26-year-old Cari Fletcher (FLETCHER to her fans) is here to make one thing clear: she’s not your typical pop heroine. The New Jersey-native is both the broken pieces of a mirror and the glittering reflection staring back at you; her startlingly honest portrayal of her inner thoughts and struggles a clear contrast to her knack for making a good dance tune. And, she’d just like you to know, she hasn’t actually got it all figured out either.
With two EPs under her belt (‘Finding Fletcher’ and ‘you ruined new york for me’) and over 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, FLETCHER has already built herself the foundations of a fizzing musical career. And she’s done it all by being the most authentic version of herself. Her latest project, The S(ex) Tapes, explores that authenticity in full; its 7-track-expression detailing the ins and outs of her latest breakup with YouTuber and LGBTQ advocate Shannon Beveridge. Aptly named due to its intimate vulnerability; the EP is a fantastic collection of heart-breaking dance-pop and is just another way for the rising star to turn her pain into something beautiful and most importantly, relatable.
Over a fuzzy computer screen, FLETCHER chats to us about her feelings making the EP and the ones she’s been stuck with afterwards. She shares what it was like working with her ex, how she navigates being a queer woman in the modern pop stratosphere, and just what advice she’d give to her teenage self.
First off, I just want to say if I had had someone like you when I was a teenager, it would’ve been literally life changing. What do you hope your younger female fans take from your work the most?
Wow. First of all, thank you. That really means a lot to me. That makes me emotional because I’ve always set out since I was a little kid to be the artist I needed when I was growing up. I think [I needed] somebody to look to to see an example of humanity and to see [them] being honest about their experiences in a really transparent way. I feel like I’m always making my decisions and I’m always speaking from that place, like thinking about little me and little Cari watching and what she kind of needed to hear. So, I hope that people in general (from the music) are just able to … I don’t know. The most beautiful thing is to just feel seen and represented, and I hope that there’s some part of themselves they’re able to find in it. And also, that it just feels like a hug in some way, you know? We’re all just kind of confused and trying to figure out our lives. It’s messy and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and to know that a lot of people feel that way too [is important].
What I admire about you the most is how casually you share your sexuality. You’re not specifically a queer pop star, you’re not pandering. You’re simply just you. And as a queer woman myself, it’s so nice to see myself honestly represented for once. Why do you think queer representation for women in pop music especially is so important?
I think it’s so important because at the end of the day, all anybody ever wants is to feel seen and to be heard. To feel represented and to look to someone and say oh I see a little bit of myself here, I see myself in this situation or I can do that too. And that was something that I feel like I really needed growing up. That sort of antiquated, cookie cutter pop star mould was something I just never saw myself fitting into, [or something] I ever wanted to fit into. The representation of somebody just living their truth I think, in whatever capacity that is, like in any form of media or in any industry, we just need so much more of it. And just being a queer woman in music, this is the most I can bring to the table and to an experience. [I’m] using my platform to further shed light on the things that I feel are important and help in terms of that representation, because it is so, so life changing.
Let’s talk about The S(ex) Tapes. What was it like making something so vulnerable with your ex?
It was a lot. It was really emotional, it was hard, it was beautiful, it was fun. It was just all the feelings. Which is kind of just what life is anyway, just feeling the full range of emotions and the rollercoaster of it all. There’s no one else I could’ve ever imagined making that with. You know, The S(ex) Tapes is such a vulnerable look at an on and then off again relationship and situation with somebody that you just really love. I think often times in media we’re only given like two examples of relationships, it’s either it’s us together and everything’s perfect and great or it’s I hate my ex, f**k you, I never wanna see you again. And there’s totally this in between world of two people really loving each other but being like there’s still so much life that I need to grow through and go through, and learn how to be independent and work on myself to be a better person and a better partner for myself and for anyone and for my friendships. So, it was really therapeutic I think for us to put all the things that we were kind of talking about into something visual and get a piece of art at the end of it.
And there is so much strength in the EP, in terms of you still loving your ex, but needing to work on yourself. Why do you think we can become so codependent in a relationship? And is it always dangerous?
I guess I just feel like, how can you really look as deeply inwards as you possibly can if there’s a safety net? I feel like I have codependency issues 100%. I don’t know how to be by myself and I haven’t trusted myself and my gut and my instinct. I’m always using other people as emotional crutches and I don’t wanna do that anymore. I wanna be okay by myself because that impacts everything. It impacts the way you move through every decision you make and every conversation that you have. I wanna be stronger for me. And I think, you know, we’re all afraid of being alone. There’s just like this collective sense of not wanting to feel disconnected and this sense of othering. That we’re not good enough by ourselves and we need somebody else’s validation and it’s true, I bought into it and I think we all collectively do. I also don’t know what I’m doing either, so I don’t f**king know. I don’t have it figured out, but I feel like the root of so many of my issues comes from the fact that I have never been on my own and I just wanna know what that person looks like.
And I think that’s why ‘Feel’ hits so heavy. Did writing it help you overcome those feelings or are you still in them?
Yeah, I’m still in all of them. It kind of changes like even as the day goes on, you know? That’s the thing about this project, it’s so in real time and it’s such a living and breathing thing for me. So, to be talking about these emotions and processing them alongside people at the exact same time has been a really weird thing for me. I feel like I’m kind of in the ‘Silence’ phase of it now, like taking time and space in silence to just be away. I got a little spot to spend a couple weeks by myself and I’ve been cooking and painting and doing puzzles and trying to adult. I went to the grocery store and I panic bought a zillion tomatoes and so much s**t I don’t even like. I bought like finger-length potatoes and I don’t even know what to do with them; like what does one do with finger-length potatoes? I have no idea, but I’m trying. I’m figuring it out and that’s okay.
Will there ever be something too personal to share?
I don’t know. Somebody else asked me that and I’m just like I don’t really know what I haven’t talked about. I don’t really have a filter. I don’t know what happened. I blame my parents partially, being from the Jersey Shore and just being very honest. It’s just always been that way. But I think talking about my feelings was something that was very hard for me for a long time. And I just realised how freeing it is when you do, to just be like yeah, I feel like shit and I’m actually depressed or I feel amazing, I feel sexy, this is the season of my life that I’m in. Because it changes, because that’s just how it goes.
How is it being so personal and having millions of other people be like “yeah, I feel that too”?
It’s been really beautiful. It’s the thing that makes it all worth it for me because when you’re in the phases of this, especially going through a breakup, you think that you’re the only person going through it. You’re like literally no one understands what this feels like, this was my person and these were our things. And it’s like no, everyone feels that way about a breakup. And you’re like but nobody understands this and that, but it’s such a universal feeling. To know that there are so many people like actively right now in this moment, as you and I are speaking, that are crying about somebody right now. That are longing for somebody or trying to be on their own and do the same thing and discover themselves; or stuck in a situation that they want to get out of. I don’t know, we’re just all on this journey of something. And when I put out music and that’s the response that I get from it, I’m like oh yeah, we’re all just humans.
I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but you were briefly on The X Factor when you were younger and put in a girl group. How does something like that, being in a girl group, being on TV etc, impact you as a teenage girl?
It impacted me terribly I’d say. I lost so much of my self-confidence. I was told and made to feel like I wasn’t strong enough to even sing the main melody, and that I should sing the backup and do the low harmonies. So, I got really good at low harmonies in 2011 and that’s come in handy because I love f**king harmonies on all my stuff now! But yeah, it took a really big toll. I was like oh, I’m not good enough to do this on my own, I need other people to be successful and that played a really big role in terms of my self-identity. Like, I’m better with other people in the picture. And that’s just not true, and it’s a narrative I had to unlearn.
If you could say one thing now to that younger you, what would it be?
I’d say, “don’t wear that f**king outfit, it looks really bad on you.” And I would say “speak up and tell somebody that you don’t like something [or] you don’t think that this is a good song choice. Trust your instinct and your gut because you know. You know. Nobody knows better for you than you do. You are your best ally and your best advocate, and if you don’t speak up on your behalf, nobody’s going to because nobody cares. We’re all inherently selfish at the end of the day, so just do you and then you can’t go wrong because none of this s**t matters anyway.”
When you were that age, what artists did you admire the most for their honesty and vulnerability?
I think I was just really drawn to the people that weren’t abiding by any societal standards or norms or gender roles. People just doing s**t that they weren’t supposed to and just went against the script in a way. Like Madonna, Patti Smith, Joan Jett and David Bowie and people that I think were just pushing the boundaries in terms of sexuality and challenging what that looks like, especially during their time. I’ve always just been drawn to like the rebels and people that were just kind of like “f**k the system and f**k anybody who doesn’t like my s**t. I don’t care.”
Do you think pop as a whole is changing more into people not really giving a s**t, compared to the cookie cutter 90s and such?
Yeah, I think so. I just think with the state of the world right now, people don’t have time to be fed anything that’s just not real. Nobody has the emotional capacity, nobody has the energy; nobody wants to be fed bulls**t anymore. Not that they ever did to begin with, but I think it was just all that we had so we thought it was what was right and what was real. But yeah, I do feel a really big shift happening of people just like showing themselves a little bit more. And that’s for good and for bad. I feel like we’re seeing true colours and that’s very necessary, and I wanna jump on that bandwagon and do it in my own way.
Lastly, what do you think the future for queer women looks like?
I’m tired of seeing queer relationships being overly sexualised and portrayed through the male gaze. I [hope for] a future of people very authentically living their truths and being unapologetically themselves, and a future where queer people can stop coming out. Because, like, why are we still doing that? We have to. And to just continue the conversations for all queer women and queer women of colour and Black trans women, [the latter of] who this community was literally founded upon. They’re the reason why I even have the ability to speak as fluently as I do about my experience. I’ve benefitted off of the progression of the gay rights movement without facing any of the oppression. [I hope] to continue shedding light and to keep making this a fair and safer place even within our own community. There’s still so much work to do and I will continue to use my platform to talk about that for as long as I can.
FLETCHER’s third and latest EP ‘The S(ex) Tapes’ is available to listen now