The genreless space of Clara Hill & her musical universe
Whether floating over orchestral compositions, jazz arrangements or even electronic beats, the whispery vocals of Clara Hill have a spectral almost other worldly feel.
Her fluid genre-bending approach has birthed four full-length albums and many singles that express her unique personal musical language.
Unsurprisingly the brooding Berlin born and based singer and songwriter is regarded as one of Germany’s finest vocalists.
Not so long ago I had the opportunity to talk to the alluring lady of song about her seemingly never ending foray into diverse musical styles, her creative process and sentiments about the nature of music.
Generally you can say my music is in the genre of Electronica but for me the world of music is just too wide to limit making music to one genre.”
Congratulations on the recent release of “Circles” with Sir LSG. I think it does a pretty good job of expressing your essence. What are your feelings about the track?
Clara Hill: Thank you!
The track, lyric wise is reflecting our daily routine.
It mirrors people’s feelings and how sometimes it’s good for them to break out and do things differently.
For most people they can’t change or break out but maybe at least in their minds they can do so.
Musically the track for me is a nice bridge between the classic good old Acid-Jazz-House feel to the newer influences of today.
It really was fun for me to write on such a song again… Experimenting and trying things out and learning all the time is what keeps me alive. I can’t stand still.”
You have traversed, quite seamlessly the worlds of Jazz, Electronica, Soul and a number of other genres so it’s almost impossible to pigeonhole you into a particular style or genre?
In your own words how would you describe your own music?
Clara Hill: That’s correct.
Generally you can say my music is in the genre of Electronica but for me the world of music is just too wide to limit making music to one genre.
I always was and still I am curious to feel how it would be to sing with different producers over different musical styles.
I come from an Acid Jazz background, which evolved to Deep House then Folktronica, then Psychedelic independent music…
These are however just labels because music is too diverse to be limited to several categories.
For me my music is also an individual musical expression.
So why don’t we call it “Dream Pop”?
What would you say are the common threads that weave through all your work such that whether it’s Jazz, House or something else the listener can say “that’s Clara’s song”?
Clara Hill: I think it’s the sound of my voice.
Well at least that’ s what people tell me over and over again.
And maybe the way I create my interwoven vocals.
As an artist you have never stopped experimenting with new and alternative approaches to music. What has driven you to continue experimenting, I mean other artists will discover a “winning formula and pretty much stick with it?
Clara Hill: All I can say is, that I feel this magical impulse, the motivation to be creative all the time.
Experimenting and trying things out and learning all the time is what keeps me alive.
I can’t stand still.
Will you continue to experiment or do you feel you will reach a point where you have “arrived” at your artistic destination?
Clara Hill: Recently I was thinking about if I will ever arrive at my artistic destination: but I don’t know-maybe my style and image is that I don’t have one style and one image.
Right now I am finishing my writing for a new album: another new concept album.
With these new songs I am really by myself: it will be solid songwriting on piano and guitar: that feels the same like it felt before in the past, when I was younger, when I have discovered how it feels to write real music.
Kind of back to the roots.
That also can be a way of arriving.
Which song of yours holds the greatest personal meaning for you?
Clara Hill: This is hard to say because I have five albums out and on each album I have at least one song that reflects important personal meanings.
Each album mirrors specific phases of my life: my love, my hurts, my pain and passions.
From all five albums there are still a handful of songs that I still feel the same way when I wrote them: Silent Distance, Wake up, Walk the Distance, 21 June, No Use, Silent Roar…
Your music has this almost otherworldly feel to it. What emotions, experiences and dare I say forces do you tap into to create this ethereal atmosphere?
Clara Hill: My fantasy and inner emotional world!
I don’t like treating music a like cheap consumable thing.”
Let’s talk a bit about you creative process. When you sit down to write a new song how do you go about it? Do you start with the melody, are you scribbling lyrics in a notebook or it’s fluid in that you flow with whatever feels natural at that time?
Clara Hill: Normally I start with the music.
Whether I write the music or I have musical sketches from other producers, I start to write my melodies and arrange all vocals over the tracks.
While I am writing the melody I am creating an idea for the lyrics.
Sometimes the melody is leading me to several words which are inspiring me for a whole text.
This process is a kind of abstract at first but by getting clearer with my idea of what I want to say, I write the lyrics over the melody.
Rarely do I have the lyrics at first and then write the melody later.
Most of the time the music and melody inspire the words and story.
During this process, do you have a definite story that you want to put across to listeners or you are ok with them interpreting it in their own way?
Many times I have a clear vision which lyrical world I want to create to but sometimes I don’t.
I however always want the listeners to create their own worlds and have their own interpretations when they listen to my music.
As a songwriter which other artists/songwriters would you “trust” to write for you?
Clara Hill: Bibio, Beck, Tom Yorke and Nick Drake if he were still alive.
Why do you think these artists would express your spirit best?
Clara Hill: Because I feel their musical vibe.
Inversely which vocalists would you really want to write for?
Clara Hill: Interesting, I never was thinking about for whom I could write: maybe for Bibio, Beck and Tom Yorke?
I have no idea….
Digital platforms like iTunes mean that listeners can now cherry-pick the tracks they want instead of having to buy the complete package (album art, liner notes, credits etc) which is an album. This is has seen an increasing number of artists releasing singles and in many cases not even planning to release albums. How do you feel about this situation in terms of how it affects an artist in terms of their ability to tell a story and take the listener on a journey?
Clara Hill: I don’t like treating music a like cheap consumable thing.
To create and produce music is art and a lot of work!
I hope that people can still appreciate this!
I still prefer to buy whole albums and create whole albums-with artwork and whole concepts behind.
By the way I still have old vinyl and have started to buy them again.
You listen…take a break after 45 minutes and have a cup tea, this is really nice…
With an extraordinary voice, looks that could grace a high-end fashion magazine and undeniable charisma, you possess what Pop Music A&Rs would call the “total package”. What has kept you from going straight commercial and making truckloads of money?
Clara Hill: I tried. Laughs
No, actually I had my little “success” but I have always wanted to be free and independent, flying through all my musical dream worlds.
Maybe I was not tough enough and too fragile or maybe I did not know the “right people or I was not at the “right” places at the “right” time?
I know I gave the best and worked hard. I think I have to come to SA for dancing instead of being in Berlin.” Laughs
What offer on the table would entice to take the commercial path with its demands that you are “repackaged” in a way label executives feel best “sells”?
Clara Hill: Letting me be free in what I want to create, who I want to be and with whom I want to work with in the future.
A little earlier we talked about the near extinction of albums. How connected are the tracks on this album and how important would you say it is for the listener to buy the complete album as opposed to singles?
Clara Hill: Pendulous Moon, my last album is also a concept album.
Actually this album is the first album where all the songs came together in one short period of time.
This was the fastest album I ever made.
King Britt with whom I wrote the album came to Berlin and our goal was it to create a universe from the beginning to the end and the space in between.
The titles belong together and tell a story.
One planet belongs to another and together they are in one universe.
Each track has a very interesting title, which we won’t reveal so that listeners look for the album! How do you come up with these names and at what stage of song writing or recording do you name the songs?
Clara Hill: This was one of the ideas behind the LP and we had it in mind while writing.
King and I spoke a lot about the feelings and vibes behind the music.
The lyrics for that album are special for me, because I had a good flow while writing.
The work with King inspired me a lot and after he left Berlin my ideas for the lyrics just came over me.
The process of writing sometimes is like study or exploring new fields.
I was totally in that world we created and the more you go deeper into a topic, the more detailed and closer you get to it.
Tell us a bit about the Electronica/House music scene in Berlin in terms of what sound and places are popular?
Clara Hill: Most of the big places play Techno and House Music which sometimes is too “cold” for me.
The places that play more Soulful warm music, or Afro Beat, Broken Wonky or even experimental music are quite rare.
There are however some special parties in Berlin which I like but these are hosted only every other month.
I think I have to come to SA for dancing instead of being in Berlin. Laughs
Talking of emigrating, a number of prominent House Music artists like Lars Behrenroth and Ralf Gum have emigrated to other countries and are doing quite well there. What has kept you based in Germany?
Clara Hill: I have not left Berlin so far because I have traveled and seen different places all over the world.
Berlin for me is the place I was born, has my family, friends and the people I love.
It’s also the place I always can recharge my batteries.
But who knows, maybe one day I will move to a natural place at the other end of the world?
Above and beyond the music who would you say Clara Hill is as a person?
Clara Hill: It depends on the moment.
I can be quiet or loud, introverted and also extroverted sometimes.
What would bring out the realest side of you…is it a walk in nature, coffee in a cafe or maybe even drinks at a club?
Clara Hill: The walk in nature, with coffee in one hand and a drink in the other.
WITH CLARA HILL