It can be a bit difficult to know where to start when you’re speaking with Clare Bowditch: Musician, songwriter, actor, entrepreneur, educator, mother and collaborator. An ambassador with the Australian Performing Rights Association, she has also previously won the coveted Best Female Artist award at the ARIAs as well as Rolling Stone’s Woman of the Year for her contribution to culture, and recently finished up a recurring role on the hit Channel Ten series Offspring.
Still, she managed to find time amongst her hectic schedule to have a chat with Natalie O’Driscoll about what’s coming up in the Crazy World of Clare.
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I had recently read an article by another publication during which Clare had given the interviewer a hug at the beginning of it. I expressed my jealousy and disappointment over the fact that I only got to speak with her over the phone.
“Naw”, says Clare. “I’ll give you a virtual hug.” (Makes squeezing noises)
Instantly cheered, I continue. Bleach* Festival, the Gold Coast’s largest arts and cultural festival, is coming up in March and Clare has signed on to be an Artist-in-Residence. I ask her if she’s excited about it all.
“I can’t wait!” She seems genuinely thrilled.
“The reason we said yes in the first place is because it’s right up my alley in that it combines the things that I love the most. One: Entertaining people. Two, reminding people that they are creative, and three, being useful to creative people with their careers by giving them good practical hints – so it hit all the bullseyes.”
Clare’s love project Big Hearted Business aims to do all of the above, providing advice and skills to creative musicians on how to treat music as a business as well as an art form. I ask Clare if she would call herself a predominantly right-brained person.
“You know there’s been all this fluffy stuff lately about scientists saying they don’t know if the left-brain and right-brain thing exists. But yes I am a chaotic, creative type who has had to learn the nuts and bolts and strategic thinking, and find language that works for me around marketing and making money in order to survive. And I had to grow to respect those who work on the business side of music in order to have a career. I release through a label. I work with managers. I have assistants. You have to learn to slot yourself in the left brain anaylitical world to survuve as a musician. I think it’s important.”
I am curious as to where she managed to the learn the skills necessary to successfully work on the business side of her music. She answers energetically.
“I’m lucky that I have (husband and manager) Marty Brown who basically covers the whole deal. Networking. When we do our talks at Bleach* we’ll find it in the room together, that’s why we’ll be doing the morning tea. Also I’ve had the luxury to talk with people like Paul Kelly and John Butler, Christine Anu and Debra Conway. We’re so lucky cause we’re in the soup together and we can ask each other questions. A lot of people feel very isolated from that.”
The three main pieces of advice that Clare finds herself giving out to musicians regularly are along the same lines. She tries to make people understand that it is possible to make a living doing what you love doing without losing your integrity. She also insists on the importance of being in the company of people who are trying to do the same thing. Thirdly, she hints at the need for practicality.
“Really ask yourself. Where do you want to be in five years? And answer honestly.”
I ask about artists who may envisage themselves becoming the new Beatles within that time frame.
“You know, the chances of becoming a huge worldwide success are very slim. I don’t know that anyone has done a conclusive study of it but it takes enormous resiliance and a long apprenticeship. Iggy and Lorde stories are two in a million. But Lorde has been in development since she was 12. Iggy moved to the US as a teenager. These are not people who have just appeared, these are people who have done their long apprenticeship and are now doing the rest of it in the limelight and really, I just pray to god they’ve got the right people around them.”
Clare believes it is important that people understand the difference between that kind of success and being able to make a living doing what you love.
“There are a lot of people in the middle who are not hitmakers but they are making a living doing it”, she continues.
“I’ve never had a conventional hit but I live a very comfortable life. I would have literally fallen apart under the limelight that Lorde and Iggy have, I’m far too sensitive.”
I ask Clare for some of her own song suggestions to play through headphones to the baby I’m currently baking.
“Ah, mazel tov!”, she cries.
“I had a bad weekend once and wrote an entire lullaby album in two days, it’s just sitting there on the computer and I wish at moments like this I could give it to you!”
As do I, certainly. However, satisfied with the list of baby-appropriate songs from her back catalogue with which she provides me (I’m raising a Clare fan, obviously), I finally give in to my curiosity surrounding studio album number eight, coming up in 2015. I’m hoping she can tell me anything about it all.
“I wish there was a sneak peek but we’re in the very early stages. I have 168 sketches of songs in there. I hope to find 12 that are decent and that’s the stage I’m at. A lot of them are half-finished and lot of them are thow-awayable. It’s the same for every album. It’s a process of sorting and then I’ll know more, but we’ll head into the studio and get working on the demos and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t ready to go by the end of the year.”
Clare’s performances and workshops at Bleach* Festival are outlined below. Blank will definitely be catching a few of them. And I’ll get that hug, dammit.
Clare performs at Mudgeeraba Picnic in your Patch
Saturday 14 March 6pm
You can meet Clare on the Couch at the Dust Temple
Friday 13 March 7pm, 54 Currumbin Creek Road, Currumbin, FREE – RSVP email@example.com
You can join the Performance Workshop with Clare Bowditch
Saturday 14 March 10.00am – 1.00pm, Tugun Progress Hall, Golden Four Drive, Tugun , Bookings absolutely essential and participants must be available for the evening performance. FREE – RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
Or go along to the Big Hearted Breakfast Morning Tea at Rabbit+Cocoon
Sunday 15 March 9.30am – 12 noon, 23 Hillcrest Parade Miami, $55 per person (including booking fee)