Shpresa Lleshaj (left) and Cole Randall of Flora Cash photographed on Oct. 30, 2018 at Salvage One in Chicago.
Shpresa Lleshaj (left) and Cole Randall of Flora Cash photographed on Oct. 30, 2018 at Salvage One in Chicago.
Lucy Hewett

Chartbreaker: How Husband-and-Wife Duo Flora Cash Went From Online Pen Pals to Hit-Making Partners

Six years ago, musicians Cole Randall and Shpresa Lleshaj discovered each other’s music on Soundcloud. The two were separated by thousands of miles -- Lleshaj lived in Sweden and Randall in Minneapolis -- but they formed a fast online friendship that escalated at similar speed. Within a year, they were married.

“If I saw a couple doing what we’re doing I’d be like ‘Aw, maybe someday I can find that person!’” Lleshaj tells Billboard. But the two 25-year-old’s whirlwind romance only fueled what brought them together in the first place -- music.

When Lleshaj first discovered Randall’s music on Soundcloud in 2012, she listened to all of his songs -- “And he had a lot of them!” She would leave comments, which led Randall to her own page, filled with songs that he says really spoke to him: “I just felt like [I’d found] a hidden gem.”

Soon after the mutual discovery, Lleshaj flew from her native Stockholm to meet Randall in Minneapolis and the two began working on music. After a few months of false starts, they emerged with a fresh brand of electro-folk under the moniker Flora Cash.

Since then, the pair has released several albums independently, building a grassroots following on YouTube and Spotify. But it was its 2017 full-length debut Nothing Lasts Forever (And It’s Fine) that catapulted the act into the mainstream, thanks to breakthrough hit “You’re Somebody Else,” an electro lullaby that entered the top 10 on the Alternative Songs chart (at No. 10) and earned 21.8 million on-demand U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music, since its release.

The album’s traction earned the husband-and-wife duo gigs at mid-size venues around the country, and in July, they signed to RCA Records. “It’s almost embarrassing when people are effusive in their praise now,” says Randall. “It has been a fucking long road.”

Still, Randall is quick to contend that the duo has always felt they were making progress “At every single level of our career we’ve always been able to have small breakthroughs,” he explains. “If I was looking at a stock or a company and I saw that level of growth, I’d be like, ‘I’m going to bet on that company.’”

And the way he sees it, “You’re Somebody Else” is the tipping point. ““It wasn’t immediately obvious to a lot of people that it would be a successful radio song,” he admits. “It’s like a snowball, and now, the snowball’s just big enough to be visible.”

As for what’s head, the pair, now based in Sweden full-time, plans to release an EP in the coming months followed by a second full-length album next spring. “Normally we would have released something before now,” Randall says, but as they ride out the success of “You’re Somebody Else,” their forthcoming deadlines have been pushed back. “We’re always looking forward to the next step,” Lleshaj says, “but always remembering to enjoy what is happening right now.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Nov. 10 issue of Billboard.

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