Australian singer/songwriter/actress Clare Bowen is best known for her role as Scarlett on the hit TV Series Nashville. Having played a role who had a somewhat successful yet unplanned music career, Clare is about to embark on what looks set to be an even more successful music career in reality.
Clare is heading off to the UK and Australia for an impressive string of headline shows where she will play venues such as Symphony Hall in Birmingham and Royal Festival Hall – London and many more. More info and tickets can be found here
Clare is also about to release her debut solo self titled record which is a delightfully stunning album full of sparks, surprises and is instrumental heaven.
We caught up with Clare to discuss the Nashville finale, her UK tour, her debut album, the mental health side of Scarlett and falling in love with her musician husband Brandon Robert Young.
If you haven’t finished Nashville yet, there may be a few spoilers.
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Hi Clare, how has your week been?
It has been lovely. Just getting everything done, life never stops which is great – always nice to be busy.
I have just be re – watching the last ever episode of Nashville which is really emotional – How did it feel filming the last Ryman scene with everyone, was it nice reuniting?
It was a highly emotional day. We were at the Ryman and that was like one of our second homes. It was a very long day and as the day went on, each cast member got their goodbye to. Everybody was there and every two hours or so we would get “and that’s a wrap with Jonathan Jackson” and so on and everyone would gather round on the stage and say goodbye. It was a really beautiful way to say goodbye but it was interesting watching everybody go because Charles Esten and I shot THE very last scene of Nashville ever together. It was the very last scene of the day and it was very late at night and it was the beautiful scene where he (Deacon) sees Rayna. We then shot our part of it for the last scene ever and when Scarlett says “There is a room full of people who want to hear you sing” we were suddenly like (to each other) “Do you think we got it?” And then we heard “Alright and that’s a wrap Charles Esten and Clare Bowen” and then we walked out into the middle of the Ryman Stage and the whole crew was there. It was beautiful, it was very late at night and everyone was tired and very emotional but it was beautiful. I loved the way they wrapped everything up for everybody- I think they took really good care of that.
How did you react to the end for Scarlett when you heard she was going to end her scene showing us she is getting married to your real life husband?
I know hahahahaha. Marshall Herskovitz called me one afternoon and he said “Ok, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to but I wanted to run something by you” and I was thinking (Oh gosh, what is it?) because I really wanted Scarlett to find her voice and her ultimate happiness and exactly what she wants to do in life. She already had the fairytale ending where she is back on stage and singing solo. She found her happiness, she is with her family who she loves and who love her and found her wholeness back in music, on stage and in the way she wants to do it so she already has this wonderful ending. Then Marshall says to me “I wanted to see if you thought it was ok as an added bonus that she (Scarlett) has fallen madly in love with a boy in her band named Brandon” (name of Clare’s husband) and I just about squealed in his ear and said “Oh that is just so lovely” Marshall asked if I thought Brandon would do it and I said I would ask him. Brandon had never done anything like that before but he was very brave and he did a very good job and it was so lovely. Scarlett didn’t need to get married in order to have the fairytale ending that she had – self love was her thing that she could never achieve but to know she has found that, music and Brandon, I really feel like Scarlett won haha.
Yes, she won Nashville, she completed it and won haha.
Haha, it was really cool and I couldn’t believe they did that, it was unusual but a cool idea – I loved it!
“I feel as an actor or storyteller to do that justice and make it real, which is why when the miscarriage storyline came up I said “Well, if we are going to do it, we have to do it the way that people experience it, no matter how harrowing it is”.
How much research went into the mental health side of Scarlett and how did it make you feel to play such an important character who had such an important message and story to share?
I don’t know how much more can happen to one character in that amount of time. It is interesting playing a character, playing someone who has all these things happen to her and to see her past and watching her fight the way her childhood was and fight what it could have turned her into. I think her biggest fault was that she believed people when they told her she wasn’t good enough. She is a traumatised person and it is interesting to play somebody like that. Everybody has their things that they have been through but for me with Scarlett and any character I play really, rather than drawing on my own experiences, I revolve it around empathy or sympathy if I haven’t been through something like that. Just having a thought for the heart of the person you are reading about when you read the script, that’s what gets me. I did a lot of research so I could get things right because it is someone, somewhere’s story that you are telling and there is a responsibility that I feel as an actor or storyteller to do that justice and make it real, which is why when the miscarriage storyline came up I said “Well, if we are going to do it, we have to do it the way that people experience it, no matter how harrowing it is”. As long as we get there that is a really important thing to get right because you are telling someone’s story, someone out there who has been through it is watching. The feedback that I have got from Scarlett and her experience has always been very generous of people to say lovely things but the part that got me the most about playing her and I think just storytelling in general , whether it is my own stuff or a character that I am playing is seeing people reach out to one another (on social media or something like that) and are still in contact and now. They have a chance to have their own voice and share their own stories about how they feel about the scenes. It was people reaching out to each other in the comment sections of social media – banding together saying “I went through something like that” and another person who may have had a terrible childhood or terrible social anxiety may reach out and say they have been through something like that too. The fans reaching out to one another, sharing their stories and finding common ground and ultimately realising that they are not alone and people being so kind to one another in that way, that has probably been one of the most gratifying things about playing Scarlett. She brought people together.
“I found my voice here (Nashville) I wrote my album here, I found the love of my life here, I found my home here. Nashville is a real place and I am sticking to it like glue“
Have the depths of my Scarlett influenced you as a songwriter in your own music, as you are releasing your debut album soon?
Scarlett and I share a lot of similarities but we are completely different people. I feel lucky that I don’t have the issues she had. I definitely did a lot growing as a songwriter throughout my time on Nashville and by being in Nashville. It is hard to put it into words but there is a lot that I took from Nashville the television show and maybe this is why it feels weird to have stopped filming. It doesn’t feel devastating because I feel that I got to scoop up all of the things about Nashville the show (the experience of it) and then Nashville the city. I found my voice here (Nashville) I wrote my album here, I found the love of my life here, I found my home here. Nashville is a real place and I am sticking to it like glue so I feel that I got to scoop up all of those wonderful things and take them with me – so I didn’t really have to say goodbye anything. So yes, Scarlett was definitely a part of the album, even down to Buddy Miller teaching me how to use a microphone when I first got to Nashville because I didn’t know how. My songwriting though has come more from the friends that I have made, by my husband Brandon Robert Young, Wyatt Durrette, Amy Wadge, people that you will hear have worked on the album. Actually it was the Nashville tour that took me over to the UK to write with Amy Wadge for the first time with Brandon. She (Amy) was behind Thinking Out Loud with Ed Sheeran – she is now a dear friend so it has been more the friends that I have made in Nashville that have influenced my songwriting specifically but it is the show that got me there so it is all a part of it.
Would you say the album , instrumentation especially has a hint of Australian roots influence?
Oh yeah haha definitely. I will let other people decide what kind of album it is because ultimately it had to be me, it couldn’t be a character. For one I am grateful it took so long to write because I was still finding me when I got to Nashville. There are a lot of different elements to it and yes, Australian folk music is one and Americana and gosh there is a lot of stuff in there – it’s all the things that make it me. I was very lucky to work with Josh Kaufman who had just produced Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead’s solo record and that’s how I met Josh, at a Grateful Dead concert through Bob Weir and then through my manager as we had the same manager. So we were introduced and he is such a great guy. He has beautiful musicianship and he brought all his guys out from New York. We actually started the album in Woodstock on the side of a hill in the middle of winter and that’s where the songs Sweet William and Lullaby were finished. We finished the album in Southern Ground Studios (Zac Brown Band) . I was very lucky to work with Josh’ talented friends who came all the way up from New York to play and Buddy Miller even dropped in, you can hear him on Tide Rolls In playing baritone.
It is definitely a mix of genres which I love and for example, and I know people hear different things when they hear a song which is part of the magic but I hear a bit of the artists Delerium and Chicane in the song Lullaby.
Oh cool. That is really lovely thank you. Lullaby is probably the oldest song on the record and one of the first songs that I wrote when I got to Nashville so that means a lot thank you.
What I have got from the album so far is heavy instrumentation which makes me excited for your live shows – having seen you perform some of your original material on the Nashville tour, they were always wonderful instrumentally and mad, bubbly performance wise which all really translates on the album too and this makes me so excited for your solo headline tour.
Will you be bringing a full band over for the tour?
Oh yeah, oh yeah, we have a big ole party , it’s a lot of fun! We have part of our german band coming over with us and they are so much fun. We will have Colin Linden who is the voice of all of the guitars on Nashville (TV show) you would have seen him on the Nashville tours, our wonderful tech Danny Rowe who we couldn’t do without, we have got some new faces and of course my husband Brandon Robert Young will be there with me. It’s a really fun night and everyone ends up dancing by the end of it. The crux of the show is encouraging people and letting them know that they are not alone out there. I got to tackle a lot of things as Scarlett that brought a lot of people together and I had some wonderful experiences taking it on tour. Playing in Germany at a sold out tour a few months ago with a similar band, we had only released my album just a few months before the show and when we sung Little by Little, everyone sung it back to me, the whole audience and it happened every single night. Looking out into the audience, everyone had their little lights out on their telephones all over the crowd like little fairy lights, everyone was swaying and singing all together and it was just beautiful. It was standing room only and you could see that people who hadn’t shown up together had made friends in the crowd and had their arms around one another, it was beautiful. The shows are evenings of unity and universal love and storytelling. There are songs that are just a lot of fun and may make people forget their worries and then there are songs that might give people words to voice their worries that they might not have been able to find before – so it’s nice just being able to reach out to people and help lift them up and bring them together.
Tell us the meaning behind Warrior because that is one that means a lot to you isn’t it?
Thank you, yeah. Warrior has kind of taken a life of its own – it’s kind of like Little by Little in that way – people have grabbed on to it. I have a strong feeling about the song, so it’s very nice that you said that, Warrior is really really close to my heart. The very first time I sang it in front of anybody was the Manchester Arena stage on the last tour and without bringing people down and making them re – live anything terrifying or anything that hurt them it is tip of the hat, me taking my hat off to everybody out there who has gone through something because everybody has. The song started as something that I had to write. I called my friend Justin Halpin who wrote Love Steps In with Brandon and I said to them both “There’s a song that I don’t know how it goes yet but I know it’s called Warrior”. I hadn’t written a song yet about all of the children that I was in hospital with when I was a kid, most of whom never got to grow up. They ( Brandon and Justin) said “ of course we will write it with you” so we started and we cried a lot and we found our way through it. As we wrote, I realised that it was so much more a thing that everybody is going through as everybody has had something that has happened and brought them to their knees. The part of Warrior that is the most important part is that not all scars can be seen with our eyes. There are so many people walking out there thinking they are the only person who has gone through their story and they are not able to talk about it or they are embarrassed by it and they carry it around. Warrior is about a lot of things and it reaches out to a lot of people. For me, for the most part, it is me taking my hat off to the people walking around carrying something that they don’t know how to talk about and how brave I think they are.
“I swear something tapped me on the shoulder and said “Do not take your eyes off that boy”
As Brandon (husband) will be on tour with you, I hope we get to hear All The Beds I’ve Made that you sing together?
Yes you will hahaha.
Was that always intended as a duet?
No it wasn’t. It was a song that really spoke to me though. I said to Brandon that I really want to do this one as both of us. The song spoke to me because sweet Brandon and I were, long story short, we were not lucky in romantic love before we met one another. Before we met, we had both decided that we were both probably better of alone, we hadn’t found that person but everybody’s experiences make us the people that we are and so we decided we were probably better off alone because being with the wrong person is the loneliest thing ever I think. We actually met singing on the Bridgestone Arena stage at my first big show and he walked into my dressing room that day and I swear something tapped me on the shoulder and said “Do not take your eyes off that boy” it was all encompassing in this room and it gave me a bit of a fright because I had never felt like that about anybody before and I just wanted to know him and be friends with him. We sang on the Bridgestone stage together and sang If I Didn’t Know Better and he was great. He then walked off the stage and went on the road with John Hiatt and three months later we wrote our first song together and I fell in love with him right then and there – it was quite a shock as well haha. It took us almost a year to hold hands we were so shy but he changed my life forever and now I can’t imagine it without him.
That is so beautiful, thank you so much for sharing. Has he been to Australia yet?
Yes he has, he has met my family – I dragged him over there four or three years ago now. He was such a good sport about it and he had lots of fun. He had been once before on tour with another artist but now we go back every year and tour there. We are actually headed to Australia right after the UK to do a string of shows there this year so it nice to go back and see my family and I couldn’t tour without Brandon, he’s such a beautiful element to the show and his voice is just incredible. He is just about to release his own album – that will be a pretty cool thing to promote when we were over there as well.
Oh good, I look forward to hearing his album
So are you a Dark Crystal fan as you have referred to yourself as a Gelfling?
Yes, that is one of my favourite films of all times, my favourite favourite favourite haha. Are you a Dark Crystal fan?
Yes, Labyrinth is my all time favourite but I do love Dark Crystal.
I love Labyrinth as well. I love the little cross overs between those two films. Those two films in particular, they were a beautiful escape for me when I was little as I grew up in a hospital. I identified more with creatures than I did with humans and The Dark Crystal being the only Jim Henson film I think, that doesn’t have any humans in it, no human characters, that was my jam. I was a huge Dark Crystal fan haha.
I don’t think they will re-create anything as good ever.
Yeah I don’t think they can top that. It was funny, working with Jake Etheridge who played Sean on Nashville, he was a Dark Crystal fan and because my nickname was Gelfling when I was little he said “I have only ever heard that used in one place” and I was like “yeah, that was my childhood” and we connected on that level haha.
What song from Nashville means the most to you?
Oh gosh! There are a couple but When The Right One Comes Along is a really special song to the point that we recorded twice. After it was sung the first time, Colin Linden and I started performing at the Opry and Colin Linden is the lead guitarist and he is amazing. We did this version of the song where it was just my solo and Colin on his CF100E which is a 1959 beautiful old guitar so it was just us on stage. You will see the same version on the UK tour that we did on the Nashville tour. The network and all the people behind the show, the producers liked this version so much that when we re -recorded it for Rayna’s wedding with the live band, that was the version we based it on. It was really nice to have creative input there. To hear people say that song was their first dance at their wedding or the song that they fell in love to is such a nice story so it is a pretty special one.