Claire Parsons says her band, comprised mostly of well-known Luxembourg musicians, brought ideas and sounds that she couldn’t have imagined to her debut album “In Geometry”
Photo: Lynn Theisen Photography
British-Luxembourgish singer-songwriter Claire Parsons releases “In Geometry”, her debut solo album, on 29 May. Here she talks about the record, the writing process and creative life in lockdown.
Claire Parson’s debut solo album is, she says, the result of a search for her own musical identity. As the title suggests, “In Geometry” is inspired by composition techniques that study geometrical forms and their impact on the theoretical and practical world of music.
But actually, Claire says the germ of a song usually stems from simple playing around on the piano. “I will find a rhythm or a chord progression, or a melody I like, and I play with it and see where it can lead.” Once the structure is in place, she examines what she was feeling when she composed the song, or why she wrote it, and tries to put that into words. The lyrics reflect, then, a personal and often intimate emotion. “I always like to identify with the lyrics. It’s less storytelling and more working out issues that I’ve been facing. It’s sometimes hard to find the words--I’m more used putting emotions into music, which is more abstract.”
The album has been in the making for less than a year and includes only new compositions. “Specifically, I was writing to make them fit into one another,” Claire explains. “Well, they automatically do because when you’re writing music you cannot reinvent yourself within the time span of a year.”
The album showcases Claire’s broad influences, from her love of jazz to elements of folk, electro, pop, rock and even classical music. There is the romantic ‘Nebula’, in which the singer yearns for a partner to “step into my mind” before building to a joyous crescendo. The album’s lead track, ‘No Shape’, which was released on 15 May, is a marvelously epic melancholic reflection on love packed with beautiful imagery.
Austrian illustrator Astrid Rothaug, who created a visual concept for the album, has even provided hand-drawn animation for the video of ‘No Shape’.
But as well as the formally structured songs, the album includes what one might call atmospheric interludes, one in which Claire doesn’t even sing, that break up the rhythm of the album quite nicely. These were the result of a conscious discipline when recording the album. “We really tried to find out what each song needs, not to overload it with instruments--to see the song naked and just add very little layers. We stopped when it had reached its full potential, to respect each song musically.”
The result is a record that flows neatly from one track into the next, providing the listener with time to become fully immersed in music that is luxurious and compelling.
“In Geometry” features Israeli guitarist Eran Har Even, who formed a duo with Claire for last year’s “OnOff” EP, also plays an integral role on the album. And Claire got together a clutch of musicians from Luxembourg’s jazz scene like Jérôme Klein on piano, keyboards and percussion, Pol Belardi on bass, Niels Engel on drums and Charles Stoltz on backing vocals.
Working with familiar musicians allowed Claire to compose with their style in mind. If she had wanted a band to sound the way she wanted, she could just as easily have hired session musicians, she explains. “They bring ideas and sounds that I couldn’t have imagined, even if the composition remains mine. They identify with it, making it their own in a beautiful way.”
As for Claire’s own instrument, she has become more conscious of the sound of her voice over the years. By taking lessons and following different schools of singing, she has developed a much more coherent sound. Though she also recognises that maybe something gets lost in that process. “So now I’m trying to find out how to have more faces and combine them.”
Although the concert release has been postponed until 3 October because of the coronavirus situation, Claire says she had in any case been more focused on 2021 in terms of touring. The lockdown itself came at a bad time. “I was in the middle of a very high working period, I was prepared for four months of a lot of work with other projects from Brussels and Holland. I had been working in the studio until 4 in the morning almost every day.” On the other hand, she says, it made her reassess the pressure of life, and led her to think she could take things a little easier. During lockdown, Claire has enjoyed having the time to read again, and has been busy composing. She also used the time to find additional material to make her masters’ thesis “more interesting”, in her words. “So in the beginning it was more of a shock, but then slowly I got to enjoy it quite a lot, even if the financial situation is devastating.”