Chelsea Cutler Is Recapturing the Euphoria of Human Connection [Q&A]

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Photo: Lauren Tepfer

Chelsea Cutler gracefully stands firm in her resolve that vulnerability, communication, and honesty make an album. Her sophomore project, When I Close My Eyes, brings with it a euphoric, radiant energy, exploring a vast range of emotions in unflinching detail. With soft vocals and electronic melodies, Cutler has curated her own intoxicating fusion of pop, electronic, and alternative that truly come to life on her latest effort.

Fully involved in the songwriting, performance, and production of When I Close My Eyes, Cutler cements herself as an artist who not only truly cares about what she's putting out in the world but one who pours her very heart and soul into her music.

We had the chance to speak to Cutler about her sophomore album, mental health, and returning to the euphoria of being in a crowded room, surrounded by music.  

Ones to Watch: How are you today? 

Chelsea Cutler: I'm feeling good, I appreciate you asking. I got back from tour on Monday night and I went straight to a LANY concert yesterday. I just moved right before I left for tour, so yesterday I had a ton of furniture delivered because it was like my first day home… Then I went and saw Holly Humberstone, and then today, I'm like, "Why have I done all of this?" I am so tired and I should have taken a beat to relax. But, yeah, I'm feeling good, I'm a little tired, but I am so excited for the album to come out.

Walk me through the concept of When I Close My Eyes.

I think the really cool thing about this album versus How To Be Human is that How To Be Human was a really, really concept-based album. When I Close My Eyes, sonically, there is much more cohesion and conceptually, it's a bit more all over the map, because I think that we all felt a crazy amount of emotion in the last year-and-a-half, two years. I think there is so much time to reflect and think, so I feel like I explored a lot of different things when I was writing, rather than writing specifically about one theme. There's such a wide spectrum on it. There's an emotion for everyone. There's a thought for everyone. There's contemplation for everyone on it.

You have a great history of collaboration and authentic friendships. Tell me about the importance of those relationships in regard to the creation of your new album.

I definitely could not have made this album without those relationships. I'm really fortunate that I was able - for the first time in my life, actually - to get in the room with an extended period of time with them, to write. We spent a couple weeks in Newport, Rhode Island. ayokay's parents have a house there and they were generous enough to let us set up shop there for a bit… and Quinn XCII actually wrote his album in that house and kind of convinced me to come out and write a lot of my album there as well. I can definitely say there is nothing more fun than spending a week with some of your best friends, writing music. I live in New York and there's not a huge writing scene here. I also feel like my circle of friends has always remained kind of consistent since I was in middle school. So, I don't have a ton of friends in the music industry in New York, so it was like, "Holy cow!," when I got to spend a whole week with other artist friends of mine. I don't get to do that very often. It was like the coolest, most collaborative thing, ever! So, I just had a blast and you can tell how much fun we had making the album.

So your album is called When I Close My Eyes. Say you close your eyes and you can open them to see anything or anyone, what do you see?

Well, I think that question changes based on what you're missing at the moment and what the thing you want at the moment [is]. I think for me, when I was writing this album, all I was craving was being on stage, traveling, being surrounded by my friends. I guess tour encompasses all of those things. So, I think overall, what I really missed was getting to tour and perform for everybody. That's my favorite feeling on earth. 

Can you boil down that feeling of being on tour?

Yeah, I mean when it's a good show, it’s euphoric. It's crazy how different, like if you're standing in front of 5,000 people, it could go one of many ways. But when it's good, it's really euphoric. I'm sure it's probably a really unnatural dopamine rush, but I guess it is natural, because it's not induced by anything but human connection. It's like the craziest feeling.

Talk to me about the aesthetics of the album. Did Newport hold any inspiration or was it just a place to be creative?

It was more a place to be. I wrote a lot of the album in New York City; I wrote a lot of it in Westport, Connecticut, where my parents live. I also wrote a good few songs in Los Angeles, too. It's interesting. I probably wrote like five or six songs on the album in Newport and the rest kind of from those other three locations. I don't think any one location had too much of an influence over the visual aesthetic. For me, the visual aesthetic was derived from this notion of… I wanted to be anywhere else besides in quarantine, which I think a lot of us felt. I understand that that comes from a slightly privileged place to be able to say that because I know some people had a much more difficult time than I did over the last 18 months. That being said, I think going from touring so frequently and being so busy with work to being quarantined with just my 60-year-old parents and myself at their house. I accidentally ended up quarantining there… That’s like a whole other story.

Throughout that isolation, all I craved was traveling again and being with my friends and [being] like a really extroverted person. So for me, the album aesthetic came more from envisioning kind of… I don't want to say utopian but dreamlike… and just colors and visuals that induce happy feelings and calm feelings and serene feelings. 

When I Close My Eyes gives off the essence of a newfound hopefulness. When I listen to it, it feels like light radiating onto the soul. How are you doing with your mental health and your self-love? How does this album reflect where you are now?

I love that question. Like I said, I think being able to work collaboratively after craving that for so long, that brought me a lot of joy and that was kind of my guiding light throughout the last 18 months. It feels really nice to know that's what you're taking away from it, because that's what I was feeling making it and still what I'm feeling now… I feel like I'm just so happy to be putting out music again, and I'm happy that everyone I know is vaccinated and life is somewhat more normal and we are able to be social, and I'm able to kind of resume in the activities that make me happy that I felt like I wasn't able to partake in when we were quarantining more strictly. For that reason, since I was able to start writing again, onwards to now, I felt like my mental health has actually been in a much more stable place, because I feel like I'm able to kind of nourish these needs of mine that I imagine most of us couldn't nourish when we were quarantining more tightly.

Is there a certain aspect of playing these songs live that you're most looking forward to?

I think there's just so much joy and happiness baked into the album from when we were making it that I want, especially after two years of us not being able to see live music, I just want to curate a show where people go and feel every freaking emotion of the spectrum, but they walk away feeling euphoric. I want them to feel the way I'm going to feel on stage performing. I want us to remember how good human connection is and that shared energy. I'm more excited to get working on the creative side of tour than I even am to put out the album… as absurd as that is. That's just how excited I am for both these things, but I am just so stoked to give people a reason to feel things again.

When I Close My Eyes is available everywhere you can stream it. 

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