Diane Cluck, a singer-songwriter who attributes her artistic awakening to the “enlightened crucible” of an early 2000s New York arts scene peppered with the likes of Kimya Dawson, TV on the Radio, Regina Spektor, and Devendra Banhart, has embarked on a small Northeast tour with cellist Isabel Castellvi, and the two will be performing at New Haven, Connecticut’s Never Ending Books on Wednesday, June 5. The show starts at 7pm, costs $10, and also features composer, accordionist, and vocalist An Historic.
Cluck’s music falls in the folk category, and depending on what you’re reading, her genre may be further defined with any number of prefixes. But the most important thing to know about Cluck’s songs is that they are free, uninhibited, lacking any kind of fluff. They feel easy and natural, a testament to their honesty.
Cluck has recently embarked on a two-year “CSA for musicians” project called “Song-of-the-Week” in which fans are able to subscribe at various levels in order to receive downloads, illustrations, or even a live show at their own home. Cluck writes on her website: “People have been asking, ‘When will you release a new record?’ I came up with ‘Song-of-the-Week’” as a way of being able to create new music for people who support me working as a musician.”
Check out Cluck’s interview with The Mercurial below. For those reading north of Connecticut, Cluck will be performing in Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts in the coming days, so check out her website, diancecluck.info, for details.
The Merc: Let’s start with the basics – how old are you, where are you from, where do you live now?
Diane Cluck: I’ve been around for aeons and I still feel fresh. I’m currently living in Virginia, and it’s incredibly beautiful here in the Springtime.
Tell us about your musical career thus far. When and how did you begin? What instruments did you start with, and what did you pick up along the way?
I’ve always been a singer; I love singing. I moved into playing percussive instruments like piano and some drumming as a child. A friend gave me a guitar on a trip to Monte Carlo, and when I returned home to New York I attended open mics every week, challenging myself to write and play new songs. Eventually I began traveling more and sharing music in a wider sphere. It’s grown over time, organically, you could say.
What is your “Song-of-the-Week” project?
I’ve been writing and recording new songs, mainly from home, and distributing them to my subscriber folks through a digital download process. I’m ten songs into a twenty-four-song project. It’s allowed me to focus on creating new material and releasing it to interested people while it’s still fresh. (more info: http://dianecluck.info/sotw-songs)
I’m really proud of the system we’re using, generously developed by my software-writing friend Ken. We were able to skip Kickstarter and other various middlefolks to run the project in a way that suited me better. It’s been more work than I anticipated, so the songs are coming out about once a month rather than once a week. I’m grateful for all the support the project’s getting and I’m learning a lot through the process.
Are you able to make a career of your music? What are the challenges of being a musician in an ever-changing industry?
It took a long time for me to choose making a career out of playing music. I kept steady side jobs for years so I’d feel free to explore without needing to involve money. The main challenge for me as a full-time musician is learning to organize everything. I just bought filing boxes and am starting to sort through all the scraps of paper and half-filled notebooks containing ideas, bits of lyrics, etc. I focus on what I enjoy doing moreseo than the idea of an ever-changing industry.
Your drawings are pretty neat. Tell us about your art. Do you exhibit your work? How do you create it?
I relearned drawing as an adult. I was in a bad moment at a friend’s house and he handed me a piece of wood and a marker and said, “would you like to draw?” It was a perfect gesture. I found I could just sit there let the shapes come out; it felt like tracing. I don’t use fancy supplies. I haven’t exhibited my artwork yet. I would like to someday.
You call your 2006 release, Monarcana, a “collage of spontaneous song-sketches” that came together thanks to a friend who helped edit the collage into an album-worthy collection. Is their a method/madness to your recording process? How does the production of Monarcana differ from your 2012 EP, fall. tour. songs.?
Making songs is a lot about catching. Sometimes I’ll call and leave myself a voicemail with the idea for a melody. I try to get lyrical ideas down in writing. I often have to push myself to motivate turning on the recording equipment–Monarcana was sketches like that, just getting the ideas down. Sometimes the moments that hold ideas are so beautiful, you can really feel them in spontaneous recordings.
fall. tour. songs. is comprised of more polished songs recorded in a professional studio. We made it in one day and it’s something of a demo. We’ve rerecorded most of those songs since then and will be releasing them later this year on an album called Boneset.
What inspires your songwriting? Tell us a little about your process.
I enjoy having quiet and plenty of alone time to process my everyday experiences. Songwriting comes from that. It’s separate from my personality yet integrated somehow. The songwriting part of me feels like a spirit guide for my everyday self. It’s wiser, wilder, more trustworthy than I am. Birds and bones pop up in my lyrics a lot.
It seems you’ve embraced the world wide web. How has social media, a website, YouTube, etc. aided you as a musician?
Although I make use of these things I don’t know that I’m skilled at it. My attention for it is limited. It’s surely helpful in terms of communication; I can appreciate that. I’ve been able to arrange shows and tour support rather easily at times, with little notice. I like when online components help me connect directly with real people.
What is your tour vehicle, and what’s in the CD player/ tape deck/mp3 player?
It’s going to be some sort of rental car from Hertz. I don’t know what color or make or model yet. A trunk would be helpful. I’ll probably bring along some Little Wings, Ed Askew, Antony & The Johnsons, Tsehaytu Beraki (very cool Eritrean singer), some recordings from musicians I’ve met in my travels.
Where is your life as a musician headed? Will you be recording and playing shows in five, 10, 30 years?
I imagine I’ll be creating music and sharing it for as long as I’m around! It’s not a passing thing for me; I’ve been humming since I was born. It feels important to share the musical gifts I’ve been given, in ways big and small.
You’ll be playing at a book shop in New Haven on June 5. Do you have a favorite book? Tell us about it if so. Are you reading anything now?
I love so many books and they’re like friends; I can’t have a favorite. I’m pretty into reading that falls into reference and self-help categories. Looking to my right, by my desk is a stack containing “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”, Robert Graves’ “The White Goddess”, “Money Is My Friend” by Phil Laut, and the truly intoxicating “Therese and Isabelle” by Violette Leduc.