interview : jen cloher
Jen Cloher is a singer/songwriter know for her unique blend of bluegrass, country and folk. Despite graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, the artist quickly pursued a music career releasing her debut Dead Wood Falls in 2005, which earned her an ARIA nominated for Best Female Artist.
Cloher followed this up with Hidden Hands in 2009. Hidden Hands was named a top release of 2009 by The Age and received three nominations for The Age EG awards.
Last month Cloher released the video clip to her first single from forthcoming album In Blood Memory. Entitled, Mount Beauty, the song has been commended for the artist’s likeness to Cat Power and PJ Harvey, who are known for their tightly constructed songs.
Lip was fortunate enough to chat to Cloher about Mount Beauty, music and her current Australian tour.
Well done on the success of your current single Mount Beauty. What was the inspiration?
I haven’t climbed ‘Mount Beauty’ yet and I just found out there’s a good reason for this. Apparently it doesn’t exist! Mount Beauty is a place, but there’s no mountain there; just a hill. Mount Beauty hill. I’m singing about an imaginary place though, which I kind of like.
What was it like filming Mount Beauty? You jumped into a river at some point.
Harrowing. The water in that river was coming straight from the snow melting on Mt Donna Buang in Warburton Victoria. I tried to have a coffee after we shot that scene. I was shaking so much I spilt it all over myself.
How have you responded to comparisons to PJ Harvey and Cat Power?
Love them. I’d only feel weird if I didn’t feel like I’ve found my own voice as a songwriter. PJ gets Patti Smith a lot, and Cat Power gets Karen Dalton. I guess everyone compares artists to other artists in order to identify the experience and speak a common language [among] music lovers.
In Blood Memory is due out early next year; what was it like writing it? Is it finished yet?
Nearly there. [I have] a little more recording to do in December/January and then out in April if all things go to plan. The experience of writing has been fun, a lot less intense than my last album Hidden Hands. I’ve had a lot more fun with this album.
What has the response been like to songs off In Blood Memory on tour so far?
Really positive. We’ve been playing about half of the new album in the set and people seem to be connecting to the songs without having heard them before.
You didn’t start pick up the guitar until you were 21. Why?
I was too busy treading the boards at NIDA [National Institute of Dramatic Art]. While I was there I bought my first guitar. I would cut class and sneak off to the girls’ change rooms to play. Music gradually took over as my focus and I’m glad it did. I love what I do.
What compelled you to write music?
It feels good. The endorphin release that comes from singing and playing music with other people to other people is incredibly addictive.
How do you think you have changed since starting as an artist?
My tastes have developed and changed. I have more confidence in what I am drawn to musically rather than second-guessing myself.
On the business side I’m more realistic about what actually goes into having a sustainable career in this country. I started a series of workshops a couple of years ago called I Manage My Music to assist self-managed independent artists with the business of managing and building a career, particularly in the early stages.
We’ve had Gotye, Lanie Lane, Clare Bowditch, The Drones, Lior; so many great artists come in and talk about their experience. It’s been a huge learning curve for me.
What have you been listening to lately?
Melodie Nelson, Catcall, Dick Diver, Mia Dyson, Courtney Barnett, Lower Plenty, New Estate. There’s so much great music in this country!
If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
It changes everyday, but today: Neil Young. I’d like to talk to him about the future of recorded music and MP3 files. He has a lot of interesting things to say about that at the moment.
Lastly, what can fans expect from Jen Cloher in the future?
A big juicy pash.
Jen Cloher will be wrapping up the remainder of her Australian tour this week. Dates, and details below.
JEN CLOHER WITH COURTNEY BARNETT
Thursday November 22– Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, tickets via Black Bear Lodge
Saturday December 1– Republic Bar, Hobart, tickets via Republic Bar
By Avrille Bylok-Collard