Chlöe Howl is trying to push the conversation beyond ‘woke pop’

Signed at just sixteen, Chlöe Howl came of age in the music industry. Now she's taking it on headfirst.

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Chlöe Howl has evolved. In the four years that have past since her BBC Sound of 2014 nomination and her debut album still looming for a release, her musical message has changed and continues to be moulded by her personal experiences. Her new music explores a vulnerability she felt was lacking in her early output while maintaining all of the strength she projected back then, Howl publicly speaking out against the treatment of women in music, bravely sharing her own experiences.

Already charged for 2018 with the release of female power anthem ‘Do It Alone’, her fan base continues to be in awe of her growth and maturity while watching her music defy genres by taking inspiration from her own tastes. We sat down with Chlöe to discuss her journey, her maturity and her new outlook on the industry.

Notion: You grew up listening to hip-hop set against the sound of The Smiths playing in your household, how did that shape the music you make?
Chlöe Howl: It means that I don’t restrict myself to listening to one genre, or feel limited to one lane! It’s great because I just go with whatever moves me at that moment! It also means that I can pull inspiration from many different influences when I’m writing, and have many different areas to find that spark from. I could be writing a dance track but be referencing Blondie – it’s great.

How do you feel like you’ve evolved sonically over the last four years since your BBC ‘Sound of’ nomination?
I’m not afraid to be vulnerable anymore. I think my songs definitely reflect a softer side to me these days. When I was younger, I felt like I had to present this super tough, super ‘no fucks given’ persona, because that was a side of myself I didn’t have yet. But I’m pretty much that character every day of my life anyway now, so I’m exploring the more sentimental and romantic side of things. I hadn’t been in love when I wrote all the songs before, nor had I been heartbroken, and now I’ve done both and then some! So the music reflects that. And sonically, it’s flowed with the times definitely. I used to listen to a lot of indie guitar bands when I was releasing music, and a lot of Scandi pop, and now I listen to a lot more soul, R&B and hip hop, and that influence can definitely be felt.

Do you feel like these experiences have made you grow up faster?
Definitely! All my friends are only just leaving uni and getting their first jobs, and it’s crazy to see how much what they’re currently learning, I already know. I’ve had to pay people who worked for me since I was 16, and I’ve dealt with so many difficult characters and extremely challenging situations that have demanded a lot of me from a young age – I feel like I’ve already lived a whirlwind of a life before some of my friends’ have even started!

Jacket Whyte Studio, Tights Falke, Shoes Kalda

What’s set for 2018? Is your debut album finally on the way?
It’s crazy to think I’ve been waiting to release this album for seven years. I was signed in 2011 when I was 16 and put out my first track in 2012 when I was 17. I’m exhausted! Haha! But at the minute I am working on a body of work that will be out very soon.

‘Do It Alone’ centres around about girl power, is that something that is now at the forefront of your mind when creating music?
Definitely! I am really conscious to not perpetuate a sense of competition amongst women through my music that society already enforces on us. I try to be very conscious of the message and what I am portraying with my music now. I would hate to write a song that pits one woman against the other or re-enforces any negative female stereotype. I think it’s more important than ever that we actively change our language in our writing to suit the times and the social climate. People younger than us are listening, and if we are writing songs that reflect an outdated attitude simply because it ‘sings well’, then that old-fashioned way of thinking will never die! It’s important to take the initiative and do your bit, so I try to as much as I can.

You’ve been open about the sexual harassment in the music industry, how does it feel that things are slowly changing with movements like #metoo?
Like I said, it’s made me more conscious about the tone of my writing; what ideologies I’m helping to circulate and which I’m helping to suppress. I think music is a tough one to crack with the #metoo movement because there isn’t really one big company (such as Weinstein’s) that a lot of people or artists filter through.
Each artist is their own individual company, and with that comes a completely unique and different team person to person, all with different power and influence.

It’s hard to get that sense of solidarity when nobody is talking to one another about their own experiences as we are all on such individual paths. I think that’s how so many people get away with it in music. There’s also a lot of travelling, a lot of hotel rooms, a lot of impermanent situations. You could be at a festival one morning, and back home the same evening, before you’ve even had time to process it. There’s a lot of work to do in this respect within the music industry. Especially the balance of power and how often it is abused – how often people’s hopes and dreams are abused. I hope that going forward more effort is put in place to discuss this and do something about it. But admitting there’s a problem would be the first step – and from conversations I’ve had, I can’t see anyone in music willing to admit it’s anything other than one big endless party anytime soon, sadly.

If you could give one piece of advice to women aspiring to be musicians, what would it be?
Solidarity with other women. Work with as many women as possible and elevate one another. Also, don’t let anybody tell you who you are or who you should be – nobody knows that better than yourself. People will make you think they know better than you because they are the one in the big shiny office, and that can feel horrible and minimising but the truth is they wouldn’t be where they are without innovators and creators such as yourself. Believe in your art and stick to your guns. And then NO ONE can get in your way.

Follow Genevieve Torabi on Twitter
Photography Joseph Sinclair
Styling Callum Vincent
Hair Narad Kutowaroo
Makeup John Christopher @ Terri Manduca

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