Introducing Interview: Clare Kelly

Leeds born ‘Mermaid Musician’, Clare Kelly, has been charming our ears for a while now with the stirring, ethereal sounds of the likes of singles ‘Less Alone’ and ‘Radio’.

Now, with the upcoming release of the empowering ‘Breathe’, we caught up with Clare to find out more.

Hi Clare, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hello and thank you for having me! I’m Clare Kelly, an ocean inspired alt-folk artist from Leeds. I grew up listening to songwriters like Stevie Nicks and Carole King, who inspired me to tell my own stories through music and gave me the bravery to be open and honest in my lyrics. 

How did you initially decide to start creating music?
I’ve adored singing since birth, or that’s how long it feels like to me and I’m sure my family and friends. I’ve been belting out every Springsteen line of ‘Thunder Road’ or ‘The River’ ever since I could speak. I began singing lessons when I was eleven and sang in all kinds of performances through school – Motown, Beatles and musicals like Les Mis and Sweeney Todd. I fronted a band when I was fifteen, which is when I started writing my own lyrics (we did pretty well for kids – interviewed by Annie Mac on Radio 1!). I juggled student and music lives and taught myself guitar while studying Popular Music at Goldsmiths University, to enable me to write and perform solo around London. Since then I’ve been creating on my tod all over the place. 

Your single ‘Less Alone’ is out now – can you tell us what it’s all about?
I wrote ‘Less Alone’ when I got back to Yorkshire after eighteen months on a DIY tour across the US and Australia. Coming home and trying to adapt, returning to the same routines I had before my adventures, was difficult and strange. The song is a reflection on my incredible time travelling and the special relationships I formed with people. I may have only spent a couple of days with some of these people, but they had a huge impact on me and my experience. I felt closer to those people I’d had fleeting moments with than some of the familiar faces I was surrounded by in England. 

We love the dreamy alt-folk vibes of your songs, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Aside from the greats I’ve already mentioned, I adore and take my cues from Angel Olsen, Aldous Harding, Sharon Van Etten… I have too many to choose from! But what connects them all is the emotion they channel into every song. They have an incredible skill in describing a feeling or memory with concise and beautiful words which tend to linger in my mind. When I watch them perform, I see how their music is a continuation of themselves, and I hope that’s how my music is perceived as well. 

Of course, no one’s going to see live music right now, but – in more ‘normal’ times – how is your local music scene? Do you go to see lots of live music?
I miss live music so badly! I would usually be at three or four gigs a week across London. I managed to cram in a load of fantastic shows before the world went wild – over the course of one week I saw Angie McMahon, Julia Jacklin, Fenne Lily, Aldous Harding, Alaskalaska, Hot Chip, Imogen and Brooke Bentham. It was great, those were the days. When I’m in Leeds, I love seeing shows at Wharf Chambers and Oporto – these are smaller venues and their fate is really worrying right now. There’s nothing I want more than to be in a packed-out sweatbox of music lovers again. Shows at smaller venues are such an important support for local bands. It’s a scary prospect for when (and if) they can re-open – for the venues and the artists too. I hosted a Sofar Sounds-esque gig in my flat in South London for my single launch which worked really well, but at the moment we can’t do that either. It’s going to be interesting to see how events adapt and develop in the aftermath of the last few months.  

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
My music is hugely personal and quite confessional – it’s safe to say you will leave my gig feeling like you know me quite well! I find that my songs really enable me to re-live memories, so it’s a really immersive experience for me and I think for the audience. Expect my face to be scrunched up as I project my (‘weird’) vocal straight from my gut, especially at the moment – while I live stream performances on Facebook & Instagram every Sunday from my bathtub! Before lockdown, I had just started gigging with my full band which has allowed me to alternate my sound and given me freedom to play around with the arrangement and introduce a new vibe to my set. 

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
I spend so many hours of the day scouring the internet for new music and welcome all recommendations. I supported Sofia Wolfson in Leeds earlier this year who is from California, and since then I’ve had a few LA based females on repeat such as A. O. Gerber, Allie Crow Buckley and Valley Queen. More local though – I love Katy J Pearson and Prima Queen. 

And how do you feel the music industry is for new artists at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
I’m just going to be really honest here because there’s no point doing anything else! It feels damn near impossible to get noticed – maybe I’m not meant to say that, but it’s such a slog without a label or management to help with contacts and funds; it’s a struggle to even get someone to open an email. It’s harder as a solo artist, without a group of band members to assist with all the admin (and keep you motivated through knock backs and un-read emails). You can play in pubs and bars and self-release records but to get a look into the window in which you can reach that larger audience and secure some great shows, sadly, you do still need a label. Spotify have a monopoly on emerging artists and what they choose is not eclectic enough for the varied genres of music being made. If Spotify doesn’t like you, it’s unlikely new listeners will find your music. It can be soul destroying when you pour yourself into your songs and then you’re constantly selling yourself the best you can, often to no response, and you’re just a drop in the ocean. But of course none of this is new and it hasn’t stopped me yet –  I continue to pour everything into my music because it’s what I love the most. I can’t imagine a life where I’m not performing and I can certainly say I’m learning more about the industry with every project! That’s why Get In Her Ears is such a fab platform for artist exposure – thank you for your fantastic playlists and shows. I’ve discovered some great artists through listening to your recommendations and you can tell that you genuinely care about the music you’re promoting. 

Finally, what does the rest of 2020 have in store for you?
I have a new single ‘Breathe’ coming out this week. Strangely, even though I didn’t write the song in lockdown, the meaning in the lyrics are now relevant to our current situation and I’m excited to think that listeners who are isolating will find some comfort in the words that explore liberation and independence. The song is about taking a breath and listening to what your mind wants. I also love the artwork (photos by Anxious Film Club) and there’s an incredible video to accompany the track. After this, when hopefully life has returned to some normality, I’m in the process of recording an EP with my all female band of songs which I’m really proud of. They’re quite angsty and it’s going to be a hoot performing them live. Obviously, everything is all up in the air right now, but I hope the EP will be released before the end of 2020. 

Big thanks to Clare for answering our questions!

‘Breathe’, the upcoming new single from Clare Kelly, is out this Friday 12th June.

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