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Interview: Clara Bond on songwriting, new single and her first headline show

We spoke to the UK singer-songwriter as she prepares for her debut headline show at the Courtyard this week.

Clara Bond
Credit: Triple Fret Entertainment

Since she released her 2016 EP Out Of Towners, Clara Bond has become a regular on the UK country live circuit.

She’s supported artists including Lindsay Ell, Newton Faulkner and Wildwood Kin, as well as performing at Country to Country – which earned her a British Country Music Awards nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year in 2018 – and filming a session with the legendary Bob Harris for his Under The Apple Tree series. Now she’s back with Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Single, the first release from her upcoming EP, and is performing her debut headline show this week.

I caught up with Clara recently to talk about the show, her new song, how she approaches songwriting and her plans for 2019. Read on to find out more…

Your new song Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Single comes out this Friday – what can you tell us about it?

So this is a song that I wrote years ago with Lewis Fuller, and I wrote it after seeing someone I went on a date with six months before was celebrating their one year anniversary with their girlfriend. And I was like, ‘hmmm’. I’m not the best person at mental maths but I can do that one quite easily. So I wrote it a couple of years ago and we’ve been playing it at all of our live shows ever since, and I’ve never felt like I found the right production for it that suited it and did it justice. We tried so many things – I even released it once for a little bit and then took it down because I thought, ‘no, the song deserves more’. And then three years on, here it is, if not four. And I really love this song, and I think there’s something special about it. Personally I think anyone who’s dating or looking to date someone else and has a girlfriend is just a bit of a dick and deserves a song! [laughs]

You’re also currently working on a new EP. Is this song typical of what we can expect from your new music?

I think the production style of this one is a little bit funkier, and it’s about as funky as the EP gets. But yeah, it is a bit of a change from my Out Of Towners EP. It’s still me writing it, so it’s still kind of got my artistic voice, but it is a little bit more poppy. I was experimenting with different sounds. And we went to Middle Farm Studios in Devon, which is just the most incredible music studio you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s got a lodging underneath it, and we just stayed there for four days and made it. It is a little bit poppier, so I hope that people do still stick with it, but it feels very me.

Your first headline show is coming up in a few days – what can people coming to see you there expect?

Well this is by far the biggest production that we’ve done, because I’m organising the night. So it’s not like a production company putting it on or anything and I can actually choose my stage, how I want my stage layout to be and things like that. So we’re bringing the full band this time, and we’re gonna be actually recreating the sounds of the EP. We’re playing all of the new songs and the EP itself in its entirety is going to be out beginning of July. So not sure if you’ve been made aware yet but we’re releasing a song a month off the EP. The whole thing doesn’t come out until July but if people come to the show we’re gonna have copies of the EP there to buy three, four months ahead of time. But yeah, we’re doing full band. We’ve also got Daisy Clark joining us and she’s got an absolutely amazing voice. She’s someone I’ve done shows with before and have just been stunned by the sound of her voice, it’s absolutely beautiful. But in terms of my stuff it’s gonna be all the songs everyone already knows plus all of the new ones, and it’s just gonna be a really good night of music.

Do you prefer doing full band shows to acoustic sets? Or do they both have their own appeal?

They are different vibes. I go everywhere with my guitarist Olly who is also my best friend, so I love being on stage playing those songs with him. That’s what we’ve been doing really my entire career. But now this new record, this new EP is so production-based, it’s all about the sounds as well. So I kind of think I wanna be going out a bit more as a band from now on. Not turning my back on the acoustic shows at all, but in order to actually get the music across live I need to bring my band really.

You’ve mentioned online that the venue for this show is somewhere you’ve wanted to play for a while. Do you have any particular favourite venues? Or anywhere else you’d want to play in future?

Oh gosh! I’m trying to think. It sounds really strange but the Courtyard was genuinely, genuinely somewhere [I wanted to play]. I went to see Lucie Silvas at the Courtyard – I went with Olly actually, and we were just looking around and going, ‘oh my gosh, the sound system here’s amazing, it sounds great in here, the stage is really great’. It’s got a stage big enough for a full band but it still feels intimate. So actually playing at the Courtyard, it’s not just something I say to sell tickets. Genuinely I’m renting this space in particular knowing that we’re not gonna be selling it out, but I wanted to give fans the best possible venue to listen to these new songs in. I’m trying to think what places we played at we really loved. There are quite a few. Borderline I really loved. There were quite a lot of venues on the Wildwood Kin tour that I really loved, I just can’t remember the names of them off the top of my head! [laughs]

Speaking of Wildwood Kin, how was being out on the road with them?

It was an amazing experience being out on tour with them. I mean we’re friends, so it was actually just a load of fun and we shared quite a few band van journeys. It is exhausting work and the girls do it tirelessly, so just travelling around the country playing shows is really exhausting. But actually I find it nicer when you can find a band that your music works really well with and that you can go out on a full tour with them, because you kind of create this bond between the touring support and the headline artist over the course of the tour. So every night just feels a little bit more comfortable. I love that, I wanna do that again and just do a few dates with a band. That’s probably one of my favourite memories actually, is just being on tour with the Kin girls.

Are there any of the new songs you’re particularly looking forward to playing live?

Yes! [laughs] Yes. There’s a song called Pink Wine, which is a song that I’m kind of surprised that I wrote. But it sounds brilliant. We had the same guy who produced Out Of Towners, Chris Tilk who’s the bassist in my band. He produced the Crown EP and it’s just something else. It sounds absolutely phenomenal. He locked himself away for three months making it, made himself a little bit insane but it’s fine, it’s all in the name of art. But Pink Wine in particular just sounds amazing. I think it’s my most brave songwriting. I hope people really like it. But from the reaction I’ve got so far when I’ve sent the EP out to friends and family or to even just musicians, it’s the one people always come back with and go, ‘oh wow, Pink Wine’. I love it.

Would you say you’ve got a typical approach to your songwriting process? And has it evolved since your previous EP?

It has. I’ve kind of taken a little bit of a step back in terms of just doing as many songwriting sessions as possible. When I first started out I was just organising writing sessions with everyone I could, and it really exhausted me. And I really admire people that can do that and they come out with great stuff time and time again, but I don’t think I work like that. I think part of being a songwriter is actually figuring out what works for you and where you come up with your magic, and for me it’s just so random. But with this EP there’s one song I wrote just by myself, and the other two I wrote with my guitarist Olly Harris and the bassist and producer Chris Tilk. We went to a place that we recorded the tambourine drum called The Boathouse. We just locked ourselves in there for three days, set the entire place up like a recording studio, had a bottle of gin and just went, ‘let’s see what we come up with’. And we came up with three songs that all made the record. So I don’t wanna say that gin is the source of my inspiration…

But I think actually I’ve started working solely with the people that already know me and know my writing style. I feel like I know where I stand with them. But it’s not like they know me so well that they just tell me everything I wanna hear. So if I’m writing shit they’ll tell me it’s shit, and that’s kind of what you need I think.

Do you ever get writer’s block? And if so how do you deal with that?

Oh absolutely. I had massive writer’s block in between the two EPs – that’s kind of why it took me so long to release anything. I had a really, really bad experience with someone in the industry who really kind of just screwed up my outlook at the music industry as a whole, and it completely paralysed my inspiration. And I was like, ‘oh, why am I even doing this?’ You kind of attack yourself when you have a really bad experience. But I wrote a song, which sounds so cheesy, but I wrote a song about the experience with this person and that’s the lead single of the EP [laughs]. And it was just kind of like, you’ve just gotta smash that wall down and then everything will just pass through it. But for me it’s just tapping into why you’re writing in the first place. Honestly I get really angry if I’ve got writer’s block. I get really frustrated and like, ‘oh for God’s sake, this is so awful, I’m just writing terrible stuff, why am I even bothering?’ And then I’ll persevere for another 20 minutes and then a song will come out that I really like. But yeah, I do get really angry [laughs] during writer’s block, which doesn’t make me a very good person to be around I feel [laughs].

You did the I’ll Cover You show at the end of last year – how did you get involved with that?

The night came about because I’ve known Liv Austen for years. We’ve done a couple of shows together – I supported her on her album launch and she’s a brilliant friend. She’s genuinely someone that I’ve turned to so many times whenever I’ve had issues about life or the music industry – I’ve always called her and she’s talked me through it. So because the night was all centred around musicians and mental health in the music industry, it was kind of perfect. It was just such a night of love and support. Such genius women. I mean, Lisa [Wright] and Kaity [Rae] are absolutely phenomenal as well.

Do you have a favourite cover song? And is there a song you’d like to cover in future?

My favourite cover song? I’m trying to think… This is such an intense question! So many cover songs are songs you aren’t even aware are covers, like Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah. I’m really trying to think. I’m just gonna say Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah, which is the cheesiest thing but it’s the only thing I can think of right now.

And cover song that I want to cover – again it sounds kind of cheesy but we really wanted to do I’m On Fire for years, and we finally did it when we did the Bob Harris Under The Apple Tree session. I love that song. I really wish I wrote it.

You were also nominated for the British Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year in 2018 – what was your reaction when you found out?

I was just a bit shocked, because I’ve never really thought of myself as a vocalist. I’ve always considered myself a songwriter and my voice is what I use to convey the songs. So I was really kind of taken aback by it. I was obviously really flattered. Bit confused [laughs], but it was a wonderful compliment. And I think Jade [Helliwell] won it that year, which I mean she’s got a great voice – that was gonna happen wasn’t it? [laughs] But yeah, it was really flattering.

What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?

Well over the next few months we’ll be releasing the songs from the EP, and there’ll be a couple of videos that come out with each release. There are gonna be some live session videos that we shot, and some videos we shot in the studio. And then I think after that we’re just gonna be putting on shows – as many as we can do that will get the music across in a way that we intend to, if that makes sense. Because like I say the music is so production-based, we actually want to start putting on shows. That’s actually why I’ve done this show – I couldn’t find anything I wanted to be a part of or anything that was available to me so I just said, ‘we’ll put one on ourselves’. So I wanna start doing some more of that. It’s very stressful, because obviously you’re like, ‘oh I hope I sell enough tickets’ and you’re kind of constantly monitoring sales and things like that, but at least you know what it’s gonna sound like on the night. We’re doing all the stage setup and stuff ourselves so it’s gonna be such a great night. I’m really looking forward to it and see what happens after that.

Clara Bond’s new song, Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Single, is out on Friday 17th May.

See Clara live at The Courtyard Theatre with special guest Daisy Clark on Thursday 16th May. Tickets are available here.

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