lifestyle

Clare Bowditch on choosing happiness.

Clare Bowditch

There aren’t many artists in the world who greet a journalist with a wave from afar and a generous hug.

But for Australian musician Clare Bowditch, I can only imagine this is the norm.

On my way here today, I seriously considered a pit stop at the pub for a vodka shot (or three). Yep, I’m that nervous about meeting a woman I’d admired for so many years.

But within a few seconds of meeting Bowditch, it’s already like I’m sitting down for a cuppa with an old friend – who happens to have a much better voice than me.

Clare Bowditch writes songs that make you think. She plays Rosanna Harding on Channel 10’s Offspring and is the voice behind that song, ‘You Make Me Happy.’

She’s also the winner of an ARIA award, a mum of three, and the creator of Big Hearted Business, a venture that aims to teach “creative people about business and business people about creativity”.

“I am a musician, a songwriter, I’m eight albums in, and I’ve always written songs from the time I was three,” she tells me.

“But I only got gutsy about making my career out of music when I became a mum. I was 26 or 27 and I thought ‘F**k it, I’ve got to start trying, otherwise I won’t’,” she says.

I’ve been a fan of Bowditch’s for many years now but it’s not until I spend a couple of hours with her that I’m reminded of why I started listening to her music in the first place.

Bowditch has a realness about her. There’s no airbrushing of ideas or opinions. And whether she’s talking about the government’s treatment of asylum seekers, parenting, or why creative people shouldn’t be deterred from making a career out of their craft, she tells it like it is.

“Call me a dreamer, but I’ve always believed it’s possible to do what you love, make a difference in the world and make a living at the same time.”

And that’s exactly what Bowditch does in her own life.

Bowditch is married to her producer/manager/drummer Marty Brown. They’ve got three kids and record Bowditch’s music from the studio at their house.

“If you’re going to have a creative career and kids – you need to be endlessly flexible,” she says.

“The adventure for me and my husband and our kids of being a creative family together, that’s where I got good at my job”

“It makes you absolutely sharp about your choices, how you curate your time, the level of honesty that you can call on. I mean being a parent is f**king humbling. Deeply, deeply, humbling. And I’m not saying that in a lovely Hallmark version of humble. Humbling means you’ve had your face in the dirt and you’re questioning every cliché you’ve ever thought about how parents should be or shouldn’t be.”

And over the past 10 or so years, Bowditch has managed to record and release seven albums, exploring themes like grief, suffering, love and addiction. But she says it was her most recent album – 2012’s The Winter I Chose Happiness that was the most dangerous. And that was because Bowditch dared to go where most artists do not.

She wrote about the idea of being happy.

“The idea of exploring happiness as an artist felt to be like the most dangerous of all the albums. It was the most dangerous topic because it’s so easy to undermine an artist by accusing them of not being artistic because they’re happy.

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“And I realised that was just a paralysing paradigm. You can’t win. You know, I’m a mid-thirties woman (at the time I was writing the album) and I wanted to see if I could write a decent album about a topic that felt dangerous.”

“It was a really good experiment for me. And I don’t know what’s next. I’ve got all of these sketches and I know one of the themes that’s coming a lot is that I’m tired. At the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next album is a dance album!”

Clare Bowditch with Adelita. The pair are just about to embark on the 2014 Winter Secrets Tour.

Bowditch is just about to kick off her 2014 Winter Secrets Tour. It’s the fourth time she’s embarked on the tour, which is usually restricted to just a handful of shows in selected cities.

This year it’s just six shows across Australia.

Bowditch jokes that the tour is somewhat “boutique”. But on a practical note, it’s one that allows her to spend some quality time with her fans, while never being away from home for more than a couple of nights at a time.

And that’s a big change from the days when Bowditch and her husband would take the kids on the road for months at a time.

“Winter Secrets is actually only two nights at a time and I’m home for five days. And that’s why – instead of having an 11-piece band on the road – it’s just me and a mate. So it’s funny – some of these successful ideas just start as a practical consideration. And that’s what Winter Secrets was.”

Bowditch describes Winter Secrets as her “random creative adventure”.

“Anyway thing can happen,” she says.

But – from what I can tell – there are two aspects of the show that are certain.

The first is that Bowditch brings a friend. This year is that friend is Adalita, who was the lead singer of rock group Magic Dirt for almost two decades.

“As soon as her name came up I thought ‘yep, I’ve got the energy and yep, I can definitely do it’. Because she’s such an incredible musician and she’s someone I’ve always looked up to. She’s only a couple of years older than me, but I feel like she paved the way for so many Australian musicians,” she says.

The second thing that’s you can always bet on at a Winter Secrets show is audience involvement. Each tour, Bowditch runs a Winter Secrets competition – where artists upload a cover of one of Bowditch’s songs (this year it was ‘I thought you were God’) onto her Facebook page after which point one artist – or group – is chosen to perform at each show.

“It’s just about giving people a crack up there on stage. There’s one person in each city that does that and it’s really challenging to choose who gets to be that person,” she says.

“What we wanted to do was make the point that every single person is creative. And yeah – I get to be up there on stage most of the time – but my God, there are a lot of people in that room with me who could do the job.”

Winter Secrets kicks off tonight in Hobart. Bowditch will then be playing at Belgrave’s Sooki Lounge on July 17, Melbourne’s Corner Hotel on July 18, Adelaide’s The Gov on July 25, Sydney’s Factory Theatre on August 2 and Brisbane’s Powerhouse on August 8. (Ticket information is available here).

Trust me and go along.

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