(Photography by another old friend, also an amazingly talented Castle Rushen High School veteran Mr Orry Maddrell.)
Clara Barker is one of my oldest friends. Seriously, I’ve known her since we were both (Oh Jesus) 13? 14? Whatever age society arbitrarily decides the best possible thing to do is throw you into the shark infested waters of Secondary School and see what seven years of adolescence, education, hormones and stress will do both to and for you. I came out the other side equipped with the mighty wordforge that is even now spewing forth the syllables that you’re reading. She came out the other side on a parallel track, working the music end of things with the same bone dry wit and endless perception that she’s had as long as I’ve known her.
Only now it’s set to MUSIC.
I interviewed Clara about her new album, which is available right flipping now. The interview, laced with the sort of cheery profanity island kids are taught at the same time as adding (Seriously I swear I have a GCSE in it somewhere), is below.
(Cover art by the fantastically talented Juan Moore. Seriously, the amount of kickass creativity packed onto The Rock, as some of us call the Isle of Man, never ceases to amaze me)
Clara: I always wanted to be a singer / songwriter and knew that I was somewhere inside but I took too many criticisms to heart and thought I was just dreaming. For the record, I am far more sensitive than my general noisiness and Jack Daniel’s will lead people to believe! I’ve always been a writer and I’d say I was one way before I’d say I’m a singer or a musician. My Dad tried to teach me guitar when I was small and I couldn’t do it because my hands were too small for his guitar and it hurt my fingers. I confused my singing-stage fright for inability for so long and it compounded in on itself. I always loved to sing but got told – and told a lot because I couldn’t ‘belt it out’ – that I wasn’t a singer. Maybe I’m still not. I’m just not afraid anymore and my voice doesn’t shake so much these days is all. In hindsight, with more encouragement I’d have found my path sooner… but then would I have grown into the person who wrote the songs I did? I have to believe I wouldn’t. And hey – I’m here now. Fashionably late and ready for the party!
Me: Who influenced your style? Who continues to?
Clara: *giggles* Do you know what? I have absolutely no idea. Everyone’s path is different and mine led me here. There are a few songs on FAATB that were written before Indigo was even begun and in my experience, the songs come out when they’re ready. In this case, the ‘difficult’ thing about making this album was getting both me and Phil healthy, motivated, in the studio and with our A Game™ at the same time. We both agree that there must have been reasons for the four year gap between albums and that we had lessons to learn in that time which we were supposed to bring to the table for this one. Despite the occasional wobble, I’m immensely proud of this album and I forgive us all for taking our time now that I’ve heard it all finished and stuff.
Clara: Quite apart from being 4 years older and wiser, I guess the big thing is the zero tolerance for bullshit and bollocks that we (as a team) have acquired. That may sound shocking compared with all the hippy dippy stuff I was saying before, but there are some serious business brains at work in that studio and we’re not messing a-fucking-bout 😉 We had a lot of smoke blown up our arses during the making of Indigo and got stalled and burnt a few times by it in the end. This time there were two rules – nobody is involved in the album unless they are keener than mustard, no stalling AND the Benign Dictatorship – as named by Phil. The rules are thus – he has as many ideas as he likes but it’s my call at the end of the day and I am the one who signs off on everything. Neither of us bring our ego into the studio and we’re free to try stuff and fuck up as much as we need to. The album has my real name on the front of though and I’ve got to be happy with it because we are always going to be inextricably linked. I’m happy, before you ask. Hella happy:)
Me: What’s really worked?
Clara: Me., Phil, drinking booze, not drinking booze, saying ‘fuck it! and ‘bollocks’
Me: What part of the process have you wanted to stake out for the fire ants and watch slowly suffocate via a webcam, CSI style?
4. Gypo Buggane of Ballagroove Records in the Isle of Man is a friend of mine and had said years ago that if I ever fancied an alternative mix of one of my songs then he’d love to take part. Of course I did, the guy is hella talented and sees things from a completely different angle from me and I was dying to give him something of mine to have at. I had no input at all and I love listening to what he’s done with Seth – a complete rework of the whole melody and structure using nothing but the stem files.
Thanks, Clara that’s one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done. Fine Art & The Breslins is available now and is well worth your time, money and internet connection. Go buy it.