“I’m a people pleaser, but I don’t want to be her”: Charli Adams Dives into Her Liberating Anthem “Cheer Captain”

Cheer Captain - Charli Adams
Cheer Captain - Charli Adams
Charli Adams dives into the visceral depths of her unapologetic alternative anthem “Cheer Captain,” a turbulent and liberating upheaval of arresting magnitude ringing out with aching conviction and utter passion.
Stream: “Cheer Captain” – Charli Adams




It’s hard to be your true self when those closest to you want you to be someone else.

When Charli Adams sings her song “Cheer Captain,” she’s channeling this experience in the most vulnerable, visceral, and devastatingly beautiful way possible: Revealing to the world an intimate and important part of her own life story, and putting her pain and trauma on full display for family, friends, and strangers to see, hear, and feel firsthand.

Cheer Captain - Charli Adams
Cheer Captain – Charli Adams
I was nine and talking to God in the shower
I knew he was busy, said “Sorry to bother
But why am I so bad at being pretty like my mother?”
I wanted to please her
Guess I’ve always been a people pleaser
I tried to be quiet, play nice
But I knew I wasn’t doing it right
And I cried, wiped my eyes, and then smiled
‘Cause they didn’t know I was living a lie
I don’t know when it happened
But I don’t wanna be your cheer captain

It’s a breathtaking show of hard-won self-acceptance, and a powerful moment of truth for an artist who values honesty over everything – especially in self-expression. But for Adams, this song – and her own personal journey from seeking external validation, to embracing her true self – didn’t come easy.

“‘Cheer Captain’ is a resentful and regretful song about struggling with a savior complex as a serial people pleaser,” Adams says.

One of Atwood Magazine‘s 2021 Artists to Watch, Adams has been slowly teasing out singles off her forthcoming debut album Bullseye. She released the poignant “Didn’t Make It” last October, followed by January’s bittersweet “Maybe Could Have Loved” featuring Nightly’s Jonathan Capeci. “Cheer Captain” arrives mid-April as the third single off Bullseye, which is set for release July 16 via Color Study (Haux, Lav, Rosie Carney).

Adams considers “Cheer Captain” to be her most honest song to date – and considering the levels of sheer vulnerability she’s displayed on past releases, that’s quite the statement. She recalls her own past behavior as a “people pleaser,” and what it took to break this toxic cycle of putting everything and everyone before herself and her health, wellbeing, and happiness.

“I desperately wanted to be everything for everyone, so I became a customizable human being that often went against everything I actually am. It’s always felt like the thesis of this project as I touch on my relationship with religion, my parents, and men,” she explains. “I grew up in Alabama and I was captain of the cheerleading team in my freshman year of high school and a worship leader at a church. I think it’s safe to say I was struggling with my identity – in fact, I really hated it all, so a year later, I started school online and moved to Nashville for music.”

I tried to be quiet, play nice
But I knew I wasn’t doing it right
And I cried, wiped my eyes, and then smiled
‘Cause they didn’t know I was living a lie
I don’t know when it happened
But I don’t wanna be your cheer captain
Charli Adams © Slater Goodson
Charli Adams © Slater Goodson

Built from the fires within, “Cheer Captain” is a poetic and turbulent upheaval of arresting magnitude: A personal rejection of external pressures and the expectations others have had for the artist all her life. As raw as it is dynamic, Charli Adams’ unapologetic alt anthem rings out with aching conviction and utter passion.

“This song was written from a pretty angry place and it’s probably the most honest song I’ve written to date, just because it touches on multiple toxic relationships and unpacks so much, Adams tells Atwood Magazine. “When you’re a people pleaser, and frequently avoid conflict at all costs, you let people get away with a lot. I’ve been in so many toxic relationships, with men, family members, and having grown up devoutly Christian, even god. I think ‘Cheer Captain’ was really my way of finally saying what I wished I would have said a long time ago and for once, standing up for myself.”

I shouldn’t have called, I know he’s probably busy
And when he fucks me over I’ll say that I’m sorry
And then I’ll take it all off so he says that he wants me
‘Cause I’m a people pleaser
And now he’s doing lines with the boys on a Monday
Showed up at my house, all strung out, like, a day late
Watched his stupid band at the club, no one else came
I’m a people pleaser but I don’t want to be her

I don’t know when it happened, but I don’t wanna be your cheer captain,” Adams sings in a stirring chorus, her voice full of trembling, heartfelt resolve. Her words ring out for anyone who’s had to let go of a relationship because of its toxicity; for those who have left their community or rejected their own family because of what they were being put through.

“Cheer Captain” is a painful, beautiful anthem of empowerment and liberation – and between the pure passion Adams puts into her performance and the conviction she shows in conversation, this song feels like a very special win.

I tried to be quiet, play nice
But I knew I wasn’t doing it right
And I cried, wiped my eyes, and then smiled
‘Cause they didn’t know I was living a lie
I don’t know when it happened
But I don’t wanna be your cheer captain
How did I let it happen?
I don’t wanna be your cheer captain
I was so sad then
I don’t wanna be your cheer captain
Wish that I knew then
That I don’t wanna be your cheer captain

“Cheer Captain” was really my way of finally saying what I wished I would have said a long time ago and for once, standing up for myself.

— —

:: stream/purchase Cheer Captain here ::
Stream: “Cheer Captain” – Charli Adams



A CONVERSATION WITH CHARLI ADAMS

Cheer Captain - Charlie Adams

Atwood Magazine: Charli, I'm so excited to start diving deeper into Bullseye with you, and for me that conversation really starts with “Cheer Captain.” What is the significance of this song to you, and where do you it sits and what does it represent on your album?

Charli Adams: This song was written from a pretty angry place and it’s probably the most honest song I’ve written to date, just because it touches on multiple toxic relationships and unpacks so much. When you’re a people pleaser, and frequently avoid conflict at all costs, you let people get away with a lot. I’ve been in so many toxic relationships, with men, family members, and having grown up devoutly Christian, even god. I think “Cheer Captain” was really my way of finally saying what I wished I would have said a long time ago and for once, standing up for myself.

How did this song come about, and how do you feel it captures who Charli Adams is?

Charli Adams: The song was actually written after I thought the album was finished. At the time I had no intention of necessarily releasing it, so I think that veil made it easier for me to really open up. I was in a 13 hour zoom writing session and I was really just venting about life. I think it captures exactly who I want to be, and I feel closer and closer to her every day. After the song was finished, I knew it had to be on Bullseye, so we sent the demo to mixing and now the world can hear me unpack my trauma in real time.

You talk about dealing with mothers/family and boyfriends in the verses; are you the narrator of this song?

Charli Adams: I sure am… Yeah, I developed pretty serious body image issues at a very young age, probably eight or nine. I never really trusted my opinion of myself, so I desperately searched for outside validation. It started with my mom, and as I got older the emphasis moved to validation from men. The second verse isn’t about one guy either, it’s pretty much all of them. I had no real sense of self outside of other people which made me the perfect candidate for toxic relationships.

Why am I so bad at being pretty like my mother. I wanted to please her... guess I’ve always been a people pleaser,” you sing in the first verse. These lines have stuck with me ever since I first heard them, and I've played them over and over again in my mind... They feel special, and important to understanding who you are and why you're making music. Can you share a little bit more about these words, or this verse, and really what it means to you?

Charli Adams: I mentioned my body image issues earlier, but growing up, my mom was always such a figure of beauty to me. I think a lot of young women can relate to that experience, comparing yourself to your mom and never really feeling good enough. My mom and I have always been really close, and she was a single mother when I was young, so she was all I really had. I put a lot of emphasis on her opinion of me, and as an adult I still find myself wanting to wear something flattering or pretty when I see her. I think moms are often the first person you want to please and receive validation from, so I began the song with this sentiment.

NIGHTLY JOIN CHARLI ADAMS IN REIMAGINING MODERN LOVE ON “MAYBE COULD HAVE LOVED”

:: TODAY’S SONG ::

Diving deeper into these themes, can you share a little more about your own lived experience between “playing nice” and “living a lie”? What is it about these experiences that led to this song's creation, and for you, makes this song so special?

Charli Adams: I think I’m mainly speaking to my religious beliefs here. I was always pretty skeptical and found it hard to have blind faith. Growing up, I was upset with myself and had a lot of shame about questioning so much and not believing the way the people around me always could. Maybe it’s my Virgo placements in my chart but when I finally sat with my curiosity, I found myself with pretty different beliefs than my family. I read tarot cards and I believe in a sort of zoomed out version of spirituality that’s much less oppressive than organized religion. I’ve always seen my beliefs as really beautiful and empathetic, but I hid them for a long time. I just smiled and agreed to avoid religious debates and disappointing people, but I was never really giving them the opportunity to accept it because I hadn’t really accepted it myself.

I’ve always seen my beliefs as really beautiful and empathetic, but I hid them for a long time. I just smiled and agreed to avoid religious debates and disappointing people, but I was never really giving them the opportunity to accept it because I hadn’t really accepted it myself.

I don't know when it happened, but I don’t wanna be your cheer captain,” you sing so painfully, but emphatically in the chorus. It's a kind of grungy, alternative anthem, and I absolutely. Can you talk about this chorus and what it's expressing for you?

Charli Adams: Yeah, I wrote the chorus from a more empowered place after hitting a breaking point. After writing most of Bullseye, I was taking inventory and looking at the way I’d presented myself to the world, even online, and realized I’d filtered myself into almost nothing. After hiding so many parts of myself in my personal life, I was subconsciously doing the same with my audience as an artist. I was afraid of what people would think of my true self, especially people from back home and realized how many people there are in the world like me with religious trauma or similar experiences, facing even harsher judgment than I was. I really do think hiding who you are to avoid judgment, especially as an artist, contributes to the problem and can encourage the shame and oppression that people in our society face. It’s something that I’m still working on, but I think it’s important to remember and it’s more important than whatever judgment you might face.

I tried to be quiet, play nice
But I knew I wasn’t doing it right
And I cried, wiped my eyes, and then smiled
‘Cause they didn’t know I was living a lie
I don’t know when it happened
But I don’t wanna be your cheer captain
Charli Adams © Slater Goodson
Charli Adams © Slater Goodson

I really do think hiding who you are to avoid judgment, especially as an artist, contributes to the problem and can encourage the shame and oppression that people in our society face.

I've definitely resonated with having to sort of play pretend and fake a smile with some people. Over the years I've tried to shake the habit and be more “real” with them, but sometimes it feels like surface-level is all some folks want. Have you had this experience, and how do you reconcile the desire to be your full self with this expectation of... to put it simply, fakeness?

Charli Adams: Woah, this is like therapy homework and I’m very here for it. Yeah, I actually take the blame for not accepting myself sooner in order to let my family in. People can’t accept you for you unless you’re being your authentic self and for a while, I just thought it was easier to play along. I think writing an album like Bullseye and letting the general public in forced me to do the same with my personal relationships. There’s really no hiding anything anymore, and that’s pretty terrifying but extremely liberating. I keep talking about therapy, but my girl always tells me that the more honest you can be with the world around you, the more freedom you unlock for yourself. I also stand by the idea that the most liberated people are the least judgmental of others. We all want to feel accepted for who we are, but accepting yourself has to come first.

The other part of this song that's so meaningful to me is not seeking acceptance from others. Recognizing it's all a process, how and when did you yourself learn to stop looking to others for acceptance, and start looking inward? Is that a part of the entire Bullseye experience?

Charli Adams: I haven’t fully learned this lesson yet, it’s definitely a process. My instinct is to care what other people think of me, and it always has been. Before writing Bullseye, I felt extremely limited in my self-expression, but once I realized I had written an album that was basically my diary entries I suddenly had to ask myself why I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there, and realized I cared way too fucking much about what people thought. I was exhausted and extremely depressed. It’s kind of dark but honestly, I think I had no choice but to let go of that if I wanted to exist, I knew it would eventually kill me in some way.

I love the “That ’70s Show” reference in your music video – it’s a fun and fitting throwback in a video that feels very up-close and personal. What was your vision for this visual, and how do you feel it adds to the song’s experience?“]

Charli Adams: Ahh, I’m a big fan of “That ’70s Show” and immediately had the idea of a smoke circle with all of the personas I adopted growing up, having an identity crisis together. I always wanted to be an astronaut and I was a cheer captain and worship leader before I moved to Nashville. I imagined what it would be like to smoke a joint with them and tell them that one day they’ll have an album about their experience and make music for a living. I wanted to “band” to consist of every version of myself that made me who I am today because they probably wouldn’t believe it if I told them where we ended up.

CHARLI ADAMS SOARS IN PULSING & POIGNANT NEW SINGLE “DIDN’T MAKE IT”

:: ARTIST TO WATCH ::

Do you have any personal favorite parts from the video?

The performance shots were filmed after I had smoked 12 CBD joints so my anxiety was at an all-time low. I think my favorite part of the video is reading the astronauts tarot cards though, I wanted that to represent telling my inner child what I know now and what’s to come. The death card represents drastic change and death to the old way of being. I thought that symbolism was fitting for the theme.

Lastly, what do you hope listeners take from “Cheer Captain,” and what did you take from writing it and now putting it out?

Charli Adams: I was really anxious to release this song but that’s also the motivation behind it. I want people to remember that speaking your truth is always worth it in the end. I hope people find an ally in the verses and then sing the chorus at the top of their lungs and mean it because everyone deserves to be their happiest and most liberated self. Also, I want people to stop letting shitty men take advantage of their kindness.

— —

:: stream/purchase Cheer Captain here ::
Stream: “Cheer Captain” – Charli Adams



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Cheer Captain - Charlie Adams

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