Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's new home for exclusive music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on female artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Chelsea Cutler is a junior history major at Amherst College, but she's already on a career path most people only dream of. The 20-year-old has a record deal with Ultra Music, and her self-titled, debut EP will be released on October 6.
Ahead of Cutler's EP release, Refinery29 is exclusively premiering the video for Cutler's single "You Make Me." Shot in Brooklyn over a two-day period, the video focuses on a couple who are in "crazy love," as Cutler puts it.
We talked to Cutler about her new video, her musical inspirations, and her songwriting process. Check out the "You Make Me" video below, and scroll down to read our interview with the singer-songwriter.
Refinery29: Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician?
"Not at all. It's kind of one of those things, both my parents were artists as their professions — my dad's an illustrator, my mom did a lot of freelance photography. So, my family's kind of unconventional in that sense... It never came from my family, but there was always kind of this idea, I guess it's probably just a cultural thing, but you grow up being told, 'No one really makes it doing those types of things, like creative careers.' And so it never really occurred to me that there was a realistic possibility until I signed with Ultra last summer, 2016."
How did that come about? Did you reach out to them, or did they find you?
"They found me, actually! It was super organic, and just really a stroke of luck. They found me on Soundcloud and reached out and said, 'Come to Manhattan, let's meet.' So I did, and we signed pretty quickly. We've been working together for the past year."
What inspired "You Make Me," specifically?
"Going into that session, I really wanted to write just about that crazy love. You're so addicted to it. And in some ways it's maybe not the healthiest thing, because it's so consuming, but you also wouldn't want it any other way."
Was that based on personal experience?
"I don't always write with something specific or somebody specific in mind, but you can't really write authentically unless you're drawing on some kind of personal experience. So I definitely would say that, yeah, it comes from personal experience in one way or another."
Was it difficult to be able to produce your own album, or was your team always on board with it?
"I think when I initially signed with Ultra, I wasn't really producing at an industry standard level, and I'm probably not, even now. I think that kind of makes it endearing and simple, and there's a real, distinct style about that. So I definitely think it took a little bit of saying, 'No, I'm not outsourcing production, I'm going to do this myself, I'll just keep working at it until it gets better, until it gets to an acceptable level.' I really didn't want to take 'no' for an answer. I felt really strongly about being my own producer and maintaining the sound, and just kind of creating [and] putting my own ideas out there, without the influence of other producers."
Did you write more songs than what ended up making it onto the final EP?
"Yeah, for sure."
Do you imagine that you'll include those as part of future albums?
"I don't know. Possibly. But every song that you write is a learning curve, no matter if it gets used or not. So I think, as much as a song can mean to you, sometimes it's like, you wrote it, and you learned from it, and that's that, but moving forward, it doesn't really make sense anymore for your project, or for future projects. And you kind of just have to bite the bullet on that and accept that it is what it is."
How did you come up with the concept for the "You Make Me" video?
"Our director, Charles Todd, really, helped. I'm not a super visual person, I'm more of just an emotive person. It's hard. Obviously, I'm decent at putting it into words and melodies. I'm not great at the visual part of it. So he was really helpful in that. I definitely wanted to showcase some kind of relationship, because that was important to me... I had a vision in mind for what our actors would be, and they did a great job casting."
Was it intimidating to work with a director who's worked with big-name artists like Rihanna and Jay-Z?
"He made me feel super comfortable. It was funny, I would even ask him, 'Do I look awkward? Have other artists you've worked with seemed this awkward, too?' He was so good at just keeping me composed and making me feel confident and comfortable on set. So no, it really wasn't intimidating at all. He was so down to earth and really awesome to work with."
Who are some of your musical influences?
"I always give three, every single time. I always say Bon Iver has been huge for me, the 1975, and then Odessa is basically the group that really inspired me to even work with electronica at all."
Is there any artist who would be your dream collaborator for a future song?
"So many. Lately, I've loved Billie Eilish so much. I don't even know if a collab would make sense there, but she's phenomenal. I'd love to even just write with her."
If you could go on tour with any artist or group, who would you dream of being on the road with?
"Ooh, that's a good one. I don't really know. Let me, I'm gonna scroll through my iTunes and see. There's so many unbelievable artists out there right now. I feel like going on the road with A R I Z O N A would be really sick. They're super good, and they're really on the come-up."
What advice you would give to other young people who want to embark on a nontraditional career path like you did, but are hesitant to take that plunge?
"My best advice would be that — it's so cliché, and I'm so sorry — but you have to stay so true to yourself and to the sound that you've envisioned in your head... An artist's breakout doesn't happen because you're creating music that sounds like what else is popular. An artist's breakout happens when you create something that brings something new to the table, to the American audience or the international audience. So I think that's just really important. Everyone has a unique collection of influences and a unique sound in their head, and it's just a matter of having faith in that, and being true to that and being innovative with your own sounds, and not buying into what's on the Top 40 right now."
This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.
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