Finding a freedom within embracing her vulnerability, Chelsea Cutler opened her heart to the world earlier this year through the release of her debut album ‘How To Be Human’. The raw collection of songs heard her processing a break-up, the ups and downs of life, the struggles of love, crossing into adulthood and the metaphorical picking up of the pieces along the way.
Originally written as an emotional release for herself, the album has gone on to soundtrack those personal revelations for her growing legion of fans. But the idea of other people hearing those candid thoughts was something that scared her quite deeply.
“When I’m in the moment, that vulnerability comes from a place of me trying to ease internal dissonance, and trying to release some internalised emotion. It’s honestly so scary to do, because it’s like when you have a soft conversation with someone at 2am, where anything goes, and in the morning you wake up and read the conversation back in shame. Writing a super vulnerable song is like that because you listen back to it and think that it’s too much to share with the world” she explains to ThomasBleach.com
The lyrics behind these honest stories are deeply candid and artistically vivivd in a way that there is no hiding who and what they are about in her life. But Cutler is aware of that, and before releasing the album she shared the songs with the subject matters so nothing came as a surprise.
“If they had said no, I can’t really speak for if I would’ve even respected that, but I definitely wanted permission and their blessing to put the music out because it was important for me to not speak ill of anybody. I always want to paint people in a beautiful nostalgic melancholy light, and not in a vengeful way” she explains.
Citing a recent tweet from Alexander 23 where he proclaimed “songwriters are really just translators. Taking intangible feelings and putting them into a more easily digestible form”, she reiterated that sentiment with the way people have become so connected with this album. It’s truly the power of music, as you can listen to a song and feel like they’ve written it from your personal diary and have articulated everything you’ve ever wanted to say so beautifully.
Discussing the transparency behind some of my favourite lyrics from the album, she didn’t shy away from explaining the articulation of these feelings and how she freely just wanted to translate her emotions.
“You have my heart, but you don’t even want it” – ‘Sad Tonight’
“I was going through a little bit of a rough patch in a break up, and it was so crazy to me how someone can totally own your heart, and your so weak for them, but they don’t care. Like you can have so much love for somebody, and they don’t need to love you for you to love them. It’s actually such a selfless thing”.
“Thought I’d know it all by 21” – ‘How To Be Human’
“I feel like in high school you look at the seniors and think they are so old as they’re dating and drinking beer at parties. And then you become a senior in high school, and then a senior in college, and then you graduate, and it’s like you expect to have it all figured out but you never do”.
“I wrote that because I had a realisation that we will probably never have it figured it out. I was 21 at the time, and was still very confused and super unsure about everything. And to be honest with you, I still am”.
“Even when you’re hurting me, I’ll still be your person, baby” – ‘I Was In Heaven’
“I’m not someone who is still friends with my exes, but I think that lyric is another example of how so much of my writing is about me being so down to give love. I just know that I love really hard. I grew up in a family that really demonstrated loving each other passionately, so that’s just how I am”.
“Know you couldn’t see the future but I swear that I saw it” – ‘NJ’
“When I love, I love hard. Being an artist and a creative person, you have this fucking fairytale in your head of this wonderful life, and it’s crazy because you can see something so clearly with this other person, but the counterpart in the relationship doesn’t see that, and you question whether you’re even in the same relationship. Like how are they not seeing what I’m seeing?”.
It’s been seven months since Cutler released ‘How To Be Human’ and within that short time the whole world has drastically changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With all of her live performances scrapped for the unforeseeable future, this hasn’t been the way she imagined her debut album roll-out.
“It’s really interesting to put out music and then not be able to fully process and explore it. I got to tour it for four weeks, but we had a summer of festivals planned and a whole fall tour, which are obviously not happening. So I think it’s a really unique time for artists and their relationship with their music, because while giving birth to an album is obviously big part of it, it’s only one component. You grow with the music, and you continue to develop your relationship with it as you continue to perform it and connect with the fans over it”.
“In some ways it’s been a little detaching because I haven’t had the time to really live with the music yet. Hopefully when the world opens up we will be able to tour and I will be able to reconnect with it.” she explains.
Through having time to be creative, she decided to reinterpret one of the albums biggest fan favourites, ‘Crazier Things’. Teaming up with Noah Kahan, she gives this song a refreshed outlook as she turns the deeply emotional song into a vivid duet.
“For me there was no hesitation in doing it as Noah was my first thought. I think he’s so remarkable, I think his songwriting is crazy, and I think his voice is amazing. So I texted him asking if he was keen to jump on the track, and he literally wrote and sent back his verse in like 10 minutes”.
“We ended up taking some of the live tracks from tour and throwing them on there to brighten it up as the live version is so fun and energetic. I think both things breathe such new life into the song” she sights.
The evolution of the song is quite DIY too because it was written, recorded and produced the day before she turned the album into her label. Even though it was born in the literal last hour, it found a way into everyone’s hearts because of it’s raw sentiment.
“When I wrote it, I just sent a voice memo from my phone to my team and we were talking about how cool the song was and how if we don’t include it on the album then it could be a good thing for the next project. But the conversation struck a chord with me as it didn’t make sense for me to hold off from putting that song out, as it was how I feel right now. So for me what that meant was that we buckled up to get the song finished so we could get it out” she laughs.
‘How To Be Human’ isn’t just her debut album, it’s a window into a moment of her life. On this self-learning experience she’s learnt to embrace her emotions in the most honest way possible and has created a collection of tracks that will have you feeling both warm with comfort and emotionally tender. The vulnerability is high, but that’s what has made it such a compelling listen.
‘How To Be Human’ and ‘Crazier Things’ featuring Noah Kahan is out now!