You know the feeling of relief you get when you finally discover something you never even really knew you needed? CLAY’s music feels exactly like that. Her most recent EP, titled hues, seamlessly mixes strong vocals and beautifully crafted lyrics. With outstanding creativity and originality, the L.A.-based artist gives us a colourful peek into her creative mind sharing stories of love, relationships, and more.
Looking at her music videos and her social media posts, it’s glaringly obvious why CLAY is an interesting person. Her sense of humour and self-aware derision shine way past our digital screens. She is also quite aware of today’s issues, having emphasized how she wishes her voice to exist so that others can find their own. Here, Schön sits down with the artist to discuss her art, her inspirations, and her origins in the music world.
When did you first get started in music? What drew you to music and songwriting?
I started singing before I started talking but didn’t really find my own voice in my own creative way until about 18. Singing is the way I express myself, my innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s still an everyday struggle to get on paper and into a song what it is exactly I want to say and how to say it, or rather, sing it. Other times, the music just pours out of me like melted butter, often feeling like an out of body experience. I’m so grateful to get to explore music on a daily basis as I feel it is such a unifying and transcendent art form.
You just released your first EP, ‘hues’, a perfect mix of talent and creativity. What is the most important thing you want people to feel and grasp while listening to it?
Thank you very much. Yes, my first body of work! I named it “hues” and assigned each song its own colour in hopes that there would be something for everyone. There’s a certain vulnerability I hope that people feel, a sentiment I am challenging myself to dig deeper into as I continue writing and exploring my sound.
Your art is very colourful – you shared two very artistic video clips for Orange and Blue and you’ve been porting purple hair of late. Do you believe visual expression to be an inherent part of your creative process?
Yes absolutely! Visual expression is extremely important to me as I am a very visual person. I like things to be tangible and visceral. I want to create visuals that actually look like the music sounds and makes you feel something, like you’re stepping into the world of the song. I am exploring and delving deeper into the visual realm. Specifically, you can definitely expect more narrative-form visuals in the future.
What inspired the making of this EP?
I wanted to create and curate a body of work. It was very cathartic for me. I became so precious and sacred about all of my music that I thought it was time to share something that people could really sink your teeth into, more than just one song. As the idea of different colours came together, the whole body of work just kind of clicked into place.
Do you have a favourite song?
On the EP I would say it’s tied between “blue” and “sponge,” I’m a sucker for a ballad. I don’t have an all-time favourite song but I will shout out Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Over the Rainbow, because it truly got me through some of my darkest days, and her voice is liquid gold.
There is a lot of humour in your video Orange, notably with your facial expressions. Do you see yourself as a funny person? Do you aspire to imbue humour in your craft?
HA! Well since you asked, yes, personally I think I’m hilarious. I definitely live by the philosophy of laughing at your own jokes regardless of the reaction of anyone else. I loved making this video because we were able to bring the satire of the song into the concept and visual! The song is about Donald Trump, so I knew I needed to spit out some Cheetos in disgust. Although I do go really deep into my moody and melancholy feels often in my songs, I don’t take myself too seriously and I aim to continue to make content on both sides of the line between laughing and crying.
You have said that your voice “exists so that others can find their own.” You are also an activist. Is there anything specific that motivated this willingness to praise inclusivity and acceptance?
I would say I am an advocate more than an activist, as I seek to use my voice and privilege to uplift the voices of those who are on the ground, dedicating their life’s work to the movement. My upbringing, my family and place of birth, San Francisco, heavily influenced my life and mission. Growing up biracial while being white presenting and reaping all of the benefits of being a white woman in this society has instilled in me the importance of allyship.
For many different reasons that I’m still working through, I always felt very isolated and misunderstood by my peers throughout my adolescence (and even today). I have a deep understanding of feeling like I don’t belong, like there is no place for me. In my adult life, I’ve been so blessed to have built a community of lightworkers, misfits, outcasts and likeminded souls. Being queer, I have learned that community is a matter of life or death for so many of us. I seek to use my music and the platform I’m creating to reach all of those who feel like they have no place, no one who sees them. I’d like those people to feel loved, important and accepted for who they are.
If you were able to, is there anything you’d wish to change about the music industry nowadays?
I think everyone is running full speed ahead as if there’s never enough time. It’s unfortunate because it then puts so much pressure on artists. I think that the music market is so oversaturated right now because of this pressure to constantly release content. In this social media era where it’s easy to see what the person to the left and right of you is doing, it’s difficult not to compare your own journey to theirs. I think this pressure especially applies to womxn in the industry as we have a mythological expiration date that men don’t have to worry about. Exceptional music takes time and thought and effort and I wish that the business side of the industry would allow artists to slow down, tap in and create from a grounded, centred and truthful place.
What are you now looking forward to, both personally and artistically?
I am looking forward to being more open and playful. Meeting new people, entering new spaces, collaborating and creating for the sake of just making really really incredible shit and just allowing myself to breathe and take all the time I need to live, and to get the next project I release just right.
CLAY’s latest EP, “hues,” is out now. Listen to it here.
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by
art direction + photography. Pol Kurucz
fashion. Brendon Alexander
hair. Castillo @ Opus Beauty using Cricket Professional and Amika
make up. Kade @ Opus Beauty using Anastasia Beverly Hills
props. Laura Gabriela Ochoa
lighting + photography assistant. Ram Gibson
words. Hugo Scheubel