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Interview (including live performance) with the extremely talented folk singer, Chloe Hall.

July 6, 2009

In this interview I talk to independent folk singer, Chloe Hall about storytelling, folk music and the struggles faced by independent musicians. I’ve have been working with Chloe Hall recently to produce a weekly online show that follows the Chloe Hall Trio as they tour Canada and Europe. The main aim of the show is to encourage people to start supporting independent artists, who with little support from funding bodies or major labels, are trying to make a go of it. It’s time people like you, me and everyone else out there actually do something to keep original storytelling and music alive. So take the time to read this interview and watch Chloe perform live and if you like what you see, I strongly recommend you to go to www.chloehall.com.au, show your support for The Chloe Hall Trio by registering that you’ve listened to their music and help keep their dream alive.

* What’s your story? (in 140 char. or less)

I’m an alternative folk singer-songwriter from Melbourne. I love making and sharing music, and I’m trying to work out a way to build a sustainable career.

* How did you start out?

I’ve written songs as long as I can remember.
After high-school, I studied composition at the Con in Melbourne, where I realized I was not only a terrible opera singer, but I actually didn’t like 20th century music that much. I dropped out after 2 years and hit the folk festival circuit (with my first demo – on cassette)…

* Can you remember the first song/story you ever wrote?

Uh huh.
There might have been others, but the first song I remember was when I was about 3, looking out of the back seat of the car watching the moon through the passing overhead wires. “When the moon was shining brightly and the stars were in the sky”. Genius.

* Tell us a bit about your new tour, ‘the 10,000 mission’ and the your online show, ‘Show on the Road’. What you are trying to achieve?

During this tour, we’re running 2 online campaigns.
“Chloe Hall is on a Mission” is about getting 10,000 people to hear the new album before the end of the tour (3½ months). They don’t have to buy it (although they can!), they can just go to the website, stream it, and register that they’ve heard it.
The way I see it, there are lots of people out there who will love the music, and particularly the new album – and it’s my job to find them.
I’m genuinely proud of this album, and I want to get it in front of as many people as possible – to give it the best chance that I can.

“Show on the Road” is a weekly web-based documentary of life on the road. It’s filmed by me and my trio on the road, the raw footage is uploaded… and the superstars at Agent Blank edit it and upload it each week.
It’s a fresh and exciting way of staying in touch with fans and giving a fly-on-the-wall experience of what life is like on the road.


* What makes a good story?

For me, people make good stories. If there’s real emotion there, you can bet it was triggered by a decent story. If it’s boiled down, I think a good story is an access point into a shared, simple emotion. An offering, from the teller to the listener.

* What’s your favourite story? (can be a film, book, myth etc)

I don’t have a tidy answer for this one. I’m probably most involved with the story I’ve most recently heard (and I’m always on the lookout for a good story!). I’m typing this from an alternative community in BC, Canada, where a group of American college friends bought land 35 years ago. They built the most extraordinary houses, reared chickens, pigs and cattle. Grew gardens and crops. Through summers and snowy, 40-degrees-below-winters. They led both independent and communal lives. Held legendary parties. Somehow, they’re still here – stronger than ever. All still friends. Continuing to build, play and work together. It’s inspiring. So, right now, it’s my favourite story.

* How do you think technology is changing the way we tell stories?

This is probably not a popular answer, but I think technology is changing the methods and appearance of the way we tell stories. But the stories themselves aren’t that different. Storytelling has been the same (in different forms) since we first began communicating our shared experiences.
Whether we sing a song passed down orally through generations, write a story on paper, type a blog or stream a live art-piece live on the web, we’re still connecting with people through common experience.
I think technology is opening up channels for broader communication though – allowing us to reach more people, more easily.

* Let’s talk about the difference between recording an album and performing live, how do you think the two processes change the way you tell your story?

I love them both, but recording and performing are very different.
For me, performing live is about a particular moment, with a particular group of people. We’re all a part of it. It only occurs once, and it’s a unique experience. It’s alive.
Recording is more like visual art. There’s so much preparation and refinement. It’s an exciting process – an intense exploration of the ideas and sounds, and often an amazing experience for the musicians and technicians involved. Once it’s finished, like a novel or a painting, it becomes a one-way communication with the listener/reader/viewer. It’s complete. It doesn’t change. It’s a moment captured.

* How will ‘Show on the Road’ be distributed?

Each week, Show on the Road is being uploaded to my website, youtube and other web video channels.

* What are the major hurdles to making a career from being a musician and trying to tell your stories?

The two big ones are self-belief and money.
There is an incredible amount of rejection in a musical career, so you need to have a strong belief in what you’re doing, have a thick skin, and have confidence and faith in the fact that there ARE people who will love what you’re doing, and be excited to be involved. So much of making a lasting career in music is finding a supportive community of like-minded people. On both sides of the stage/stereo.
And money? I think that’s self explanatory. Hard, hard work!

Tell us particularly about how/why folk music seems to be more about storytelling than other styles of music?

Folk music is, funnily enough, about ‘folk’. It’s by people, for people. It’s not driven by an industry, but it has a long, proud history of telling people’s stories. Remembering, sharing, sometimes protesting and resisting through music. It’s about communities and the strength of people working together. It’s real stories about real people and genuine emotions. It’s not just pop music played on acoustic instruments. It’s not always cool, but it’s timeless, classic and rich (but, you know, I might be a little bit biased!).

* Is the tour/show self funded?

I didn’t intend for this tour to be self funded (I made what I thought were 3 very strong applications for government and industry funding), but it’s ended up being a completely self-funded project. It’s wiping me out, actually. I’ll come back from this tour in debt, with no real idea of how to get out of the financial hole that I’m putting myself in. But I’m too far down the track to stop now! And you never know, if we just keep going around that next bend…

* Greatest fear in life?

Yeah right, that’s an easy question…

* What is your idea of freedom?

Setting off in the morning on a push bike. That first pedal down, where you feel the momentum of the bike take over and the wind against your face. I never tire of that feeling.

* Your greatest ambition?

This might sound a bit clichéd, but ultimately I want to be a happy, healthy, loving, loved, confident woman with a fantastic community of friends and musicians, making my living through music and songwriting. Living a rich and colourful life full of good company, good food, good music and adventure. True.

* Your tips for spreading the word and getting online support for your projects?

I’m just learning about this. At this point, I’m in other people’s hands. Definitely using social networking sites (although I could do this a lot better I think)… It’s all quite new for me at the moment, but I’m hoping we develop some good strategies along the way.


* Can you tell me the favourite song you’ve ever written and why you like it so much?

This changes all the time. At the moment it’s Shipwreck (listen to it here). It just feels so good to sing live – especially when the harmonies kick in!
It’s about being single… ‘Are you the rose or the thorn? Are you the teacup or the storm? Are you the one worth waiting for? Are you the shipwreck or the shore?…’ and I love seeing the single people in the audience (men and women) light up in recognition. It’s light, but there are seeds of truth in there… Ultimately though, it’s a very uplifting song.

* Why are you drawn to storytelling?

For the way it breaks through and makes us feel. For the way it connects people. For the way it makes us think, and question, and laugh and look around. I love hearing stories and songs just as much as I enjoy writing and sharing them. It feels important to me. Part of our own strange human story.

* If you had to live by a motto, what would it be?
I really don’t know, but I asked my (very helpful) band mates:
Teal said “Carpe PM”
Chris said “Look both ways before you cross the street”
Our host, Bob, said “Do what you like, like what you do”.

So you can see how easy that one is to answer!

– I thank Chloe for taking the time out of her extremely busy tour schedule to answer my questions. If you’ve read this far, then I encourage you once more to show your support for independent music and take a couple of minutes to check out http://www.chloehall.com.au.

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