INTERVIEW: Aussie Singer-Songwriter Cloves Is An Artist To Watch In 2017
    • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 04, 2017

    • Posted by: Ben Feit

    Cloves is a 20-year-old Australian singer-songwriter and, in her own words, "quite a blunt person." But you don't need to hear her say it to know, it's something that hits you as soon as you hear her sing. Her rich, vibrating vocals come out strong and gentle at the same time - with some quirks in phrasing that bring a whole other level of depth - sinking in like a slow-motion punch to the gut. And she's just getting started. After the appearance of the song "Don't Forget About Me" in the film Me Before You earlier this year, Cloves' debut EP XIII racked up millions of streams. Now, a debut album in the works sees Cloves and her team moving towards a new sound, and it seems to be coming together beautifully. The first single from the album, "Better Now," was released in mid-November. The track interrupts quiet, acoustic verses with a rousing chorus exhibiting Cloves' vocal power, and we're loving the sharp contrast. The debut album is set for a 2017 release, and Cloves is moving into the new year with her new sound and a signature bright, blunt confidence. She took some time to tell us about what the process has been like and what we need to be looking for in near future. Check out the conversation below and listen to the latest Cloves single, "Better Now."

    BEN FEIT: How would you describe yourself as an artist and your sound?

    CLOVES: Well, I'm not really sure how I would describe myself. I kind of just try to keep my music as genuine to me as possible, and I think I have a lot of different things that impacted me. It's a little bit of everything I guess.

    BF: Can I ask where the name Cloves had its genesis?

    Cloves: So I got that when I went to Bali for a songwriting trip. The name came up when we were in the studio sort of fucking around, and it just stuck with me. You know, I was looking for a name, and I just really liked it.

    BF: As a young solo artist, what has your experience been so far with creative collaboration and interaction with other artists?

    Cloves: As far as creative collaboration, I have a main partner that I write my stuff with as well as a couple other people in and out. And then I have one main producer that I do a lot of my work with. Yeah, I haven't had a lot of interaction with other artists or done any music with other artists yet. I've been working on my own album, playing with the people I work with. But it's quite a small team of people, you know, just me and a couple of guys.

    BF: So that writing partner is Justin Parker, right?

    Cloves: Yeah, he's the main guy that I write with. And then I've done a lot of work with Rich Cooper. They're the guys I've worked with the most. My main collaborator is Justin.

    BF: So those guys have worked with some pretty big names (Parker: Rihanna, Lana Del Rey, Banks; Cooper: Tom Odell, Mumford & Sons). Is that an advantage for you, working with people who have worked with these popular artists who have been around longer?

    Cloves: Justin is an excellent writer, and someone I've learned a lot from in my own writing. In terms of arranging, and melody, he's just been a big influence on me and he's so talented. That comes from him, though, not from anyone else. He's an artist in his own right. He's really excellent. So my advantage has been learning from someone like that.

    BF: What was it like to have "Don't Forget About Me" appear in Me Before You?

    Cloves: It was really cool. It was the first big film thing I've ever had, so me and my mum actually went to see it in the cinema. We sat down and had a glass of Prosecco and watched the film and yeah, it was really exciting. Stuff like that is very humbling.

    BF: So it sounds like you had a little celebration?

    Cloves: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, we had a couple drinks and watched the film. My managers in America went and saw it as well. My family went and saw it like 500 times. My mum took my aunties, and my nana, and like everyone she knew. She was like "I've seen it so many times!"

    BF: So you're originally from Melbourne, but you've spent significant time in London and the US as well, right?

    Cloves: Yeah, well I live in London now. At the moment though I'm in New York, doing a little bit of touring and work and stuff. And I grew up in Melbourne before moving to London.

    BF: What has it been like to leave home behind in the process of furthering your music career?

    Cloves: When I was growing up I always wanted to travel. I always said to everybody that I wanted to live in London, I wanted to go make music in London. I always felt that, you know, there's a lot of artists I really like from there. I just always felt quite drawn to living in that city. So I don't know if it ever really had that much of an effect on me, my goal was always to move there. But I go home, I'm going home for Christmas, so I get my dose of home. I like working, you know? I like working in the studio, I like being on tour. And that has a positive effect on me, because when I go home I definitely feel quite fulfilled.

    BF: So I heard your latest single "Better Now" was written in a single day?

    Cloves: Yeah, it was the first song I wrote when I got back to London - I had gone home for Christmas. Me and Justin went in on a day and just hung out and wrote it together, it was really cool.

    BF: The song deals with some pretty serious contemplation of a long-term relationship. Do you usually find that songs with such intense emotions come out quickly like this one or take longer to develop?

    Cloves: I think it really depends. There's been a few songs on the album that were written in a day or two and then brought into the studio and really worked on. Like we work on the arrangement and that sort of thing. I think each of the songs on the album keeps evolving and evolving, especially when you play them live. The song continues to evolve and you continue to just tweak it and play with it. But "Better Now" was definitely quite a quick one, in terms of there being a lot of emotions all at once. Usually when me and Justin write together, we're not very quick writers. We'll get a cup of tea, sit down, have a chat, hang out for a bit, play with some ideas, maybe use them, maybe not. So that was written quite quickly for how we usually write.

    BF: So it sounds like that song may have been cathartic in a way.

    Cloves: I think it was just quite a spontaneous idea that got done quite quickly. And it evolved quite quickly as well, and we were just like 'yeah we like this, this is cool.'

    BF: What can you tell us about the upcoming debut album?

    Cloves: It's very much lyrically driven, like "Better Now" is, and it gets a little harder and a little tougher. The production is a little tougher, the lyrics are a little more cutting. It's also all based around around the same space and time in my life. It's definitely evolved since the EP (XIII), it's gotten a little tougher.

    BF: Is there a goal you have with the overall feeling of the album?

    Cloves: I think in terms of production of the album, we wanted it to feel quite harsh, quite blunt. That's sort of my personality a lot of the time, I'm quite a blunt person. And we wanted that to come through in the production and the music as well. I'm actually really excited about it - the new stuff to come is my favorite stuff so far and "Better Now" is one of my favorite songs on the album. There's also a few others that I'm really excited for as well. So yeah, I'd say that the album as a whole has definitely gotten a lot harsher and maybe I have sort of matured as well from the EP.

    BF: What plans do you have beyond the debut album? What's 2017 going to look like as a whole?

    Cloves: The vision for the year, well let's say the album is border-lining on being done but there's still a few little tweaks and maybe a song or two to add to it. I think my vision is to really finish it off to the best of my ability. This whole year has been incredibly stressful and a lot of work has been put into getting the album to a place where we're starting to feel really good about it. So I think next year will feel like I've achieved something hopefully. And the rest of the year, hopefully start touring and playing a lot of shows and putting music out. I think that the album coming out represents me better than anything else I've put out, so I'm quite excited about it.

    BF: What's your biggest struggle right now in defining and presenting yourself as a solo artist?

    Cloves: I think that I have had those struggles and I'm starting to overcome it, if that makes sense. I'm getting into a good place now where I'm quite confident in who I am as an artist and my ideas and how I like to sound. So I would say that that was the struggle of the year, just trying to find the base. More in terms of production than songs. The songs were all basically written, and then it was just about how I wanted them to sound. Pretty much every single song on the album was just written on the guitar, and then taken in to be produced with just me and the two guys I've been working with.

    BF: And you think that the album has really succeeded in capturing that sound that you wanted?

    Cloves: I think so. You know, we're still working on it and there's still a couple of tweaks, but I'm really happy with it. It's starting to sound like I'm quite proud to play stuff to people now, and I'm excited about it. And all of the songs, I like them, which is the important thing.

    BF: Anything besides the album we should be looking out for in the near future?

    Cloves: The near future will be maybe two singles, or something like that. "Better Now" just came out, and it's kind of like the crossover single. I think the verses of "Better Now" are still quite similar to the EP, it's got the same sort of feel with the guitar and the voice. And the chorus is more how the direction of the album is going, so it is sort of a crossover song for me. It still has its moments of being quite soft, but I really like that it's getting harsher. And it makes it really fun to play live as well.

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