Clara C | “I think anyone can do anything—you just have to put in the hours, labor, and elbow grease.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest titleholder for longest OA interview ever: Clara C, a walking ball of sunshine. Seven epic hours of dirty jokes, mountain-rock-tree-climbing, a planking photographer, losing our way in the dark, followed by a reenactment of 127 Hours, topped off with celebratory sushi for making it out alive. This lovably quirky singer-songwriter boasts a voice that would make an angel jealous and is the definition of “downess”—down to be adventurous, all the while keeping it classy. Sold-out album, nonstop touring, teaching as a behavior technician for autistic kids, winning first place in everything—all in less than one handful of years. We’ll see you at the Staples Center in no time Clara!
- What takes up most of your time right now: A little bit of everything. I think like 20 different things are on my pie.
- Guilty pleasure: Spice Girls! I can spend half and hour watching Spice Girl videos!
- Favorite song to sing in the shower: Disney songs. I like the Beauty and the Beast one where they’re in the snow.
- Relationship status: Oh god, single.
- Pet peeve: When people chew with their mouth open. When people are snooty and think they’re better; big egos.
- Your go-to food: Noodles! I have a ramen addiction.
- What you look for in a guy: Ooh, that’s a lot. Someone asked me if my dad’s perfect and I was like, “Pretty much.” And they were like, “You’re screwed.” Haha so there’s a lot that I look for. I like well-rounded, intelligent people who are talented; people who like their family, who are funny. The biggest thing is downess – down to do everything!
- Favorite movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind & Snatch
- Ryan Higa or Joseph Vincent? You can’t do that to me! Both are featured in my music videos!
- What kind of car do you drive: Audi A4 2011.
- Do you speak/read/ write Korean? Yes, ma’am! All of the above.
- Fun fact: I love to cook and bake. I went to culinary school for a bit. Right out of high school, I bypassed the UC route. I was an Other Asian from the way beginning.
- Funner fact: My sister plucks my eyebrows for me on her own accord. I’ll be watching TV and she’ll come to me with tweezers.
CC: One of my best friends, she’s super reserved so she’ll live vicariously through me. She’ll push me on stage to do things and she was like, “You should go for these competitions.” The first was Creative Juice Night held by KAC Media and I won. It was the first real victory I’ve ever had in life. It means I’m something; it validated me. Then there was ISA. And then Kollaboration. And I was like, “There’s no way that all three are coincidences.” So from then on, it just continued to progress.
OA: If you had to put it into words, how would you describe your Clara C signature musical style?
CC: It’s whatever comes out of my mind. I just execute whatever I’m thinking. In the world’s eyes, it’s pop-folk. It has a catchy melody so it’s poppy. But it’s folksy because of the guitar.
OA: In terms of your music creation process, do you write lyrics and then pair melodies to it, or does it always vary?
CC: It’s different every time but I’m starting to see a bit of a process. I’ve only done one album, so I don’t really know my groove yet. Have you seen Harry Potter? It’s kind of like when Ron’s wand breaks and he keeps taping it, but it keeps backfiring on him and he has slugs. It’s kind of like that – instead of slug vomit, I have word vomit and it’ll just come out. I’ll write it down on my phone or any writing utensil. I’ve written with a fork and napkin before. Ironically, lyrics come to you when you don’t have a pen and paper. I was on the toilet once and I had to write with my eyeliner. That’ll happen with music too. I’ll have chords and progressions. The song tells you what to do—the song has directions.
OA: Who are your musical inspirations?
CC: Oh so many! John Mayer, Feist, The Beatles, Death Cab for Cutie, Fleet Foxes, Kings of Convenience, Nujabes, Sarah Bareilles—she walked in on one of my sets before! I could go on for days, there’s a lot.
OA: Your first album, “Art in my Heart” was a well-deserved, ridiculous success and it truly showcased your cheery, quirky, love-filled personality. Now that you’re working on your second album, how similar or different is it, and how have you seen yourself grow musically?
CC: I was thinking of this second album being chronological, as if it was a movie soundtrack or a musical soundtrack. There’s a developing story that’s timed; like a normal movie told in song but not, “Once upon a time…” I’m definitely not a fan of the same sounds over and over. I like seeing progress, musical development, so this one will be slightly different. I hear head-bobbing grooves, I hear dance party, I hear instrumental, I hear crazy haunting harmonies – it’s going to be awesome!
OA: You’re a huge proponent of benefit concerts—what issues are most important to you?
CC: I really love kids and I hate when they’re in an orphan situation. I’ve never done an orphanage charity before, but I should. I used to teach autistic kids before I did music full time, so autism is something close to my heart because I witnessed it first-hand. There are a lot of causes out there and they’re all important, including sex trafficking. I’ve also done numerous Japan shows.
OA: Let’s talk about the significance of education to you. You graduated with a minor in education, you teach autistic kids, and you’ve participated in many events including a Department of Education panel. Why is education so near and dear to your heart?
CC: I think education is huge. One of my professors once said that education is the solution to all third-world problems: crime, poverty, hunger. It’s all education because people don’t have basic knowledge of things like we do here. They don’t know about the harms of drinking certain kinds of water or about crime. Higher education affects a lot of things. It’s the path to getting smarter, so why wouldn’t you take it?
OA: Despite the overwhelming love you receive on YouTube, on tours, and via your fans, this industry can still be brutal. Have you experienced discouragement and negative comments, and how do you find the strength to keep going?
CC: Some people I watch videos with, the first thing they do is look at the dislike count. And I’m like, “Dude, there will be a percentage of the population that are always going to dislike something.” It’s a given, it’s fine – it doesn’t bother me. And also, I think I have it really easy. I hear other YouTube people or musicians or filmmakers talk about hate mail – I don’t get any hate comments. I just put out a wholesome product so I attract wholesome people. So that’s why every fan I meet at every meet and greet is a nice person.
OA: Congratulations on your Loveprint Mini Tour! A little birdy tells us that was just the appetizer?
CC: This is a big one for me – it’s as big as the Staples Center for me. I’ve never been to Korea. I was born in New York, raised in LA – never been to Asia. Period. On the West Coast, we have San Francisco and in Los Angeles I’ll be performing with Dumbfounded, Feats In Inches, and New Heights from Seattle. Other tour stops include: Vancouver, New York and a few other cities. Then, this is the dream part, Korea. I’ll be in the mother land! Oh, also Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Philippines, and Australia. It’s like a dream. Pinch me.
OA: You are a self-proclaimed “extroverted introvert.” Do you ever get overwhelmed performing and meeting fans?
CC: Honestly, meet and greets are so exhausting because you have to give the same highest-level-volume-and-energy to every single person in line and sometimes we’re playing 600-person venues. It’s tiring, naturally, but it’s always worth it. Always.
OA: You inspire so many people the world over—has a fan in turn inspired you?
CC: There was someone who was like, “I quit my job and I’m doing music now.” Just a quick liner and I was like, “Awesome, dude. Hope you make it!” There are a lot of cases that are like, “I thought I couldn’t do music because I’m Asian, but now I can.” The most inspirational one was a kid who was in the hospital. He said my music helped him through chemotherapy—that was really powerful.
OA: What does it mean to be Korean American to you? How strongly do you identify with your background?
CC: I’m very much Korean-American. As far as music goes, I haven’t felt any stigma, put downs, or obstacles for being Korean or Asian. I am part of a local community of LA singers and songwriters and I feel really accepted.
OA: You’ve been approached by various record labels, you recorded at Paramount, and your master engineer is a Grammy award winner—where do you see it all going? Any idea now that you’re more established in this industry?
CC: Us independent musicians, we’re pioneers; we’re setting a trail that no one’s ever been on before. I believe that independent artists are going to have a lot of things going for them. My dream is to sell out the Staples Center. I think it’s possible without a label. There are so many ways, everything’s possible.
OA: You described post-high school as “a couple of bumps along the way” which is a modest statement of the obstacles you had to overcome. Tell us about these series of events and how that ultimately led you to music.
CC: It so ties in with music. I went to community college, was supposed to transfer out after two years but something happened in my family so I had stick around for a third year. Then I got into UCLA—it was the happiest moment ever, and I decided to go. But in my last semester of community college, my GPA dropped from 3.8 to 3.5 because of music. I was just doing a lot—church stuff, out and about, senioritis, etc. My GPA dropped and UCLA dropped me. It was devastating for me. My parents had just bought me my old Audi for school. I found out the worst way possible too: my dorm emailed saying, “Hey, your dorm is no longer available because of some rescinding offer.” I was like, “It must be some kind of mistake.” Come Monday, I received the actual letter of the rescinding offer. I didn’t want to tell my parents. I tried to appeal, appeal, appeal – I appealed four times! Finally, I sat my parents down, and I expected them to beat me. I was bawling. But sometimes, parents do the opposite of what you expect. My dad was like, “Okay, what do we do now? You should appeal to every school that you got into.” I appealed to UC Irvine and held my breath. September 25 was the first day of school for the UCs. On September 24, I found out I got into UC Irvine. I had never been to Irvine before. I packed my stuff and left to a city I’d never been to, I was homeless for a week, and I bummed around on people’s couches. Eventually, everything worked out. You see, the people who were going to be with me at UCLA, my friends and my boyfriend at the time, they all discouraged me from music. They all said, “It’s risky. Don’t do it. No one makes it.” If I went to UCLA, I wouldn’t have done music. Clara C would not exist. I went to UC Irvine, met the right people who forced me to do YouTube videos and forced me to do competitions. That’s why my dream lives.
OA: How do you feel about diving head first into this industry? You seem to have a more risk averse take in terms of having a back up plan. And on that note, what are some things you wish you knew when you started?
CC: Well, I like to have my own back. Music is a big risk; you could be the most talented person in the world and not make it. Every situation is different. Mine was very doable. As a result, I satiated my parents’ anxiety and my own. Should music ever not work out in five or ten years, I can go back to teaching autistic kids or I could work at a ward. You could be damn good at what you love and make a living off of it. I think anyone can do anything—you just have to put in the hours, labor, and elbow grease. Make sure you work at it because you get what you give to your craft.
OA: How to stalk Clara C:
Interview by Julie Zhan
Photography by Melly Lee
Edited by Connie Ho
Special Thanks to Daniel Chae
**Announcement – We are still working hard at getting Facebook to unblock us from getting shared on their site. Until then, if you would like to share this feature on Facebook, please use this link instead: Click to Share on Facebook“
Trackback from your site.