive.
G—Of course, a form of social media is music streaming — and you really blew up on Spotify after you were named as part of the Spotlight on 2016 list. Was finding that sort of success on Spotify partly what gave you the confidence to do this on your own, rather than go to a big label?
F—Exactly — you pretty much hit the nail on the head. Spotify was so incredible to me when I first released my project, and really the number one supporter and one of the biggest reasons why the song “Warpaint” was able to be as viral as it was. They really rallied behind it. It’s such an interesting time for independent artists, because streaming services have really given us an outlet to get your music out there without having a big machine like a record label behind the project. It allows us to really be able to do it on our own, because streaming is such a huge thing now.
G—There are obviously some perks to being independent, like having the freedom to be authentic and do things your own way, but would you say is it more challenging in some ways? What would your advice be to anyone looking to follow a similar route?
F—I would certainly say it’s challenging because of the lack of infrastructure. You are working off of your own financial resources and it’s definitely difficult. You have to be super organized and driven, because there’s nobody telling you that you have to get music to them by a certain deadline. It’s really just based off of your own grind and motivation But I would say the pros fully outweigh the cons — like getting to be creative and drive the ship, and getting to tell my story in exactly the way that I want to. It’s been really incredible and empowering to get to this point on my own. And obviously I have an incredible team of people around me who are constantly uplifting and supporting me and helping to facilitate incredible opportunities. It’s difficult, but very liberating at the same time.
G— I saw the love letter for the LGBTQ community that was shared on Billboard as part of Gay Pride Month. What did it mean to you to have your voice included in something like this?
F—It’s funny, because just a few weeks before I knew I was doing the love letter, I was reading a bunch of them and saw Celine Dion’s on there — and I have been a huge fan of hers ever since I was a little girl. So to have my name included and my words included on the same page is a pretty surreal, crazy experience.
G—When you first started off in music, did you ever envision that you’d have this kind of platform?
F—I do it because I love to make music and there’s nothing else in this world that I would or could ever envision myself doing. But I think it’s important that when people are given this platform that they use it for good and for bettering the world in some capacity, and leaving it a better place than they left it. To be given these opportunities to talk about things that I’m really passionate about —even if I can just help one person in this lifetime — I’ll feel fulfilled. I’m super grateful to be able to have this platform and talk about all the things I ever wanted to talk about, and to try and make the world a little better.
G—What are some of the key issues you want to continue to talk about as you go along?
F—I was raised by a mother who instilled in me from the day I was born to be my own person and never take anyone’s shit — to be the leader of the pack and beat to my own drum. My family always created this environment that fostered creativity, individuality, and self-expression. So with my music, I really want to help people to experience a similar self-discovery process. It’s the most important thing you could ever do — to really dive into yourself and, you know, figure out what it is that you’re passionate about and what makes you tick, what you hate, what you love, and what makes you angry. I think self-expression and female empowerment are important, and I’m passionate about the LGBTQ community, the issues of female sex trafficking, education for women, eating disorders and mental health. I was a mental health minor at NYU, and it’s come in handy. Music is like emotional science, so it’s been interesting to apply that.
G—Why take the time to complete a degree if being an artist is all you ever wanted to do?
F—I was actually in the Clive Davis Institute or Recorded Music and ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. NYU was a school I wanted to go to ever since I was a little girl and knew about college being a thing. I’m a first generation college student in my family, and I really wanted to go and expand my knowledge of what being in the music industry meant. I took classes there on entertainment law, copyright law for artists, marketing — and these classes are the only reason that I’ve been able to get myself to the point that I am now without a label. I knew that an artist needs a lawyer and publicist and management and all these behind-the-scenes things that sometimes people don’t think about. It was important for me to tap into all those spaces. I did a lot of internships in management and music publishing, and I just wanted to know everything that it took to manage an artist, publish an artist, and become the best artist that I possibly could — to really have an entrepreneurial mindset about being an artist. Artists are businesses. We’re human, but we’re businesses too.
Over the past four years, Halifax pop artist Ria Mae has accomplished dreams she has openly spoken about: being produced by fellow Nova Scotia success story Classified and touring with Tegan and Sara and Coleman Hell. Since creating her self-released demo of “Clothes Off” in 2013, she has signed with Sony Music and Nettwerk Management. The former has helped develop the careers of Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Coldplay, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, and many more. The finished version of the song – her major label debut – earned Mae her first Juno nomination, for “Single of the Year” in 2016, which put her in direct competition against Drake, The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber. From Mae’s new home in Toronto, only two days removed from a cross-Canada tour with Scott Helman, she spoke with Georgie about her sudden rise, working with Classified, stepping up as a voice for LGBTQ groups, and more. G—As you’ve discovered, you can make a lot of unexpected connections in a small town. But that can be a good thing because working with people who differ from you in their approach forces you to create from new perspectives. Do you ever have reservations about working with people who
Three years after the release of his first EP, Augusta, Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman has unleashed his debut full-length LP, Hôtel de Ville, a collection of 12 alt-pop coming-of-age tracks. The 22-year-old Toronto native who successfully broke into the music industry in his mid-teens earned himself two Juno Award nominations, certified gold status for his hit, Bungalow, and began quickly fielding comparisons to the likes of Vance Joy and Jeff Buckley. With a new level of acclaim awaiting him, Helman has recently finished his cross-Canada Scott vs. Ria tour with fellow Juno nominee Ria Mae. We thought it would be the right time to ask him about his momentous musical journey. G—You got your first guitar when you were ten. Was this what led you to become a musician? Scott Helman—I used to mess around on my friend’s guitar, and really wanted to learn how to play. So, I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas. I remember coming down the stairs and seeing it, and knowing instantly what it was because of its shape. I never put it down after that. G—What kind of music did you listen to growing up? SH—My parents are British immigrants, so
Swedish electro-pop mainstays Little Dragon have been around the block. The four-piece band first formed over a decade ago and in that time steadily rose to become one of the world’s biggest indie electro-pop acts. Touring in support of their fifth studio album, Season High, we spoke with bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin about evolving band dynamics, love of music and inspiration behind their latest release. Georgie—You released your fifth album, Season High, earlier this year. How do you feel about this record in comparison to your previous one? Fredrik Källgren Wallin—It is different, but it is hard to pin down how. We worked a little bit with a producer for the mixing parts, and we have never done that before. We have also become better at communicating and making decisions. I think we fight less; it’s more civilized [laughs]. G—You’ve also worked on some interesting collaborations with other artists, but these tracks didn’t make it onto any of your albums. Was this a conscious decision? FKW—It was a conscious decision; it is such collaboration between the four of us. We did have a friend who appears on the first track of the album – he’s an old high school friend,