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19th May 2015

‘If I’m Not In An Airport, I’m Confused’ – Chats To St Vincent

She plays Dublin, Cork and Galway this July.

She may have been cast in the paparazzi spotlight due to her relationship with model Cara Delevingne but singer-songwriter St Vincent is taking at all in her stride.

From her uncompromising musical vision to her cool and collected phone manner, Annie Clark is not someone who will tell you what you want to hear or suffer fools gladly.

The Digital Witness star is fiercely protective of her private life and refuses to humour either fans or the media by disclosing details of her relationships but chatting to in advance of her mini Irish tour this summer, Clark insists that the recent tabloid scrutiny hasn’t bothered her in the slightest.

“My everyday life hasn’t really changed that much. I don’t really care. I don’t mean that to be… other people’s opinions of me aren’t really my business,” she says.

Of course, Clark has been a star in her own right for a long time now.

The Oklahoma-born instrumentalist began her career as a member of the Polyphonic Spree before breaking out on her own, releasing three solo albums before teaming up with Talking Heads legend David Byrne for 2012’s Love This Giant.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 07:  David Byrne and St. Vincent perform on stage at the L'Auditori for their "Love This Giant" tour on September 7, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Robert Marquardt/WireImage)

Her latest self-titled release has been her most successful yet and Clark admits that having grown up surrounded by music (she worked as a roadie for her uncle and aunt, guitar-vocal jazz duo Tuck & Patti, as a teen), she never really considered another option.

“I think that there was one point when I was ten where we had to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up and I said ‘The President’. That was the only time I thought of doing anything other than music. Oh God, I would never want to be the President!”

On St Vincent, Clark transitions easily from caustic, irreverent diatribes served with psychedelic guitar riffs to melancholic and bleak ballads in one fell swoop and while she may present her work in a less accessible manner than some of her contemporaries, she is adamant that each track is a reflection of her own experiences.

“I think I do put myself in the work but because I write from the point of view of characters, I guess it’s interesting to think what someone else might think or feel. I think ultimately though, you can’t write what you don’t know so I write what I know, even if I’m not using the ‘I’ pronoun as much,” she explains.

“I think that music was always my safe place. It was always a place I could go when everything was not right in my personal world. Music was my vehicles and my shield and my armour and weapon and all that.”

While some artists admit to being quite protective of their vision of the material, Clark is wise enough to know that you are only as strong as the team you choose and says that one of the perks of being is a solo artist is “you can pick new people to work with every time”.

“I think the key to it is working with people you like and whose opinion you trust too. For example, I had the great minimoog player Bobby Sparks play [on St Vincent] and there were a lot of things that I had demoed and that were more or less set in stone. But when you have someone like Bobby Sparks, I wanted to see what type of fire he would bring to the table.

“It was the same with the drummer Homer Steinweiss… I knew that they were great players and had a very unique way so I obviously set up parametres and then let them be great players. It’s important to set people up to shine.”

Another recent highlight of Clark’s career was joining the remaining line-up of Nirvana for the band’s induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Joining artists including Kim Gordon, Lorde and Joan Jett to take over Kurt Cobain’s vocal duties, she reveals it was an “insane” but rewarding experience.

“I still can’t believe that even happened! Everybody wished that Kurt was still alive and that nobody needed to fill that gap as lead singer of Nirvana for a night but I was incredibly glad to be a part of it, just honoured.

“It was also really great to be in the company of some really great women. People forget that Nirvana came from the Olympia, Washington scene that was very queer and very effeminate and that part of its history often gets overlooked. Kurt was a feminist and all the guys are so it was a very fitting way to do it, if you have to do it.”

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10:  Musicians Joan Jett, Lorde, St. Vincent and Kim Gordon perform with Dave Grohl (C) of Nirvana onstage at the 29th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 10, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

With last week’s appearance at the Iveagh Gardens under her belt, Clark will play the Big Top at Galway Arts Festival tonight and says that she has become accustomed to a punishing touring schedule and life on the road.

“I’m pretty solidly on tour for…how long? A long time! I haven’t spent more than four days in a place in over a year. It must suit me, I don’t know any other way to do it. If I’m not in an airport, I’m confused!” she laughs.

“I like festival season. You get to see your other friends who are musicians and I liked Electric Picnic a lot. That was a lot of fun, two years in a row. Summertime is fun time.”

St Vincent plays the Big Top at Galway International Arts Festival tonight, Tuesday July 14th. Tickets are priced at €35 and are available here or on the door.