Popping Up: Clairity
Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Beyoncé and Miley were once unknown, too.
I am a member of the last pre-internet generation. We who remember when mobile gaming meant Game Boy. We who carried a piece of paper with all our friends’ phone numbers in our wallets. We who stashed porn inside a Sports Illustrated. Back then, flirting with a crush over AIM was the revolution.
So I cannot fathom how overwhelming it must be to come of age when you have a computer in your pocket telling you exactly where your friends and enemies and role models and idols are and what they’re doing at all times. It used to be that social jockeying ended when the school day ended or when the party got busted. But in the digital era, teens go home and it’s still with them on Twitter timelines and Instagram feeds, and I wonder if it feels like a cyber It Follows monster is interminably stalking them. Well in recent years, an increasing number of teenage pop artists like Lorde and Alessia Cara have reacted to and articulated this digital adolescent experience — often by examining the now-rare feat of crawling into your shell.
Sitting alongside those precocious pop voices is 18-year-old Clairity. Her big break came when Pebe Sebert (Kesha‘s mother) came across her demo. The two subsequently wrote together, and soon she was put in touch with Kara DioGuardi and they collaborated on her just-released debut Alienation EP. The project so accurately details the plight of the high school outcast that it almost transports listeners back to that acne-riddled hellscape. But it’s all wrapped up in a distinctly millennial blend of positivity and self-deprecation, delivered via bright melodies and airy yet authoritative vocals. Which is to say, it’s never a traumatic listening experience.
I recently sat down with Clairity to talk about her misfit-pop project, her career path and her first time meeting Kesha. Get to know the up-and-coming singer below.
NAME: Claire Wilkinson
HOMETOWN: The ‘Burbs, Tennessee
INFLUENCES: Clairity says Coldplay and Radiohead played a big role in her musical development. “The YouTube tutorials that I used to learn to play keyboard would almost always be Coldplay and Radiohead.” She also cites Imogen Heap and Florence + The Machine as reference points.
FOUR-EYES: When we met, Claire was wearing her signature pixelated glasses (which she buys in bulk), though she’s careful to avoid being known for this uniform of sorts. “I want to transcend the glasses in some way, I want to be recognized for the art. I never want my brand or artistry to be totally about my face, which sounds odd as a female pop artist. But I want the art to speak for itself.”
THE SOUND OF SHYNESS: With lyrics like “Get the answers wrong on purpose so no one calls you a freak,” it’s clear these songs are the work of an introvert. But that’s why they’re so powerful. “I wanted people to know me and make a connection with me. And know that I’m just like them. Literally just like them,” she explains. “I was the kid in middle school who hid in the back of her English class and got made fun of for reading about Einstein.”
BULLY PULPIT: The moment Claire realized she wanted to really explore the anxieties and pressures of adolescence was in eighth grade. “I really was in my Advanced English class, reading about Einstein, which in hindsight is…very provocatively nerdy. But this girl comes over, says ‘What are you reading?’ and grabs the book out of my hand and smacks me in the face with it and says ‘Nerd!’ and walks away. In that moment, I wasn’t angry or sad, I was just so appalled that she felt the need to do that. What would cause a person to do that? I genuinely didn’t understand, and still don’t understand.”
MILLENNIAL & PROUD: “You always hear ‘Those damn millennials, worst generation.’ But the reality of the situation is, we’re gonna be a little bit smart,” she tells me. “We have access to the internet! Regardless of how accurate all the information out there is, it’s accessible and it’s there. The reality is we’re going to be more socially conscious. So in that sense, [the internet] can be very good.”
HER VERY KESHA INTRODUCTION TO KESHA: “I was getting my hair done and they’re like, ‘We need to wax your eyebrows,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t like this but…OK.’ And Kesha comes in — she was just hanging out. And Kesha asks, ‘Does that hurt, I never get my eyebrows waxed?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s not fun.’ And she said, ‘Well, I got my vagina waxed, so I’m pretty sure that takes the cake.’ That was my introductory Kesha moment.”
ON WEARING VELCRO: The best hook on her EP might also be the one about the lamest, most WHAT ARE THOOOSE-worthy pieces of footwear ever created: the velcro shoe. “I really wanted to write a nerd anthem. There should be a song on the EP that speaks to the kids who dont know what they’re doing at the party but they wanna be there. So what if velcro is a metaphor for all the parts of yourself that everyone else tells you are unattractive?” Claire explains. “After I wrote the song, I definitely bought some orthopedic velcro shoes at Goodwill. I had to bleach them because they had some really mysterious stains, so gross. But they’re great, they’re like grandma shoes, I love them. I don’t know if I look good in them, but I rock them on occasion.”
WHAT’S NEXT: New music — it’s just unclear when and how it’ll be packaged. “Right now we have enough content to put out an LP. It’s just, feeling 110% about it. I just turned 18. Artistically, emotionally, physically, I’m evolving at such a fast pace right now. So we’re trying to figure out how it’ll make sense to put it out — whether it’ll be a couple EPs and then the record, or an EP then an LP. If I’m gonna be singing these songs over and over again, I’ve gotta be really proud of them.”