A few years ago, Jeremy Zucker and Chelsea Cutler were just a couple college kids in separate corners of the world, Zucker at Colorado College and Cutler at Amherst. Now with respective impressive come-ups behind them — Zucker self-released his music online until his "talk is overrated" ft. blackbear blew up in 2017, Cutler was a Soundcloud staple whose "Your Shirt," started charting on Spotify, racking up 62 million streams — the rookies find themselves poised to take on the pop machine.
They're doing it together. And becoming a pop power duo along the way. Zucker and Cutler met serendipitously in 2016 before either had a hit or a label. They met again when both signed to Republic Records and, with their similar stories, found themselves natural collaborators. Their debut collab "better off" came last year. The twinkly, folk-pop lullaby proved both's vocal charms and writing chemistry: Zucker is an aching vocal lovechild of Ed Sheeran and Mumford and Sons, while Cutler's gentle voice is equal parts silk and sugar.
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The song was so well-received — earnesty like theirs is in somewhat rare supply these days — they've collaborated again by popular demand. "Jeremy and I stayed in a cabin in Connecticut last year where we wrote our song 'better off.' That trip inspired some of our best writing, so we decided to go back a year later" explains Cutler.
The result is the anguished, rom-com soundtrack-ready: "you were good to me," which PAPER premieres the video for today: a nostalgic, sepia-toned, 35mm flashback reel of the "good times" of the ill-fated relationship Zucker and Cutler sing about. Like their first collab, it lands at the folk end of the pop spectrum. The pair reflect over airy piano, on a relationship where no one meant any harm but everyone got hurt. The song is affectingly wrought with the ambivalent agony of leaving someone when it's not the easy thing to do.
"you were good to me" listens like a break-up fairytale (the part where someone cries in the rain), but tells the story of a relationship messier and more complex than the classic sound. According to Cutler, they enable this kind of authenticity in each other: "You Were Good To Me" is the first song we wrote up there and showcases, to me at least, how well we bring out the most honest artistry in each other."
The video's frosty New England nostalgia makes sense when you hear Zucker describe the backdrop to their collaboration. "The cabin was basically a recording studio built in an old carriage house. The walls were lined with vintage guitars, keyboards, drums, and loads of random items that we ended up putting in our song. In between writing sessions, we would hike, watch movies, or just talk about life. The music really represents how we felt at that cabin: inspired, wholesome, and introspective."
With any luck, "you were good to me" won't be our only window into their late-night conversations, which are apparently crucial to writing the clean and organic pop storytelling that's quickly defining them both. Zucker explains "When we come together, we tap into these visceral, deep true emotions and it becomes something else. These are the things that we can't do on our own."
Photo courtesy of Republic Records