Imogen Clark is nice. That doesn’t mean she’s happy, although she’s clearly making an effort to be, and often succeeding.
The NSW native’s debut album, ‘Love and Lovely Lies’, is a sensitive catalogue of deeply felt matters of the heart. Her key influences are unsurprising – Joni Mitchell and Ryan Adams – archetypal figures in the proud tradition of confessional singer-songwriters, who weave stories of bad decisions (by them and done to them) with intimacy and the accompaniment of a fingerpicked acoustic guitar.
It’s clear that having the outlet of songwriting is what helps Imogen maintain her overwhelming agreeability. Those who can’t write and sing sometimes bottle up their emotional anxieties and concerns, and end up lashing out bitterly at people. Imogen is no less sincere in real life than in her songs, but she has a studiously selfless personality. I’ve yet to encounter anyone who thinks she’s an asshole. Try finding many other artists who you can say that about.
“I really like connecting to other people, but I’m not great with words in normal, everyday conversation. I find conveying my point to people quite difficult, unless it’s in a song. It’s like a handwritten letter to someone. My direct way of telling them exactly how I feel.
I also use it to work out how I feel, because sometimes I don’t know how I feel about something until I put it down into a song.”
Being able to work out her deepest and most volatile emotions in the form of song lyrics is a way of processing her experiences, and the most elegant way she can communicate the truest version of herself to other people.
“The way I’m effected with I listen to music is so strong and so powerful that I want to have that effect on other people, and go through these experiences with them and inflict those emotions on them. That sounds really painful, but I don’t mean it in a necessarily painful way. Both good and bad emotions, I want them to feel it with me and go on the journey with me.”
Imogen sometimes describes herself (as she will later on in this article) as a “hopeless romantic”. It’s a fair way of summing up her debut album too – the process of making it as much as the content of the songs, which do indeed reflect the journey of someone who lets her heart pull her down paths her head knows are unwise.
“The record was really inspired by the last few years of my life, where I’ve really been walking blind a little bit - both in love and life in general. I finished school and had no normal job. I just threw myself into music and have been feeling my way around with no light on, no idea what I was doing and making it up as I go along.
A lot of it was inspired by the embracing of the unknown in that way, but a lot of it’s about love, and I was feeling the same way about that. Walking blind, no idea what I was doing, throwing myself into experiences that I was totally new to and trying to just make the most of it.
I guess the record is for hopeless romantics. It analyses love from every which way - it’s kind of the good, the bad and the ugly of love. It’s not just a record about ‘I got my heart broken and I’m never going to get over it’. I wanted it to be not just about heartbreak, but also the great parts of love, the parts when you’re free-falling into the unknown.”
Another situation that found Imogen “throwing [herself] in the unknown” was the recording of the album, with musical brothers Harry and Jack Hookey in Gisspland.
“The Hookeys are kind of like a second family to me and they have a recording studio down at their farm in country Victoria. I went down there for about a week. We went with the flow a lot. We did what felt right and went with our gut on everything.
Out in the middle of nowhere, no distractions, it was a really pure process. I really just wanted create a very raw record. Very warts and all, it has many imperfections in it, but it’s just got that emotion and captures the emotions that I felt while writing and that I feel on stage. It reminds of a garage rock recording, but a bit more country and folk.”
After recording the album independently, Imogen drew the attention of Lost Highway, the renowned Americana record label within the Universal Music Empire. Label chief Mike Taylor signed her and immediately proposed releasing her album as is, with no concessions to her new place amongst the largest music company in the world.
“Lost Highway aren’t about a fad or a look or something that’s just going to be fleeting. It’s more about the long term artist development and artists with something that someone has to say, which I love.”
It also solidified Imogen’s genre home in Americana music, and another connection to her spiritual home of Nashville, which she has now had the chance to visit and perform at twice.
“Nashville, before I went, I no idea of what to expect. I didn’t know what Americana was before I went there. I had no idea that that was even a thing and I didn’t know where I sat. I’m not super country, I’m not super folk, I’m not rock… When I went over there, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, Americana. This is what I am.’ I really found a home for my music, so I’m so thankful to Nashville for that. It’s definitely a second home.
When I showed up there, it blew me away. The way everybody lives and breathes music there and the idea of going out is to go out and see a band. That atmosphere really impacted on my songwriting and renewed my love of music. It was just another kick into gear and a reminder that I was on the right path.
This past year, I’ve really come into my own as far as ‘I know exactly who I am, what sort of record I wanted to make, what sort of artist I want to be.’ All of these things came together to make what this record is, which is by no means perfect but perfect in what I wanted it to be.”