CLOE TERARE Isn't Holding Back: The Aussie Artist Set To Break Out In 2022

27 January 2022 | 1:40 pm | Cyclone Wehner

"I wanted it to be about empowerment and confidence."


Queensland rising star CLOE TERARE is already an enigma. The First Nations singer-songwriter makes emotive R&B electro pop. But then she veers into country and even metal. Terare might be the missing link between Mallrat and Liyah Knight. Either way, 2022 should be her year.

Speaking on Zoom from a spacious kitchen area, Terare is warm, witty and chatty, being so at ease with interviews that she could guest on a talk show and instantly charm the audience. Intriguingly, as much as the Unearthed Feature Artist loves – and lives for – music, she's also an avid gamer. What's not to dig?

Today Terare resides in the regional hub of Toowoomba, known as The Garden City, with her partner, a heavy metal guitarist. However, she was raised in outer-suburban Brisbane, later moving closer to the CBD. "I was like, 'Oh, I do not like the city,'", Terare says. "When I met my boyfriend, he took me to Toowoomba because he grew up here. I was like, 'Yep, this is where I've gotta be.' I just missed the space." That was three years ago.

Hailing from a musical family, her grandfather the local country legend Garth Terare, Cloe developed a precocious interest in songwriting. "I've been writing forever – like since Grade Three," she recalls. "I had my little journal and I would write and I'd do my little poems… I'd make my little sisters listen to it; we'd have little concerts. But I officially started writing and recording songs at the start of high school or Grade Seven – I did it with my granddad, and he was in the music industry. He was my manager back then. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was in Grade Nine – and I just completely stopped. I couldn't do it anymore. Then in 2019, I thought, I'm gonna do it – and I'm gonna do it in honour of him. So I made my last name in the project 'Terare', which is his last name, just to kind of take him with me." 

Terare premiered in 2019 with the subliminal single Take Me Home, about exiting toxic relationships. Yet Terare's career gained momentum when she attended a QMusic songwriting retreat – penning the prize-winning Easy with the Gold Coast's DVNA (and meeting her current manager).

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Initially, Terare had gravitated to country – her grandfather's beloved genre. But the vocalist's sensibilities shifted as she discovered a new wave of simultaneously confessional and comic female pop, R&B and hip-hop artists – beginning with Canada's Jessie Reyez. "Her honesty and her flow and her style just inspired me so much," Terare notes. "I was like, 'Yeah, I want to do that.'" She was fascinated, too, by Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish and Ashnikko, but especially Doja Cat. 

Terare would soon express her own inner-sass. "When I started, I was doing really kind of ballady, lyrical stuff," she laughs. "My manager was like, 'Why don't you show your other side of your personality?' I was like, 'Ooh, I don't know…' I was a bit worried about it. I was a bit shy. But then we recorded a few songs, just as an experiment – and we all loved it."

An adept networker, Terare has since collaborated with Gold Coast super-producer Paces – who guided Tkay Maidza's early banger Switch Lanes – on the fledgling alt-pop Dayliites project, their first single Diamonds. "Paces put out a call," Terare relates. "He wanted to start a new little project and something a bit different from what he had already been doing, just branch out. I submitted a song – just like a topline to one of his tracks that he made for this new project. And he just got back to me. He was like, 'Yep, that's the one.' I was like, 'Great!' We connected through my manager – my manager and him. I think they've been working together for a while. So that's how we connected. But I just sent him a recording and he was like, 'Yep, let's do it.'"

She's similarly teamed with Melbourne electronica-type JDG. 

Still, Terare ideally labours solitarily – retaining her autonomy. "I love collaborating," she enthuses, "and I love working with other artists. I love experimenting and trying new things. But, as far as the actual creating goes, I would say I much prefer to be alone. I don't know how people come up with genius in rooms of people – I just have to dip. I have to go outside for a little while and write."

In November Terare independently issued her debut EP, Burn Book (2018-2021) – its lead single the cloudy Scotty (Beam Me Up). The set spans future soul, avant 'n' b, art trap, country and metal (the Rico Nasty-ish YUCK!). This time, Terare worked with Canadian production duo Beach Season in remote recording sessions.

For the EP concept, Terare directly drew from the 2000s cult teen comedy flick Mean Girls, in which Rachel McAdams portrays the iconic Plastics leader Regina George. "I love Mean Girls," she chuckles. "It was me coming out quite authentically and saying some things that were a bit controversial and my opinion and how I feel. I was kind of just like, 'I'm gonna release it and, if people don't like it, they don't like it. I don't care.' You can only really be honest and be yourself. So I was watching Mean Girls and I was like, 'Damn, they are brutally honest!' (laughs). I just thought, Yeah.. I thought it tied together well. I wanted it to be about empowerment and confidence."

Among the stand-outs on Burn Book (2018-2021) is Cadillac, bouncy country soul that evokes Beyoncé's Daddy Lessons in addition to Lana Del Rey's recent forays (it's just been picked up by triple j). The song finds Terare arriving full circle. "My granddad was really into Cadillacs," she shares. "So I wanted to have that country flair in there, because he was a country artist. My first CD that I recorded was a Dixie Chicks cover CD – so it was a country recording. And so it was really important for me to have that kind of little slice of my life in the EP to represent that."

Ironically, at one stage, Terare was unsure if Cadillac "fit" – but she resolved to let loose. "I just wanted to go all out with it – like [have] slide guitars and the mariachi band-sounding thing at the end," Terare says. "I wanted it to be lots of fun and a little bit country and show a different side to me… It's definitely my favourite [song] to perform live."

Besides, Terare recognises that country is increasingly reaching a wider listenership, the scene diversifying with Lil Nas X, Orville Peck and Mickey Guyton. "I feel like, I don't know, people just say they don't like country music," she laughs. "I just feel like they might be lying. Like, how can you not love country music?" 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused ongoing disruption in the music industry. But the bold Terare has a game-plan. "Obviously, I would love to be working kind of internationally and touring internationally, when things are a little bit safer."

Even in lockdown, Terare was industrious, combining music with gaming. "I've started a Twitch channel, because I felt like through COVID more people are online and maybe getting into things like Twitch, watching Twitch – and I love gaming. So I was like, 'Is there a possibility that I could maybe merge these two worlds of mine together?' So I've started a little Twitch channel for my gaming, which is fun – I really enjoy that. So [I'm] hoping I can kind of expand my community in that way." As for her fave games? "I play League of Legends, the PC game. That's the only competitive-style gaming that I really like. Otherwise, you can catch me on [The] Sims or Planet Zoo."

In 2022 Terare will air fresh music. "I'm working towards April to have my first single out of the next EP," she reveals. Wisely, the auteur isn't rushing out an album. An EP, Terare says, is "less pressure." And Terare intends to tour. 

Live, Terare performs alongside DJ El Delpha. "He also gets on the guitar, which is really cool to watch, 'cause we've got a bit of a metal song right at the end, which is very fun."

Auspiciously, in November Terare sold-out her inaugural headlining show at the Fortitude Valley's Black Bear Lodge, launching Burn Book (2018-2021). "It was a rollercoaster. I mean, we had moments where people had their lighters out and everyone was swaying and we had these romantic moments. Then, by the end of it, there was a mosh-pit and everyone was jumping around and running into each other. So it was full of emotion. Yeah, very energetic."

Terare will participate in next month's Mountain Goat Valley Crawl. Beyond that, she'll hit East Coast capitals over winter – all going well with the pandemic.

Most admirably, the communal Terare is committed to staying in Toowoomba and fostering its live scene. (She was supposed to play the local edition of the Fresh Produce festival, another casualty of COVID-19.) "I think it's smaller than it was, which is sad. It used to be really, really, really good in Toowoomba – like there were lots of live shows; really big acts would always come through here. I wasn't here 10 years ago, but my boyfriend, who's a bit older than me, played in a metal band and he said that it was just like [a] crazy, good live scene here. So I'm hoping to grow that and start bringing things back up this way a bit more."