Leeds based citizen of the world Clare Kelly has been setting tongues wagging with her soulful voice and deeply personal lyrics. After a string of performances in Leeds and London, Clare Kelly is clearly a talent on the rise. We met up with her to discuss her career so far and her plans for the future.
Anyone who has seen Clare perform or listened to her music will know that she has a phenomenal voice, I began by asking her when she first realised that she possessed such a talent. “Maybe when I was eight or nine, I just remember lyrics really well to other peoples songs, so I was just singing all the time and music was on all the time. Then I think my parents took me to singing lessons when I was eleven, and then probably when I was about fifteen I started singing Motown stuff at school and got really into it, I did all kinds of soul stuff and rock and roll and then went on to do it at university as well. I did ten years of singing lessons, all the grades and musical theatre as well.”
I think I thought I would go travelling and become very insightful and into a lot of philosophical things…
Clare’s song writing incorporates a wide variety of influences so I asked her to point out which acts have been the biggest influences throughout her life. “I am a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, I was raised on Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, more recently Justin Vernon and anything he is in, Bon Iver…big fan, Angel Olsen is a big favourite at the minute. Fiona Apple is a big influence on me.”
Another influence on her work has been the time she spent travelling in Australia and America and as her lyrics are so deeply personal I wanted to know how she thinks the experience of travelling has altered her lyrics. “I think I thought I would go travelling and become very insightful and into a lot of philosophical things but I continued to write about just people I met and relationships, but yeah in a deeper way but nothing very philosophical too much. I think it was darker before I went away and it has become a bit more, not jokey, but a little less deep. I really struggle not to write in that way, I am trying right now to move away from that and try new things, to try and write in a bit more of a different way. Maybe to just make up characters or write about completely different topics, but I find it a lot harder and it’s just the easiest thing to write in that honest way. Being a protest singer really does appeal to me but I want to be very educated on something I would be singing about, I don’t want to sing anything wrong and piss anyone off. Since returning from my travels I believe my writing to have strong feminist themes and in relation to protest songs I am currently in the process of writing a song against gun use in the USA after being mugged at gunpoint in Chicago, the most upsetting item to be taken being my notebook containing all my lyrics from the three months before.”
As well as being a compelling vocalist Clare Kelly is also capable of creating engaging and beautiful guitar parts, which perfectly encapsulate the tone of the lyrics, I wanted to know how she first went about combining these two talents so I asked if she was a self-taught guitarist. “Yeah I am, is that obvious? Ha. When I was about twenty-one, when I was writing and singing, I was always writing with other people and I just wanted to kind of do it by myself. So I learnt it as more of a writing aid rather than trying to become a guitarist and I am just still developing it from there.” I then asked how it works when she gets other musicians involved in her projects, and if she writes the parts for them. “It always ends up like that yeah. With backing vocals I would always jump in on other peoples stuff, but in collaborating it always tends to be kind of asking other musicians to play on my stuff and just embellishing on those bits within my songs.”
Clare’s career so far has seen her performing all over the world in some of the coolest cities and venues around, so I wanted to know what has been her own personal career highlight. “I did a performance in London, at the Albany Theatre, that was to about 200 people as part of something to do with my university. I was a whole 35 minute performance and I had a whole band, I was Clare Kelly and The Mermaids I had seven people behind me and four backing singers.” This sentence brought us nicely onto discussing Clare’s obsession with mermaids. “I was just trying to find a theme that I wanted to go down, and I just realized that I am obsessed. I didn’t even realise until I was about twenty years old, but I am obsessed with mermaids and I always have been. When I was younger I loved The Little Mermaid and I was constantly at the bottom of the pool pretending to be one. I like colour and glitter and all that stuff, just anything aquatic.”
It was then time to discuss her future plans. “I am going away to France for five weeks to hopefully write an album with a friend of mine who I used to write music with in Leeds.”
Clare is also now involved in a new side project called Meander and you can find Clare Kelly’s music on Bandcamp.