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The fragile sense of hope in Chelsea Cutler's new album


You can hear a fragile sense of hope in Chelsea Cutler's new album.


CHELSEA CUTLER: (Singing) Talk to me, whispers in the night. I always wondered what it’s like to love someone. You take my heart, go starting fires...

SIMON: Her album is called "When I Close My Eyes." It is her second album. And Chelsea Cutler joins us now from New York.

Thank you so much for being with us.

CUTLER: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: Your first album was kind of a coming-of-age work. How do you see "When I Close My Eyes?"

CUTLER: I think that it's a continuation of that just because we are always growing up. It's certainly more mature. And I think there's a much broader spectrum of emotions kind of covered on this album than the last one.

SIMON: Yeah. And unlike a lot of other recording artists, you also - I mean, you have been active as a producer, haven't you?

CUTLER: Definitely.

SIMON: What do you think about when you put together an album?

CUTLER: I grew up listening to really album-based artists, like Coldplay and John Mayer and Bruce Springsteen, Florence and the Machine, The 1975. And because of that, I think I grew up really appreciating, like, a curated journey. And especially now that the industry is so single-based and consumption is really rapid, like I - it's important to me to have a project-based career.


CUTLER: (Singing) Smoke detector on the ceilin'. I already know the feelin'. Devil on my shoulder's real. We've been here before.

SIMON: I want to ask you about a track, "Devil On My Shoulder."


CUTLER: (Singing) Now my friends don't call me anymore 'cause they know that I won't make it out the door to come over, used to the weight of the world on my shoulders. Ah. Help me. I'm still waitin' for someone to...

SIMON: You've touched on this before in your music - your struggles with depression. Why did you want to put that on this album?

CUTLER: In the past, when I've written about my struggles with mental health, it's been from a place of feeling hopeless about it. I think "Devil On My Shoulder" is distinguished because writing that song was the first time I labeled my depression as this external thing and not this internal thing that's innately a part of me. I don't love how it's often talked about as this, like, battle or something that you are trying to beat. I think for people with depression, it's often something that is kind of, like, ever-present and you're coping with it. I do feel like I no longer characterize myself and parts of my personality through my depression. Like, in writing "Devil On My Shoulder," I think I was able to kind of figure out what things were me and what things were this external chemical imbalance that I deal with on a mostly daily basis.


CUTLER: (Singing) There ain't nobody else that can help me. Screamin' in the shower isn't healthy. Holdin' it together, but it's hell for me. I'm not the person that I'm supposed to be, I'm supposed to be...

SIMON: Could you please tell us about the song "Walking Away"?

CUTLER: Yeah, definitely. "Walking Away" is kind of a mature approach to realizing that it takes two, like, complete individuals to have a successful relationship. I think that's something you realize when you get a little older 'cause when you're a teenager and you're watching movies and you grow up with pop culture, you think that relationships are, like, this thing that you devote all of yourself to and you have to bend over backwards to make them work.


CUTLER: (Singing) And it's not your fault that we're here. It's not your fault you want independence. Sometimes two people break when they're bending, yeah.

Then you kind of get older and you have enough failed relationships and enough, hopefully, successful relationships to see that the common denominator in, like, the successful ones is both individuals being able to have their needs met and be successful in their own endeavors.

SIMON: Let me ask you about Quinn XCII, who's also been your tour mate. He joined you on the single "Calling All Angels."


CUTLER: (Singing) You're out the door, nothin' more, got your mind made up - don't want to fight. It's all right. But I wish you would listen to me.

SIMON: What was it like to collaborate again?

CUTLER: Working with Quinn XCII is always amazing. He's always been, like, a massive role model to me. And every time I work with him, I also am just a sponge trying to soak up everything when I'm in the studio with him.

SIMON: Well, what do you soak up? What do you learn from him, do you think?

CUTLER: The way he fits syllables into lines and his melodies can be a little bit, like, more unpredictable than mine can be. And, like, inherently that pushes me outside of my comfort zone.


QUINN XCII: (Singing) I wish you more time like a leap year. I hope every single morning there's sunlight coming through the back windows you sleep near. Every single Saturday gets slower. And it's combined with a little love. I think there's good things coming your way - coming your way, yeah.

SIMON: You chose a life in music while you were a college student. Do you ever feel you missed out on something before you began to sail on life's ocean as an adult?

CUTLER: The only thing about my early '20s I don't have complete closure on is the fact that I didn't get to finish out college and graduate. But at the same time, I wouldn't change anything for the world because I feel so fortunate to do what I get to do. So yeah, I don't know. I'm kind of a person who doesn't live with too much regret.


CUTLER: (Singing) Calling all, calling all...

SIMON: Chelsea Cutler - her new album, "When I Close My Eyes," is out now. Thank you so much for being with us.

CUTLER: Thank you so much for having me.


CUTLER: (Singing) Calling all, calling all angels. There was a day that you prayed for the things you've got. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.