“Without Me” is a song rooted in heartbreak, ripped from raw personal experience and turned not only into pop magic, but a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 smash. “So much of my emotion is in this song,” says 26-year-old Brittany Amaradio, also known as Delacey, one of creative minds behind Halsey’s first No. 1 as a lead artist on the Billboard Hot 100. “Some sessions are more calculated than others,” she says of the track’s origins, alluding to the fact this one was not.
Based on an idea by Delacey, Amy Allen and Louis Bell, the track stemmed from a studio session this past May that essentially doubled as therapy. “It was me and Amy’s first session together,” Delacey recalls. “We mutually know my ex-boyfriend, so we were gossiping about him since it was our first time meeting each other. We were connecting on all these levels and when it came to the lyrics, every woman has been through what we’re talking about. But we had never heard song that really talks about the empowerment of going through a tough breakup.” Of Halsey’s impact on the song’s lyrical direction: “She poured her heart into it and made it personal to her lyrically, for sure.”
After putting together a rough cut bolstered by the prolific producer and Post Malone hitmaker Bell (he manned the piano and helped concoct the melody), the team knew they had something special. “She cut the demo within days,” says Delacey of the star’s fondness for the song. The subject matter struck a chord with the singer, so much so that she later noted on Twitter she “cried the entire time” while recording its emotional vocals.
The joy of scoring a No. 1 hit thanks to a song based on the devastating wreckage of past relationships is only the beginning of the irony of “Without Me.” It was just last year, after all, that she was thinking of getting a job outside of music to supplement her income. “I was thinking, ‘How am I going to pay rent next month?'” she remembers. “There were times I didn’t know what to do. But then everyone tells you to just keep going and you are eventually going to make it. I’d sometimes think, ‘No, I don’t think I will!’ But then I’d just keep on believing in myself.”
Delacey’s musical journey began in Orange County, California, at a very young age. “No one in my family is very musical, but my dad is a total music geek,” she says of her father, who gave her his record collection before she could even talk. “From birth, I had every record from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac to Stevie Wonder. I think I was a weird kid cause I had Elvis and The Beatles on my wall, but then I’d also have Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys.” Learning piano at a young age, she began writing original songs by the time she was seven. “I’d write mostly classical and at the same time I was writing poetry. Then the two went hand in hand.”
Self-described as a troubled kid (she was kicked out of high school twice), Delacey knew full well that college wasn’t for her. “So I packed up on a whim and moved to New York with the little money I had saved.” Working for a photography agency by day and doing open mics at night, those were lean times. “I was living in the shittiest apartment, super depressed, super lonely and super lost.” It was then when she penned what would be a turning point in her creative output: a hopeful track inspired by her troubles dubbed “New York City.” “That was the first song I wrote that was like, ‘Wow, I can really put my emotions into a song.'” With that realization in mind, she moved back home to Orange County and would drive back and forth to Los Angeles, setting up at local studios and sending out her demos, until one caught the ear of a small publishing company. “I signed a horrible deal, but ‘New York City’ wound up getting me a manager and was later recorded by The Chainsmokers. They fell in love with it on their first listen and that was really my start.” She was 20 years old.
With “New York City” soon finding itself on The Chainsmokers’ breakout 2015 EP Bouquet (alongside the duo’s reinventing chart-topper “Roses”), Delacey suddenly found herself booking sessions with other songwriters for the first time. “It’s really stressful at the beginning of your career,” she explains. “I was really insecure and didn’t have the confidence because I didn’t even understand how to collaborate in the studio. You have to go in a room with someone and pour out your emotions and basically act like you’ve known them your whole life when you are just probably meeting that day.” Despite landing placements (including a cut for Madison Beer and a track that went viral in Asia after the Chinese cell phone company Huawei used it as a theme song and ringtone), her career wasn’t sustaining her financially.
Lightning struck last year after exiting “a really toxic relationship” and finding herself in tears in her car. “I was talking to my sister and said, ‘Isn’t it crazy how someone can just totally ruin your life?'” she said, with the later part of that sullen thought ringing out to her. “‘Ruin my life’ is a thing I say all the time because I’m a drama queen, so I wrote it in my notes.” It wasn’t until a session with the songwriter Michael Pollack that the phrase turned into a song. “I read that title and he was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s dope.’ It felt like there could be a good juxtaposition with the lyrics. It’s such a negative title, but it’s this beautiful love song about someone you want to stay in your life because they make it better… even if it feels like a bombshell.” Produced by the Monsters and Strangerz and Jackson Foote from the duo Loote, the anthemic “Ruin My Life” was later recorded by Zara Larsson and currently sits at No. 20 on the Pop Songs chart, recently entering the Hot 100 as well. “Ruin My Life” also served as the second part of as a one-two career-making punch, coming out a mere two weeks after “Without Me.”
Thanks to “Without Me” and “Ruin My Life,” collaborative doors continue to crack open for Delacey. “Everyone in the industry is really dope and I feel like we’re all rooting for each other,” she explains. “So I don’t take it as ‘Fuck you, now you want to work with me?’ Maybe it more has to do with artists who are only hearing about me now. I just have more recognition, which is dope.”
Aside from upcoming tracks for other artists (which she’s tight-lipped about), Delacey also recently spent time in Brooklyn, New York recording her debut as an artist. But don’t expect her to take the Sia route — that is, release an album comprised of rejected tracks first meant for other names. “These songs are all original and nobody can sing them except me.” Teasing they’re sonically different than her recent hits, that’s not to say they don’t have her trademark emotion. “They’re personal, real, raw and close to my heart.”