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.
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change