One listen to the husky vocal stylings of Kaity Dunstan, aka Cloves, and you’ll be hooked. Why? Because she has a maturity and depth to her voice far beyond her 19 years, akin to her vocal heroes, Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse. She is quickly gaining steam as a chanteuse on the rise after the release of only a handful of tracks.
Music was always part of the plan for the Melbourne-born singer-songwriter.“I thought about being a tattoo artist for two weeks, but I quickly realized that music was the only thing I wanted to do,” she explains on the phone from London, where she is in town working on her new album. She instead formed a punk-rock band at the age of 13.“We weren’t really that good,” she laughs, but she quickly gained traction on the Melbourne music circuit, performing covers with her sister alongside acts twice her age before signing a record deal at age 16. “I guess it was my big break, though I don’t even know if I’ve had my big break yet in a traditional sense.”
And while we have only gotten to know Cloves so far through Xiii, her 2015 debut EP, it’s enough to fall in love with her lush melodies and hushed tones, which she crescendoes into spine-tingling vocals at a moment’s notice. She also uses every song to exercise her songwriting talents to magnificent effect. Her lyrics muse over to pics of love, loss, melancholy and self-reflection, all with the honesty and introspectiveness of an artist finding herself as she goes along. “I think finding myself as a writer has been the biggest breakthrough,” she explains. “Working on the album, it’s just so honest and blunt, brutal at times even.” Take the single “Better Now,” which dropped in January and will also be the first cut off her album when it’s released later this year. “The song is really just about feeling misunderstood and claustrophobic in a relationship.”
She credits her development as a songwriter to her mentor, Justin Parker, who is known for producing the likes of Lana Del Rey, Rihanna and Banks. Days spent in the studio with him followed no set path. Instead the two approached writing for the album by “hanging out, chatting, talking about how I’m feeling in an organic way. There was never the pressure to write anything. I think that is why the album signifies a confidence and a coming into myself that I didn’t have before.” Masculine drums, hip-hop breaks and unusual song structures underpin the album, which serves to show her fast-growing community of fans a new side of her. “Like with ‘California Numb,’ it’s my first up-tempo track. I am really excited for people to get to know that part of me.”
Until the album’s release she’s touring, opening shows for Michael Kiwanuka—testing out her album tracks to crowds and showing people the fruits of her labor.
“I am feeling the fulfillment of getting to the end of a body of work. I just have never worked so hard on something my whole life and can’t wait to get it out there. It’s all I give a fuck about.”
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