Interview with Clare Siobhan

Written by Divine Magazine

Clare Siobhan is a genre-blending East Coast artist with a voice beyond her years. With her distinctive, rich alto voice, she paints pictures of love and loss, hope and fear, stillness and change through her deeply personal and introspective lyrics. Accompanied by solo piano, a full band, or a choir of her own harmonies, Siobhan’s music is a folk-pop-soul exploration of movement, growth, and light.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

For me, the best thing about art and music especially is the personal connection the artist can make with their audience. As an artist, it’s so meaningful to me when my lyrics resonate with my listeners, and when people tell me their personal stories that they were reminded of from my music. The experience of playing music as well kind of can’t be topped — connecting with other musicians, collaborating on new ideas — just to be surrounded by sound and beauty is something wonderful for the soul.

Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction, or did it simply gradually evolve in whatever direction it found?

For me, my musical journey has been very gradual. In my life, music has always been a major passion, but it’s very rarely been the sole focus. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and just finished my master’s in speech-language pathology, and my main gig right now is speech therapist. It’s something I love to do, genuinely just as much as music, so my path with music has been essentially one that had to fit around the post-secondary journey. The direction I’ve found has been a perfect one, though: I somehow managed to connect with Erin Costelo, who helped to connect me with some just spectacular musicians, and I had a total blast working with them on the record. Additionally, I’ve been connecting with musicians in Montreal as well, and we’ve been playing together. I’m pretty flexible as to which direction I’ll go in next — now that the record’s out, I’m back at square one musically, which is something really exciting. I get to decide what the next steps are, and what the next big project is, and I don’t know what it’ll be yet.

Photo by Aly Ambler

Do you enjoy recording and production?

What I’ve learned from this current release cycle is that I love being “the talent” in the recording studio. I love bringing my songs into a studio full of knowledgeable people with specific, technical expertise, and being able to describe the sound I want rather than try to meddle with tech myself to get there. I’ve had to record and mix my own demos, and it’s something I often put off because even though the final product is always good, the process of being my own recording engineer, producer, and mixing engineer just isn’t as enjoyable to me. There’s something about just sitting down at the piano and giving it your all, and letting an expert handle the levels and recording setup, that’s just way more fun to me. That’s a huge part of why I’m so happy with this record — I was surrounded with such a phenomenal team, and each one of us was able to really be the expert in our own thing. I was the songwriter and performer, and that’s the only thing I had to focus on, so the final product really came out beautifully polished.

How do you go about writing a song? Do you have a melody in your head and then write the other music for it?

At this point, most of my songs begin as some sort of catharsis — they’re the manifestation of something that’s been rolling around in my head for long enough that I need to put it down on paper somewhere. So I’ll take an idea that I’ve been ruminating on for a while and then just dump it unceremoniously into the notes on my phone. Then, I like to run it through a few layers of abstraction to make it a little more poetic and a little less like there’s a “right answer” for what the song is about. Some of my favorite songs out there are ones where people can’t quite nail down the meaning of the lyrics, and I try to emulate that in my own writing. I like to keep things open to interpretation when I can. Then, I like to make sure it rhymes (call me old-school), and then I’ll finally lay a melody and chords on top. I find the melody and chords tend to come easily enough once the lyric base is there — I make sure there’s a rhythm in place before I start, and that helps to shape the music when I get there.

Which famous musicians do you admire?

There are so many great musicians out there that I admire — Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and so many others. One musician whose kind of narrative arc I’ve really been enjoying lately has been Jacob Collier. I discovered his music in 2017, when he was making these incredible records all by himself in his room. Since then, he seems to have made a really concerted effort to collaborate with others as much as he can, and I’ve really loved seeing that. The guy can do anything — he plays every instrument and seems to know every piece of cool tech out there — and he doesn’t need anyone to help him make the music he wants to make, but he chooses to work together with other musicians still. I think it’s a real testament to the beauty and magic of musical collaboration — why settle for only what you can do when you can invite others in with different expertise, who can breathe new life and energy into your music?

If we were to look at the artists you are listening to, who would be on your playlist?

I’ve been listening to a lot of new releases lately, so here’s a shortlist of my fall 2023 playlist regulars: Jon Batiste, Laufey, Remi Wolf, Madison Cunningham, May Erlewine, Olivia Rodrigo, Chappell Roan, Mitski, corook, Begonia, and any artist in the Vulfpeck extended universe.

What is your current music project about?

I’ve been describing it as a bit of a “kitchen-sink” record: it’s a small, precious collection of songs that all bring up different themes, but they share a common thread. All the songs are from my own personal experiences and thoughts, and touch on themes like love and loss, hope and fear, change, and joy — and I’ve tried to weave a bit of joy into each song. I put that common thread in the title of the EP — “Seek the Sun”.  It’s a bit from the third track on the record, Amelia, from the lines “and if your cold lungs do fill with water / seek the sun, you’ll find her daughters / in brighter places than you’ve ever known”. Throughout all six tracks, no matter what they touch, no matter what kind of hardship or pain is contained within them, I wanted to make sure that a little sunlight was peeking through now and again. And that even in the most difficult of circumstances, there’s always joy to be found if you look for it.

If you were a member of the Spice Girls, what would your spice handle be?

I outsourced this one to my Instagram today, actually, and some responses included “Ukulele Spice,” “Glasses Spice,” and “Indie Spice”. I am partial to Glasses Spice, but I feel like if I had to pick one for real, it’d be Sunny Spice or Chatty Spice — I’m an eternal optimist almost to a fault, and also I love to talk.

What makes you nostalgic?

I keep seeing TikToks where the title is something like, POV: Christmas in Canada in the early 2000s. There are clips of old elementary school classrooms with the big box TV on the cart, little Christmas crafts, and those box-mix cupcakes with that kind of messy homemade icing that parents would bring in for a class party. Those definitely make me nostalgic for my childhood. Cupcakes are too fancy now.

What was the last TV series you watched on TV?

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy for the third time. I should say Ted Lasso, it’s a much more current and also more uplifting show, but I can’t stop watching Grey’s. There’s just something about the sheer chaos and drama in the hospital and in everyone’s personal lives that makes my life feel very comfortably boring by comparison.

As a kid, were you ever frightened of a monster under the bed or in the cupboard?

Absolutely, I was and — I’ll do you one better — I still am. I watched Hereditary on Halloween with some friends a few years ago, and for the next two weeks I was afraid to go to sleep because my apartment has high ceilings where Toni Collette could hide. I still live in the same apartment, but I try not to think about it too much.

If you could learn any language fluently, what would it be?

I think I have to say American Sign Language (ASL). First, it would be practical as a speech therapist to be relatively fluent in that mode of communication, but also, I really like the practicality of it — being able to communicate in a loud space or across long distances would be really useful. It’s also just such a beautiful language, and I think it would open up a new part of my brain if I were fluent in a manual language. Each new language opens you up to new concepts, and I feel like sign language would do that tenfold.

© 2023, Divine Magazine. All rights reserved.

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