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Melody's Miscellaneous: Interview with Chloe Matharu

Chloe Matharu is a Scottish Indian singer songwriter and harpist on the West Coast of Scotland that performs Celtic music. Many of her songs draw on her time as a Navigational Officer in the Merchant Navy, inspired by the natural world experienced at sea.

Her music offers "an intriguing insight into a new tradition of maritime folk music with thoughtful song writing embellished by her voice and superb harp playing" - The Herald.

Of mixed heritage, and crossing boundaries in her career at sea, Chloe is keen to explore breaking down cultural and gender barriers through the language of music. She performs in Scots, English and Welsh.

Since October 2021, she has enjoyed playing impressive venues such as Celtic Connections, Glad Cafe Glasgow, Green Note in London, Fringe by the Sea, Edinburgh Fringe, Fishguard Folk Festival and Hartlepool Folk Festival to name a few and has just completed her first solo UK tour. She has performed support for Michael Marra, Bert Jansch, Dick Gaughan and Anais Mitchell.

She is one of sixteen artists selected globally for the Fatea Showcase and one of six Scottish musicians to be selected for the WOMEX awarded Global Music Match 2022. Her award winning debut album, Small Voyages, was released in October 2022 and was selected for Celtic Music Radio's Album of the Year and was included in the top 20 of the World Music Charts Europe. At Celtic Connections she was awarded the revered Danny in February 2023 and will return in 2024.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Chloe.

Hi Chloe! Can you give us a little backstory about "Small Voyages"?

I released my debut album, Small Voyages, in October 2022. It's eight original songs I've written, drawing on my experience in the Merchant Navy as Navigational Officer, driving oil tankers around the world. I also draw inspiration from the natural world, as experienced at sea and include field recordings in my recorded work to help emulate this.

Who are some of your musical influences?

I'm not sure what directly influences my sound, I'll go into the studio with tracks from all sorts of genre- Wolf Alice, Bon Iver, Karine Polwart- as examples of things I like such as the effect on the vocal or electronic sounds. I listened to a lot of Acid Folk Underground, recordings from the 1960's Folk Revival, growing up and this coupled with my exposure to live trad music at the local session cemented my interest in folk music. Artists I enjoy listening to, but who don't obviously influence my music are Belle Brigade, Angus and Julia Stone. Maybe closer to my style but still a reach: Joanna Newsom, Bert Jansch and Kris Drever.

Have you ever had s strange fan encounter? Can you tell us about it?

I recently played a gig 16 hours away from my home town in Scotland and overheard a familiar accent before the show. Turns out a family were in the area who were also from Wemyss Bay. An uncanny coincidence! It was great being able to give stories about the songs and how they connected to my local area, knowing I was far from home but also with neighbours nearby. Another strange coincidence was when I was flyering in Edinburgh for my Festival Fringe Show and I thought someone was being sarcastic when they responded to the flyer with "oh amazing, yes this is the show I really want to see". Turns out they'd already seen me perform down in England and were being genuine- a really nice surprise.

If you could go on tour with any other artist, who would you choose and why?

Anais Mitchell. I opened for her once at one of her Edinburgh gigs and she was so gracious and down to earth. Also tremendously talented with an immense stage presence.

What is one “fun fact” people may not know about you?

I'm Indian by heritage- because of my colouring people often don't recognise that at first.

If you were to a memoir, what would you title it?

The Nine Lives of Chloe Matharu.

What inspires you to write music?

Personal experiences, the beautiful as well as the bad. Since moving shoreside, writing music makes me feel close to my maritime days- a way to somehow still feel connected to the sea. I live on the Clyde Coast and being close to the water and surrounded by shipping is very inspiring. Also the traditions and folklore here- the wealth of stories and legends create a sense of magic. The scenery just reinforces that.

If you could go back in time and change one thing about your life, would you and what would it be?

I wouldn't have bothered attending school. I got great exam results in high school but imagine I could have done the same with self study. Looking back on my school days from primary to high school, makes me feel really sad that I was made to waste my youth sitting in a classroom. Also any years spent in the city were a waste of my time and energy.

You are given three wishes. What are you wishing for?

A sustainable future for humans; the wisdom of our leaders; no more cruelty. Are you currently binge watching any shows or have any recommendations?

I don't watch TV, but I would definitely revisit Sailor Moon if someone bought me the boxset and a dvd player.

What do you love most about life on the road?

The actual gig and performing to new people in new places. Also I've always been on the move so traveling makes me feel at home. I love an excuse to meet up with old friends I've met either through music or whilst being at sea when I'm back in their area.

Do you have any bucket list items you hope to cross off soon?

A tour of the US; writing a theatre piece and touring it; recording songs in Welsh.

If you could be an animal for a day, what would you be and why?

A Greenland Shark, because: 1) it would be amazing to have a memory of the seas dating back 400 years when it was teeming with life and mostly untouched by humans; 2) with a metabolism as slow as theirs you would surely be the most zen of creatures; 3) there'd surely be a song in that.

What is one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned so far?

Be your authentic self! Being unique is something to be celebrated and only you can be you.

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