With track names like “Wasted Youth” and “War Paint”, it comes as no surprise that Cari Fletcher- known to most simply as Fletcher- makes music that is anthemic and empowering. The songs on her 2016 debut EP Finding Fletcher are fight songs designed for those daring to dream more of love and peace than of war and turmoil; it’s the type of pop music that’s real yet surreal, and down-to-earth yet dreamy. It comes as no surprise, then, that she’s received major recognition already: in 2016 she was named a Spotify spotlight act, and this year she was named as one of TIME’s “Musicians to Watch for 2017” and featured in Entertainment Weekly’s “Breaking Big in 2017.”
The New Jersey native attended NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and like many artists before her, took time off from school to work on her music. Yet unlike the legions of artists who took time off and never went back, it was important to Fletcher to finish her degree. And so when graduation came along last summer, it was time to hit the ground running. She’d written her entire first EP, Finding Fletcher, while on the leave of absence, and with her degree behind her, she was able to pursue her musical career full-force.
This summer Fletcher made her first series of festival performances, including one at the recent Billboard Hot 100 Festival. The festival environment is exciting though “quite overwhelming” for a first timer, but she sees it as a chance to “come out with that energy right away” when she steps on stage. Read on for our interview with Fletcher, where she discussed festivals, navigating the industry as an independent artist, and what continues to inspire her.
Substream: Have you been playing a lot of festivals this summer?
FLETCHER: Yeah- I played a couple festivals this summer. This has been my first time ever playing festivals so it’s been a really exciting summer for me. I was at Firefly. I played Hangout Fest and then now Billboard. I also haven’t been to many festivals so it’s been pretty cool to attend for my first time but also be performing- it’s quite exciting.
Substream: What’s the experience been like of performing at festivals for the first time without ever knowing the fan experience?
FLETCHER: It’s quite overwhelming. The only festival I have been to just as a fan before is Coachella which is definitely the head honcho of all festivals. [It] was a very fun festival. It’s a bit overwhelming as well, just cuz there’s so much going on.
Some of my friends are performing too. Phoebe Ryan’s happening right now and I’m trying to listen. LAUV is playing, who I’m a big fan of, and the Young Bombs played on the Heatseekers Stage this morning. And then also artists that I look up to on the lineup, [to] be here with them [is] quite cool.
Substream: As a performer, do you approach a festival performance differently than you would a regular show?
FLETCHER: I do. When people come to a regular show, they’re there strictly just for you but when they come to a festival, they’re here to see all of their favorite artists and I noticed that the crowds are just way more ready to party and dance right from the start of the set, and so I just come out with that energy right away, too. I’m just like- “Yo let’s have a good time, let’s dance together”- I mean, we’re on the water, at Jones Beach- what better place to have a festival.
Substream: It’s a special place- we are literally on the beach, but we’re also right in the shadow of New York City.
FLETCHER: Which is so cool. And I lived in New York City for four years- I went to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I come back and visit all the time- I stay in New York often and still have a place there- but I’ve been spending a lot more time in LA lately, writing the new music. It’s been interesting making more of a transition to LA and missing New York City.
Substream: You took a year off school to focus on making music and then you came back to school. So many artists will start school and then leave and never come back. Did you know you were going to come back?
FLETCHER: I took the leave of absence because I was feeling very compelled and inspired to go write music based off of what I was experiencing at the time. And I’m so happy that I did that because my entire first EP came out of that. It was important to me. I wanted to have a degree, I wanted to say that I graduated from New York University; it’s been my dream ever since I was a little girl.
Substream: And you’re from New Jersey originally, right?
FLETCHER: I am, so I grew up going to the city and seeing NYU all the time when I was there and so I did that- so it was definitely a big goal of mine.
Substream: When you graduated, were you pretty much just hitting the ground running with the EP?
FLETCHER: Yeah, I was just like, “cool”- I graduated, school’s out of the way, I can full-force pursue the artist career now.
Substream: Was there any feeling of losing your training wheels when you graduated, or were you just ready to go?
FLETCHER: I think that happened while I was at school. I think being there really gave me the confidence to pursue my career as an artist and it fostered that creative energy as well as an entrepreneurial mindset; we’re artists but we’re also businesses.
Substream: It’s interesting with artists in 2017 because every artist has social media and is really active online but some artists will have a whole team that handles their social media- one team that’s handling the photos and then another person that’s analyzing numbers and when to post- but even as an individual, whether you are doing literally everything yourself or you have a team working with you, you have to be a good business person.
FLETCHER: Totally. I think things aren’t possible without a team around you. As an independent artist I am definitely in charge of creative decisions and everything like that, but I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I do if I didn’t have a team around me supporting me. I can’t do that stuff by myself- but at the same time you also have to be able to navigate your team and have your own artistic vision and voice so people know, “Okay, Fletcher would never want to be in a picture like that” or “Fletcher would never talk about something like that.”
Substream: I want to talk about the music video for “Wasted Youth.” It was filmed all lit by iPhone lights- can you tell me about the conceptualization and the story of that?
FLETCHER: It happened very organically. I was down at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles with a bunch of my friends, and we were having a bonfire- drinking, having a bunch of food and alcohol down there- and my best friend who’s an up-and-coming director had his camera, and he just started filming footage of us. And he was like “Wait, this would actually be really cool for ‘Wasted Youth’- this sort of lo-fi, freehand video style.” He had a snapback hat on and he put his phone in the front of his hat- the brim was in the back, and the front of his hat with the iPhone light on it so he could film- and that’s how he was lighting us. It was the most homemade video that you could probably get. It was on a nice camera but it came about in a pretty raw, organic natural way.
Substream: When we’re talking about being comfortable- either in front of the camera or in a recording studio- is it easier to be honest and real when you’re with someone you’ve known forever, or is it ever easier to be honest when you’re with a stranger?
FLETCHER: You know what, I’ve thought about that before. I honestly think that sometimes it’s easier to spill your guts to a stranger because they have no pre-conceived idea of who you were and what you’ve been through. They are just sitting there with no bias or previous idea of how you were in the past, so I almost think that it is a lot easier to tell secrets or just tell what you’re going through, your stories, to a stranger.
I definitely think there’s something to be said about telling your life story to a stranger. I mean I’ve sat down on a curb before with somebody that I didn’t know in New York City and we ended up just telling each other our life stories and then I never saw them again.
Substream: Sometimes you run in to people and you have conversations that you never think about again, but every once in a while you run in to a stranger and you have that one conversation and that just sticks with you.
FLETCHER: That you remember forever, yeah. And it sparks realizations and it makes you really think.
Substream: Do you ever draw on things like that as an artist?
FLETCHER: Oh, all the time. I’m really inspired by everything that’s happening around me- overhearing conversations of a couple fighting or a family talking to one another- I definitely pull inspiration from all of those sort of situations.
Substream: Summer is drawing to a close- as we look in to the fall, what’s on your plate?
FLETCHER: I have been writing a bunch of new music, I’m releasing a brand new single which I’m really excited about. I can’t tell the name of it yet, but it’s coming out very soon and I’m very excited about it. I’m definitely looking forward to releasing the new music for everybody- it sparks the next Fletcher era with new music, so I’m looking forward to that.
Substream: How do you respond to any sort of negativity that you see regarding your work- how do you deal with that or respond to that as an artist?
FLETCHER: I think if you receive any negativity, that means that you’ve gotten to a point in your career where people are hearing about you and that you’ve gotten big enough to a point where people are formulating negative opinions and it’s not just your family and your friends anymore that are telling you that you’re incredible. So it’s like- “Oh cool- I have some haters- I’m doing okay.”
Substream: “Enough people care that it’s not just the people who already love me.”
FLETCHER: Exactly, and so I embrace that it’s going to happen. You can’t please everybody and not everyone’s gonna love you and that goes for music, that goes for anything in your life- just being a human being, not everybody’s gonna love you, and that’s okay- beat to your own drum, do your own thing, and the people that want to be your friend and love you for who you are, will, and they’ll stay in your life.
FLETCHER will be hitting the road for her first-ever headlining tour in October. See all dates in the video below, and head to her official website to purchase tickets.