Self-Portrait: Claddy

Melbourne-based vocalist, songwriter and producer Claddy is constantly creating, yet she’s more than content to take things as they come, not rush the process and let her heart and soul steer the creativity.

She radiates an honesty and authenticity that’s rare to find these days; for her, the goal has never been about money or personal gain, she’d rather enjoy the journey and not worry about the destination.

Over the years her musical output has taken many forms, under many different guises, both solo, collaboratively and as part of groups. Each provides an outlet for the various strings to her musical bow, but no matter whether she’s producing disco, soul, house or RnB, it’s her heavenly vocals that tie everything together.

Elsewhere she channels her love of music into her radio show and mix series. She takes over the Skylab waves once a month with her JusticEscape show that aims to motivate and stimulate with a cocktail of hip hop, spiritual jazz, pop and more, while her mix series, Cool, Calm & Collected, materialised during lockdown as a space for her and her contemporaries to share music to ground in times of chaos.

Consisting of 100% original raw and unreleased material, Claddy’s Self-Portrait mix brings together the different threads of her sound from solo efforts to collaborations. This sits alongside an interview about her approach to music and production.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

One of my earliest musical memories is performing ‘3 jelly fish’ in the kitchen for my mum’s guests when I was a kid. I also recall yelling at my mum to turn down the music whilst she was hosting a dinner party, blasting ‘Move on Up’ by Marvin Gaye.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

Yes, I feel very blessed to have a family who have great taste in music. My mum, though not musically gifted, is an incredible human who used to work in all the big theatres (before I was born) and could get tickets to everything. I used to follow my auntie – her sister, who’s a jazz singer – Tubby Justice around the house singing scales as soon as I could talk. I always loved to sing!

During primary school, I was involved in the school choir, as well as a special singing group for more advanced singers. I also learnt violin and piano. I started collecting tapes and CDs from a young age. I even started my own radio show, where I would record music onto a blank tape player, add some cheesy talk over and play it on our long car rides with my family when we would drive from Melbourne to Adelaide.

What led you into music production?

Music has always been my favourite language, so it just made sense to not only write lyrics and melodies but step into production. I hear music in my mind and I try my best to emulate what I hear into reality. On top of that there’s not enough women in production as music’s still a very male-dominated, sexist industry. I hope to change that and help continue to pave the way for more women and GNC people to the front.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones, Prince, Usher, Quincy Jones, Erykah Badu, Roy Ayers, Missy Elliot, Ron Trent, Omar S, Jenifa Mayanja, Alicia Keys, Sade, Minnie Riperton, Donny Hathaway, Little Dragon, Frankie Knuckles, Kerri Chandler. The list goes on and on and I thank all those who have led the way and come before me.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Not really. Every time I head into the studio it’s with a different energy. I feel blessed because creativity is always within me. I’ve never relied on anything to get creative juices flowing, though I do occasionally enjoy a doobie – in a jam setting, not a final take.

I enjoy spiritually/energetically cleansing the room when needed with Palo Santo. I might sound like I’m on my hippie shit but say what you will. A crystal or two in your pocket can never go astray for protection and support. I enjoy bringing in my tiger’s eye crystal for inspiration and focus and my moonstone for emotional balance, relaxation and success.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Honestly it depends. I’m a Cancer sun, Scorpio moon and Aries rising (for all you astrology lovers out there) which ultimately means I’m a moody, creative bitch. Sometimes I’ll feel like creating a certain genre or release what I’m feeling. Other times if I’m with another person and we say we wanna go in one direction yet end up somewhere completely different, we embrace where it takes us. Going with the flow and not being so caught up on where you wanna go is important. Putting yourself in a box as an artist is never a good idea. I think that’s where creative blocks come from. Us perceiving ourselves a certain way rather than accepting where we’re at.

Ultimately I try not to worry too much about the destination but rather enjoy the journey. Not every idea will lead to the end result or be released outside the studio and that’s okay. Unfortunately this capitalist world can make us forget that not everything we create has to be taken so seriously. Value and quality doesn’t always have to produce monetary avenue. We can allow ourselves to create purely to create without outcome.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

I can be both depending on what project I’m working on. With my disco/funk music I’m definitely a perfectionist, especially with my vocals, because it matters a lot to me that disco is tight. Though sometimes my perfectionism can hold me back or delay me from releasing something that may sound amazing to someone else but it’s not quite there for the likes of my ears. To give you an idea, I recorded my single ‘Drama Free Zone’ three or four times before I was happy to release it.

But with my house music I tend to be more free and forgiving. Sometimes what we believe is a mistake is actually a blessing. For example in my group Glamouratz we welcomed mistakes which added to the real, raw dynamics. Energy never lies so sometimes if you record something the energy in the room can be emulated through the music. It’s not worth trying to perfect a sound if the feeling cannot be replicated.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

Every session is different. Sometimes I have a melody or a bassline that’s been stuck in my head that I have to lay down ASAP. Other times I just allow whatever comes out naturally.

I suppose most of the time, I’ll decide on a tempo, a genre and a groove. I aim to not add too many layers until I’ve decided on a vocal so there’s lots of space to build and move. As I use my voice not only lyrically, but rhythmically, I find it essential to build vocals from a skeleton rather than be confined to a place with no space to grow freely.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

The majority of what I create is original material. I occasionally will sample surrounding sounds such as my cats or nature or a weird slice of my vocals. Though sampling other people’s music is definitely something I would like to indulge more in the near future.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Claddy track?

The most important part that makes a track my own would definitely be my vocals. My voice is what makes me unique. Being my own instrument and being able to express myself through my voice is very special and something I don’t take for granted.

Closely followed by catchy melodies, sexy bass, soulful rhythmic drums and off beat harmonised vocals.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Claddy material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

‘Work 4 me’ – a track I wrote with Luis CL is an intense, catastrophic techno track. Lyrically I wrote that track after I came out of an abusive relationship. Just like the relationship the track is confusing, repetitive and catchy.

“I don’t think it’s hard
to maintain my heart,
but you make it hard,
I don’t want to part”.

Although the lyrics may sound simple there’s multiple layers in that song that explain the depth of a dark time in my life, where I was suffocating. I would come up for air just to be drowned again. I’m thankful I live to tell the tale after seeing the light and finding my freedom.

Slow Jam’ is one of my favourite tracks. I wrote it alongside sound designer and composer, Adrien Harris AKA Cosmic sound explorer. We wrote that as part of a five-track EP back when we were living in London around 2013 (which is yet to be released).

I really enjoy storytelling and I think that came out in ‘Breathe’. We sampled a siren outside the studio in London and added it to the track, it has a really gloomy, creepy feel to it. Also features my talented friend from Adelaide, Ellie Duigan, who’s in an amazing freedom fighting hip-hop band ‘Argus & the Liar’.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

Absolutely, I’ve always got something in the works. When the world will see it is a different matter!

Before the year ends I’m releasing a fresh single with Horatio Luna called ‘Paradise’. Another single with Luis CL called ‘Work 4 Me’. Filming a video clip with my talented friend Atong Atem, as well as next year my debut solo disco album will be released.

Lots of exciting things on the horizon to look forward to in the future so keep your ears and eyes peeled, but be patient with me because I’m certainly in no rush.

They say you never retire as a musician. As a Black woman who’s an independent artist, I’ve always had to kick down doors to be here, so you best believe I’m going to take up space and take my time. As well as create more room for more BIPOC people to rise up together, to make our ancestors and ourselves proud.

As well as original music, I started a mix series last year during isolation ‘Cool, Calm & Collected’ to help the collective remain grounded during these times of chaos. I’ve got lots of incredible local and international artists who have submitted mixes which are being released about once a month.

Lastly I host a radio show ‘JusticEscape’ every four weeks on Skylab radio, which is generally a relaxing, motivating show where I play anything from spiritual jazz to pop and hip hop. No genre discrimination — though you most likely will never hear me play heavy metal or gabba, sorry not sorry.

Though there’s a lot going on all over the world right now, so I take things one day at a time and try to focus on things I can control. Remain humble and count my blessings everyday; no matter how big or small. I’ve learnt gratitude, community and self-respect over status and popularity is what matters most and I am so grateful to be able to do what I love from my heart and soul, not my ego.

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