Kat Dobay

Clara Joy - Human of New York

Music Scene Media
Nov 28, 2023
5 min read
Photo: Antonio Gustavo

Clara Joy is a singer-songwriter from from New York. On my most recent trip to The Big Apple I was lucky enough to meet her by chance at a house show in Brooklyn. In Antonio Sanchez' humid 2nd story apartment where he was hosting a mixed genre show. She wasn't performing that night but she did mention that she's a songwriter herself. It was Halloweekend and she was dressed as John Waters (the director of Pink Flamingos), with a painted-on mustache and suit and tie. Her clever costume went right over my head, but it was such a great introduction to Clara. Allow me to introduce Clara Joy to you.

What are your origins as like a songwriter/artist? Like, how did you start songwriting?

I guess I started songwriting because I was on Tumblr and I found Greta Klein of Frankie Cosmos. I was really captivated by her music because she would just put up really casual demos on Bandcamp. She would just upload things. Sometimes she would make something that day and just post it. It was very DIY. When I found her, I basically realized that you can just upload music you don't need to have that much to do this.

What was the next step for you?

When I was 14 I just kind of taught myself guitar. I was born in New York and I then I moved away to Massachusetts, and then I moved back here for high school. When I moved back to New York for high school, I was like, oh now that I have like no friends I can just like do whatever I want. And what I wanted to do was put out an album. So, I made an album at like 15. Some people wouldn't consider it an album because it's only five songs. So I guess it's like an EP. But that was when I started doing music. It was very influenced by Frankie Cosmos (Greta Klein).

So what would you say about your writing style? How would you describe your music to someone who hasn't heard it?

I would say that my writing style is basically that I'm interested in just using music as a way to share ideas I have about the world. I'm not somebody who identifies super strongly with, like, musicianship and all of that. It's more like I care about the lyrics a lot. My process is that I will try to basically deal with, like, an idea that... Is like something we all are dealing with, you know, and I'll try to apply it into a song and the song is kind of just an excuse to like, share this feeling that I have. I don't know, I mean, to other people I think it would just be considered like DIY indie music. I mean, genres are really weird because I don't know really what I would call my music as a genre. You could call it bedroom music.

What was your recording process when you first got started?

My recording process... I had a little interface and a mic and I just recorded on electric guitar in my bedroom on the floor. The album, it was simple, I would say, like, the recording process was extremely simple. The first album was called Hello World. Which I, honestly, really didn't think anybody would ever listen to. But I ran into "Humans of New York", a few years ago and he posted the album. A lot of people were listening to it, and I was shocked, because, honestly, those songs are they're kind of like songs that I never, I just never thought anybody would listen to them.

I think one of your songs on that album was about dropping out of college and living in New York. Did you drop out of college?

Oh, no, no, no, no, oh my god. There were people who contacted me, like mothers, being like “I'm considering letting my child drop out” or whatever and I was like, no. After the humans of New York thing. I graduated high school and then- That was a strange year. I was not popular. I mean, I was a little popular in high school, but I would skip class a lot. I was like a really bad student. And so I didn't even go to my graduation, to be honest with you. That year I started living with my grandma because I wanted to see what it would be like to live away from my parents. And when I'm at her house, I had this little lofted bed ladder thing and I would like make songs up there. That song began up there because I had gone out with a bunch of friends and they all were talking about their life at college upstate, and I was going to Hunter College which is in New York City. So everything they were talking about, I didn't identify with. I didn't understand the community rooms and paying so much, but not really getting that much in return. I guess it was a combination of angst and it was just pointing out the college situation at large, that is in some ways a waste of money and time.

What's next for you? What's the next step?

The next step is, well, I started organizing these shows all over the city, for a lot of reasons. I just felt like a fire was lit under my ass because, after all the virus stuff I felt like cultural, and with art and stuff, New York City was not moving at a pace that was fulfilling, it felt like not much is happening here. Where's the interesting cultural moments? Where, are the scenes that are producing great culture and art and work and community? So I decided that I wanted to start trying to help change that. I was booking shows for my friend and I realized oh I can actually book shows that are really weird and eclectic and all over the place. It doesn't have to just be that every artist sounds the same on the same bill, you know? So I started booking shows where every artist was different. It would start one way, and then it would completely change. These shows have been so fulfilling for me because I'm basically blending people from all walks of life.

What's been inspiring you lately?

Lately, I'm starting to get interested in, there was this artist in the 1960s named Allan Kaprow. He had these events, he would call them “happenings" and he would invite people to just all get together as a huge group and just like do an activity together. They were like really weird activities like everybody goes to like a junkyard and builds a sculpture or something. I think that we're in a time where things feel so flat and I feel like we need to embrace the absurdity. That’s somebody who I've been looking at for inspiration.

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