by Stacey Zering
With its percolating mix of indie-pop, funk, and jazz, “Directing Traffic”, the latest single from Australian singer/songwriter Pamela Claire offers a welcome respite from the gloom of the current pandemic. Oddly enough, it was her previous song, “End of Days,” unexpectedly released right before the virus enveloped the world stage seemed to predict, at least in its title, what could seemingly unfold. But that doesn’t overshadow the colorful charms of “Directing Traffic,” which is like a hip cross between the folk experimentation of Joni Mitchell with the streetwise rhythms of Luscious Jackson.
Q: It seems eerily fitting that you released a single called “End of Days” before the pandemic we’re experiencing happened. What are your thoughts on what’s happening?
A: Music has a life of its own and part of that is recognising how the listener grabs, and ‘owns’ it. Music can be very personal and a few people have shared that “End of Days” sums up how they are feeling about the current crisis, as in not being able to see the people they love or fearing the loss of the people they love. “End of Days” was written a while ago (4 years) and recorded last year (2019) before the current crisis. Maybe we are eternally ending? “End of Days” may speak to the moment you finally realize you are at the end of something, not a pretend or maybe end but the very end. The salt in the wound being that by the time you realize it’s over, it’s already long gone. I just hope everyone is close to people that care about them and supporting each other in these unsettling times.
Q: Being a professional musician is a difficult path in life to take. What made you decide to embark on that journey?
A: It’s hard to deny your creative self, you can try but you end up all twisted up inside. In many ways it’s an extension of who you are. Life can be difficult whatever path you take, whatever profession you pursue. You may as well pick a path that you can enjoy. Writing songs is something I have always done. It helps me process myself and the world around me.
Q: What are the personal challenges you have gone through as a musician, and how did you overcome them?
A: Over the years I’ve been challenged by a lack of confidence and connection. For years I wanted to ‘make something’ but didn’t credit any ideas I had as good enough to make. I’ve been lucky enough to be around really good musicians in my life. It was always so much easier and enjoyable for me to sit in the audience than to ‘pick up and play’. There came a time about 5 years ago where I gave myself permission to stumble and create. At first it was just for me, an audience of one, incredibly personal and confessional. Eventually I braved it and shared the music with some close friends who were very encouraging and supportive of me developing the music. I developed a demo then connected with the very talented producer and arranger Justin Ossher who started to build the songs into the vision – giving it a big wide landscape and many different moods and musical idioms.
Q: In terms of musical style, where do you see fitting? It can be more than one.
A: Absolutely. The album is a real mixed bag of lollies or sweets as you may say in the U.S. There are hat tips to jazz, country, blues, rock and disco. Terms like ‘Retro Pop’, ‘Alt folk’ have been thrown around but I’m unsure- maybe you can tell me? The music at times sounds nostalgic with modern storytelling. The album has some of Melbourne’s finest musicians playing on it. Diego Villalta (guitar), Adam Spiegel (bass), Damien Ellis (drums), Fabian Acuna (trumpet), Carmen O’Brien (violin), Luis Poblete (percussion), Huw Gregory (piano), Terry Mcleod (sax). All talented musicians influenced by various styles from jazz, classical, blues, country and rock.
Q: What was the first slice of music that ignited your imagination?
A: I come from a family of more music lovers than players and was lucky to be introduced to a wide range of music as a little one – Janis Joplin, Creedence, Bruce Springsteen, Cream. I remember being fascinated with Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” and “White room” by Cream – I was seven.
Q: Tell me your artistic influences and how they affected you. What did you learn from them?
A: Tom Waits I adore. His songwriting, voice and feel. Tori Amos is so beautifully emotional and otherworldly. David Bowie, an incredible artist famously quoted for “Don’t play to the gallery”. Sarah Vaughan and her magnificent voice. All different artists but so uniquely able to very quickly transport you. I’m drawn to artists that create a world for you or are able to share their inner world.
Q: Can you describe how you have evolved creatively throughout the years?
A: I sang in musicals as a kid. I played ‘Fagin’ in the school musical Oliver when I was 11 years old. Strange but true. I was an actor in my late teens/early 20’s in a few theatre productions. I then became involved with filmmaking and editing and ran a small business making music videos for Australian artists. I left that world behind and focused a decade on studies and community service work. I picked up a guitar and started writing again 5 years ago when I was home with our baby daughter. As most parents can relate to, you are very housebound in the early years and creatively I had 20 years of emotional back catalogue to process, so it was perfect timing. Making this album (Lonely Sets Me Free – out late 2020) with Justin Ossher and some of Melbourne’s finest musicians was in every way a dream come true. The process pushed me way out of my comfort zone and off the cliff. I have a background in film making so writing and directing the music videos for the album allowed me to creatively and visually take the storytelling to different place. There are many ways you grow creatively over time: by allowing yourself to take risks, to make mistakes, to take time to develop ideas, to embrace the multi faceted ways in which you grow and the way ideas fully express themselves – are all part of it. Also knowing when to back yourself and learning when to listen to people who you trust and who respect your ideas – are all so important. My intention, from the beginning, was that the music was realised to its fullest potential. As challenging as it can be at times, it is such a wonderful experience being able to create your own work. It’s incredibly creatively satisfying and when others connect to the work you have made- well that’s the cherry on top.