Exclusive Q&A: Chelsea Cutler talks her early 20s, career goals

The 23-year-old singer, songwriter and producer talks quick ascension to fame.

Norah Kleven

With Chelsea Cutler’s First Avenue mainroom debut in the books, she has a long list of tour stops planned for the upcoming months. 

But despite her success and ascension to stardom, Cutler maintains she is just like any other 20-something. Read A&E’s exclusive here: 

How has your music and sound changed since you released your first song in 2015?

I think when I was making covers and starting to write songs when I was a freshman in college, everything was super [focused on] acoustic bass. And I made every sound just by bumping tables to make percussion noises and stuff like that. So, I think obviously I’ve grown a lot and matured a lot as a songwriter and producer and obviously as a person too, which you know, directly translates into your writing. 

You’ve seen a good amount of success for your age. What advice do you have for other people your age who are still chasing their dreams or figuring out what they want to do with their lives?

I think that I am really fortunate to have figured out what I’m passionate about so early. I would probably just tell people to be really patient because it’s super normal to try a lot of different things and slowly figure out what stuff makes you happy and what stuff doesn’t.

What are some goals that you have for 2020? 

Well, my main goal for 2020 was to get a Top 40 record. With “Sad Tonight,” we’re doing that, so that obviously feels good to accomplish one of my big goals for the year. I need to start writing my second album, so that’s kind of where I see the next portion of the year going.

If you had to choose a song from your album “How to Be Human,” which would you say is your favorite and why?

Yeah, I think “nj” is my favorite. Lyrically, I just think it’s so specific and vulnerable, and I was really scared to put it out. And that means a lot to me to be brave and to share that with the world. Also, the song is just a really cool song production-wise. 

What did you learn when writing and releasing this album?

Well, I think that being in your early 20s is a really confusing time for anybody. Especially having left college early, I felt pretty isolated and alone since all my friends were still at school. And I think you’re just faced with a lot of questions in your early 20s, like ‘what kind of person you want to be,’ ‘how you want to conduct yourself,’ ‘how you feel about religion’ and stuff like that. I think it’s a difficult time to kind of figure all that out. So writing an album really helped me reflect on all those things and process all the confusion — and the classic early 20s angst that I was feeling. It really helped me identify things that make me feel better and the things that make me feel happy.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.