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:: Spotlight :: Clare Bowditch - Emerging as a strong musical talent

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

A positive mind and a good team around her gives Clare Bowditch positive messages in making her collection of songs amongst the most warm, affecting sounds heard in Melbourne. Within her sentimentality and charisma marks an independent and determined young woman and, after a good response from public and selected media to her first singles, she ups the ante with her first album, ‘Autumn Bone’. It is released through MGM Distribution and it’s typical of the hard-working nature of Clare, band, and support team, that Clare has endeared herself to Melbourne audiences. It shouldn’t take long before the rest of Australia sinks its teeth into Clare’s music. It was a relaxed, yet excited, Clare who spoke to me about her career to date, on the eve of her first national tour with her band The Feeding Set, as they undertake support for Machine Translations.

Q.Tell us about your background, growing up in music?

A.I started singing at seventeen and got into a band in Melbourne, playing around the inner-northern suburbs. I was still at school so it was long hours. It was a good apprenticeship, though. In my early 20s I started writing my own songs and playing guitar. I met Marty Brown (now my partner) and John Hedigan and formed a band called Red Raku. We had a little cult following, but we didn’t really push ourselves. I then went overseas to Canada to study for twelve months. Marty had contributed to winning an ARIA Award with Art of Fighting. I came back and Marty helped with my solo album. I always enjoyed music and singing. Then, about two years ago, I started to take things seriously.

Q.What did going to Canada mean for you?

A. Canada was a great breathing space. Red Raku didn’t have much direction in terms of arranging and writing songs, although we had a great time. Canada gave me the opportunity to do writing and play open mics – to be an amateur. In Melbourne, I may not have had the opportunity to do that. I met many other songwriters in Vancouver. It’s like Melbourne but more low-key in terms of music. It made me want to come back and to be more determined to succeed.

Q.Who has influenced the way you sing and write songs?

A.I can only relate those who have inspired me. Local artists like Art of Fighting, Sodastream, Richard Easton, and Machine Translations. Overseas artists include Gillian Welch and Tom Waits. The local community inspires me – their home and my home.

Q.The first two singles were well received, getting good media support. It seemed obvious that because of your fresh, individual approach, the audiences responded quickly. What do you think you’re giving them, in terms of your personality?

A.I really enjoy performing to people so I give them the best I can. What they see is a really good group of friends – our band. Libby and I have known each other since high school. The rest of us have been in various bands over the years. We have a sense of fun. I like to communicate with the audience. Take the CD launch night at the Corner Hotel. It was a really friendly night. I’ve since done support gigs for Pete Murray and Paul Dempsey. It’s a good learning curve because you’re there to warm everyone up. We got a good response and sold some CDs. I had to work a bit harder though.

Q.Your music is charismatic, organic, and you show a belief in your ability. Tell us how you got the band together and what impact they’ve had?

A. I asked friends to support a solo project. Marty was producing and playing drums. Libby pulled the French Horn out of her cupboard. There aren’t many French Horn players out there. Warren was an obvious choice as a bass player, and J Walker was someone I really admired. Marty had worked with him on the Sodastream project. There are five other guest players on the album too. J asked whether I was going to start a band and that he wanted to be in it. It hadn’t occurred to me but we just went ahead with it. It adds much to the act to have the band. I can do solo acoustic gigs if I want (like the recent shows with Pete Murray and Paul Dempsey). The name Feeding Set was chosen by the band and it’s worked really well.

Q.There are some excellent tracks, covering blues/folk/pop ballad styles and your upper register is extremely good. One of your special tracks is “Homage to Dad and the ABC”. Tell us a little about that one?

A.It’s a love song for my father. I am the youngest of five children and it was a special treat for me to spend a morning alone with dad to cruise around. It’s very much a “day in the life of” song, and completely different to ABC’s Radio National that he enjoys listening to.

Q.What has been the feedback about your lyrics from the fans?

A.We’ve got very generous fans who sit down and write us letters. I love that, plus email messages. To be bothered to write to us means they’re getting something from the songs. Most of the feedback has been really positive. People have requested that I put my lyrics on the website, so I’ll be doing that. The songs on the album still remain open to interpretations.

Q.This tour with Machine Translations has obviously been great – your first major tour…

A.We’ve been excited about doing this for a while. Thirteen of us on the road together – lots of good vibes and we’ll be bouncing ideas off each other. It’s a double headline tour running to early May. Machine Translations are previewing songs from their new album. For us, it’s been a means of introducing us to the wider Australian public. What we’re doing is quite unique and I hope as many people as possible see us.

Q.I’m interested in the “Do-It-Yourself” philosophy. How are you coping with it – being a young mother, lots of sacrifices, always on the go?

A.It’s incredibly time-consuming, as you know. I do it because it gives me the freedom to work the way I work best. It allows me to continue developing my own style – as a performer, as a songwriter, and as a businesswoman. I’ve always wanted to be a working mother who’s able to do it well. The hours are long and hard, though, and the details are never-ending. But we have enthusiastic and experienced people working together to make this work. There are lots of positives. The support of my family is fantastic. Marty (my partner), Danny (my manager), and I work pretty much as a trio. I am writing all the time. I think that becoming a Mum (Clare has a sixteen-month old child) has increased my songwriting output and creativity.

Q.How does this relate to interest you’ve had from record companies and weighing up the future?

A.We did talk to record companies last year, after the first single was released. To sign a deal, coming out of nowhere as a debut artist, was probably not the best position to take. I thought we should try to do it ourselves for a while because there are others doing it well that way. It takes years for an artist/record company relationship to develop. We’ve been surprised at how strongly we’ve been supported. It’s far surpassed my expectations. We’ll keep at it this way for the time being.

Q.What are your foreseeable ambitions?

A.We’re actually in the process of recording the second album. It is written and ready to go. We’re continuing to apply for assistance from Arts Victoria in supporting independent artists. They’ve been very supportive and helped fund the recording of the album. We’ve applied for touring grants too. Hopefully, we can do another tour later this year and release the next album. Then we’d look further ahead and take our music to America.

Q.You enjoy being involved in the local community too…

A.Yes, I am quite involved in community issues. Living in the inner-northern suburbs of Melbourne lends itself to it. I really believe in active service and to give as much as you can.

Q.You developed a course on self-management and promotion in music. That must give you great satisfaction and confidence…

A.It’s another community-based thing I enjoy doing. It is run at SPAN community house. It’s a 1-week course for people who are just starting out as musicians and want to know some tips and ideas; even in how to write a press release. I helped develop the course content. I had done it prior to taking on its development. I’d like to keep involved in it whenever I can. It’s a cheap course for people to do – about $45. It’s great for the kids to have this opportunity. It’s also been good for me to learn and give something back as well. You need to share knowledge.
Carmine Pascuzzi

The album “Autumn Bone” is out now through MGM Distribution.
Check our What’s On – gig guide for Clare’s tour dates with Machine Translations.

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