- Thu, 2011-02-24 15:31
Signed to Universal records in 2008, Clare Maguire has spent the last two years under the radar, writing non-stop, working with producers including pop-maestro Fraser T Smith and gearing up for the 2011 release of her debut album; Light After Dark.
Listed in numerous 'Ones To Watch' Polls for 2011, Clare Maguire is getting set to sweep the airwaves with her dark, operatic-tinged, distinctive vocals. The forward thinking young-popstress can also be found on The Streets' final album Computers and Blues, having penned the final track. Chase and Status invited her on stage following her appearance on their new record No More Idols, while her live show has recently been honed following support slots for Hurts and Plan B.
I Like Music caught up with Clare to chat about writing songs, why the title Light After Dark means so much to her, watching Dolly Parton live, working with Mike Skinner and a lot more...
“I Like Music because…it helps me breathe.” Clare Maguire
ILM: Your debut album Light After Dark is complete and ready for release, how are you feeling about it?
Clare: I’m really, really excited about it, it’s what I’ve been waiting for. And I’m not just excited about having to sing the songs, it’s every aspect; the video-making, the artwork, the production side, writing new songs and live. Now it’s all going on at the same time and it’s very inspiring! I’m just really excited to be in music and around other musicians. I love it!
ILM: Though you’ve been signed for two years, you’ve been very much under the radar. Now we’re seeing you all over the place! Has it been a bit of a whirlwind?
Clare: I haven’t really noticed any difference! I don’t think it’s big yet or anything. For me it’s the whole fan interaction thing that’s getting really exciting, that part has moved quite fast. Plus I’ve been going into the studio as much as possible, writing with different producers like Chase and Status and Breakage who did the remix, that kind of thing. That makes everything even more exciting for me!
ILM: What format have these last two years taken for you?
Clare: I was writing all the time after I got signed, just because I really enjoyed it! I enjoy music, I enjoy being in the studio. Fraser T. Smith produced the album and the first day I went in with him I wrote this song, then I got it back and said “ok, this is what I want the album to be. I’ll do it all with one producer, it’ll be quite conceptual, very visual” Plus, I knew I wanted it to be called Light After Dark, I had that song and for a while, that was all I kinda knew.
ILM: Fraser T Smith has produced some big artists; James Morrison, Plan B, Tinchy Stryder, Cheryl Cole, Taio Cruz, JLS… How would you describe working with him?
Clare: He has no ego whatsoever. He lets you just sit there and talk to him and just be yourself. That helps you to be very honest with your songs. I think that’s why he’s so successful actually, he just really wants it to be about the artist and he’s very into that. He brought so much because he let it be about me – not meaning to sound weird – but he made it very honest. I wanted my first record to be about the words and the meaning behind the emotion, he definitely let me achieve that.
ILM: What was the first song written with Fraser? The one that helped you decide the sound for the whole record?
Clare: That was Break These Chains. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I’d been writing alone a lot, it was all probably a bit dark at the time! I remember there was a picture on his wall of a guy looking down with sunglasses on. Instantly, when I saw that, I imagined a film scene of a man alone in a room and everything that goes with that. I wrote the song really quickly because of that thought. And then it was the first track I heard and I was really happy with it!
ILM: Did you approach all the tracks in a similar way?
Clare: This Is Not The End is very different to a lot of the tracks on the record. It’s just me. I recorded it as a once-through vocal with strings. It was recorded after my Granddad passed away. It’s kind of a dedication to him, to my Grandparents and to Ireland I guess. It’s a traditional Irish song and I’ve changed the lyrics to suit him. My new favourite is a track called Freedom! I literally finished that two weeks ago (end of Jan 2011). I didn’t write that actually, it was a group of writers called Parallel and then Crada produced it. He’s this new, brilliant producer who produced Fireworks by Darke, which is on my I Like Music playlist actually! I heard Freedom and was just blown away and absolutely loved it; I said “I really need this record on my record!” So I went in and vocalled it! I love the vocal on it, it’s quite light, I like it when I hear my voice and it sounds light. I haven’t played that track live or anything, it’s brand new! It was only two weeks ago!
ILM: That’s a very quick turnover, I listened to the album this morning, it’s track four!
Clare: It’s very quick! I work really well to deadlines. As soon as I got the deadline for the album I think I wrote six songs! That’s how I like to write. I was with the head of my label yesterday and said “I’m gonna write a new album by June” and he burst out laughing. He was like “you can’t do that!” and I was like “well I’m gonna do it anyway, just because I like it!” I’m going in the studio with Chase and Status again, Breakage again, Crada again and Parallel too. I’m going in with lots of different people. I just work well when I’m working. When I don’t feel like I’m working hard enough I kind of lose that momentum, I just like that constant. It’s like adrenaline almost.
ILM: Light After Dark is a very direct album title. What does it mean to you?
Clare: I really liked the visual of it, I just like that kind of thing. I wanted this album to be for normal people, I wanted them to feel hopeful listening to it, but for it to still be visual. I don’t know how to describe it...I was just always obsessed with it, and I use the word ‘light’ a lot in my songs…
ILM: You feature on the new Chase and Status album on the track Midnight Caller. What was it like working with them?
Clare: I still haven’t been in the studio with them! I wrote that track, Richard X produced it and then he sent them the vocal. They sent it back completely re-done which was really exciting and I absolutely loved it straightaway! I do love electronic music – well I love all music, but I think my voice suits that quite a lot. Then Chase and Status did a remix to The Last Dance which is one of my favourite remixes, and then I performed with them at the MTV Koko show which was so brilliant. It was the first time I was going out to fans and seeing people actually interested because I wasn’t the support act!
ILM: You also feature on The Streets new Computers and Blues album, on the very last track Lock The Locks. How did you find working with Mike Skinner?
Clare: He sent me the beat and I think he was originally intending it to be included on my album. I was writing along to it and thinking “ok, I want this to relate to both me and him”. I wanted it to be very raw, almost the way it was when I was living in Birmingham. I was thinking of him as someone from Birmingham, and the experiences we’ve probably both shared since leaving. I went into the studio with him and started singing it, Mike then said to my manager “oh, I didn’t realise she could write as well!” He took it away and used the chorus and did his own song around it. Two weeks later I was told that it was going on his album! I only found out recently that it was the last track on the last record too, so I was basically like “woah. That has just made my life!”
ILM: Wow, and it’s the last record from The Streets too!
Clare: Yeah! And it’s like a goodbye almost. I love that, that to me is the Light After Dark thing, the hellos and goodbyes. That’s what I based the Last Dance video around. That sort of thing, I love that. So being part of the goodbye made by The Streets to me, is just insane.
ILM: Is it important to you that you’re recognised for your writing as well as your voice?
Clare: Yeah, it’s very important to me. I think the chorus in Lock The Locks was so honest, I was so pleased that he kept it and just kept it exactly the way it was. The recording’s exactly the thing that I did on the day, a very basic recording of my vocal. And I like that, I like that kind of thing, I like that rawness to music.
ILM: You toured with Hurts, how was that?
Clare: Incredible! I love the visual aspect to their work. They’re so into that. They look exactly the same every day as they look on stage! I really loved it and they spoke to me about it a lot, they knew how much I loved that too.
ILM: How about touring with Plan B, how was that?
Clare: Quite overwhelming at first because nobody in the audience knew me at all! Going out to 3000 people the first night, to an audience who are completely different to mine, going out with my band and singing my songs the first real time…it was daunting! But then the more I did, the more confident I grew! And Plan B was brilliant as well, he was very supportive!
ILM: What can we expect from the live shows this year?
Clare: Expect the unexpected in a way! Haha! I know what I’m like, I know I’ll keep changing it! Since I’ve been playing live, it’s been making me think how much I want to get new songs and put new songs out to fans on Twitter and then incorporate those new songs in the live shows. A real interactive element. And I want to explore different genres. In my show at the moment I sing the Breakage remix instead of my version, and I like that, the mix of genres. People are kind of like “ok, I wasn’t expecting that!”
ILM: Out of all the shows you’ve been to, which have been some of the most inspiring?
Clare: I loved seeing Dolly Parton, she was amazing! She has the best personality as well, which I think is really important. A lot of the time people are like “don’t really talk on stage, be mysterious” and blah blah blah, but she is such a good, interactive person. I love her! She’s one of those people that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. I think Lady Gaga’s incredible live. I really liked The XX live when I saw them. I haven’t seen Kanye yet but I have to go see him…! Bob Dylan was brilliant as well. I love looking at YouTubes of old blues artists singing live, I love blues artists for their raw quality.
ILM: What would be your advice to young artists?
Clare: I think the biggest thing I’d say is one, you have to stay confident. That’s the main thing. And you have to use the internet as much as possible – just don’t be shy about it. Put whatever you have on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Myspace, and all these different things. Just push it and believe in it. It’s really important; I think that’s kind of how it happened to me. I had such tunnel-vision, I was so obsessive about wanting to do music and I never let anything around me affect me.
ILM: You have a very big family, they must be very excited about the album?
Clare: They’re really overly excited, a little bit obsessed actually! Haha! They’re really, really pleased – it’s just really surreal for them. When I got played on Coronation Street they went wild, just absolutely wild…!
ILM: What are your future plans?
Clare: A lot of live stuff with constant interaction with fans. I think that’s really important. I really want to experience different genres of music, I’m really into that – I want to get in the studio with lots of different kinds of people and not limit myself too much. Personally, I don’t like it when you put out an album and then don’t for another three years. I just want to keep going.
ILM: Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
Clare: I guess Michael Jackson, everybody loves Michael Jackson!
ILM: Is that the type of level of success you’d like to reach?
Clare: Yeah – but in terms of musicality. People like Jay-Z inspire me, with real business acumen about him. I love Marilyn Monroe as well. I think of her as a musician as well as an actress. Lady Gaga obviously, I think she’s extremely inspiring. Kanye West, he always changes it up. Just people who experiment and don’t rest on their laurels. I think it’s easy for people to worry about experimenting and things like that – ‘cause I did, I worried about it. But I think you don’t need to; it’s about you, your fans and playing live. That’s what it’s about, that’s what you’ve gotta think about….