FLETCHER is Freeing Herself From Every Label (and She Wants You to Join Her)

By Lina Lecaro

Millennials get a bad rap these days, what with being technology-addicted special snowflakes and libtards who care more about selfies and slacktivism than effecting change on the frontlines or creating meaningful art that doesn’t involve emojis. At least that’s the narrative we’ve been fed. Luckily, young artists are using those perceptions in their favor. Enter recording FLETCHER, who is flipping the script and tapping into powerful streaming overlords like Spotify and YouTube to change every sort of preconception a modern young woman has to stand against, from being able to navigate her sexuality privately to what female musicians should look, sound and act like to how they can achieve their dreams in the age of systemic gender equality.

To start, FLETCHER is an advocate of gender non-conformity, an agent of feminism and supports creating music, images and art to make a statement—not money. In 2017, that requires connecting with a broad spectrum of music lovers across genres. Her first single, 2015’s “War Paint,” became a viral sensation and clocked millions of streams after Spotify championed it; her first video shows a same sex relationship and garnered even more attention. Last year’s “Wasted Youth” earned her the top spot on Billboard’s Emerging Artist chart.

Now living on the West Coast and on the cusp of releasing new music, the East Coast native is evolving while doing what she’s always done: speak honestly, work independently and write and perform thoughtfully and authentically. Thus far it’s worked for her, so why stop now? Playboy sat down with the provocative rising star for an exclusive pictorial and interview about her past success, deviating from industry norms, being compared to Lorde and how she’s currently charting her own course in pop music free from record labels.

Photography by Evan Woods
Styled by Chloe and Chenelle Delgadillo
Makeup by Elizabeth Bodnar

  • How did you get into music and how does your background inspire it?
    Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started when I was five years old with classical vocal training. My technical training is actually based in opera and classical music. I went to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, an incredible program. They foster creativity as well as an entrepreneurial mindset there. I ended up taking a year-long leave of absence and going down to Nashville where I wrote and recorded my first EP. When I came back, and I continued school and was releasing music at the same time. I just graduated in May 2016, and then made the move out to Los Angeles. Now I’m getting ready to release the next batch of music.

  • How did Spotify discover you?
    Nylon had done a write-up about my first song when it premiered. I ended up being invited to the Spotify offices where I played them some of the project, and they were really excited about it. Then they put it on a playlist and it just started taking off. The analytics of it were just like, “Okay, cool. This is something that’s definitely reactive on our platform.”

    I hadn’t put anything out prior to “War Paint,” so Spotify was definitely taking a risk by putting a brand new artist on the platform. But I think that’s what’s such an incredible thing right now. It’s such a great time for independent artists because of streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. You get the opportunity to be next to major label acts on a playlist and to have your music heard in the same way that listeners discover Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato’s new tracks.

  • Many artists, including for a short time Taylor Swift, have taken stances against streaming services arguing that the don’t fairly compensate the creators for their music. Artists aren’t getting paid because major labels take every penny that exists from that, and then artists essentially see nothing. They both feel that they have to recoup the artist’s project, and they don’t see very much of their streaming revenue. But when you don’t depend on that big machine or a major record label, and you’re able to put out music independently on your own, you see the direct benefits. I’m able to have a direct relationship with Apple Music and Spotify. Spotify was first. Apple has rallied behind the project in the last year. So it’s definitely an exciting time to be independent, because there’s more opportunity now than there ever has been.

  • As you’ve said, you’ve focused on working without a record label thus far. Will this continue?
    When I was close to signing a major label deal, in the final hour I got cold feet and pulled out and said, You know what? This doesn’t feel right. I’m still figuring out who I am as an artist, and the last thing that I want is to go in as another pop act who gets lost in the shuffle and then gets shelved. There’s too many horror stories and so many deserving, intelligent artists whose projects never got the right attention.

    Yes, there’s label interest; there has been for a while. But it’s not so much that I’m anti-partnering with a major label. It’s that I’m loving the process of being able to do it on my own right now and steer the ship creatively. I’m enjoying the freedom, the creative liberty, and the determination that I have is like- you know what? If shit doesn’t happen, it’s because of me, because I didn’t hustle hard enough. I can’t point the finger at somebody else and say oh, so-and-so did the timeline wrong or it’s so-and-so’s fault a song didn’t come out. It’s me and my team rising every single day.

    That’s not something that I’m willing to give up. I would like to be one of the first major pop female acts to break independently because of streaming services. And I think that we’re in a time right now where that can happen. I’d love to see that happen for others too; I want to pioneer that phase.

  • Sexuality is a big theme in your music, so you get questioned about your sexuality a lot. Are you tired of discussing it?
    I don’t get tired of discussing it because the more we talk about it, and the more conversations that we have, the more normalized the topics of sexuality and gender become. We need to have more conversations and not make it some weird, secret, embarrassing thing to talk about. It’s important for our nation’s youth to be able to see these conversations and know that, “Okay, cool, my feelings are validated and I’m normal and I’m going to be okay.”

  • What would you like to see happen when it comes to how we view gender and sexuality?
    I can’t wait for the day when my children can come to me and if they want to come out, that they never actually have to come out any more. They can come home and say, “Hey, I like a boy today; I like a girl today; I like whatever the fuck I want today.” If we can live in a time like that, the world would be a better place. I’m in a generation where people aren’t so quick to box ourselves into a conforming identity. It’s a freedom of self-expression and sexual fluidity and just loving who you want, when you want to and also not having to know the answers to everything.

  • Is that why you’ve refrained from labeling your sexuality?
    People having the ability to put you into a category helps them understand you better. And that’s definitely what a lot of us do. I do that myself, and then I have to remind myself that we’re all just human and we can like and love whoever we want. I identify with the LGBT community, but as far as lesbian, gay, bisexual? It’s not something I have ever felt the need to pin myself as. I’m very much attracted to energies and people and being with who makes me feel good.

  • How do you keep this conversation alive, in your music and beyond, at a time when our current administration doesn’t support progressive thinking? How has the political culture of this country affected your current songwriting?
    Considering the political climate we’re in right now, it makes it even more important to speak your mind and put your voice out there and be a light for the people who need it where there isn’t one. It makes me feel even more passionate about talking about the things that some have been told must be silenced. I’m proud to continue doing what I’m doing; it has for sure inspired my music.

  • What are some of the lyrical themes in your new material?
    It’s not solely about political commentary and sexuality. That’s been a theme within my music, but the music is more introspective now. It’s about me moving from New York to Los Angeles and coping with the fear of living in a new city and trying to make it in the music industry and dealing with all sorts of people who you’ll never know if they have your best interests at heart. I was in a relationship that ended with absolutely no closure. So the music is about that and what that process has been like for me and sort of learning to love again and love myself again. There’s a bit more like heart-on-your-sleeve type of lyrics this time.

  • What about sonically? Has your music evolved as far as tempos, instrumentation and arrangements?
    The tempos are a bit more—there are some slower, mid-tempo jams. I’m writing some up-tempo stuff, but it definitely has a bit more of a somber drive to it. The lyrical content is always usually pretty heavy and the production right now is maybe more minimal than it has been before.

  • How do you feel about getting compared to female pop artists like Lorde and Lana Del Rey?
    They are two of my top five favorite artists in the entire world. I think being compared to other females like that—it’s a compliment. I pull a lot of inspiration from artists like that, from the females in the pop scene that are killing it who have careers I want to emulate. Still, you want to have your own voice and niche within the space, but being compared to artists like that is definitely a compliment, because they’re incredible.

  • How are you translating your music to video, the primary way we get our information and entertainment these days?
    I have the video for a song called “Princess,” one for the song “Wasted Youth” and one for “You Should Talk,” which just debuted. Visual content is the most important thing for any artist’s career in that you’re framing how you want the audience to perceive you, look at you and what you want them to think of when they listen to your music. It paints a vibe, paints a picture. When we listen to artists, it’s about what we visualize and how it makes us feel, and you’re basically saying this is the energy I want you to have and get from my music.

  • What are you trying to do with the sexually charged video for your latest single, “You Should Talk?”
    Visually, it has a vintage, nostalgic fantasy feel. You’re not sure the entire time if the content of the video is happening in my head or if it’s happening in real life. The song is about a relationship ending on bad terms, and you’re hearing what the other person is going around town saying about you, but you’re saying you should be the one to talk, because fucking it up takes two people, and this one’s on you, too.

  • What are some challenges women face in this industry, and what have been your personal challenges?
    There’s still such a long way to go for women in the music industry. We aren’t putting women in enough power positions, and there’s not nearly enough female CEOs and owners of businesses and heads of record labels. It’s an important time to be a feminist and I’m proud to say that I am one, and that I grew up learning that from my mom, because she was such a badass. As a little girl growing up she always told me to not to take anybody’s shit and to beat to my own drum and just be me. I’m grateful for her instilling that in me at such a young age. And I think that’s something women face every day, just being sexualized and categorized into certain roles within the industry. If we lift up other women up and empower each other, the industry will be a better place.