When Cari Fletcher returned to Webster Hall in New York City for the final show of her North American tour, it was a full-circle moment for the rising pop star.
“There’s something kind of cathartic about ending in New York because I wrote all of this music about this city and about the people I dated and who broke my heart in this city,” the singer-songwriter told "Nightline" backstage in April before her show. “I went to NYU and I lived in the dorm across the street from Webster Hall and I would pass this sign every day on my way to class…It’s an iconic venue and to be here tonight with my name on it is just the craziest thing ever.”
The past year has been busy for the songstress, known simply to her fans as FLETCHER. She's been playing sold-out shows around the world, following up her North American tour with European and Australian tour dates while also working on her debut full-length album “Girl Of My Dreams.” The album is a departure from her previous EPs, or extended play records; now, she's turning the focus from other people onto herself, while still giving fans a brutally honest look into her life through her lyrics. The title track brings the realization that FLETCHER, herself, is the girl of her dreams.
“These last two and a half years have been really, really difficult. It was the first time that I really had to look in a mirror and face myself…making this album has come from such a place of truth and knowing myself in a different way than I ever have before.”
The result? FLETCHER says it's a feeling of freedom, something that hasn’t always been easy for the 28-year-old NYU graduate. She said growing up as a young queer woman she didn’t always feel represented in the artists that she followed and whose images she described as “picturesque” and “perfect.”
“There weren't a lot of examples of artists and people that were authentically talking about their difficulties and their mental health, and their experiences, and specifically mine was coming to terms with sexuality” FLETCHER says. “And so for a really long time, I thought that I would never be able to be an artist…anything I make to this day is to be the artist that I needed when I was a little girl.”
FLETCHER always found solace in singing. A self-described socially anxious kid, she said she started singing before she could talk, with her mother enrolling her in classical voice lessons when she was 5 years old in her hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey. She said that singing helped her to verbalize things she couldn’t by simply speaking.
“Still to this day, even through my songwriting …it's, like, you ripped a page out of my journal and I'm just reading all the things that maybe I shouldn't say out loud. I felt really misunderstood as a kid…and it was a way for me to share and to feel understood.”
It wasn’t long before singing proved to be more than just a refuge for the young FLETCHER. By the time she was 17, she found herself competing on “The X Factor” and making it into a group under the mentorship of Paula Abdul before being cut from the show. But that didn’t stop the young talent, who went on to the prestigious Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University following high school.
And it was in New York City where FLETCHER started to find her voice and discover more about herself, falling in love with a girl for the first time and having her heart broken. The experience led her to write lyrics that are as raw as they are relatable to anyone who has been through a heartbreak, regardless of sexual orientation. The culmination was her 2019 debut EP “you ruined New York City for me.” The EP featured her breakout hit “Undrunk,” which spent several weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, scored the No. 1 spot on Spotify’s Viral Chart, and emerged as the fastest-rising pop song on radio from a new artist in the past five years.
Through her music, FLETCHER has strived to change the way queer stories are perceived.
“I think that often in media queer people are represented of having this really intense struggle…And it's, like, no, people are just humans who just want to love, and that's the point of all of us being here.” Adding, “Something that I just really want to represent for people is self-expression and freedom. However it is that you identify…know that there is a place for you.”
And it’s not just a sentiment that FLETCHER preaches, it’s also how she gives back to the community. This past June, she raised $50,000 for GLAAD through her “Meet Her At The Bar Pride Month Experience,” where she played acoustic sets at female-owned queer bars across the country. She even gave her fans a treat at the final event: While playing at the bar Henrietta Hudson in New York City, FLETCHER announced the title and release date of her new album “Girl of My Dreams.”
“To announce it [the album] during Pride…and in New York where I got started, where I wrote my first ever project “you ruined New York City for me” EP, it’s very much this full-circle moment and it’s really, really cool that I get to do it here and have all of these things co-existing at once.”
FLETCHER, always striving to be the artist she needed to see as a kid, added, “I think one of the most radical things that you can do in a society that wants to box us -- all of us -- in is make waves.”