By Kat Bein
Clairo broke out in late 2017 with the heartwarmingly DIY viral video “Pretty Girl,” and her lo-fi productions and raspy whisper have since captured the attention of elder tastemakers and Gen Z superfans alike. The 20-year-old singer-songwriter has the sharp mind of a woman and the warm soul of a folk hero. She’s a humble but powerful presence, taking each chance to speak her mind, nurture her voice, support her peers, and stay open along the way.
Backstage at Coachella, Clairo was giggly and excited, gushing about how Rosalía is the best performer of our generation, but when she takes the stage or talks about female empowerment and trans rights, a calm inner wisdom shines through. During her set, she stood strong and proud, guitar in hand, in a shimmering beige suit with embroidered roses and rhinestones. Fans were treated to four new songs from Clairo’s forthcoming project, which aims to push her production techniques forward and dig deeper than the usual love songs to tell a more complete human story. And she’ll be sharing more soon on an arena tour in support of her friend Khalid, which kicks off in Phoenix on June 20. Ahead of her Coachella debut, we caught up with Clairo to hear more about her journey.
MTV News: We heard this is your first Coachella ever, both as a fan and a performer. What does this festival man to you?
Clairo: I didn’t really know what to expect, but what I’ve noticed so far is that women have been dominating this year’s festival. All the performances from the women have been mind-blowing. Rosalía; Christine and the Queens was amazing; I loved Kacey Musgraves; I loved Billie [Eilish]; I loved Maggie Rogers. Everyone killed it, and it’s inspiring to be on a lineup with them and being able to talk to them. Offering support to other women on the lineup is the No. 1 thing I want to do at any festival I play. I want to make sure that every other female musician is getting positive energy from me if they want it.
MTV News: I believe it. I read that you’re part of a group called Production Princesses.
Clairo: Yeah! This musician named Sophie Meyers started the group. She’s great. There are about 20 members from all over the world. It’s a Twitter group. All the people involved are really sweet and want to learn more about production, and Sophie is more than willing to offer that advice, and same here. If anyone has questions about my journey or my experience, I’m more than happy to give them advice. Sometimes, I’ll even go in there and I’ll be like, I don’t know why this is happening to me and just vent about my experience, and the women in that group are more than willing to give me that emotional support that I’m not getting elsewhere.
Women are insanely amazing when it comes to emotional support, and I think it’s important that Sophie created this platform that lets girls feel more comfortable in a production space. They’re afraid to ask questions to guys about sidechaining or other things about production, little things that they would feel stupid for not knowing. No one deserves to feel stupid for not knowing something. No one deserves to be put down because they’re trying to learn.
MTV News: You’re promising to play some new music in your set today.
Clairo: I am. Four new songs.
MTV News: That’s a bold choice for your first Coachella.
Clairo: It just happened to be the time where we were supposed to do it. Landing on Coachella is a big moment, but it ended up happening that way. We played the songs for the first time at the El Rey [Theatre] in Los Angeles on Thursday. People seem to like them, so I’ll be interested to see how Coachella reacts, but so far so good.
MTV News: You released a few songs already this year. You’ve got “Bubble Gum” and “Sis.”
Clairo: Those are songs I actually wrote around four years ago and just decided to put on streaming recently.
MTV News: Did you change them at all?
Clairo: No, they’re exactly the same. They were on SoundCloud for a long time, but my followers really wanted me to put them on streaming. It was a cool moment. Everyone was really excited. Most of my older ones are on SoundCloud still.
MTV News: The newer songs that you’re premiering, are they part of a bigger project you’re putting together?
Clairo: They are. I can’t give too much away but, yes, I definitely have a collection of songs. I’ve been hiding away for a little bit. I feel like these new songs are talking a lot about my personal experiences outside of relationships, like my sexuality, my arthritis – it’s very strong. I have a weird mutation in my genes, I guess. I’m talking about things and diving deeper with my struggles and what I’ve been going through in the last year, so I connect a lot with the music and it feels a lot more like me as a person. And I’m working really hard on the production to make it reach its full potential and not just putting out songs because they sound like a good enough demo to post. I’m really taking my time, so I’m really gassed about it.
MTV News: You’re about to go on tour with the great Khalid. What is that relationship like?
Clairo: It’s great. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s been a supporter since forever. He’s someone I look up to, and he’s a really, really positive person. It’s going to be really nice to have him around and to be able to get advice from him about this experience – at least have a close friend around that I can hang out with when we’re playing these huge arenas. It won’t be so scary, because I’m very scared. It’s really terrifying. [laughs]
MTV News: You’ve done a lot of work with the Transgender Law Center, too. You recently did a show with them and the ACLU. Why is that issue close to your heart?
Clairo: “Pretty Girl” was put out on a compilation tape called The Le Sigh Vol. III. We donated the proceeds to the Transgender Law Center, and I wanted to continue that support with the show Thursday. Some of my close friends are in that community, and I think it has to be talked about. It’s a necessary conversation that someone with a platform needs to talk about. Trans women are killed all the time, and I can’t have a platform and not use it. I can’t physically allow myself to have followers that aren’t aware of these situations that are happening. Anything I can do to help other people and use my platform to lift other people up and make people aware of the world outside their own bubble – if I can get inside those bubbles that people have in their small towns and bring to light things they probably wouldn’t read about otherwise, that’s all I can do.