By Arne Sjostedt
Let’s start with a little fact check on superstar Imogen Clark. She is amazing, she gets excited about Christmas, she does massive amounts of humanitarian work, and she can’t help making sure people get involved and stay involved in the Australian music business. That is enough for now. Imogen can of course speak for herself. And RCJ gave her more opportunity to - while we wandered through her career to date, problems with men in the music industry, and what’s been going on with her latest Christmas release.
It isn’t what you’d expect. A simmering song about waking up without your lover. Who could be on the opposite side of the planet, enjoying fruit cake that is warm, while you have been eating icicles watching Santa Skid Row about in the snow. This is one song you are not likely to regret listening to again.
A true Covid-era production, the song was co-written with members of different bands around the world, each musician adding their part layer by layer with no idea how the song was going to turn out.
"I'm really proud of the song and it's just such a unique way to write a song, you know, just being given all that stuff having gone through all these different people," Clark says.
When we spoke, I hadn't finished listening to her last EP. Because it was to immersive. A little Wendy Matthews, hating on everything that has hurt her and bought her up to some searing pain that never should’ve happened.
However it’s Christmas time. So when we caught up, she had a reason to remind us all about how happy even silly things in life may get, looking for the latest fast food hamburger joint. In New York, or wherever fate had taken her to that evening.
"Every time I visit a new city, it's one of those things," she says. "Isn't it? You try to find that special cafe or something and you're thinking it's behind you. I'm walking in the wrong direction, like holding my phone up and watching the blue arrow walk in the wrong direction. I'm like, ‘What am I do?'"
Maybe keep going, is probably all you should do. Because with the work she has behind her, why on earth wouldn’t you? Honoured throughout her career, with all kinds of really wonderful Australian musicians supporting her and raising her voice, like Diesel (Mark Lizotte), and Men at Work's Colin Hay. Many others.
"I really do feel extremely lucky and privileged to have been able to work with the people I have, so far in my career," she says.
"There's no greater sort of vote of confidence that you could ask for as a musician, and a songwriter than to have someone who you really admire, want to work with you or want to contribute to your recordings, or to write a song with you."
And in this sort of EP recently, I feel like, this is probably the biggest example of having collaborators that are just my, my dream collaborators.
When Hay stepped in and helped on her track First Class Man:
"It actually is still really wild to me. I mean, we wrote that song at the start of 2019. And it still doesn't feel real to me that that happened, and that he's, you know, singing on the recording with me," she says.
“There's a lot of hard work involved as well. But I do also feel very privileged and lucky just to have been able to meet those sorts of people. And not only meet them, but have them involved in my own work. That's a really beautiful thing."
Talking through the name and implications on her work the Bastards EP implies, Imogen takes an opportunity to get through some of the harder parts of her job.
"There's obviously a track on the EP called Bastards. And that song is about feeling like you being underestimated. I mean, I started in music professionally when I was 12. So, you know, as a very young woman, I didn't really know, I didn't really know that much about the industry. I was learning so much so quickly. And I felt like I had to grow up really quickly to keep up with everything. And I felt like people sort of saw me as a little girl for a long time, because I was, and as I grew older, I felt like I had learnt a lot and that I had sort of grown as a person. But it was hard for me to convince others around me of that, of that growth," she says.
"I still felt like oftentimes I would be sort of, you know, feel condescended to or sort of made feel like less than, and I think that's an experience that so many women have in the music industry.”
It's not necessarily just women, of course.
"I think a lot of people experience being underestimated, but it seems to have a really large impact on women. So I wrote that song, feeling like I just wanted to get some rage out of my system. And my manager had said to me, 'You know, you're a kind person, and you are that person. But you also have a lot of hidden rage underneath that. You shouldn't feel scared to let that out in your songs. So I went home and wrote that song because I was just in a particularly frustrated mood about it."
Songwriting for Clark has always been the biggest purpose in her life, and with her new rock sound, "It's like the best kind of therapy."
As if she has given her self to finally feel the abuse and do something she might find frightening,
"That makes sense when it comes to the concepts behind the songs but also with the sound. I've never really admitted to myself how much I wanted to make rock music. I think I kind of grew up in country [music], and then I've tried a few different things. But I never really realised how much I was just leaning towards being a rock artist. Or an indie rock artist. And so this felt like a real awakening to me