Manchester via Bristol singer-songwriter Chloe Foy has been working for a decade to perfect her songcraft. On her debut album Where Shall We Begin, set for release this summer, Foy examines feelings of loss, love and existentialism. We caught up with Chloe to chat about her forthcoming album, life in lockdown and her musical inspirations.
The Indiependent: Hi Chloe, you’ve been working for the past 10 years as a musician, both playing and songwriting. What first drew you to music as a career path?
Chloe: Music has always been something that was really important to me as a person, I guess I just really love the feeling. I think the live shows are what does it for me mainly. I just love coming together with people in a room and sharing those moments of music-making, so to make it a career is obviously a bonus.
The Indiependent: How has the past year impacted your plans?
Chloe: I had plans to do festivals, Glastonbury and I had a festival booked in Switzerland as well for the first time, which would have been exciting. It’s just meant not being able to play live and I think that’s one of my biggest things that I love to do. For me, it’s not really the same without that. It’s been nice to be able to do some livestreams and you get people who are coming onto the livestreams who might not have been able to see you otherwise, which has been a silver lining. But it’s still quite a strange thing to not have numbers to see real people in the room.
The Indiependent: Is it strange doing a livestream compared to a live show, where there’s no one in the room with you?
Chloe: Yeah, you just don’t get that feedback which you would normally be getting, like real rounds of applause. You’re just little old you in your room, which feels quite strange. It’s been a weird adaptation to make, so I’m looking forward to live shows returning.
The Indiependent: What have you been listening to throughout lockdown?
Chloe: Well, all sorts really. There’s an artist I really like called Madison Cunningham; her album is from 2019 but I just keep going back to it. Time and time again, it’s really beautiful stuff. Also William the Conqueror and Alice Phoebe Lou, who I have come to very late in life but really been enjoying. I find myself going back to old favourites as well. I think it’s nostalgia thing. I’m listening to a lot of After the Gold Rush by Neil Young, I think those albums that you used to listen to a bit more when you’re younger have kind of given a bit of comfort in the madness.
The Indiependent: Which musical genres are you most inspired by?
Chloe: I do like to listen to all sorts, but I tend to come back to the folk side of things. Acoustic singer-songwriters, where you just get your accompanying instrument, the song, and the singer. Classic songcraft is what I like to come back to time and time again.
The Indiependent: Would you say that has inspired you with the sort of music you create?
Chloe: Yeah, I think so, as much as I do like listen to lots of kinds of music. The thing that I find the easiest to come back to writing-wise, is classic songcraft. Maybe on the next record I’ll branch out and try some more experimental things but I think I’m quite simplistic in my approach. I like to pick up a guitar and see what comes, same with the piano. That’s where my roots are really.
The Indiependent: How would you describe your sound?
Chloe: How would I describe my sound? Like a warm bath. I have a classical background, so I think there’s a lot of influences there. Not in an obvious way but perhaps in like the harmony that I employ in the arrangements of the music. I think I have been known to be quite cinematic, like cinematic folk, but I wouldn’t necessarily lend that to some of the songs on this album. Some are in that realm but then others are more Americana.
The Indiependent: It’s interesting how you describe your music as like a warm bath. I think with a lot of folk music it does feel a lot more personal and intimate just through the nature of it.
Chloe: Yeah, intimate and soothing I guess that’s about it. I think I’ve mentioned before to someone that there’s a lot of the songs that feel to me like a bit like a lullaby, as a self-soothing kind of thing.
The Indiependent: What can we expect from your debut album, Where Shall We Begin?
Chloe: There are some songs on the folkier end of the spectrum, which have a more soothing, mellow sound. Then some of the songs were written a little later and have more Americana aspects, more full band. I mean there’s even one song that’s kind of upbeat, believe it or not. It’s an exploration of life, love, and loss, and of grief as well. It’s a bit existential, but it’s me trying to piece together what we’re kind of doing on this planet and what it means to be here.
The Indiependent: Yeah, I mean the existential theme is quite interesting because with what has happened over the past year I think a lot of people will resonate with that.
Chloe: Yeah. I was already having kind of periodic existential crises and then a pandemic happened, and I didn’t know what to do with myself—it’s also part of being a young person. I think most people go through periods of feeling existential like, “what is, what is my purpose here, what, what am I doing,” and I think now is a very pertinent time in that regard. We’re living through a pandemic. We’ve got this looming issue of climate change. Then politically everything is so opposed at the moment. There are such extremes going on.
The Indiependent: So, how has your music changed since you started writing?
Chloe: I think it’s more that in the arrangements I’ve become more confident in what to do with them. Once I’ve written them, I suppose the production and the arrangements are more expansive now than to begin with when I started writing. I don’t know, I look back at early songs like ‘In the Middle of The Night’ and it feels very like twee. So the subject matter and the lyrical content is a little more considered, and then musically speaking I think with the arrangements I’ve just got bolder and a bit more expansive in those.
The Indiependent: So far, you’ve released singles ‘Shining Star’ and ‘Where Shall We Begin’ from your upcoming album, can you tell us a little about them?
Chloe: ‘Shining Star’ was a song that I wrote about my late father. He was a quite a creative person and had gone to art college as a young man. I think really it was his dream to be a potter, and he was very talented potter. But I think he felt that he had to conform to this normal life of working a 9-5 to earn money to live. So, it’s kind of reflecting on that. But also, that’s something that’s a relevant and relatable topic for a lot of people who are perhaps living to work. It’s not easy for everyone to follow their dreams. But it’s a shame that that’s like the model that we have to follow.
With ‘Where Should We Begin’ it’s the title track from the record, it feels like a good starting place for a first album. It’s one of the most existential songs on the record because it’s me asking, “What are we doing here, and there’s so much beauty here but also so much pain in the world and how do we make sense of that?”. Lyrically it moves through thinking about who we have around us, those people that comfort and love us and appreciating that support that we can have. Then musically, ‘Where Should We Begin’, is more on this cinematic side, it’s got some very beautiful vocal harmonies in it.
The Indiependent: I noticed you work a lot with Harry Fausing Smith. What is your creative process like and is it different to when you write alone as when you’ve working with someone else?
Chloe: Oh yeah, definitely. I’m often quite shy with bringing it to other people but I’ve known Harry for many years, so it’s easier with him. I think I have to feel comfortable with the person before I collaborate and let them know these deep feelings that are unearthed when you write a song. It’s a bit of give and take, but ultimately, it’s a really great thing because if someone can bring a new take and say perhaps it could go in this direction instead of this direction, then it can be really helpful. His musical expertise is also different to mine with his experience of string arranging. You get a new ear to it and that can be a good thing, but you’ve got to let go a bit as well.
The Indiependent: What song are you most excited to play live and for people to hear like when gigs come back?
Chloe: I think some of the songs still to come out from the album. There’s a couple that are that are kind of more full band, there’s this song ‘Work of Art’ which I really enjoy because it’s a bit more upbeat. So, I’m really looking forward to people hearing that.
The Indiependent: Aside from releasing an album is there anything else like tours we can expect in 2021?
Chloe: Yeah, I’ve just announced a tour in October. All being well that’s the next time that people will be able to see me on the road. It’s quite an extensive tour of the UK so I’m really looking forward to that, I think it will be emotional. I’m a bit like apprehensive about what the tour is going to feel like and I think we’d be naive to think that it’s all gonna immediately go back to how it was. I’m certainly finding that when I go out now, having been locked away for so long, it’s quite a strange experience. You have to be mindful of the people that it might be quite a strange experience for. Will we ever go back to like having more close contact with audiences at the end of shows? I hope so because that’s beautiful, getting to meet everyone at the end, and I think we’ll get there.
The Indiependent: Lastly, who would be your dream collaboration. If you could tour or collaborate with anyone.
Chloe: I’d love the chance to talk with someone like Sharon Van Etten, that would be pretty sweet. She’s such an amazing powerhouse of a woman. I think any of those amazing women, female musicians who’ve done so well and have handled it all with such grace, I’d love to be in presence because I think to have that knowledge around you would be amazing.
Where Shall We Begin is out on 11 June. You can listen to singles ‘Shining Star’ and ‘Where Shall We Begin’ now.
Words by Brenna Cooper
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