Her new album, Stellaria, mental health, and more!
Chelsea Cutler got her start releasing covers and tracks on SoundCloud, where fans caught wind of her airy, ethereal tone that evoked immediate emotion and intrigue within the listener. Her voice was unlike any other, adding the perfect duet to tracks that needed an extra edge like on Louis the Child's "Slow Down Love" and Ayokay's "Shine."
But Chelsea also wasn't meant to be a feature artist on her own...her voice belongs on its own body of work, curated with runs and hooks that exhibit her prowess. Which is why her debut album, How To Be Human, was produced mostly by herself and received such high acclaim...shooting Cutler into a realm of her own- supporting industry friend, Quinn XCII, on tour, having her own headline tours, multiple albums and several features later, Chelsea has shown the world she can do it all.
Now, on her third studio album, Cutler is here to release Stellaria, and it's a sharp contrast to the normal Chelsea we know and love. An introspective album about falling in love- and not just in your typical sense- Stellaria deals with life post-COVID and how we all are struggling to figure it out. With killer singles like "Your Bones", a classic, well-received love song about her girlfriend that quickly took to TikTok, and "I Don't Feel Alive", the contemplative, catchy diary entry about never feeling enough. Listen to the album here:
With nothing stopping Chelsea, Stellaria is a masterpiece filled with little gems. It's her most complete album to date- containing reflective ballads, high-energy pop tunes, and the classic sound we've loved for years. We sat down with Chelsea to talk the new album below!
PD: Your new album, Stellaria, is out this Friday. It's very honest, and kind of a present album, but I'd also call it a love album in your untraditional sense. Obviously you're in love with your girlfriend, but also falling in love with life and what comes with it. What was your inspiration and what made you want to write an introspective album?
CC: I think honestly it's a reflection of how the past two years have been for me in regards to my maturity and growth. Whenever someone asks me this, I essentially say the same thing so bear with me here...but, during COVID, it was really, really easy to disassociate and distract and stimulate...do anything we could to pass the time and distract from what our minds were going through.
Obviously, it was a really challenging time for people, maybe not as challenging of a time for me than others, but a challenging time for everybody. It was really traumatic to go through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and try to get back that normalcy. I thought "okay, a lot of these habits and coping mechanisms I developed don't really serve me or make sense anymore."
I spent a lot of the last two years re-learning how to be present and how to let myself feel emotions without grabbing my phone or trying to push the feelings away. I honestly think that writing this album was a good reflection of re-learning how to do that. Confront the emotions for the last couple years I didn't feel like I had the capacity to feel.
PD: Definitely. Kind of touching on how you'd run to your phone to hide from emotions...you took a social media break to write this album. How did that affect your process?
CC: I think it helped me separate my commercial goals from goals that pertain exclusively to the process of writing. Ultimately, being able to disconnect took away the whole element of comparing myself to everyone else's accolades, streaming numbers, and touring. I was able to really focus on the music I was making, enjoying it because I thought it was cool music, working with people I like working with...that was way more fun than spending the entire day thinking about how the album was going to be received commercially.
PD: I think taking the pressure off yourself can be huge.
CC: Yes! And it's ironic, because once you take the pressure off yourself, the work gets a lot better.
PD: You recorded these songs across LA, New York, and Big Bear. Did a different place get you into a different sort of writing mindset? How did you end up there?
CC: Just throughout the initial process figuring out what I wanted the album to be, I figured out that I wanted a departure from New York, both optically and from an imagery standpoint. I wanted it to feel like it took place in nature and a lot of it stems from that notion that I was re-connecting with myself and the world. Once I kind of conceptualized that, then I said "alright, where do I wanna go?"
We did some days in Malibu, some in Big Bear, some time in Hudson Valley, NY. So, we got out of the city a lot and I think it made a big impact sonically on the album.
PD: Did you have a favorite place you went?
CC: Ooooh, that's a good question. The Airbnb we stayed in at Big Bear, the heat was broken for the first 48 hours we were there and it was 20 degrees outside. That definitely wasn't my favorite, given the circumstances.
We stayed in Stone Studio in upstate New York, an earlier version of that studio is actually where Jeremy Zucker and I made "brent", so to go back there and work with Graham Stone, who built the studios was awesome. The studios he built are great, so it was just a privilege to go back there and make music again.
PD: I mean, Big Bear, obviously beautiful...but that sounds awful.
CC: Yeah, it's funny because Kevin, who executive produced the album with me, it's funny we always say thank god it happened and we knew each other. If it were one of our earlier trips and you're stuck in a house with no heat, with someone you don't know too well, it could go downhill super fast. So we just bundled and huddled by a fire and we brought his 80-lb dog and huddled by a fire for the first 24 hours.
It's funny in retrospect but I think the thermostat said it was 40 degrees in the house. Not much writing got done during those first 24 hours because it was that cold.
PD: I for sure can't get any work done when it's cold out, I just shut down. I saw that you kind of produced and engineered this album by yourself for the most part. Production processes are different for everyone, so how does that typically work for you?
CC: With How To Be Human, my first album, I did most of the production on that whole album. Then, with When I Close My Eyes, I took a step back from the production seat and that was kind of nice, you know? To have some space from it. But with Stellaria, it was important that I was involved across all production. Out of the 15 songs on it, I did production on 13 out of 15. I'm really happy about it.
There are songs I'd get mostly through and get sketched out on it so I'd send it over to Kevin in LA, and he'd work on it. Sort of a back-and-forth. It was really, really wonderful to have a partner in that, because if you go in 100% alone on something it can be a lot. Having someone you can learn from, and you guys can push each other, that was a big help for me.
PD: "Your Bones" is your first open love song to your girlfriend. With a more vulnerable song, is it easier to just let your feelings out on paper? Or do you find difficulty sharing that?
CC: It was honestly really easy. When I wrote that song, I almost dismissed it because it was a love song. My first thought was I didn't have to try hard to write it, so maybe it didn't align with the vulnerability I expected from this album. It took me a while to realize writing about love is also vulnerable and it came easy because loving my girlfriend is so easy. It's a nice lesson that vulnerability isn't always this act of pulling teeth.
PD: Do you have any advice for listeners or readers after your social media break on how to help your mental health?
CC: The idea of getting your insides to match your outsides. Making sure that your actions and habits reflect your identity, for example I've always thought of myself of being an inquisitive person. In the last six months to a year, I wanted to read more and wanted fitness to be a bigger part of my life. Doing the things every single day to match the goals I had for myself, and that brought me a lot of peace.
PD: I feel like it's important for everyone, not just our readers and listeners, to practice what they preach. So to hear how you deal with these mental health struggles can really help.
CC: I think a lot of anxiety and depression in my experience comes from that dissonance. I kept going into therapy for months saying "I don't feel like myself." With therapy, it helped to understand it was coming from my habits and my daily routine wasn't at all aligned with how I envisioned myself. So it's good to recognize that and make the changes.