Interview with Chris Cleverley
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I grew up in a house of music. There were always great records like Gracelands and Pet Sounds spinning when I was a kid. I got into playing my dad’s guitars from a young age and by the time I was a teenager I was hooked. It’s always been what I wanted to do from a young age and I think I’d be lost if I wasn’t on this path.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I’m a big reader. I think language is so important as a songwriter. It’s a big part of your research. I like to read anything; articles, novels, non fiction, just anything that gets my brain absorbing language, picking up and processing new words. There’s a lot of great imagery that can be used in the storytelling too. I love the magical realism stuff like Angela Carter and Salman Rushdie.
How long have you been making music?
I really got into songwriting when I was a teenager so we’re looking at about 20 years now. It was more electric guitar stuff; long proggy, post-rock style instrumental pieces that I was recording on an old analogue 4 track we had. As I got into my 20s, writing lyrics and describing the world and my own journey became more important though.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’ve recently moved to Greater London and am just getting to grips with the area but I spent a long time living in Birmingham. I think the frantic urban sprawl definitely inspired my songwriting. In a big city you’re face to face every day with some of the most stark inequalities in our society. People who have so much side by side with people who have so little. It played a big part in politicising me and this has fed into a lot of my songwriting; trying to address that imbalance.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
I’ve been lucky enough to play some amazing festivals. Costa Del Folk in Portugal was a stand out one. Performing in your shorts in 35 degree heat with the Atlantic ocean as a backdrop.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
There’s a few amazing venues that I’ve always had a great time at. Green Note in London, Hare & Hounds in Birmingham and Chapel Arts in Bath. Id love to make it to Green Man festival one day.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
If I could go back in time and open the show for Elliott Smith I think that would have been the dream. Nowadays though on a bill with Sufjan Stevens would be incredible.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
If I had my time again I’d have taken more time over releasing my first record, built up a solid team and toured a bit more. That album got a really good response but at the end of the day you only get one shot to make that first huge impact and planning it carefully is so important.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
The lead single from my new record, called ‘Chlorophyll’ has come to mean a huge amount. It was a big turning point for me where I finally felt like my songwriting, lyrics and production were all a reflection of exactly what was inside my head. It represented a much closer connection with my artistic voice and was the impetus for the entire album.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I enjoy playing the track ‘The Rafters’ from my first album and actually this is one that gets requested the most. It’s a really high energy track that I can pour a lot of myself into live. People often say it sounds like 3 guitars at once and I think I enjoy the fact it stretches my guitar playing skills the most. It’s a real challenge to pull it off and always feels like a great achievement even after 8 years of performing it.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I usually find the lyrics and the music happen together. I’ll stumble across an interesting guitar or piano part and if it’s working rhythmically and melodically then I usually find there words flow straight out, like they’ve been waiting in my subconscious mind for the right vessel. It might be that I’ll be thinking a lot on a topic that would be good to focus on, maybe something I’ve seen in the news or read about, so this usually sets the scene and gets me in the right ballpark.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
Yes I think having a wider message to your art is really important. Some of the main themes of the new record have been exploring climate emergency, mass displacement of people, pervasive artificial intelligence, social inequality and also looking at personal human themes like connection with nature and looking to access feelings of peace in a head spinning world.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
My new album came out on Friday 4th November. I’ve been talking about in for 3 months now, but I’m really looking forward to exploring it further with my community now that they can actually hear the music. I’m taking the new songs on tour across the UK this November with performances at the following places
12.11: West End Arts Centre - Aldershot
18.11: New Lion Brewery - Totnes*
19.11: The Slaughtered Lamb - London*
20.11: Hare & Hounds - Birmingham*
25.11: The Gather - Ennerdale
27.11: Music On The Levels - Bridgwater
01.12: Colchester Arts Centre - Essex
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
It would be great if people would like to follow my Spotify, Instagram and Twitter pages. My website chriscleverley.com is a great hub for all the new announcements and tour dates and my Bandcamp page has a load of merchandise and music for people to check out.