An artistic chameleon: Pamela Claire’s new album is a resounding fusion of music, art and film

An artistic chameleon: Pamela Claire’s new album is a resounding fusion of music, art and film

Image by Albion Harrison-Naish
Words by Fergus Neal

The album showcases a singer whose artistry encompasses a range of inspirations.

Pamela Claire’s new album has been described as a love letter to music. The melancholic evanescence of losing a loved one is captured beautifully in songs such as ‘End of Days’ and ‘Thin Air’. Claire has produced stunning cinematic music videos for each of the singles released from the album that explore the world of each song – a nod to Claire’s filmmaking background.

“I wrote a shortlist of songs that I thought would make good videos,” says Claire.

“I was a filmmaker before I was recording my songs so it seemed natural to take control of how the tunes would be visualised. I had made several music videos for other artists and I had a strong idea of how I wanted to be presented, and more importantly how the content of the songs would be presented. There is more control of the narrative, so you take the storytelling to a different place.

“I made demos in 2015-16. I did it because along the way I learned that I like writing songs and singing – just a place for me to be where I could say to myself what needed to be said,” Claire continues. “Over time, and with some encouragement, I started to develop the desire to let the music grow into its fullest potential. I gave it some cooking time and development time to see what it could become.

“It wasn’t until my producer and arranger, Justin Ossher, came on board that the soundscapes begin to take shape. We talked a lot about the music I liked and what I wanted out of the songs. A unique character emerged out of each of the tunes – sometimes it was blues, sometimes it was disco, sometimes it was country, sometimes it was a retro-pop ballad. Justin understood the vision I had for the songs and he developed my voice so we could tell the stories in the way we wanted.”

Claire was inspired by music early on in life but her entrance into the scene didn’t manifest until later on. The music Claire has chosen to put on the album epitomises an auteur who takes the listener on a journey entwined with light and dark, tears and humour, with a twinge of nostalgia and an unabashed authenticity that has become quintessentially Pamela Claire.

“I always sang. I sang in school musicals as a kid. I played Fagin in the school musical Oliver when I was 11 and studied music at school playing basic piano and guitar. My career took me in other directions, so I was happy as a committed member of the audience. However, later in life I picked up the guitar again and started singing and writing songs,” Claire says.

“Some of the songs are very direct. ‘Thin Air’ is about grief so the treatment of the song emerges from that. ‘Let’s Stay Miserable Together’ could be seen as earnest but I decided to treat it ironically. ‘Choir’ is about a kind of trauma but I didn’t want it to be sad. It’s kind of triumphant. The album is a mixed bag of lollies.

“Justin and I didn’t set out to make a genre-bending album. We created a private universe for each song … Some of Melbourne’s finest players are on the album creating an eclectic bunch. Guitarist Diego Villalta, bassist Adam Spiegel, Damien Ellis on drums, Fabian Acuna on trumpet, violinist Carmen O’Brien, and a bunch of others, make the album rich in feel.”

The album stops short of being conceptual art but takes on the form of a deeper experience that cannot be simply labelled an LP. Claire has tapped into the intersections of what musicians like David Bowie understood as the performative zeitgeist where art, music, and film synthesise into one.

Lonely Sets Me Free is a 360 degree audio-visual experience,” Claire says. “It’s an album of songs, it’s a set of photos and it’s a set of videos, and they all are ‘about’ what those songs on the album are. But at the same time, it’s not a song cycle around a theme or an attempt to ‘tell a story’ with a set of characters that exist in the song.

“I think it was as basic as finding images that would build on the lyrical content of the tunes. That’s pretty conventional. But at the same time it was me as the singer-songwriter who was controlling it, making it, and building it.”

Pamela Claire’s new album, Lonely Sets Me Free, is out now. Grab a copy of the record here and find out more about Pamela Claire at her website.

Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.