Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist Imogen Clark first wrote the song “The Making of Me” about a really tough year that just seemed to entail one hardship after another. She remembers thinking when she wrote it that “if I made it through the year, I’d be a stronger, bolder version of myself.” In the chorus, she belts emotively against piano, “This year will be the making of me.”
Though she was reflecting on personal events from 2019, the lyrics provide an important reminder to a Americans still in the throes of the Coronavirus pandemic – or facing any other type of struggle, COVID-related or not. “I don’t want anyone to feel that level of anxiety, but obviously, a lot of people are [right now], and I hope maybe this song can be a bit of a mantra to those people,” she says. “What I meant this song to be when I wrote it was not a sad anthem about going through a terrible time and wallowing in it. It’s very much about going through a challenging time and letting that challenge form you into a stronger version of yourself.”
Inspired by a breakup, the song was meant to sound raw and stripped back, which Clark accomplished by recording herself in the studio with live piano accompaniment. In the same vein, the video, filmed in at Sydney’s Low 302, shows her playing piano to an empty room. Clark played her last gig there before the virus shut down public establishments, giving the emptiness of the room extra meaning. “It was quite eerie because it was like the apocalypse was about to happen,” she remembers. Clark decided to use the video to help live music venues recover from COVID, providing a link to her website, where people can find information about supporting local venues.
Clark’s other songs are similarly heartfelt, most with a pop sensibility. But on some, like “Collide,” the title track from her 2018 release, you can hear audible country influences – most notably hints of Shania Twain, whom the 25-year-old artist has opened for. She also notes Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Led Zeppelin, and Joni Mitchell as big inspirations.
On August 21, she’s putting out her next EP, The Making of Me, which includes the title track along with the singles “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Found Me,” plus three currently unreleased songs. She recorded the EP in LA with producer Mike Bloom, who has worked with Rilo Kiley, Julian Casablancas, and Jonathan Rice, and chalks much of the sound up to him. He gave her directions in the studio, having her release emotion to the point that she was almost yelling at times, she remembers.
While she considers this EP poppier than her previous work, her goal was to feel unconfined to any genre; she even branched out into electronic sounds, making use of synths and drum machines. Several guest musicians added to the unique sound, including Pete Thomas, who has drummed for Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench.
“It felt like the first time I was able to make music without worrying about the genre of the music,” she says. “People make it seem like it’s insincere and inauthentic if you’re embracing pop sensibilities, but we made this with no expectation about what genre it would be, and that was a huge leap forward for me and made me feel very confident and liberated, and I think you can hear both emotions in the songs.”
In fact, being yourself and resisting external pressures is a major theme throughout the album. This is perhaps most evident in “Push Me Down,” which was inspired by experiences Clark has had as a woman in the music industry. On the track, she stands up to men who have tried to belittle her and undermine her ideas.
“As a woman, the music industry can be a really testing place,” she says. “It can be as small as somebody making a comment about the way that you dress. Women are always made to feel like we need to show more skin or feel more sexualized in our content. What I’ve always thought of with my music is, if I want to sexualize things, I’ll do that on my own terms. I’m not going to do it because somebody else tells me to. The first and foremost thing in my mind is that I have something to say, and I want that to be at the forefront of people’s minds.”
In the spirit of hope and resilience that “The Making of Me” encompasses, Clark is planning her first live show, which is set to take place September 10 in Sydney. “We’ll be able to launch the EP in a proper live show, which is wonderful,” she says. For those of us still in limbo, the song’s reminders about our potential for growth may be just enough to get us through.
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