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Chelsea Cutler: the rise of an indie-pop icon


Chelsea Cutler is a name you may have heard on campus by now, whether it be by hearing her music as it blasts from a car in the Belgrade parking lot, from a friend who checks up on Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlist each week or from University of Maine fourth-year Alyson Matteau, who enthusiastically suggests we bring in Cutler as the Maine Day Concert artist.

Rewind to spring of 2017, Cutler was a college student with a four-year plan just like the rest of us.

Today, Cutler has dropped out of one of the most prestigious colleges in the country, leaving her education and her sports career behind. In their place is a recording contract, a nation-wide tour as an opening act, a sold-out headline tour, two projects released, another on the way and a debut album in the works.

Originally from Westport, Connecticut, Cutler attended the Pomfret School, a prep school in the northeast corner of Connecticut, before heading to Amherst College to play soccer in the fall of 2015. Throughout high school and her freshman year of college, Cutler wrote and recorded music purely as a hobby from her dorm room or music room at school. She would post both her original songs and covers (such as “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears) on her SoundCloud profile for friends to hear.

In the spring of 2015, during her last months of high school, it was Soundcloud that sparked the fire of her fame. Kian McHugh, owner of a music blog The Kollection, contacted her about her posts and offered to work with her to promote some of her songs and provide management.

“I didn’t think of it at all as a career,” Cutler said.

Even at this point, she was focused on entering college and preparing herself for NCAA soccer. But once at Amherst, she continued to make music for fun out of her dorm room.

Throughout her first year in 2015-16, her SoundCloud continued to gather followers and attention from other artists. During this time, she was in touch with artists Gnash, Kidswaste and Adventure Club, among others. Most importantly, labels began to reach out.

In the fall of her second year, Cutler signed a year-long contract with Ultra Records, the label that has managed artists such as Calvin Harris, Lil John and Kygo, immediately using the money to buy herself a Jeep Wrangler.

That spring she released her debut single “Your Shirt,” which sent her into the spotlight and has now accumulated over 50 million streams on Spotify alone. Months later, she released her first EP titled “Snow in October” with Ultra Records.

From there, her career took off. Now recording independently under the management of Visionary Music Group (who also manage Logic and Jon Bellion, among others), Cutler signed on as the opening act to indie artist and mentor Quinn XCII’s nationwide tour in the spring of 2018. With more record labels now knocking at her door and a six-week tour coming up, after her first semester of her third year at Amherst, she left school to pursue music full-time.

Despite the increasingly likely promise of success in the industry, the decision to leave school was not an easy one.

“I just get so sentimental about change. And transition,” Cutler said.

And this fall, once the Quinn XCII tour wound down, she felt this change a little more than usual.

“Right now it’s like, I just left New York City (her home for the summer) and all my friends are there, and all my Amherst friends are back at school, and my team is back, and meanwhile I’m leaving to go on tour,” Cutler said. “It’s just a lot at once.”

Her parents, too, are dealing with the transition.

“My dad is so unfazed but my mom is freaked out,” Cutler explains. “[My mom] talks to me about it way too much, like ‘my clients kids love your music,’ it’s so weird!’ and I’m like ‘it’s weird for me too! Please don’t talk about it!’”

Since leaving school, she released her first mixtape titled “Sleeping With Roses,” sold out her debut headline tour this fall, and has another mixtape on the way. Currently unsigned, she is working with her lawyers and management team to select the record label that will best serve her goals as a musician.

Cutler’s following has grown rapidly in the past year, which her numbers on social media reflect. Since releasing “Snow in October,” her Instagram follower count increased from approximately 13,000 to 118,000, and she currently gains approximately 1,000 followers every 48 hours.

At UMaine, her fan base is enthusiastic and loyal. Third-year Taylor Williams, who attended one of Cutler’s concerts this spring, has no shortage of praise for Cutler.

“My favorite song is ‘Water on the Bridge.’ I love her with my whole heart,” Williams said. “Someone asked me the other day, ‘if you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life who would you choose?’ and I said Chelsea Cutler.”

In comparison to that of her friends, Cutler’s daily life looks very different. This past summer, she moved to New York City to be closer to the studio and more readily available for meetings. She met with Spotify, various record labels and was featured on Instagram TV after visiting their office and performing for them and a handful of fans.

“Sometimes I work from home and write and record, sometimes I go to NYC to cut vocals or write with people, sometimes I have meetings or events, sometimes I’m flying to shows, sometimes I’m on tour,” Cutler said. “And sometimes I don’t feel like working so I don’t!”

An average week might include set rehearsal for shows, hours or an entire day completely blocked off for writing music, a video shoot, a flight to a show and a handful of sessions both writing and recording with different artists and producers.

Some of her shows last summer, while on break from tour, included opening for Halsey’s New Jersey concert in July, performing their co-written song “Flair Guns” for Quinn XCII’s set at Lollapalooza, and performing at both the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa, Ontario, and the Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing, Michigan.

And although she left her soccer team behind, she has a new team behind her.

“I have a lot of managers. My normal managers, then my tour managers, then my business managers. And then I have booking agents and my lawyer,” Cutler said.

When asked about her tour manager (who last managed Bebe Rhexa’s tour), Cutler says “she rocks. She takes care of me [on tour]. We eat food, and talk, and then go to bed.”

Her “normal managers” are part of Visionary Music Group, doing everything “on the creative side,” such as approving her new songs and helping her shape her image and sound. In the studio, she worked over the summer with Robopop, who produced hits like Maroon 5’s “Payphone,” and is currently working with Andy Seltzer, whom she describes as her “right-hand man.”

“We’re like creatively the same person. It’s insane,” Cutler said.

A year ago, Cutler was a college student. Even now, she’s not so different. Slightly freaked out by her own rise to fame, as anyone might be, she says an aspect that not everybody considers is that she can’t use Tinder. Imagine seeing your favorite artist on a casual dating app?

Instead, find Cutler on Spotify, Apple Music, or anywhere else you choose to
stream, and be on the lookout for new releases coming soon.

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