FLETCHER doesn’t think that anyone should ever have to reveal their sexuality to the world. The singer-songwriter, whose 2015 debut single “War Paint” topped the Spotify Viral Chart upon release and now has more than 19 million listens on Spotify, has architected a pop career that colors outside of the lines of gender and sexuality — both as an individual who self-identifies beyond any specific label and infuses her music and visuals with stories that neutralize the stigma of otherness prominent in many LGBTQ creations.
“I just express my opinion and stance on sexual fluidity and love and whatever that may be,” says the 22-year-old, born Cari Fletcher. “I’m also very understanding and accepting of other people’s positions on the topic because there’s a lot of opinions — and everyone’s matters. It’s really important to just be talking about sexuality, because the more we talk about it and it’s normalized, the more the next generation will never have to come out. It’s so stupid that people have to even come out. The more we talk about it, the less in the future that will have to happen.”
The New Jersey-born artist has embraced this stance over the past few years as she became one of pop’s buzziest upstarts, downplaying sexuality as a means of focusing more on attraction to another human being as is. It becomes most apparent in the video for “Wasted Youth,” a renegade-style clip for a single off of last year’s Finding Fletcher EP where she gallivants through the night with a female companion — seemingly a romantic interest, but never concretely defined. In it, they engage in the aimless wanderings of apathetic adolescence, content not with what they’re doing but who they’re doing it with.
“I wish when I was a 16-year-old girl that I had a video like that to watch to see that it’s super normal, and two girls that are into each other and falling in love and having an incredible time is not some huge dramatic overly sexualized weird thing,” FLETCHER says. “It’s just life and it’s cool and it’s normal. That’s what it should be because that’s what love is — it’s between two human beings. I think it’s important for people to be able to see that. I wish that had been around more for me.”
Coming to terms with her sexuality plays into the meaning behind “Wasted Youth,” whose video has 1.3 million YouTube clicks. She reflects on her own upbringing around the Jersey shore area, and how the pressure to fit in made it more difficult for her to understand her draw to others across traditional boundaries. “I think the biggest thing I struggled with growing up was being confused and not knowing answers,” she says. “I definitely identify within the LGBTQ community, but as far as putting a label on like gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, queer… it’s all in the family and spectrum, and sexuality and gender is not black and white. It’s a spectrum that we all fall somewhere in the world on. That’s how I feel comfortable expressing myself — loving who I feel like loving and who I’m attracted to.”
Music, though, was FLETCHER’s first love. Her parents weren’t in the entertainment industry, but she took cues from her grandmother, a singer who still performs in elderly community theater. Fletcher started classical vocal training at five years old, and ever since she was a little girl, she chased dreams of pursuing the arts at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Until she applied, she played a carousel of instruments — piano, clarinet, flute — and started writing music by herself and with friends at 14 years old. But it wasn’t until she got to NYU that she released being a performer and artist, as well as a songwriter, was possible. Living in Manhattan served as a playground for her to take in the city’s diversity, and a needed break led her to Nashville, where she teamed with producer Jamie Kenney to begin work on what would become the Finding Fletcher EP.
“War Paint” came first, and for FLETCHER, its effect was almost immediate. “I remember the morning I woke up and it hit a million streams and I was like, this is the craziest thing that’s happened to me,” she says. “And now 25 million streams later on the song [original version and remix combined], it’s been a really humbling and incredible experience.”
Since then, addressing non-traditional perceptions of sexuality has been on her mind, particularly in how her peers are becoming more vocal about it. “There’s definitely been a shift with my generation that we aren’t so quick to box ourselves into labels, and I feel like people have a lot more freedom in their expression of their sexuality and gender.”
FLETCHER recently made a transition from New York to Los Angeles, where she’s been recording material for her first full-length album. As always, her message stands strong, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart and how it’s portrayed.
“There’s more information and more community and pride and just this overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance in a community that’s waiting for anyone with open arms and I love that,” she says. “That’s really special and important for people to know, that it’s like, hey, you do your thing on your own terms and there’s a shit-ton of people who will love you so much for who you are. I think that’s really cool.”