Chlöe Howl: "I had a lot of old rich men making me feel like I was stupid - fuck that"
After two years out of the limelight, Chlöe Howl is back and in control.
Published: 3:20 pm, June 19, 2017
Back in 2013, Chlöe Howl was the next big thing. With 10/10 bangers like ‘Rumour’ and ‘No Strings’, she had more buzz than a bag full of bees at a Toy Story convention, and was nominated for both the BBC Sound of 2014 and shortlisted for the 2014 BRIT Awards: Critics' Choice Award (both won by Sam Smith). Stardom seemed an inevitability. Then she parted with her label, and pretty much disappeared. The debut album that was at one point imminent, vanished. Two years of hard graft later and she’s back with a new single, and big plans for the future.
Hey Chlöe, how are you? Is life treating you well?
Hello! I'm great thanks. Absolutely - Life is exciting right now.
So you’ve just dropped a new single, your first in bloody ages - where have you been?
I've been hiding away in the studio. My last project got out of my hands a little bit, and I decided I needed time to step away, regroup and really focus on getting something new, that I felt represented who I was. I wrote a lot of the tracks before when I was 16, and I was starting not to recognise the stories within them - I'd outgrown them! So the last few years have been all about creating a body of work that I am really truly at home with.
Does this comeback involve binning off your previous singles, or will we still hear them live?
I still love the old songs; I had some of the most amazing, fun times of my life with them! But I do believe in letting the past stay in the past, so primarily I'll be focused on my new stuff. However, some of my fans have stuck by me for SO LONG now, and they still listen to and love those songs, so I don't see anything wrong with whipping out an old crowd pleaser when I eventually play a show!
You’ve said ‘Magnetic’ is about toxic relationships - did you have a specific one in mind when you wrote it, or is it more general?
I did. I got my heart broken for the first time, by an older guy. I was a teenager, and I was in awe of him, and he knew it. So after we broke up, he would pick me up and put me down whenever was convenient for him, knowing that I was young and naive and would fall for it. When I look back now I'm like, "You fucking idiot, Chlo", but I knew nothing about relationships, and he was, in my eyes, a "grown up" so I followed his lead. I wrote 'Magnetic' around the fourth time we almost got back together. I was basically trying to justify it to myself by saying, "Maybe the reason we keep getting back together is because we're actually meant to be. It must be fate!" Instead of facing the truth of the matter - that I was being completely foolish and we were terrible together. 'Magnetic' was me dissecting those thoughts and feelings at the time.
Do you mostly look to events in your own life to write about these days, or are you similarly influenced by what’s in the news and the world around you too?
It varies. Sometimes someone will say a sentence or tell me something that's happened in their life, and it'll spark an idea for a song in my head. But mostly my songs are inspired by things that have happened to me. It's a lot easier to love and believe in stories you fully understand, and the best way to do that is to have lived them! But pop music needs a bit of fantasy too - I believe that's what makes it fun. So every now and then, if I have a good idea for a song that I haven't necessarily been through myself, I roll with it. The cool thing about writing is there are so many different ways to do it! So I do indulge in a little embellishment from time to time, if I think it's a story that will resonate with people.
In what ways does ‘Magnetic’ represent the kind of artist you want to be going forwards?
I think it sounds a little bit more mature. It's a departure from the bratty teen pop I dipped my toes into before. I also wanted to focus on my voice more this time round. I kind of let it guide me when I was writing, because I wanted the melodies to compliment it. I'm not afraid to embrace my vulnerable side these days, and you can definitely hear that in the new music, especially magnetic. I would've never admitted I loved anyone a few years back!
Have you started to think about putting together an album? Is it on the agenda?
That's the whole plan! I've been working pretty much exclusively with a producer called Chris Zane who I've known for five years now. I really have always wanted to record with just one producer, so the music sounds as cohesive as possible at the end. I think often artists get sent to work with so many different people that the album at the end can sound quite disjointed - I wanted to avoid that. So that's what I've done! And so far there's a collection of songs that I'm really pleased with so, it's definitely on the horizon.
Is there anything you learnt from your time releasing music back in 2013/4 that’s informed the way you approach being a musician now?
I learnt a lot! Mostly that no one else knows how to be you, better than you do, so don't let anyone take the control of your journey out of your hands. I'm independent right now, and I am in the driving seat of every single decision - no matter how small. It's so important to trust yourself, and your gut, and not to let anyone - no matter how successful, big, or powerful they are - steer you away from what you believe is right. I was so young, and I had a lot of old rich men making me feel like I was stupid or didn't know what was best for me - fuck that. Do you. It happens a lot when you're signed as young as I was. It can be very intimidating. But I feel like I have an edge now because I've been through it all once before, so I know how everything works and what is right or wrong, so there's no pulling the wool over my eyes.
Finally - are there any bands or musicians around at the mo who maybe weren’t last time you were in the spotlight, that you particularly like?
I really like Tove Styrke's new song, 'Say My Name'. That's a great pop song! And I'm obsessed with Dolores Haze - 'White House'. I've just realised they're both Swedish. I guess I have a type?
Chlöe Howl's new single ‘Magnetic’ is out now.
Give all this a try
The annual award for the best British album of the past twelve months was presented to 'Psychodrama', his chart topping record released earlier this year.
An ode to change via the frontman of legendary indie types Pavement. Nice.
It's coming next month, 'FYI'
The track is taken from the former Dork cover-star's most recent album 'Dedicated'.
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