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Chloe Foy "The release of the whole album has been a cathartic process"

The Manchester musician talks choirs, cellos, catharsis and classical influences. Oh, and tea and wine merch.

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Chloe Foy.

Manchester-based Chloe Foy's superb debut album Where Shall We Begin has received plaudits from the likes of The Charlatans' Tim Burgess and Elbow's Guy Garvey. Now Then caught up with Chloe in advance of her tour this autumn, which includes a date at Sheffield’s Dorothy Pax.

How did you first get into music?

It was mainly fuelled by my parents who loved music but never had the chance themselves to learn an instrument. So they worked hard to give me the opportunity to do that. I started at a little Saturday music school in Gloucestershire, doing classical cello and then progressed through school playing in orchestras and singing in choirs. I’ve always loved to sing. My main influences outside of that were more in the popular realm though. My parents listened to a lot of Rolling Stones, Beatles, Joni [Mitchell], Neil Young and a lot of blues music too, and I was captivated by most of it. Then as a teenager I started to listen to indie music and people like KT Tunstall and Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn. So those last three were the ones I started to model myself on I suppose.

As your musical journey progressed did you envisage carving out a solo career, or was it always in your mind to be part of a band?

I don’t think I had a specific idea in mind to begin with and was in a few bands as a teenager. I just always took it more seriously than others and kept writing and pursuing it. I’m not sure I found my tribe early on so just naturally continued down the solo path.

Since living in Manchester, I’ve found some amazing collaborators in terms of band members and musicians who I work with and their influence can certainly be found on the record. I’ve always been a bit nervous of co-writing with strangers, but happy to do it with those I love and trust. I think after ‘Asylum’ did so well on Spotify, it gave me a confidence boost to truly pursue music full time and so I actively started putting songs together with an album in mind.

You’ve said that your father's unhappy pursuit of money via an office job – at the expense of his passion for pottery – acted as the emotional fuel for a number of tracks on the LP. Did you feel a sense of catharsis during the songwriting process?

It’s always been a very cathartic process for me, and I think it's why I turned to it in the first place. There were some difficult times when I was a teenager and it was the way I processed those feelings, so it's naturally what I turn to today.

It’s not been a question of confidence – it just feels innate to me that that’s how I express myself. I also feel the release of the whole album has been a cathartic process, in that I feel a sense of closure and can perhaps move onto and explore other topics.

The beautiful, almost baroque-style guitar and harmonies, especially on ‘Bones’ and ‘Left Centred Weight’ are a real highlight. Is it a band thing or a sound that you’ve searched for personally?

Often it’ll be an arrangement decision made by me and co-producer Harry Fausing Smith, but with songs like ‘Bones’ that’s just how I wrote the guitar part when I was first writing the song. It’s interesting you mention the baroque style of guitar because I think sometimes there’s more classical influence in my music than I realise. My sound isn’t necessarily something I’ve searched for but something I’ve gravitated to.

It must be a major frustration having written an album and not being able to immediately tour it.

It has been tough for sure. It makes the process feel very abstract when you’re not getting to share it with real faces. It feels a bit like sending it out into the void. I think the reaction I used to struggle with is that sometimes people are so quiet when you finish a song and you’re thinking, ‘They hate it!’ but actually I’ve since been told people are just mesmerised or spellbound into a daze. So I guess that’s good.

The aim is to soothe I think. Sometimes people cry and that’s fine with me – it’s an important outlet. I think northerners are generally more effusive in their praise and applause, although they’ve got nothing on Americans! I think everyone interprets the songs differently, and that’s the beauty of songwriting.

Final question – what is it with musician’s merch and their obsession with tote bags and tea towels? What other bands’ merch makes you think “Hmm, I’d like to have one of those…”

I’m not sure really – I think they’re both useful. I think musicians are becoming more acutely aware of their impact on the planet so merch that can be used in an everyday setting is maybe better than some other items. It’s nice to make beautiful things but it’s a shame if they go to waste. I’m becoming more and more averse to ‘stuff’, but it’s hard because it’s often the way we make money. I think I’d like to make something consumable like my own brand of tea or wine. I’ve seen people do beer and coffee. So maybe that’s next!

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