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Australian singer Imogen Clark on making an album over Zoom

WORDS BY RUBY STALEY

Creative coup.

While many creatives prefer working solo, Australian singer-songwriter Imogen Clark loves to collaborate. When at the helm of a cacophony of musical ideas and styles, Clark says that’s when her best work gets done.

With two studio albums and one EP already under her belt, Clark’s forthcoming EP, Bastards, incorporates writers, musicians and producers from across the globe and from every corner of the industry to create her instantly recognisable rock-pop sound.


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From humble beginnings playing in local pubs in her hometown in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, the 25-year-old musician has come into her own, playing alongside industry greats like Shania Twain, Ian Moss and Willie Watson.

Like much of the music coming out of 2020, the EP was recorded and produced between Australia and LA mainly over Zoom. In anticipation of the EP’s release and with her latest single ‘First Class Man’ having recently hit audience’s ears, I had a chance to chat to the powerhouse voice behind the project to find out just how she pulled it together.

Congratulations on releasing ‘First Class Man’! Tell me a little bit about this piece of music and why you created it.

First Class Man’ is a song I wrote pre-pandemic about one of the most important music mentors of my life – Glen Hannah. I met him when I was about 14 and he instantly became one of the most important people in my musical life, he was there for so many big moments in my career and was a constant source of wisdom and advice. Later in his life, he became my musical director in my band and my guitarist so I spent quite a bit of time with him, particularly towards the end.

Tragically, something that the music industry is still getting over, is losing Glen to depression in 2019. It came as an incredible shock to everyone, we had no idea he was waging a mental health battle behind the scenes and we wished we could’ve helped. It hit so close to home. I wanted to write a song about this but it was one of those things that was so close to the nerve I didn’t know how to get it out properly. When I was in LA before the pandemic, I met Colin Hay and I felt that he could be somebody to help me get this out. He was so gracious and was such a wonderful person to work with as one of my heroes and favourite singer-songwriters. I was honoured that he agreed to write this song with me.

Lending his vocals on the track, his vocals are so haunting – it’s a really special song for me. Colin had told me he had been through similar circumstances in his life, losing people to mental health struggles that you didn’t necessarily expect. So we could both relate to that feeling of loss and wishing you could just call someone, and wishing you realised they were struggling so you could’ve helped them.

That’s incredibly emotional. The other five songs that are included in Bastards, are they just as emotionally charged or are there some different moods explored? What can we expect from this record?

This record does feel like the most emotional, close to the nerve and raw record that I’ve ever put out. That being said, there are different kinds of emotions and different moods.I find that I’m at my best when I’m cutting as close to the nerve as I can so that’s what I like to write about, whether that’s about my family’s history of alcoholism, or losing Glen Hannah or dealing with misogynistic men in the industry. These are all topics I deal with on this EP. There’s a real mixture of emotions and I’m really proud of the versatility as kind of my first foray into the rock world, with some songs that are more rock than others. We made this record as a rock record but there are some more introspective moments as well.

Tell me about the process of creating an EP in the midst of a pandemic, when it felt like the world was ending.

It was wild and something I had never expected. At the start of 2020, I had no clue Zoom existed and if someone had told me by October of that year I would be making a record via Zoom I would’ve looked at them cross-eyed. We didn’t want to let the pandemic thwart our plans and our passion for this new music. I had written a lot of these songs before the pandemic and we released The Making of Me EP during the pandemic and we really wanted to keep sharing music and keep it coming even though everyone was isolated.

It was amazingly easy, we thought it was going to be much harder but I think our love for one another and our passion for these new songs got us over that fear of the awkwardness of Zoom. It made it limitless in a way because people could send in parts from anywhere, it made us feel really connected in a time when people really needed that.

Collaborating is obviously a huge part of your process, especially on this EP. You’ve incorporated huge names in the music industry who have worked with massive talent. Is this something you have always done or did you decide to spread your wings a bit because of the pandemic?

I love collaborating, it’s so important to get yourself out of your comfort zone but also the way that you can get together with somebody else and they can take a song to heights that you wouldn’t think to do on your own. For example, having Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play organs and keys, we were so humbled by the fact that he was really moved by the songs and wanted to be involved. Nothing is more thrilling to me as an artist than having someone of that calibre that I’ve looked up to my whole life and listened to on records be moved by the songs to want to put their stamp on it, it’s the ultimate compliment.

There are so many people out there I’m sure would be great to collaborate with. How do you find the people that would suit your sound best and would protect your creative project?

It’s taken me quite a long time to find the people that I would call my real team and I feel so lucky to have found those people. I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in in my music career which is knowing that everyone I have around me has my best interests at heart and knowing that the collaborators that I’ve chosen have only added wonderful things.

After such a huge blow to the industry last year, why do you think it’s important to continue to creatively collaborate in today’s music climate?

It’s more important than ever that we stay connected. I’ve been so struck about how people have continued to create some of the best music they’ve ever made during the pandemic and it shows me that artists, sometimes we thrive off challenge and adversity. Our industry is in crisis at the moment, it’s hard for many of us to stay afloat, let alone keep creating but as much as it is possible, it’s wonderful for people to keep collaborating and not give up and keep our industry afloat after such a devastating blow.

Your EP is set for release on May 21, why should audiences get excited and what else do you have coming up?

People can look forward to a really raw and emotional EP. It’s such a special one to me and some of the songs are some of the hardest I’ve ever had to write and I really think those are the moments that really brings out the best in an artist. We’ve got some great live things coming up now, which is really exciting, like some residencies in Sydney throughout May and we have a Joni Mitchell show paying tribute to the album Blue, which is 50 years old, coming up too.

We have a wide variety of shows coming up and I’m so excited for people to share in my pride for this EP. We’ll be touring Bastards in August with my full band and the aim is to tour as much as possible to make up for not being able to tour last year. I’m just really proud of this EP and really excited for people to hear it.

Grab tickets for Imogen Clark’s ‘Bastards’ tour at imogenclark.com.au.

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