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.

FIVE FAVOURITES: ELLIS

Released today (3rd April) via Fat Possum Records, Ontario-based artist ELLIS has shared her debut album, Born Again. Filled with graceful vocals, confessional lyrics, and understated melodies; the album shimmers with a sentiment and maturity that shows her growth as a songwriter. We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with ELLIS to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that influenced her song writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to watch her video for ‘Embarrassing’ at the end of this post.

 

1. The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
I’m pretty sure The Smashing Pumpkins are the coolest band of all time. I love how cinematic this record feels. I love the distorted guitars paired with really pretty vocal melodies. And Billy shreds. I saw them live last summer shortly before I started recording the record, and was like, “I want to be in The Smashing Pumpkins.” I definitely referenced the guitar tone from ‘Mayonaise’ in the studio.

2. Carole King – Tapestry
I’ve been obsessed with this record in the last while. It is just banger after banger, it never stops. I especially love the use of piano in these songs. Piano was my first instrument and after almost exclusively writing on guitar, I was feeling really inspired to go back to the piano while writing Born Again. I also love that Carole didn’t consider herself “a singer” in the beginning, and started out writing songs for other people, and then she comes out with this perfect record – it’s unreal.

3. Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism
This record came out when I was in middle school, and I’ve never gotten bored of it. I think everyone remembers exactly how they felt the first time they listened to Transatlanticism. It knocks the wind out of you. I love the long builds, the repeating phrases, the lyrics that break your heart into a million pieces. Also, the percussion! The drum machines, the tambourines, the tom beats – it’s good.

4. Taylor Swift – Red
Say what you want about Taylor, but she has a way of making me feel so seen. It’s like reading someone’s diary, but it looks a lot like your own. I love how candid she is in her songwriting – there’s no holding back, she just plainly puts it all out there like there’s nothing left to hide. It’s cathartic AND it’s catchy, you can both cry and dance to it and isn’t that amazing? This record in particular hits me hard. I’m pretty sure ‘All Too Well’ is the best breakup song ever written.

5. The Japanese House – Pools To Bathe In
When I was in the process of writing the record I was having a hard time concentrating at home, so I rented this little cabin (if you could even call it that, it was more like a tiny shed!) in the middle of nowhere on Lake Erie to get away and focus. I remember going for long walks down gravel roads just listening to this EP over and over again. The production is so good. I love the layered vocals over the minimalist drum beats, the synth swells, the guitar picking, all the subtle ambiance. It’s just totally beautiful and I found it really inspiring.

Thanks to ELLIS for sharing her favourite albums with us. Order your copy of Born Again here, and follow ELLIS on Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz

FIVE FAVOURITES: People Club

Soulful vocals, snaking bass lines and an anti-misogynist premise mesh beautifully together on the new EP from Berlin-based indie soul group, People Club. Titled Kil Scott, the release centers around a fictional character (Scott) who is a benchmark for toxic masculinity, and the group use their music to dismantle his unsavory traits. 

Formed of Sarah Martin (lead vocals), Ray Sonder (bass, backing vocals), Saxon Gable (guitar, backing vocals), Pete Costello (keyboards, backing vocals) & Drew Deal (drums), People Club formed in 2018 after they all moved to Berlin in late 2017 from their respective countries (Australia, USA, UK, New Zealand).

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with People Club to ask them about their “Five Favourites” – five songs that have influenced their song writing techniques. Check out their choices below, and scroll down to listen to their new EP at the end of this post.

 

1. 10cc – ‘I’m Not In Love’
This song is a complete one-off, it sounds nothing like anything else from 10CC or like anything else from 1975. The multi-track vocals are completely intoxicating, it’s like taking a bubble bath in liquid love. Stewart’s lyrics are incredibly touching too. Apparently, it’s an ode to his wife who had suggested he didn’t say ‘I love you’ enough. We like to think that the female vocal, “big boys don’t cry”, is his wife. Regardless, it’s a wonderfully intimate piece, indulgently orchestrated. Delicate in all the right ways.

2. Carole King – ‘It’s Too Late’
This song is a very special one for us, it sounds exactly like that place at that time; the summer of 1971 in LA – oozing with sunshine but hosting a reflective melancholy. King’s vocals are assertive and strong, and the irresistible poppy melody sits so tight with the light jazz arrangement. What a treasure, thanks Carole.

3. Bobbie Gentry – ‘Courtyard’
Can’t believe we only came across this gem this year, it’s the closing track of her 1968 album The Delta Sweete. It has a deeply psychedelic tinge to it, whereas the rest of the album is more straight-laced country. She must have been saving the best ’till last. It’s almost like a proto-youtube meditation video soundtrack (but way more decent sounding), completely immersive and supernatural. The lavish string section is exquisite and perfectly complements her vocals. The gently-delivered lyrics are very simple – she basically just describes a courtyard that is gifted to her by her presumed lover – provisionally unassuming but somehow it takes you to another euphoric dimension.

4. Gil-Scott Heron & Brian Jackson – ‘We Almost Lost Detroit’
We’ve all been in love with Gil for a long time, he’s a huge influence for us, he ticks all the boxes. This is probably our favourite song by him. He casually addresses the near-meltdown of a nuclear power plant near Detroit in the mid 60s and the moral ineptitude of the government in dealing with the disaster. As always with Gil, it’s a gripping tale of injustice, delivered with an icy poet’s cool. The arrangement is really delicious too, loads of juicy rhodes piano. Relaxed but incisive, brilliant stuff.

5. Donny Hathaway – ‘A Song for You’
You know a song is special when it sends shivers down your spine every single time you listen to it. Whenever we play this track, it’s met with silence, it’s impossible to talk over, impossible to not be instantly bewitched. It surely is one of the most profound love songs ever written. Words don’t do it justice. Divine.

Thank you to People Club for sharing their favourite songs with us. Listen to their new EP Kil Scott below. Catch them live in London at The Islington on 28th November.

FIVE FAVOURITES: Gurr

After the recent release of their new EP She Says, German duo Gurr have been busy touring and making plans for the rest of 2019. The new songs are a poignant observation on the world’s indifference to the opinions of others. We caught up with bandmates Laura Lee & Andreya Casablanca to talk about their “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced their own songwriting. Check out their choices below, and take note of their upcoming tour dates at the end of this post!

LAURA

1. Oasis – What’s the Story Morning Glory
It’s not only my favorite album, I think it’s also the best second album of all time. To top a debut album with a second album like this – including songs like Champagne ‘Supernova’ – just deserves all my respect.

2. Ulrika Spacek – The Album Paranoia
It really amazed me how few people know about this band: Very crafty sounds, amazing recordings, seems like they have great artistic integrity as a band… I really wish they were more famous and also don’t at the same time.

3. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
After my Oasis obsession, Deerhunter and especially Halcyon Digest were the first band to really pick me up again and get me excited about current music. So thanks for that!

4. Carole King – Tapestry
I found out about Carole King way too late in my life. Also BECAUSE SHE NEVER MAKES THESE KINDS OF BEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIMES LISTS and I really don’t understand why.

5. The Sound – Jeopardy
Maybe I would say this is the greatest album of all time (to me). It’s just pure perfection to me, the compilation of songs, the order, … everything!

ANDREYA

1. Le Tigre – Feminist Sweepstakes
This is the first album that I heard a more experimental approach to music with adding synth and random stuff. I was so into Le Tigre and their aesthetic, I listened to this album from top to end in my teenage bedroom at night.

2. Sonic Youth – Goo
I used to go to the record store and just try to learn indie music history by listening through records – this record was a little hard for me to grasp but it opened a weird world of eerie vibes and “anything goes” and it totally made me feel like I am special back then haha.

3. Be your own Pet – Be your own Pet
I rarely listen to BYOP anymore but I DEVOURED this album and it basically shaped so much of my songwriting as a teen- that it can just be weird and repetitive chord progressions, loud and noisy, confusing lyrics and high energy. Jemina Pearl and Karen O were definitely my icons back then.

4. Avril Lavigne – Let Go
This album is brilliant. So many good pop songs that I can still sing along to today even though I don’t want to?

5. Supergrass – I should Coco
I actually don’t know why I loved and love this album so much but I listened to it a lot and especially enjoyed the squeeky voices- “She’s so loose” made me jam on open dissonant chords for DAYS. Love it.

Gurr Tour Dates 2019
14.06.2019 – GER Mannheim – Maifield Derby
18.06.2019 – USA Brooklyn – Rough Trade (in-store showcase, duo performance)
19.06.2019 – USA New York City – Rockwood Hall w/ Surfbort
21.06.2019 – GER Scheeßel – Hurricane Festival
22.06.2019 – GER Neuhausen ob Eck, DE – Southside Festival
30.06.2019 – GER Paderborn, DE – Wintergrün Festival
13.07.2019 – HU Banki-to Bank – Bankito Festival
26.07.2019 – GER Eltville am Rhein – Heimspiel Knyphausen
27.07.2019 – UK Oxfordshire, UK – Truck Festival
02.08.2019 – AT Lustenau – Szene Open Air Lustenau
03.08.2019 – CH Olten – Olten Open Air
09.08.2019 – GER Rees – Haldern Pop Festival
10.08.2019 – GER Konigs Wusterhausen – Bergfunk
31.08.2019 – GER Stade – Müssen Alle Mit
11.10.2019 – UK London – The Lexington
13.10.2019 – GER Düsseldorf – New Fall Festival

Thanks to Laura & Andreya for sharing their favourite with us. Follow Gurr on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut