Imogen Clark

Imogen Clark press photo 1 credit Giulia McGauran 2020

Imogen Clark’s EP The Making of Me comes out August 21. Clark is an Australian who recorded the EP in the US following European and North American tours. She worked with some amazing artists to put together the songs including Alex Lahey, Emma Swift, Anita Lester, and Clare Bowen. The latest single is “Found Me”

Clark has a previous album called Collide. Clark has a confidence in self and style that will make her an instant hit. For info visit https://www.imogenclark.com.au/
 
FEMMUSIC:  What was the biggest challenge making The Making of Me?
 
IC: The biggest challenge was probably making myself write these songs. These are some of the most personal, close to the nerve songs I’ve ever written and it takes a lot of courage to put that much of yourself on the line and be that honest about how you’re feeling. 
 
It was also a challenge letting myself be totally free in the studio, when I’m used to feeling in some way beholden to other people’s ideas of who I should be, what music I should make and what it means to be authentic. With this record, we tried to just let the songs decide where they naturally wanted to go sonically, and that was a challenge, but one that I really loved. This was the first time I’d written and recorded music without any limitations. 

FEMMUSIC: I was curious you recorded it in LA. Why did you decide to record in the US? How did you find Mike Bloom and decide he would produce? 

IC: Recording in the U.S. was a decision we made very early in the process. I felt like being in another country would give me a sense of freedom and escape from my usual surroundings in Australia, and put me in a more refreshed, creative headspace. I had never made a record overseas before, and I knew that staying in a foreign place while recording would be both a positive distraction and highly inspirational. In my mind, I wanted to separate this record from everything I’d done before in Australia, and be a totally new artist with a clean slate and no prior sonic identity. The result was a record that sounded like nothing I’d made before, but somehow felt more me than anything I’d ever released.

I became aware of Mike Bloom through his work with Jenny Lewis, who is an artist I admire. We got together last year with engineer Will Golden and my manager Jeremy Dylan to make what we thought were going to be demos. At some point over that week, we looked at each other and realised we weren’t making demos; we were starting a record. I came back to LA early this year before the pandemic struck and we all finished the EP. It was the most liberating and exciting studio experience I’d ever had, and so much of that was due to Mike, Will and Jeremy’s encouragement and the brilliant ideas they all brought to the table. I loved the rapport we all built in the studio, and the way that everyone felt comfortable contributing references and ideas, no matter how far outside the box they seemed.

FEMMUSIC: Tell me about the 2019 tour and your connection with Clare Bowen and Brandon Robert Young. How did that tour influence the EP? 

IC: Clare and Brandon have become wonderful friends and mentors to me over the last few years, and I went out on the road with them in the U.S. last year, just after I had come off a mega U.K./Europe tour. From a music perspective, my life had never been better, but personally, I was going through some of the worst struggles I’d ever experienced. I’d just ended the longest romantic relationship I’d had and was mourning the loss of some friendships and business relationships also.

 
Clare and Brandon were so kind to me on the tour, letting me pour my heart out to them after gigs and giving me some great advice. Just after the tour ended, we all got together in Nashville and wrote Found Me, the first single off the EP, about making the tough decisions you have to make in order to become the person you know you can and need to be on the other side of it. Being on the road with Clare and Brandon definitely built my confidence and helped me through that tough time, and I think the song was borne largely out of their encouragement and how strong I felt in their presence. I’m so glad we also got to have Clare provide the stunning harmonies on the recording.
 
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “Found Me.” How did the song develop? How did the video for the song come together?

IC: Found Me is an empowering break up anthem with an optimistic twist. It’s about gaining strength through adversity, and how sometimes the tough decisions are the ones that lead us to self-discovery. Clare, Brandon and I wrote it at their house in Nashville, and when I took the song into the studio in LA to record, all we had to work from was a simple acoustic demo on my phone. In the demo, the song sounded almost delicate and fragile, but as we started recording it, we let the confidence and power in the lyrics guide the production. The song is about feeling strong again after doubting yourself for so long, and we wanted the production to match that empowered feeling, so we let it get as big as it wanted to be, and it just kept growing. We were referencing everyone from Taylor Swift to The 1975 to Maggie Rogers.

 

The music video for Found Me was directed by my wonderful manager Jeremy Dylan and made with a crew of amazing folks who I’ve worked with on many of my past videos. We wanted the video to be bold and ooze attitude. It was all done in one take (which adds a lot of pressure) in an airplane hangar in the south of Sydney, and it’s definitely the most liberating music video I’ve done to date. I got to move like I’d never moved before in a video, had a badass, all-female band, and the vibe on set was truly electric.
 
FEMMUSIC:   I understand your father is a singer-songwriter. Are there any lessons or tricks you learned from him that have helped your music and career?

IC: My Dad was really the one who normalised music for me. Some kids grow up thinking that being a doctor or a lawyer is the expected career path to pursue, but I grew up thinking that playing in bands and entertaining people for a living and writing/recording music in your spare time was the natural thing to do. I started classical singing lessons at age 8, and continued singing classically until I was 18, because my Dad heard me sing in a sketch show my cousins and I put on at a family Christmas party. Then at age 12, I picked up his guitar and taught myself how to play it by watching him. He encouraged but never pushed me, and because of that I developed an insatiable love of singing, playing and eventually writing my feelings into song. He believed in me before I believed in myself, and even now when I’m feeling low about the industry and its challenges, he is the first to remind me how far I’ve come and to always back myself.

FEMMUSIC: COVID-19 has changed everything. How are you staying creative during this? Are you doing anything new or different?

IC: I’m trying to keep as positive as possible. As songwriters, we tend to be a highly sensitive bunch who think and feel a lot of things very deeply, and I’ve found myself in a state of high anxiety about the current state of the world a few too many times lately. To avoid this, I have a strict exercise regime and a working-from-home routine I’m trying to keep in place. I’ve also been working on some skill-based learning, trying to improve my lead guitar and piano playing.

We’d love to be physically touring this new material right now, but since it’s not safe to be doing that, we’ve got a virtual tour going on right now. The first show was 16th May and there are three shows left; 30th May, 13th June and 27th June. These are professionally produced live streams with great quality sound and video, and they are pay-what-you-can shows filmed live from my backyard in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales and broadcast through StageIt. Each show has a different theme, the next show being piano, the one after that electric guitar, and the fourth being an “all request” show. All details and tickets can be found at www.imogenclark.com.au

 
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?

IC: My writing technique is honestly different every time, and I think that’s the beauty of songwriting and why it’s something I can’t get enough of. Sometimes I’ll get a lyric idea going around in my head that I later build a song around. Sometimes I can’t stop singing a melody so I fill in the blanks with lyrics. Sometimes I write lyrics like poetry and later write a melody to it. Sometimes I write by myself and sometimes I write with others. It’s a wonderfully refreshing process because it’s always changing.

FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?

IC: The song Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell changed my life. When I first heard that song, I couldn’t believe someone so young could have such an in-depth understanding of life. “Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day”; that lyric just floored me. After I heard that, I delved deeper into Joni’s catalogue, particularly the albums Clouds and Blue. I remember thinking “This is the sort of artist I want to be”; someone who can make people feel things they didn’t know they could feel. Joni can write a song about love or heartbreak, topics which have been done to death, but make it sound completely new, raw and refreshing.

FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?

IC: Being a woman in the music industry is not for the faint of heart. I started professionally playing music at age 12, and when you start so young, it’s incredibly difficult to be taken seriously, even as you grow into an adult. Being a woman in the music industry means fighting twice as hard to gain the same respect as your male counterparts. Releasing a song about your ex-partners’ short comings means being seen as an overly emotional, whiny wreck, when the same song if released by a man would be hailed as courageously vulnerable. If you know what you want and you stand strong on it, you’re stubborn or a bitch. You’re pressured to look a certain way because apparently our only value as women lies in the way we look and not in what we have to say. It’s very difficult to win in the game of public perception as a woman, so what I’ve learned is to just say “fuck it” and do whatever brings me joy.

 

Being underestimated is actually an extremely powerful thing. While someone is busy underestimating you, you can be busy running rings around them, and they never see it coming. Let them underestimate you at their own peril.
 
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?

IC: I’d love one day to collaborate and/or tour with Maggie Rogers or Lennon Stella, two artists whose albums I’ve had on repeat in isolation. They’ve both really helped inspire me to develop this new sound that mixes a bunch of different kinds of music I love together. Previously, I’ve always been made to feel like if you love artists like Taylor Swift, you can’t also love artists like Bruce Springsteen, but I’m realising now that that is total bullshit. You can love and draw from whatever music you want, and both Maggie Rogers and Lennon Stella mix beautiful, melodic, meaningful songwriting with big, poppy production, and that’s what I want to feel free to do too.

FEMMUSIC: What is one thing would you like to change about the music industry?

IC: I’d love to be able to change the way artists are paid through streaming services. Particularly amidst this pandemic where all musicians have basically lost their jobs, we need to be fairly compensated for the exploitation of our art on streaming platforms.

June 8th, 2020