There is a laundry list of things that were ruined for Fletcher by her ex. She runs down just a few of her former favorites; gin and tonic, reality TV shows, and Quest protein bars top her list. “And obviously my mental health,” she adds with a laugh.
But of all the things she feels are tainted by the sting of heartbreak, the 25-year-old singer cites New York City as the worst example. So, she decided to name her new EP (out today) accordingly: You Ruined New York City For Me.
Fletcher describes her new EP as a “page ripped out of my diary,” as it tracks the worst — and first — heartbreak she has ever experienced. “When something like that happens to you for the first time, it’s just really hard to get your bearings, because you’ve never been through anything like that before,” she tells Billboard. “Like, you can’t see that in the moment, because you have never experienced something that felt so intense on so many different levels.”
Writing new music through real-time pain, Fletcher crafted five songs that encapsulated different phases of her breakup, from the initial sting to the dreaded post-mortem. “I didn’t have any clarity or space from the situation yet, so I was just writing about them honestly,” she says. “The one way to kind of cope and make sense of it all was like, ‘Alright, at least I can turn this shit into art.’”
But despite the difficulty she faced in confronting her lost love head on, it payed off — You Ruined New York City For Me is Fletcher’s first official project since signing to Capitol Records one year ago. In that short time, the singer’s star has skyrocketed, seeing her lead single off of the EP, “Undrunk,” work it’s way onto the Hot 100 earlier this year (peaking at No. 61 in April) as her fanbase rapidly expanded.
While the earned success feels undeniably great, Fletcher says she can’t help but feel overwhelmed at the thought of being an example of queer success to some of her younger fans. “I needed that when I was a little girl,” she says. “If I can be that for somebody else, that’s what success is, for me.”
Below, Fletcher breaks down each of the five songs off of You Ruined New York City For Me — from what inspired the lyrics to how they were assembled in the studio. “A lot of it is TMI, and things that maybe I never necessarily thought I would actually say,” she says. “But in a sense, it was my therapy.”
“If You’re Gonna Lie”
So I wrote “Undrunk” and “If You’re Gonna Lie” back to back from one another, within a day. It was all the same group, and we were in this shitty studio in Koreatown in New York City. At the end of my relationship, I knew that I was being cheated on, and there was some sketchy stuff happening — I specifically remember waiting for the person to come home. I made dinner, and poured a glass of wine, and they just never showed up. So, I just kept drinking the wine until I finished a bottle by myself. It’s about that moment in a relationship where you know that something’s going on, but you’d rather stay with that person because of the fear of what it would be like to be without them. I spent many a night crying on the bathroom floor of my New York City apartment. So when I think of that song, I think of that bathtub, for sure.
We were literally taking tequila shots during our session, and one of my friends said to me, “We have to try to get a little bit undrunk right now so that we can write a song.” And I was like, “That is the greatest word ever.” We started saying all of these things that we could “un-“, you know, like, “unkiss,” “unlove,” “unfuck,” all of these things that we would want to undo about our past relationships.
Writing those two songs together, I think it impacted [the EP] so much. Those were the first sessions I did after this breakup, with me writing for my future project in mind. It allowed me to say things that I probably would never vocalize out loud. But when you say “touchin’ myself to the photos,” it’s like — suddenly that’s so weird to call someone and say it. But if I put a cute little melody to it, it’s not as fucking weird. It really set the tone, I think, for the whole project. It really has taught me to be vulnerable and honest, because I saw the impact of what that did to be open with people. It makes people be so open in return, and that leads to connection, and that’s all any of us want to feel is human meaning and understanding. That’s the brand of Fletcher.
Ugh, this song wrenches my heart. This song is about the feeling you have in your stomach after you walk into a bar, and you see your ex for the first time in a while, and they introduce you to somebody new that they’re with, and you have to pretend like you’re so happy for them and everything’s really good. But in the back of my brain I’m like, “Where the hell is the tequila?” It’s about pretending to be happy for someone, and you really are, or at least you want to be. But it stings worse than that straight tequila shot. I left the bar the night that happened and had this crazy feeling in my stomach. I went into the studio the next day, and I wrote this with this amazing writer, Jenn Decilveo.
The lyrics were just the things I was saying in the room: “It’s that feeling of walking into a bar, with someone holding hands, and you introduce me to her and say I’m just an old friend.” I was just like … that’s what I like to do. I just say stuff and put a melody to it. That’s the most impactful, because it doesn’t get clouded by all of this metaphorical meaning, you know? Just say what you mean!
I worked with this amazing writer and artist, Ingrid Andress. For me, that song is really about the frustration of wondering if or when you’re ever going to get over that person, and when you’re going to finally stop thinking about them. It’s kind of just as simple as that — it’s about wondering, “Am I ever going to get over you…?” My favorite part of that song is recording the “ya, ya” with all of us in a room, with so many gang vocals. I have some truly insane videos of that on my phone.
Also, it’s my little brother’s favorite song on the EP, and he’s kind of my go to. Like, if he gets hyped on it, I’m like, “Okay, cool, maybe I’ll get some more straight fans.” He’s my little hetero test. At least I’ve got one frat bro on my side.
This is actually my first time talking about “Strangers,” like, at all! It’s probably the most personal to me on the entire project — “Strangers” was inspired by the first time my ex and I had any sort of communication, over a year after we ended. It was a Facebook message, we had sent one each back and forth to each other. So I pulled the lyrics from those messages, actually. If you listen to them, the verse lyrics are pretty specific. It’s filled with some of the things that we had said.
Truly, it blows my mind how we go from being strangers, and then you spend so much time with somebody, and you get to know them on such a personal level, and then suddenly they’re out of your life again like they never existed. It’s definitely the hardest for me to sing and talk about, because it came from the realest place. All of the other songs originated from what I was feeling, and my take on the situation. But “Strangers” is the one song where it was a two-way conversation, and all things that we said to each other. It definitely has its own personality and sets itself apart from the other songs on the EP.