Photo: Matty Vogel

Chelsea Cutler

The influential alt-pop artist talks career-defining new album 'Stellaria'

“It was easy for me to sit in this position of, ‘This is my third album… you need to make a splash,’” said CT-born singer-songwriter Chelsea Cutler on her desire to make a record that was equally awards bait as much as another YA-classic, but not losing herself to do it. “Looking at all we’ve done so far… it’s the perfect time for this to really blow up and move in a different way. I just went into creating this album with this idea that, for my career to feel like it was moving forward, it had to go a certain direction. That was definitely really unhealthy and unfair.”

Cutler’s new album Stellaria, out now, combines her signature alt-pop-based sound with definitive Americana and electronic influences and is her most progressive project yet.

Acknowledging Her Legacy  

Cutler’s origin story is well documented… she grew up in CT, focused on academics and athletics during her time at college in New Jersey while simultaneously exploring and building her musical repertoire, and then abandoned her studies when presented with the opportunity to open for Quinn XCII on tour in early 2018.

Years later, she co-headlined Radio City Music Hall with Quinn, having more than come into her own with the brent projects alongside friend and frequent collaborator Jeremy Zucker and other standouts like “Crazier Things” with Noah Kahan, “Sad Tonight,” and “the lifeboats empty!” The brent projects are essential for COVID-era listening, and, arguably, shot both Cutler and Zucker into legend status amongst millennial listeners.

“I really feel like my eyes are always forward, for better or for worse,” she said, humbly. “I think a lot of creatives, and a lot of overachievers in general… don’t always take a second to pause and look at what we’ve accomplished and look at the landscape around us.” Humble aside, she is certainly aware of her position in that landscape. “Going into this album, I thought about my legacy a lot,” she said. “I know that sounds silly ‘cause I’m only 26, but I was thinking about how I want to tour forever. I want to be 40… 50, and everyone from our generation still comes to the shows.”

Adding to the theme of legacy and ownership, Cutler was heavily involved in the production aspect of Stellaria beyond the standard writing and performance. She has claimed to have never had a female producer “north star” in her journey but views her knowledge and experience now as an opportunity for others going forward. “Any movement takes generation to generation to generation to normalize,” she said. “Each generation will have more visibility than the last, but I think it’s an amazing time to be a woman in music. An awesome time to be a young girl who has more people to look up to now than they did 10-20 years ago.”

A Dive Into Stellaria 

In a post on Instagram, Cutler said, “Stellaria is the little moments. Life is the good, the bad, and everything in between. The beauty is everywhere.” All of that is reflected here. “Growing Up Is Hard” and “No One Hates Me More” call back to the beautiful naivety of a record like How To Be Human, while “Stay Anything” and “You Don’t Think About Me At All” contain similar parallels of uncertainty and self-doubt. Whatever the emotion, the visuals for the project display wide open spaces seemingly providing air to breathe and the ability to home in on the little moments she refers to.

Photo: Matty Vogel

Musically, this record is bold. Grounded in Americana, folk, and electronica. The type of sound destined for open-air venues where its guests brave the unpredictability of the elements in search of a rare, fleeting feeling of connection with strangers through music amongst the stars in the night sky.

Songs like “Loved By You” and “If Not Yours,” the latter a career highlight reminiscent of Delirium-era Ellie Goulding, speak of the type of love that ebbs and flows but ultimately flourishes: “What is love if you don’t feel it when it walks out… and your chest is caving in? / Tread the line between the water and the high ground… and everywhere you’ve been.” The glorious hard stop of a full band mid-chorus in “If Not Yours” leads into the purely electronic “you’re all i ever dreamed of,” on which Cutler impressively sings past what was thought to be her breaking point vocally. Other highlights include the Halsey-coded “Hunting Season,” “Hold Me While It’s Ending” with the underutilized Matt Maeson, and “Men On The Moon,” one of Cutler’s most visceral ballads.

“Writing about love can be easy.” 

Lead singles “I Don’t Feel Alive” and “Your Bones,” the former a monstrous Americana slapper written as a Hail Mary attempt at finding the missing pieces of an older version of the record, and the latter an organic sensation on social media hailed for its rawness and honesty, are well-positioned on the tracklist and represent both the insular and the bombast. “Suddenly you’re the only thing that’s on my mind but I am diving even deeper… deeper, cause / I love you down to your bones / Aching and afraid, they tell me that’s when you know.”

“Given how long we’ve been together, I feel really safe to explore writing about it,” she said, about her current relationship. “I’ve had a long time to mature in the relationship and mature in the way that I’m able to write about it, express myself, and reflect on it. When we started dating, we were 21. To be 26, almost 27 now, my perspective on things has, hopefully, shifted, and I’m able to write in a way that I haven’t before.”

“I think the biggest lesson for me was that vulnerability doesn’t have to be so painful and so difficult,” she added, on a song like “Your Bones.” “It’s simple because writing it was really easy and I think when you’re in a really good relationship, writing about love can come easily. It doesn’t have to feel like you had to dig so deep to get it, but that doesn’t make it any less vulnerable or any less powerful.”

Stream Stellaria: