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Fletcher on healing, her new album and being back on tour

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWO THINGS CAN BE TRUE" )

FLETCHER: (Singing) Did we take it too far? Maybe.

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Last spring Carrie Fletcher realized something was wrong - like, more than just the stress of a worldwide concert tour, a deep fatigue that caused long-term concern for her singing voice as well.

FLETCHER: When I had to take the tour down and I saw, you know, applauses get quiet and social media get quiet and then all of the things, you're really forced to, like, look at yourself in the mirror and really decide and see what, you know, your worth is outside of all of those things. Like, there was a lot of silence.

SUMMERS: Turns out it was Lyme disease, and so Carrie, who goes by Fletcher onstage, found herself facing a major physical recovery and a lot of unprocessed mental health to work through. She went back to her hometown in New Jersey, and with all that downtime, she started writing a new album to be called "In Search Of The Antidote."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTIDOTE")

FLETCHER: (Singing) I get high. I get high. I get low. I get low. You're my dopamine state. You're my sanity dose. I get high.

SUMMERS: A year later, Fletcher is out on the road again, singing this new album to her loyal fans. We caught her earlier this week on a day off in Germany, and she was stoked about being back.

FLETCHER: To return back to a sold-out tour with all of these beautiful fans and, you know, like, scream-singing these songs back to me that - some of which I wrote from such a place of desperation but also a place of, like, hope and happiness and love and excitement for the future and - I pinch myself all the time when I get to a new country that I've never even been to before and they're singing word for word with me. It's like - it's insane that this is my job.

SUMMERS: Is there a favorite moment that you could share from the tour that you're on now that really just drives it home for you?

FLETCHER: People have been bringing crazy signs to the show. I have a song called "Becky's So Hot," and there's a point where I'm, like, grinding on a mic stand. And so the fans started doing this thing where they're like, can I be the human mic stand?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BECKY'S SO HOT")

FLETCHER: (Singing) Are you in love like we were? If I were you, I'd probably keep her - makes me want to hit her when I see her 'cause Becky's so hot in your vintage T-shirt.

There was a sign yesterday that said, truth or dare. And I saw it, and I picked dare. And then she folded the card over again, and it was like, I dare you to let me be your mic stand tonight. Somebody came to a concert dressed up as a microphone to the concert, and I was like, the commitment is real.

SUMMERS: I mean, this album - it's got rage and joy and lust and mess, which is something that you have certainly never shied away from mining, like in the lead single, "Eras Of Us," which I have heard is about running into your ex at Taylor Swift's Eras tour - true story?

FLETCHER: Yes. Truth or dare - that is the truth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERAS OF US")

FLETCHER: (Singing) It's nice to meet you.

Yeah. I had not seen my ex since the day that we had broken up, and we bumped into each other at the Taylor Swift concert. You know, to be at this show where both of us were, like, screaming these songs to an artist that has narrated so many of my breakups, so many of my romances - I just got hit with, you know, a wave of emotion of all of the eras of us, of her and I.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERAS OF US")

FLETCHER: (Singing) A story of love, stealing the air right from my lungs. Girl of my dreams, forever we're young. Remember it just the way it was, the eras of us.

And I think that's something I always really try to do with my music - is just to drop people into a really specific scene, into a really specific moment. And it's one of my favorite songs I've ever written. It just feels like a story.

SUMMERS: I wonder if you can tell us the story behind one of the songs on the album, "Doing Better," because that song's gotten stuck in my head - this idea of what better really is, why better feels worse.

FLETCHER: Yeah. Wow. I actually have a song on my last album - I have a song called "Better Version," and the lyric ends with, and now some other person's going to get the better version...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "BETTER VERSION")

FLETCHER: (Singing) Of me.

...Of me. Just in the last couple months, I was reflecting on, OK, well, what is the better version of me doing? And is she actually doing better? And I wrote a song called "Doing Better" that just really reflects on all the ways of, like, so many of the ways that my career had taken off...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOING BETTER")

FLETCHER: (Singing) I'm doing better. I don't know if you remember when I told you in September that you wouldn't recognize me.

...Getting to do all these, like, incredible, incredible things and perform in all these places. And I felt awful.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOING BETTER")

FLETCHER: (Singing) I felt like I was flying. I felt the stars aligning. I always thought that if I ever got this high, I'd like it. I'm doing better. I've been looking for my center, but my tummy still hurts. Why does better feel worse?

We're kind of sold this narrative of, like, you know, we should have this amount of success by this amount of age and this type of relationship and this degree and this job. And this idea, this dream of better, you know, that we all have - it doesn't feel good. And it's actually, like, the deeper stuff, the stuff that, like, we don't put on display is, like, where so much of the antidote really is.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLETCHER SONG, "GIRL OF MY DREAMS")

SUMMERS: I don't want to get too messy here on public radio, but I do have to ask you about the ladies. I mean, your songs - people call them queer love anthems and queer anthems. And I'm curious how much you think about where your music fits within the sphere of queer pop music. Is that something that's, like, front of mind for you at all?

FLETCHER: When I first started writing, I was, like, really just embarking on my journey with my sexuality and just, you know, when I started talking about all of it for the first time and just falling in love with a girl for the first time. And I never really set out with a specific mission of, like, oh, I need the music to be categorized as this. It was just like, I just need to be free.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRL OF MY DREAMS")

FLETCHER: (Singing) I'm on heartbreak No. 4. Tequila doesn't hit no more. I got a new rebound. I'm falling for me now.

When I think about where my music fits in terms of, you know, the scope of music, it's just - it's meant to go to whoever needs to find it. And my queer journey has been so embraced by the community, and I couldn't ask for anything more. But it's also just - you know, it's also so deeply universal, like, this idea of, like, belonging and...

SUMMERS: Right.

FLETCHER: ...Experiencing love for the first time.

SUMMERS: I mean, that's one of the things that strikes me, right? Whether you are dating a woman or married to a man, there's something really beautiful and universal with the way that you describe these intense and heartfelt and, at times, overwhelming feelings when it comes to love and lust and relationships and all of the spectrum in between there. It's something that works for everybody.

FLETCHER: Oh, I love that. Thank you. Yeah. It's - for me, it's always just - I've never wanted to - anyone to feel, like, alienated from the music, from the emotions, from the feelings. Like, I felt alienated for so long as a kid, you know? I just felt so in my own world and lonely and so sad. And to just - to find that sense of home, like, in myself and in my own music...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRETENDING")

FLETCHER: (Singing) I say goodnight as if my heart isn't wrenching.

And that's really what it is for me. It's just, like, the feelings are universal. We all navigate it. We all go through it, no matter how you identify, like, orientation-wise, gender, you know, sexuality. It's - we're human.

SUMMERS: Carrie Fletcher, thank you so much.

FLETCHER: Thank you so much. I appreciate you. This was a really sweet conversation.

SUMMERS: Fletcher's newest album, "In Search Of The Antidote," is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRETENDING")

FLETCHER: (Singing) We'll keep on pretending. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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