In 2020, Imogen Clark turned lemons into lemonade, taking the setbacks of the year in her stride. She released a critically acclaimed EP, performed back-to-back sold-out Sydney launch concerts in September, dropped a nostalgic Christmas single, and wrapped it all up with an epic First Annual Holiday Hootenanny gig with her musical mates – including Montaigne, Jack Moffitt (The Preatures), Lindsay McDougall (Frenzal Rhomb) and more.
In 2021, she’s upping the ante. Imogen returns with Forget About London, the captivating new tune and lead single from her forthcoming EP, due out later this year. Penned with Melbourne-based singer-songwriter-producer Eilish Gilligan, who also performs backing vocals on the track, Forget About London is a Taylor Swift-style breakup banger. Forget About London sees Imogen join forces with producer Mike Bloom (Julian Casablancas, Jenny Lewis) and Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and the Attractions), both of whom she worked with on 2020’s The Making Of Me EP.
To celebrate the release of her new track, Imogen also announces a May residency at one of her most beloved local venues, Sydney’s Low 302 Bar. Each Tuesday in May, Imogen will perform an intimate show, taking music lovers through her back catalogue and music from her forthcoming EP. Imogen tells Hi Fi Way more about what she has been up to.
How exciting was it being able to get out there to play shows again?
Not performing for so long felt like a hole in my heart, and I had more than a few existential crises throughout 2020, wondering who I was off the stage. When it came time to step back up there, I was excited beyond belief. The chance to connect with people through live music again was an emotional and magical experience. It restored my sense of purpose in life, and I’ll never take that for granted again.
Were you a little more nervous than you normally would be?
I was probably more nervous than I’ve ever been before a gig! I started playing gigs at the age of twelve, and until COVID, I had never gone this long without doing a show. My first gig back was last September, a sold out gig at the Vanguard in Sydney, launching my new EP The Making of Me. I was standing in the wings when our intro tape came on thinking I was going to throw up from nerves, but then I stepped on stage and as soon as we went into the first song… all the muscle memory came flooding back and it all felt right again. It was such a fun gig.
Have you been able to pick up some of that lost momentum from last year?
Even though all our touring plans got blown up by COVID last year, I was really determined to make up for it by doubling down on recording and releasing new music, and really building momentum that way. It killed me not to be able to get out there and play these songs to people, but I worked really hard to stay connected to my fans through social media and we did a ticketed live stream tour with high end production that sold out. That said, as soon as it started to seem possible to play shows again, I flipped back into touring mode and we’ve got tons of stuff booked for this year.
The reaction to The Making of Me was so exciting, we rolled straight into making the next EP Bastards and we’ve been rolling out songs from that over the past few months. That comes out on May 21 and in the lead up I’m doing a residency at Low 302 in Sydney every Tuesday of the month. Each show is a different set list built around a different concept – it’s loads of work preparing for it but the shows will be totally unique. Then in August, I’m hitting the road with my band for a big headline tour and I’ve got solo shows, festivals and other stuff slotting in around all of that through the end of the year.
How did Eilish and yourself cross paths to start collaborating on music?
I loved Eilish’s music and a mutual friend thought we might click as writers and introduced us. As someone who normally co-writes by sitting down with a couple of guitars, it was great working with someone like Eilish who is such a talented producer. Watching her build the track with the keys and drum programming as we wrote the song, it was a totally different way to write for me and helped open my conception of what the finished song could be.
Is this something you would want to do more of working with other people?
I love collaborating with other songwriters and producers because their style and my style fuse together to create something neither of us could write on our own. It gets me out of my comfort zone and makes me take a leap of faith to go places musically, lyrically, that I wouldn’t on my own.
What is the story behind the single Forget About London?
Forget About London is such a pre-COVID story. I did this marathon tour through Europe and the UK that totally wiped me out and climaxed with a really rough breakup of the longest relationship I’d ever been with. I was meant to be in the US, but visa issues had me stuck in London, and I rebounded hard into the arms of this other guy there. He led me on, then ghosted me and left me feeling empty and worthless. I got to America, through that whole tour and back to Australia. I thought coming home would wipe away this dark cloud I was carrying around from the guy in London, but everywhere I turned something reminded me of him. I walked into the session with Eilish with all this baggage and knowing that she and I both worship at the altar of Taylor Swift as the ultimate writer of breakup bangers, we decided to channel that kind of catharsis into what we were writing. Getting it out into the song really helped me work through it all and I love what we came up with. Now I can’t wait to get back to the UK and sing this for a London crowd!
Did you enjoy making the film clip?
I’d had super long Disney princess hair for my whole adult life and I was starting to feel weighed down, literally and figuratively, by it. I wanted to chop it off, so we decided to build that into the video and literally get my hair cut on camera, like it was a post-breakup chop. We did the whole clip in one day, from the hair cut to the make out scenes to the smashing up of the cardboard city of London. It was such an energizing day and so great to be back on set with my regular video team.
Do you get hands on with it?
I know a lot of artists prefer not to act in their music videos, but I’m the opposite. I love making music videos because it’s a chance to see these songs I’ve only visualised in my head up until that point finally come to life. I always want to be as involved as possible, and every video I like to challenge myself to do something I haven’t done before on camera.
How excited are you about the Bastards EP and how would you describe it sonically?
I was really nervous that recording remotely would be awkward and compromise the music we made on this record, but we’ve made something I’m more proud of than anything I’ve ever recorded. It’s rawer, more intense, bigger in scope and I made myself really open myself up and write about stuff I’ve been afraid to before. If The Making of Me was about coming of age and finding my place in the world, this is about confronting the most challenging aspects of my relationships with people in my life – a mentor I lost to suicide, my family’s history of addiction, being too afraid to walk away from a toxic relationship and all the men I’ve encountered who treat me like a little girl and think they know best.
I got to work with some of my heroes on this record – Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes, Colin Hay from Men at Work, Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Jason Boesel from Rilo Kiley to name a few. I really wanted to make something with the energy and scope of the indie and classic rock I love, but with the emotional rawness and intimacy of someone like Phoebe Bridgers. My incredible production team Mike Bloom and Will Golden were in LA and I was in Sydney Zooming in to the studio and recording vocals, but it didn’t take away from our creative mind meld and we really pushed each other to go to new places beyond anything we’d done before. I can’t wait for people to hear this record.
Are there plans to get around the country to tour the EP?
Definitely! After the Low 302 residency in May, I’m straight into rehearsals with my incredible band for our August headline tour, playing Newcastle, the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Bundalaguah, Melbourne and Sydney. We’ve been working so hard crafting the best show and I can’t wait to get out there on this run. I’m also adding more regional solo shows, festival appearances and other stuff as the year goes on, so stay tuned to my socials or my website at www.imogenclark.com.au/tour
What’s next for Imogen Clark?
After Bastards comes out, I’ll be back into writing mode between tour dates, finding new people to collaborate with and seeing how I can push myself as a songwriter. The main priority is plugging my guitar in and playing rock music for as many people as possible, as much as I can, wherever they want me. I feel like I have a year’s worth of pent up energy I need to get out on stage!
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Imogen Clark on the following solo tour dates…
And in August…