In the last few years, Imogen Clark has been touted as one of the most promising young songwriters in Australia. Now, with a CMC nomination for New Oz Artist Of The Year in her back pocket, she’s on the cusp of converting those accolades into wider critical acclaim with the recent release of her debut album, Love & Lovely Lies.
Still only 21, Imogen’s musical journey began when she picked up her dad’s old Maton acoustic guitar as an 8-year-old and took her first tentative steps toward a fascination with the instrument and the possibility of writing her own songs. Inspiration also came in the form of her father’s own original songs, adding further fuel to that songwriting and performing desire.
“When I started writing songs, it was because I had grown up listening to Dad’s original music and aspired to tell stories like he did.”
The industry and fans began to realise the natural talent and potential of Imogen’s songwriting with her third independently released EP Stories from a Porcelain City (2013). The EP’s lead single Ceaseless Goodbye was shortlisted for APRA’s prestigious Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition and received an Honourable Mention in the prestigious International Songwriting Competition. Her breakthrough single While Women Wait (Jan 2015) was given significant airplay and charted on CMC in Australia, which led to it being picked up by AC radio in the United States and cable TV giant Great American Country, with a reach to over 59 million US households. Her success hasn’t stopped there, with Imogen representing Australia for the second time at the 2015 Americana Music Festival in Nashville. Imogen played her own showcase and captivated the audience at the world famous Bluebird Café, where so many great country artists have been discovered and left their mark.
In late 2015, Imogen signed with Lost Highway Records/Universal Music Australia (Shane Nicholson, Ruby Boots, Mustered Courage, Catherine Britt), further recognition of how her songwriting has quickly gained respect in the alt-country and Americana music field. Since her signing, Imogen has also been recognised with major awards at the Australian Songwriters and Tamworth Songwriters Awards.
“I was thrilled to be asked to sign with Lost Highway Records because they specifically nurture the alt-country genre. It’s great to be included in that whole movement. I’ve loved the label and its heritage for years before the prospect of signing with them even existed. Joining the Lost Highway family has been the biggest step of my career so far.”
Imogen’s music inhabits a place where different roots-based genres intersect and blend into her own distinct sound. There is the self-confessed nod to the folk influence that Joni Mitchell has had on her music, yet fast forward quarter of a century and the modern Americana styles of songwriters such as Ryan Adams and Gillian Welch have clearly also had a strong impact on Imogen’s own writing. That ability to absorb the old and the new is what forms the timeless quality of Imogen’s music.
“I was brought up on a lot of rock music and my dad is a huge Led Zeppelin fan so I’ve loved them all my life. I listened to a lot of that growing up but then I also started finding artists like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ryan Adams, Paul Kelly and Neil Finn, who have become massive influences. Those songwriters made me realise you can blend different styles of music and the combination of those genres, with good honest songwriting at the core, has become Americana. Listening to all those kinds of artists has made me realise that this is what I want to do.”
Take Me For A Ride was the first single to be released from Love & Lovely Lies, peaking at #1 on the iTunes Country Chart. The single showcases the sound she has been able to achieve right across her new album. Classic, chiming rock ’n’ roll guitar chords complement Imogen’s energetic vocal delivery, lifting the song into a soaring chorus built on an emotive alt-country melody and free-spirited optimism.
“Take Me For A Ride was written in Nashville and captures the raw, gutsy and soulful vibe of the album. Like the whole record, the song is an honest but optimistic view of love – analysing the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s about inviting someone into your life despite the fact it might not end well and there are warning signs that it’s not a good idea. You know it’s going to be fun but you might get hurt. The saying ‘’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all’, really sums it up.”
Capturing the pain and joy of entering adulthood, navigating the stormy waters of young love, the search for self-belief and finding one’s place in the world are all themes Imogen conveys with her richly melodic voice and lyrics. She has the ability to sound fragile and vulnerable and then, just as effectively, deliver lines that exude emotional strength with a deep and soulful resonance. The album track Keep Me In The Dark is a raw and powerful example of just that, with only electric and slide guitar providing the perfect moody vibe for Imogen’s spine-tingling vocal performance.
Drawing Hearts is quite a different approach with a freewheeling country-rock swagger and playful 70s pop hooks, showing that Imogen isn’t afraid to embrace pop sensibilities and marry them to the more organic and roots-based side of her songwriting.
“Someone like Ryan Adams can sing a soft, folky ballad with his acoustic guitar and then get up with a kick-arse rock band and it’s all authentic and ‘him’. That’s what I aspire to do too.”
Lyrically Imogen paints evocative stories without the need to bury the listener in detail. Simple observations and perfectly formed lines are key aspects of her songwriting. “I’m not coming home, I’m just coming back”, she sings in Things You Never Had. It’s just one of many lines on the album that cut right to the core of her songs and establish their emotional tone so effectively.
Love & Lovely Lies has enjoyed great success since its release in May, charting at #15 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter Chart, and #15 on the ARIA Chart for Australian Country Albums. The album’s second single, You’ll Only Break My Heart, entered the Official Australian Airplay Country Top 20 Chart at #14, taking into account radio stations right across Australia, as well as reaching #1 on the Country Music Channel chart.
The range and conviction throughout her songs is what has already drawn many to Imogen’s songwriting and continues to capture the hearts and minds of new fans as they discover Love & Lovely Lies.
“I love this album. It’s definitely the thing I’m proudest to put my name on so far in my life. I had a big hand in producing it myself and I’d never done that on a record before. I produced it alongside two great artists – Harry Hookey and Jack Hookey. We worked on it and played all the instruments together. I’ve never had a record that represented me more. It really is a snapshot of me at 20 and 21 years of age, and I’m really proud of it.”
“Imogen is a songwriter well beyond her years with a flawless voice that is mesmerising. At just 21, she is already an old soul” – Kasey Chambers.
“Imogen Clark shines as a world class talent” – Renowned For Sound (4.5 stars).
“Promising debut LP from recent Lost Highway signing. A vibrant effort…Clark, 21, channelling early Pretenders… [has a] warm, palpably Australian vocal.” – Rolling Stone (3 stars).
“…A great talent” – Richard Wilkins, Channel 9.