In Conversation with Chlöe Howl

Chlöe Howl is no longer on the rise of a comeback; she’s already here and has never felt more in her element than now. Howl’s first sold out show back in the limelight was held at The Waiting Room and was filled to the brim with new material, a song titled Sad Banger and a cover of Supermodel from one of her favourite 2017 releases, Ctrl by SZA.

We manage to take the lady herself aside for a catch-up before she took the stage at yet another sold out show at East London’s The Pickle Factory, here’s what went down –

You played your first live show in a few years back in November – how’d you think that gig went down with the people?

You can never tell because people can lie to your face and tell you they loved it when really could’ve they hated it [laughs]. I feel like for me it went well, for somebody that hadn’t done it in ages I was unsure if I was going to get stage fright, I didn’t know if I was gonna get up there and forget all the words. But then I went on stage and everything went as good as it could’ve gone.

I hadn’t done it in such a long time that I was determined for everything to go well, I was kind of just in autopilot and when people ask me, “did you enjoy it?” I was like, you know what? I didn’t even think about it to enjoy it; it felt like I wasn’t even in the room when I did it.

You also recently played at Regent’s Street’s Apple Store – a somewhat odd and surreal moment in your career?

It was weird when I got there cause I thought to myself oh god, it’s gonna be one of those ones where there’s two people sat there and you’re talking to a room full of people shopping who you’re just annoying [laughs]. But then it happened and I actually enjoyed it in the end, especially because it was a good little warm up for this upcoming show.

Back to selling out gigs and releasing material you’ve kept hidden away for a while – is it everything you expected getting back to it?

Yeah cause I always expected it to be really hard and it has been. I think especially when you’ve done it before and you come back; your name is kind of tainted.

People have suggested that I change my name in fear that people were gonna be sick of hearing it but I kinda felt like if I change it then I’m admitting defeat and I refuse! I was like nah I’m gonna keep the name and be unashamedly the act that got dropped, I’m just gonna go out and do it even if it’s doubly as hard I’ll have to be doubly as good.

You’ve voiced your strong opinion on The GRAMMYs results and lack of female praise this year – as a female musician what did being told to ‘step up’ feel like?

You know what was weird about The GRAMMYs is that I went to sleep that night not watching the show but knowing there was so much female talent there with nominations like SZA, Kesha, I thought, “come on girls, one of us is gonna at least do it.”

So waking up the next morning as a female musician that has experienced setbacks because of the fact I’m female, it just felt disheartening. I had a moment where I thought, why do we even try if we’re gonna be nominated for the highest accolade and still not be good enough because you’re a woman; not being recognised for the art you’re creating just because you’re a woman.

If you aren’t displaying all levels of inclusivity and diversity in your award show then you’re the one who needs to step up because this is not the dark ages anymore.

Any advise to women that have just entered the industry without all the knowledge you have now?

I would definitely say the one thing that people try to make you feel is that you don’t know yourself or that your opinions aren’t valid. I had a lot of people around me when I started out who would make me feel so stupid because they had all this knowledge and they were a lot older than me, working for big companies… I’d be talking to them with all these ideas and slowly over time they’d turn their noses up at things I’d say, to the point where I wouldn’t want to express my thoughts anymore.

I only really stopped doing that about a year and a half ago when I was working with somebody and I realised I was scared of him, and he was meant to be working for me. Every time I was in a meeting with him I’d feel stupid; people know me as an extroverted person but around him I became introverted. It took me a long time to realise that if you feel like that around a certain person, it’s not your problem it’s theirs. Just know that people are going to make you feel like less of yourselves and don’t let them.

Has the music industry changed in your eyes since first entering it?

It’s completely different now, when I first started it was all about getting on radio playlists, touring etc. but now it’s so much more about social media and Spotify. It’s a completely different world and I have found myself having to change my tactic a little bit, it’s definitely changed since the emerge of streaming.

You appeared on the BBC to discuss sexual assault and misogyny in the music industry – when did you know it was time to spread awareness and share your story?

I’ve been talking about it for a long time within my friendship circle and I’ve always been very open about people that I know have done things just to warn other women; I don’t want what has happened to these people to happen to anyone else.

Yasmine and a woman named Michelle that I know started a campaign for women to anonymously share their stories of what’s happened to them in the music industry. I reached out to her in a, “you go girl!” kind of way and then she got asked to do this BBC thing so she wondered if I wanted to share an artist perspective. I know so many artists that have been through stuff and they’re all scared it’ll affect their career because of how male-dominated the industry is, that if you come out about one man then the rest of them will rally up against you.

At the minute I’m not signed to a label or management company, I’m the freest I’ve ever been. I wanted to utilise that freedom for good and go out there as an artist saying I’m not scared to come forward and say what’s happened to me so you shouldn’t be either. I didn’t feel comfortable to come forward the way that I did until I saw women from the Weinstein case do it, but when you see another woman sharing their story you realise you’re not alone; I wanted to help in the music-sphere.

How can women in the industry going through the same situation as you did in the past get help?

I think the whole issue with it right now is that there really isn’t a system in place for women to come forward and that’s why we’re campaigning for it to change so there is a system for women to say that this has happened and for something to be done about it.

You should obviously report it, come forward. If anybody ever wanted to reach out to all of us women who’ve come forward, we are all so open to it. Come join us, we’re gonna discuss this and help this whole messed up situation change.

I just want women to feel like they can talk to each other, the more of us that are angry and the more of us that are working together to change it – we can’t be ignored anymore.

Back to the music – have you found it easier the second time around?

I’m definitely more confident. I’ve found writing and performing easier because I was under a lot of big companies before and I was quite protected from the more business side of things and the intricacies of it all. I think when I first started doing this I was stunned at how little I knew, but it’s been quite fun to learn and scramble about and figuring it out as I go; it hasn’t been easy but it’s been more fun being in control of it all. No one can pull the wool over your eyes if you know how it all works.

From angsty teen lullaby’s to writing sophisticated adult pop – are you enjoying songwriting more now than you were before?

Before I had kind of like a chip on my shoulder, I’d say “I’ll never use the word ‘love’ in a song.” I was actually quite shy before and didn’t really know who I was at that time so through my songwriting I used to portray a character that I wished I was which was this bratty, bolshie girl who didn’t give a fuck. Now I’ve had those years in between and I am that girl now so I don’t feel like I need to project that anymore. I feel like the area I hadn’t explored was the more emotional side and it’s kind of nice having not put any rules on myself over what I can talk about in song because I’m not scared of talking about love or anything too deep; it’s a whole new area to write about and it’s great.

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