Chelsea Cutler releases How To Be Human —a confessional style new album that faces her youth head-on and leaves nothing unsaid.
“I’m drinking coffee and I never drink coffee, so if I word vomit, definitely let me know,” laughs Cutler. “I’ve just been sipping on it and I’m definitely feeling it."
EARMILK caught up with Cutler one week before the release of How To Be Human—her first album since signing with Republic Records last year, a moment Cutler says was one of the best things she’s done in her entire life. At just 22, Cutler tells a 15-track story about the transitional time of being a young adult. From the smallest changes, like making a doctor’s appointment yourself to deciding where to live, Cutler's lo-fi soundscapes and captivating voice pay tribute to every stage of getting older.
The simple nostalgia woven into this album runs deep and makes me miss when caffeine still gave me the jitters.
Cutler has released an impressive amount of music since her first EP, Snow in October, in 2017. She independently released two eight-track mixtapes in 2018, Sleeping With Roses and Sleeping With Roses II, a five song offering called brent in 2019 with fellow singer-songwriter Jeremy Zucker, all while headlining two sold-out nation-wide tours, booking Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, and joining the European leg of Lauv’s tour. Cutler’s also collaborated with the likes of Kygo, Quinn XCII, Louis The Child, among others—seemingly a master at multi-tasking.
Producing the majority of the album herself, How To Be Human is an honest exploration of the human condition—bending and blending genres. Filing this album under electro-pop would be a disservice to the stand out ballads and simple melodies that pierce through the samples and polished production.
“nj”, track six on the album, is a standout lyrically. Cutler's openness makes it seems like you’re eavesdropping on someone else’s breakup. “It’s the only song I’m like really nervous to put out because it’s written so specifically. Not only honest about the way I’m feeling, but it’s very honest about things that happened,” says Cutler. Telling the story of the end of a seemingly endless relationship, “nj” is one of the most poignant ballads on the album. Cutler’s description of an open-door policy for someone is equally heartwarming and heartbreaking.
The relationship between the story-driven, near-folk elements to Cutler’s sound and her electronic-driven tendencies was no mistake. Cutler says “both avenues are really important to me. Artists like The 1975 and Bon Iver and Coldplay are artists that made me want to write songs, and so I think I have a very eclectic mix of influences and that kind of culminates in this wide spectrum of music on the album.”
Influenced or not, if Cutler was anything like me at 22—with journals full of every emotion—her well of inspiration must be endless. When I asked her how she knew she was done writing for the album, she was surprised at the question. “Inversely in an interview someone just asked me, ‘At 22 do you feel like people are kind of saying you haven’t lived enough to have much to write about?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know, 22 years is a pretty long time.’”
This confidence and self-assurance takes center stage in “You Are Losing Me”. Her ability to pen the words that speak to the complexities of love—wanting someone but happy they're gone—is a testament to how much she notices. This track embodies the more electronic side to the album—a love song you can both cry and dance to.
Once a student and soccer player at Amherst College, Cutler decided to replace the field and her junior year with a demanding tour schedule and packed venues. While most would think this transition would be easy and exciting, Cutler says leaving her past life behind didn’t come without its complications.
“It was my first fall not going back to college and I was watching all my teammates go back to pre-season and I was leaving for my first headline tour and I was going through kind of a messy difficult breakup from my college relationship,” says Cutler. “There were so many things drastically changing in my life and I was like, I don’t know how to do any of this. Like, how am I supposed to do any of this?”
It was that reflection that birthed the concept for How To Be Human so it’s clear that Cutler’s doing something right.