Quarantining with your ex: good idea or bad?

Generally a bad idea, but for Cari Fletcher (who goes by just her last name professionally), deciding to lock down with her recent ex ended up being one of the better decisions — and she now has an EP to prove it.

“At the time we decided to quarantine together, I was supposed to go on a tour right before and we kind of had parted ways and I was just like, ‘I’m going to Europe for a couple months. Life is happening,’ and then this all went down and I was just like, ‘why don’t you just come be with me?’” Fletcher says over a Zoom call from her home in L.A. “We were still facing the same things that we were facing beforehand, and having a lot of really difficult conversations about life and love and a future and breaking up and sexuality and independence and goals.”

They ended up recording voice memos of most of these conversations, which translated into songs (Fletcher) with accompanying visuals (her ex, for whom photography has always been a hobby) for the new EP, “The S(ex) Tapes,” out now.

“I think a lot of times in media we only get two examples of what relationships look like. We get this ‘oh, it’s perfect, it’s us together forever. We’re happy.’ Or it’s like, ‘f–k you, you’re a piece of s–t,’” Fletcher says. And I’m like, ‘there’s no real representation of two people trying to find their way and be like, ‘I love you, but there’s still so much to figure out.’”

Fletcher grew up on the Jersey Shore, close to Asbury Park (yes, Bruce Springsteen was an early influence) and always loved music. Her first brush with performing was as an impersonator for kids’ birthdays: she did Disney princesses, she did Taylor Swift, she did Hannah Montana.

“I’ve been every Disney princess, I’ve showed up to every single party, I’ve been wheelbarrowed into a birthday party as the Little Mermaid,” she says. “Sometimes I had to go to IHOP and perform while people were eating…I’m like, ‘people just want to eat their bacon.’ But it built character, and it really was putting me very out of my comfort zone.”

She was on the “X Factor” when she was 17, before moving to New York to study at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU. A yearlong leave of absence took her to Nashville, where she wrote her first EP, before returning to NYU, where she fell in love with a woman for the first time, an experience that spurred her debut EP, “Finding Fletcher.”

The relationship, which she now calls “toxic,” ended, and she moved out to L.A. to get as far away from it all as possible. The next relationship, with the now-ex turned “S(ex) Tapes” collaborator, showed her what “healthy love is,” and has allowed her to be open to creating music in a more intense, of-the-moment way.

“I think the difference between my last project and this project is that everything ever in my life that I’ve ever put out, I’ve had so much more time to sit with and process and get perspective on a situation. And this is so in real time that I’m still sleeping on my couch because my bedroom’s reminding me of too many things,” she says. “I find it really hard to create when I’m really intensely, intensely feeling something. I kind of have to sit with it for a little bit to be able to sort of process what exactly it is that I’m going through. So I’m kind of still in the feeling-it stages, especially as the EP is out. So it’s all a bit overwhelming and all over the place, but I’m kind of just being with the intensity of it.”

Her spring/summer was supposed to be spent on the road with Niall Horan and Lewis Capaldi, and she was meant to release her debut album in 2020. But she’s a big believer in things happening for a reason, and sees hitting pause on the debut record to create “The S(ex) Tapes” as meant to be.

“My only purpose behind sharing it is to just, I wanted…to tell you what’s happening in my life. There’s no point in lying about it or putting up any kind of front. And then people don’t have their s–t figured out, no matter how much they pretend to. And no matter how perfectly packaged things are, s–t’s not easy, and it’s not black and white, and it’s not simple. That’s just not real life,” she says. “And I think we need more examples of s–t just being real life, examples of humans that are trying to navigate a really confusing, lonely, complex world, internally and externally.”

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