GOLDMINE: Congratulations on your new EP The Making of Me. I enjoy all six songs, which I look forward to discussing with you.
IMOGEN CLARK: Thank you so much. I am excited. Thank you for having me.
GM: You cite Joni Mitchell as an inspiration, when you where growing up in Australia, and I am happy that you chose the pair of songs from her classic Blue album to discuss today. While U.S. AM radio focused on the song “Carey,” FM radio played “California” quite a bit as album rock was growing in America. I didn’t hear “A Case of You” on the radio until Frank Stallone, Sylvester Stallone’s brother, covered it in 1984, and Canadian radio played it due to Joni Mitchell’s Canadian heritage.
IC: I had no idea about the Frank Stallone cover. I’ve always been a huge Joni Mitchell fan. I grew up initially more on rock music. My dad is a huge Led Zeppelin fan, so that was kind of my upbringing. I didn’t know much about Joni Mitchell until I was about seventeen or eighteen. I had already started playing music and touring by then. The first song of hers that I listened to was “Both Sides Now.” As soon as I heard her songwriting, it introduced me to the artist I wanted to aspire to be, giving me a role model with a brilliant ability with melody and intelligent lyrics. It changed my career by finding her music. Blue has always been on the top of my list of favorite albums. “California,” where I had never been when I first listened to it, painted this most beautiful picture and made me want to visit America even more. “A Case of You” is a great example on how she sings brilliantly about all these things that we experience, like love, heartache, falling in love, and falling out of love in such a unique way that you know immediately that it is her, not only in her voice but also in her style of writing, and that is the most interesting thing about Joni. She has quirky lyrics that are amazing and she offers fresh takes on old ideas.
Flip side: A Case of You
A side: California
Debut: October 1971
GM: On your EP, the song that is maybe the most Joni-like is my favorite, “Paper Boat.” I enjoy that moody guitar at the beginning, like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” a family favorite, and the electric guitar throughout is wonderful. You have clever imagery in your lyrics and the animated video of this song on your website is a peaceful fit.
IC: Oh, thank you so much. I wrote that song with a wonderful writer in Melbourne, Australia named Anita Lester. She is a beautiful friend and songwriter as well. We were talking about this idea of something that is seemingly sturdy and supposed to hold you up like a boat and at the same time has that fragility that you can never trust or rely on, and comparing that to a tumultuous love affair. Anita is also a Joni fan, so that makes sense that this would come out in us both.
GM: “Push Me Down” is catchy country pop. There are a couple of people who I have written about in Goldmine, Molly Thomas, from Molly Thomas and The Rare Birds, who has a song called “Laura” and Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills, who both come to mind when I listen to your song. I really enjoy it.
IC: Thank you. That is one of those songs where we used a few influences in the studio including Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, who I am a huge fan of, and we were lucky enough to have the beautiful Benmont Tench of The Heartbreakers playing organ and keyboards on this EP. Tom Petty’s lyrics were so forward, conveying thoughts so directly. I was thinking about him not only when I was writing the song but also in the studio.
GM: You co-wrote “Found Me” with Clare Bowen and Brandon Robert Young. I met them here in Daytona Beach, Florida, a couple of hours south of where Tom Petty and Benmont started in Gainesville. For three years at the Daytona International Speedway, where the Daytona 500 car race is held, we had a country music festival called Country 500. I met Clare and her husband Brandon after their concert. I saw their names mentioned in the press release for your EP and was drawn in immediately to your music. There are guitar raindrops at the opening of “Found Me” which provide a nice touch and the content reminds me of my daughter Brianna, finding herself after a couple of relationships. She also loves this song and said it reminded her of the sound of Cyndi Lauper’s gentle hits “Time After Time” and “True Colors.”
IC: Thank you and Brianna so much. I am glad that you met Clare and Brandon. Clare is the most beautiful gem of a person. She lights up every room. Both her and Brandon became wonderful friends to me as mentors musically and personally. They took me under their wing when we toured together last year. I appreciate that they would check up on me. It is a wonderful feeling when you can make something positive come out of a heartbreaking situation like a breakup and with your daughter as well. I hope she experiences the feeling of finding who you are and feeling that you are stronger after being through the challenging time. I think a lot of people can relate to that, both men and women. We felt that the song would be heartbreaking with an optimistic twist.
GM: Absolutely. It definitely is that. I had been rooting for Taylor Swift since her early teenage years, watching her grow, improve, become more confident, and now she is a generous songwriter and a star performer. I hear her sound, along with an edge in “My Own Worst Enemy.”
IC: That is a huge compliment to me because Taylor Swift is probably my favorite modern songwriter. She has always been an inspiration to me, so that means a lot. I find her to be incredibly true to herself. As an artist she has always followed where she felt she needs to go in her songwriting without listening to any of the naysayers. I do feel like there is a bit of her album Red in that song.
GM: We talked about Tom Petty and Benmont. “Inside Out” seems to be the most Petty-like song on the collection, almost like “I Won’t Back Down.” There is a Canadian artist named Fefe Dobson who I saw and met in 2004, with almost a similar sound.
IC: Again, another wonderful compliment as I am a huge Tom Petty fan. The first song that we thought about having Benmont on was “Inside Out.” We felt that the song could lend itself well to his classic Hammond organ sound, like his playing on “Refugee.” As soon as he started playing, especially in his solo, he brought his specific Benmont flavor to the song, so it was wonderful having him on “Inside Out.”
GM: My wife Donna, along with Brianna, both enjoy P!nk very much. Donna has seen P!nk on U.S. television numerous times and Brianna has seen P!nk in concert with her friends and thinks she is incredible. The title song “The Making of Me” reminds me of P!nk with the storytelling that you deliver.
IC: That is a unique comparison that I will take as a very big compliment because once again you are picking all of my favorite artists. I love P!nk and really respect her. I think she is an incredible songwriter and performer. That comparison is really cool. Songs of hers like “Dear Mr. President,” with her storytelling and her personable nature, I love. “The Making of Me” was very raw, coming out of me very quickly. I was in London at the time, waiting to get my U.S. visa to tour with Clare. I was sort of stranded in England and sat down at my friend’s piano, after going through the worst weeks of my life going through a breakup, thinking that if I can get through the other side of this I will be a better person, but for now I just need to knuckle my way through it. Pete Adams plays piano on the recording. He came in for just one day and he did a wonderful job on this song and some of the others along with Benmont.
GM: Pete’s piano playing reminds me a bit of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.” From your prior album, the title song “Collide” has a country sound with a steady tempo, reminding me of something that Hal Ketchum would write. I really like that a lot.
IC: I feel like I have grown a lot as a person since that album two years ago. The record is very important to me as it represented a girl to woman growth that I was feeling at that point. It was recorded with an Australian rock god named Mark Lizzote, but we reference him as Diesel as that is his stage name. It felt like a coming of age record for me. “Collide” was one of those songs that just fell out of my head really quickly. I was sitting on my bedroom floor writing about falling in love and being past the point of no return, where you feel like you are getting into something dangerous that could really hurt you but you can’t turn back and you just have to submit to it.
GM: You mentioned touring in the U.S. Where did you go?
IC: I was opening for Clare and we did five shows in Nashville, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston and New York. It was absolutely wonderful. I had played some shows in Nashville, but it was my first time touring properly in the U.S. That was an absolutely wonderful experience. I was supposed to be in the U.S. right now. Once it is safe to travel internationally again I plan to not only do some more touring but also to move to Nashville.
GM: Wonderful. I have been to all five cities where you toured and Brianna lived in Nashville while attending Vanderbilt University, so Donna and I have visited there many times. There are so many musicians of all styles in that Tennessee city.
IC: In the meantime I am playing some dates here in Australia, which can be found on my website. I have two shows on September 10. The 7:30 show has sold out and there are still tickets available for the 9:00 show. Thank you so much again for this lovely Goldmine interview. It means so much and I appreciate it a lot. It is wonderful to connect with people on the other side of the world with music. It means a lot to get support from America.