Imogen Clark on her new EP – and whether all men are bastards

Imogen Clark (pictured) is back with a new EP, the provocatively titled "Bastards". Photo: Daniel Boud/supplied.

In her boldest and bravest musical venture yet, emerging indie pop singer-songwriter Imogen Clark puts her past experiences, hurt, heartbreak and joy into the fresh new EP, Bastards. Interview by Danny Waterson.

“I really put my heart through the meat grinder and challenged myself to make this record, and I’m so proud to put this music out into the world,” says Imogen Clark.

Hailing from the majestic Blue Mountains on Sydney’s doorstep, 26-year-old Clark’s music is perhaps best described as dynamic, eclectic pop-rock backed by an emotive, heartfelt voice. Her work brings to mind artists such as Joni Mitchell, Deborah Conway and Carole King – comparisons she’s thrilled to hear.

“That is the biggest compliment ever, I’m going to live off that comparison forever,” Clark tells the Sentinel, smiling.

Currently based in Sydney for the launch of the Bastards EP and in the middle of a residency at Sydney’s Low 302 (“One of my favourite bars – I’m there all the time”), Clark sat down with the Sentinel after an industry showcase at LazyBones Lounge in Marrickville the previous night.

The official music video to ‘Bastards’, the title track of Imogen Clark’s new EP. Video: Imogen Clark/YouTube.

Bursting with joy from the showcase, the charming and gorgeous singer is dressed casually, with a bright pink blazer and matching eye-shadow for our interview at the Paramount Coffee Project in Surry Hills, a favourite Sydney hangout of Clark’s.

She says over a latte: “I couldn’t be happier with what happened in that room last night, the vibe on stage, the vibe in the crowd.”

The showcase featured Clark and her talented band of musicians, each dressed in white suits and pink t-shirts, playing the new EP live for the first time.

The recent Bastards EP launch at LazyBones Lounge, Marrickville. Video: Imogen Clark/YouTube.

Over the past decade, Clark has been honing her craft, recording and gigging around Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

Support slots with Ian Moss, Shania Twain, Diesel, James Reyne and Willie Watson have helped spread the word about Clark’s presence and unique talents as a performer.

 In 2017, she worked with Australian country music legend Kasey Chambers on the Australian #1 album Dragonfly, featuring two co-writes. The album won the ARIA Award for Best Country Album in 2017 and a Golden Guitar Award in Tamworth.

“I did start in the country world, and I’ve moved towards the indie-pop-rock world. I feel so myself at the moment.”

– Imogen Clark

Of her transition from country to indie-rock chick, Clark explains: “It’s sort of a genre weirdness to be honest. I did start in the country world, and I’ve moved towards the indie-pop-rock world. I feel so myself at the moment.”

The newly released single ‘First Class Man‘ is a beautiful pop ballad created out of mourning, featuring Colin Hay (Men at Work). The song is dedicated to her late friend Glen Hannah who lost his battle with depression in 2019. Hannah served as a musical mentor and close friend to Clark.

“When I was 14 and just getting started as a musician, I met an incredible guitarist named Glen Hannah. Glen became an instant mentor to me and was a key part of some of the biggest, most important musical milestones of my life.”

‘First Class Man‘ is a beautiful, inspiring song which features sparing harmonies by Clark and Hay.

“When I sat down in LA earlier this year to write with one of my songwriting heroes Colin Hay, I knew he would be able to help me get these feelings out into a song which was proving too hard to write on my own,” she says, adding: “I hope it reminds everyone to always check up on your friends and family if you think there’s a chance they might be hurting – because you’ll always regret it if you don’t.”

When I ask Clark if performing ‘First Class Man’ gets easier with time, she replies with a touching vulnerability: “I kind of don’t want it to, if it gets easier it probably means I’m not thinking about Glen anymore. I want to think about Glen forever.”

Official lyric video for ‘First Class Man’ by Imogen Clark, feat. Colin Hay. Video: Imogen Clark/YouTube.

Clark displays an ability to combine both vulnerability and authenticity on previous album releases Love and Lovely Lies (2016) and Collide (2018) which was produced by Mark Lizotte (Diesel).

“I love Mark, and he has remained one of my biggest mentors and champions of my music,” she enthuses.

In August 2020, in the midst of the global pandemic, Clark released a new six-track EP, The Making of Me, which was well received by fans and critics in Australia and North America, and was arguably her most ‘immediate‘ collection of songs until that point. 

After two albums and two EPs under her belt, Clark suggests the EP format might be the best way forward to get her music out there. “I never intended to do that, it sort of happened naturally. I felt like it was a nice way to put out content more regularly”.

“I have experienced all kinds of bastards … the condescending sound guy, the agent who talks down to you.”

– Imogen Clark

The Bastards EP features Clark’s most intense work to date. Raw and transparent lyrics, with an edgier bolder rock sound than before. Curious about the provocative title, I ask: “Are all men bastards?”

“No, definitely not,” she replies, laughing. “Sometimes in my darkest moments I may have thought so, but no.”

“I have to add that I have some of the best men on my team, in my life, my band, my beautiful manager (Jeremy). I love the men that stand up for feminism and are on our side fighting the good fight. But unfortunately, there are some that are bastards.

“As someone that’s been working, playing music in pubs since I was 12-years-old, I have experienced all kinds [of bastards] … the condescending sound guy, the agent who talks down to you. You feel like you have to work twice as hard as your male counterparts.”

Next month, Clark will pay tribute to one of the greatest female singer-songwriters of all time, Joni Mitchell. Clark will be performing Mitchell’s Blue album in its entirety at Mary’s Underground, Circular Quay, as well as other Joni Mitchell hits and some of her own songs inspired by the iconic artist.

“For years and years, I wanted to do a Joni Mitchell show, when I realised this year is 50 years since Blue came out I thought this is the perfect opportunity.”

Imogen Clark (pictured) will be perform a tribute to Joni Mitchell at Mary’s Underground, Circular Quay next month. Photo: Daniel Boud/supplied.

But for now, it’s all about Bastards. Just not in her personal life. Clark, who is single, laughs: “Only non-bastards need apply.”

I confess my hope that Clark’s next EP might be one of upbeat lyrics and songs about new romance.

“That is so sweet,” she replies. “It’s been a few years since I had any type of serious relationship, but now I’m really happy with my life right now, my career, things are opening back up, it’s great.”

Imogen Clark’s E.P. Bastards is available now on all major download and streaming services.

Imogen Clark will be performing Imogen Clark – 50 Years Blue at Mary’s Underground, 29 Reiby Place, Circular Quay, Sydney at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Friday, 2 July, 2021. Tickets ($24.82 plus transaction fee) and further info from https://moshtix.com.au/v2/event/imogen-clark-50-years-blue/127755.

Visit www.imogenclark.com.au for details of upcoming shows in Sydney and around Australia.