It is hard to bend your ego when it comes to building a self-portrait. While embracing vulnerability is becoming a trend nowadays, very few actually give you an honest and unglamorous portrayal of themselves without letting ego get on the way. Aussie rocker Jen Cloher provides us with an intimate and uncensored account of her identity in her new self-titled LP. You can call it a folk/rock album, but it is beyond a casual background-noise record. Jen ventures out to her intimate dilemmas with her partner and creative field, political opinions, gender roles, and personal growth. If you haven’t already, indulge in the album:
We had the opportunity to ask Jen questions regarding her latest LP, her own record label, and her writing. Get to know the singer/writer/boss:
You’ve mentioned in your previous interviews that you prefer to have a routine than being on the tour. Even in “Sensory Memory” you confess that you were “not made / For the lonesome highway.” What triggered you this time to hit the road with Court and Kurt this fall?
Don’t get me wrong, I love playing live but I’m not a road dog like some of my friends. There are songwriters who spend most of their time on the road when they’re not recording. I have a lot of admiration for their stamina but I definitely need a home routine for at least 8 months of a year. It’s much better for my mental and physical health to have a routine based in a home environment.
In your song “Shoegazers” you chant how “Most critics are pussies who want to look cool.” In your opinion, what makes a good critic as opposed to a bad one?
Interesting question! I think a good critic doesn’t write something off even if they don’t understand it. Good journalism is the same as good art. It needs to be detailed, well researched and considered. I’m open to criticism but it needs to come from a place of having really absorbed the work, not just a cursory listen before you move onto the next 80 albums that have landed in your inbox. People spend years making albums, they deserve the time to be heard.
We loved the song “Strong Woman.” Can you share us a moment in your life when your mother taught you a valuable lesson and how that has shaped you as a person?
Growing up I remember my Mum Dorothy went through some tough times in her profession. Being overlooked by the University boys club because she was a woman regardless of her qualifications, being criticised for being a leader and having strong opinions. Women in positions of power are often demonized in a way that I never see happen to men (unless they’ve done something truly repugnant). Just look at the way Hilary Clinton was spoken about in the last U.S election.
In “Forgot Myself,” you tap into the toxicity and isolation that can derive from ego. A lot of people, especially in this industry, can’t help but compare themselves to others. As someone who has experienced this, what techniques/methods/tools did you use to overcome it and stay grounded?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned (and it’s a hard one to truly absorb) is that there’s no point in comparing yourself to others. Everyone has an individual voice and it’s about trusting that voice and using it. This is what sets you apart from the pack, the people and artists who aren’t afraid to use their voice and aren’t worried about what other people think. I love Briggs from A.B Original, Perfume Genius and M.I.A for these reasons.
We have 10% of battery left in our iPhone and can only play three tracks from your self-titled LP. What songs would you recommend us playing?
I would pick Regional Echo, Sensory Memory and Analysis Paralysis. I think these songs really show off the great band I get to record and tour with.
Aside from being an artist yourself, you run your own record label – Milk Records – alongside your wife Courtney. What type of talent do you guys look for when signing an artist? What does it take to get signed to Milk Records?
We don’t sign artists as such, it’s really just a platform for our friends to put their records out through. A little hub of likeminded artists based in Melbourne, Australia. Pretty much all of the bands on the label have members that play in other bands label. I think being a part of Milk makes us all reach for our best and create our best work. It’s inspiring to be around such creative friends.
In past interviews, you’ve mentioned that you enjoy writing. Do you consistently write every day or are you more of a binge-writer?
I have a love hate relationship with writing! But songs don’t write themselves so when I’m in a writing period (at home and not on tour) I set aside a couple of hours each morning to sit with my guitar and notebook and write. Some days are full of flow and you feel like a genius and other days are tough and you feel like a phony. Over the course of 4 albums I’ve learnt not too listen too much to that voice and just keep writing regardless.
Can you explain to us the story behind the following Instagram posts?
Hah! That takes me back. This is me pictured with Jo Symes who is the drummer in Big Scary an amazing Australian band. Her partner Dave Mudie is the drummer in Courtney’s band and as CB# were away on tour Jo and I went on a date to the local bar and watched the Eurovision Finals. I’m not sure if American’s get into Eurovision much but it’s well loved in Australia. Kind of trashy but fun pop songs! I think Jo bought the glasses for us to wear in true Eurovision style.
This was me sitting nerdily in the reserved seats for a Spoon show in Melbourne. I think I’d had a big day and my feet were tired. I’m pretty sure my drummer Jen Sholakis took this photo. She loves to capture any moment where I look super uncool.
This is the bedroom in one of my favourite writing retreats in a town called Yandoit in country Victoria, Australia. It’s owned by my friends parent’s who hire it out really cheap for anyone who wants time out from the city to reflect. Just outside the window you can watch young Kangaroo’s grazing and playing with each other. It’s pretty magical.
Aside from European tour dates, what can we expect from Jen Cloher in 2018?
We’ll be doing our first ever band shows in the States end of January before heading to Europe. Aside from that a lot more writing in 2018, I’d love to get a swag of new songs together so I can keep on playing shows all around the world!
Finally, the world ends tomorrow and, like any rockstar, you decide to throw a Jen Cloher’s Apocalyptic Party. Who’s gonna DJ, play the show, and sing the closing song before everyone dies in flames?
I reckon Patti Smith could smash it out of the park on all three counts.