“I think that’s been through the natural course of simply getting older and more comfortable with letting things go.”
For singer-songwriter Clea, the past five years have been a journey in every sense of the word. Literally speaking, a recent “treechange” from Brisbane to the Scenic Rim region southwest of the Queensland capital has meant that the soulful indie-pop artist has embraced space, newfound freedom and a “slow living” mindset and lifestyle.
Figuratively, the continuing evolution of sound and style from an assured 2018 debut album (Vermillion) to its impending follow-up, Idle Light, celebrates the personal growth and realisations that Clea has experienced and embedded into this new generation of songs.
But it’s also been a journey dotted with some amusing moments. Winning Song Of The Year at the the Queensland Music Awards in 2019, for the single Dreaming, literally paved the way for Clea, with a plaque unveiled on Brunswick Street’s Walk Of Fame.
“It kind of stresses me out,” she laughs. “Like, if I walk past it, there will be cigarettes on it. [Getting the plaque] was very surreal. And having the ceremony for it… Seeing your name sort of cemented into the ground, it still doesn't quite make sense to me.”
The whirlwind created by Vermillion not only gifted Clea these kinds of off-beat experiences, it also meant a string of touring, promoting and basically being ‘seen’ and heard for the burgeoning Brisbane artist she was. She also put her striking musical and visual touches on everything to do with the album. This flurry of activity seemed to make time speed up but also made the singer acutely aware of what she had managed to accomplish in such a short time.
“I can't quite believe that I'm already 27,” she says. “Everything moves so quickly. After Vermillion, I was like, ‘Cool, I've done that; I've succeeded in that aspect of accomplishments so I can now write this next album, entirely for myself, and really delve into how I'm feeling and what it's like to move through my 20s, and what it's like to move through a time we've never experienced before.’
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“I do find accomplishment very hard to grapple because I am my hardest critic. And I think the thing that I truly get the most accomplishment out of is always just creating those moments where you get recognised for something you've done. But they can be fleeting. Just because it is something outside of the actual creative process. So I hold those moments close but very much separate.”
What helped imbue Idle Light with this full gamut of experiences, realisations, acceptance and growth was, in part, the literal space Clea gave herself and her music to breathe. Growing up in northern New South Wales has meant that she was always more receptive to natural, open environments – so when the opportunity arose to build a studio and home on a property in Boonah, in South East Queensland’s Scenic Rim, with creative partner and husband Alistair Richardson (The Cairos, Zefereli) and their dogs, it seemed like a no-brainer.
“It just kind of happened naturally,” she explains. “I mean, we're already spending so much time out here because Ali’s family still live out there. So we were like, ‘Why not?’ All of the ideas for Idle Light started happening after we released Vermillion.
“Because Ali and I are constantly near each other, we’ll always just be bouncing off certain ideas, whether I'm playing guitar or he's playing guitar or synth. And so there'd be little moments that really interested us and we'd capture them and then revisit them later on.
“From about 2018 to 2022 was really like the full breadth of the ideas that became Idle Light. Because we were spending a lot of time out at the Boonah studio, especially during COVID, it was pretty obvious when we were ready to record the album.”
The move to the new rural abode, coupled with her journey of self-reflection and acceptance, has only amplified the deeply inherent creative streak in Clea that has shaped every output so far. It’s these experiences that have resulted in this truly mesmerising new album, which dances between lush synth soundscapes, sensual grooves and a full spectrum of emotions lyrically, and captures these various moments in time for the singer-songwriter.
“How I present myself and my music was definitely the major thing for this album, I think. We spent quite a long time recording it, more so because we had the time to and at times that was very difficult because we could spiral a lot.
“But I had a much stronger idea of what I wanted the sound to be and a lot more confidence in what I wanted to translate through the melodies and the instrumentation. I think that’s been through the natural course of simply getting older and more comfortable with letting things go.”