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Imogen Clark’s next release is a best practice guide on survival

WORDS BY MAEVE KERR-CROWLEY

Music to make it through.

What were you doing when you were 12? If you’re anything like me, maybe you were reading Twilight or going to your friend’s house after school to binge play The Sims.

Sydney girl Imogen Clark was playing on the western suburbs pub circuit, performing cover gigs for a paying audience.

Having grown up in a very musical family with a professional punk and rock musician for a father, Imogen believed from a young age that being a musician was as natural as breathing or walking. Surely everyone had a little recording studio in their home, and surely everyone could just pick up an instrument and have a go at it whenever they wanted.

So, when she was still a preteen, it was just as natural to make her pocket money by playing gigs in pubs and cafes around Sydney. Putting her spin on cover songs was a fun way to spend her extra-curricular hours, but she found her real passion was in songwriting and performing her own music in front of a crowd.

She wrote her first song a couple of years later, which she still remembers fondly and with a touch of embarrassment.

“Oh my god, it was a very angsty teenage love song about a boy that had broken my heart when I was in year eight or nine at school,” she reminisces. “When you listen back to stuff like that, you can certainly hear that at the time, you thought it was the most important thing in the world. But it was a coping mechanism for me.”

It still is, apparently, with a lot of the music Imogen’s made since drawing on very personal experiences in her life. She cheerfully describes songwriting as “the cheapest form of therapy you’ll ever get”.

Now 25, she’s certainly had a head start in the industry compared to a lot of other artists her age. It’s a never-ending learning experience, but she’s grateful to already have a lot of tricks and perspective under her belt.

“What I’ve learnt the most is that this industry is not a walk in the park,” she explains. “The truth of the matter is that you can be really talented, you can be really kind to everybody, you can work really hard, but there are still no guarantees at the end of the day.

“So you have to give yourself every possible opportunity to be the best. You have to be the first up in the morning and the last awake at night, just honing your craft.”

Her career motto is a quote borrowed from Bruce Springsteen – a major influence on her own music – which boils down to the fact that a really good musician has to make one plus one equal three, not two.

“I always think about that with my own music, because it’s not good enough to just be a good songwriter and a good performer, and make one plus one equal two. You’ve got to have that extra oomph or X-factor, of hard work and charisma, and just loving all of the great stuff about music more than you hate the disappointing stuff.”

All of this experience, hard work and free therapy has culminated into her upcoming release, an EP called The Making of Me. Featuring a collection of six wonderful tracks, the EP is centred around ideas of self-discovery and growth, exploring a journey towards becoming your best and strongest self.

Each track was written last year during a period Imogen frankly describes as “horrible”. While her career was on a fantastic trajectory with regular tour dates and plenty of opportunities to progress musically, her personal life wasn’t faring as well. Business relationships turned out to be a bad fit, personal relationships turned sour, and her most serious romantic relationship to date came to an end.

Everything felt big, uncomfortable and out of her control. But this isn’t a record about giving up or feeling sorry for yourself.

“I wrote all these songs around the same idea – that if I could white-knuckle my way and fight tooth-and-nail through the year to just get through that tough time, I’d feel like a stronger, bolder version of myself for having been through it,” Imogen explains.

She does acknowledge that, ironically, the songs have taken on a whole new meaning this year. While 2019 may have been a bad time for Imogen, 2020 is a bad time for just about everyone.

“I had no way of knowing when I was writing and recording these songs that we’d be releasing them in the middle of a year that’s so incredibly tough for so many people around the world,” she says. “So I hope it’s something that people can take a bit of light from in the dark, with that knowledge that you don’t have to wallow in the pain.”

If you’re browsing the tracklist, you might also notice credits for some familiar names from the Australian music industry. Alex Lahey, Anita Lester, Clare Bowen and Emma Swift were all involved in writing different songs, a level of collaboration that’s very new to Imogen.

Having previously been fearful of co-writing, she reflects now on the importance of finding the right creative fit. As with any kind of relationship, it’s much easier to open up and create something beautiful when you feel comfortable, listened to and understood. It helped that, with the exception of Bowen’s husband Brandon Robert Young, all her cowriters for the EP were women. She’s extremely grateful to have so many talented female artists involved, each bringing a bit of their own musical DNA to the record.

‘The Making of Me’ comes out on August 21, after which you’ll hopefully be able to catch Imogen at one of her COVID-safe release shows in Sydney. Dates and details are all available here.

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