Miriam Clancy – From Velveteen To Black Heart: Interview

Miriam Clancy has just released a new single today titled Velveteen and we spoke to Miriam yesterday about that song and her upcoming album, Black Heart.

The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Miriam who is now residing in Eastern Pennsylvania after moving from New Zealand to New York.

Here is the new video for Velveteen along with details from Miriam’s press release:

“Velveteen” is a musically rich track, dense with layers of instrumentation and vocal crescendo; lyrically, it delves into heavy terrain, exposing the emotional fragility of the years of childhood abuse that Miriam suffered. This song is Miriam reckoning with trauma, exposing us to the fine line that separates recovery from falling into the abyss. Yet Miriam has risen, a phoenix from the ashes, refusing to be consumed by a bleak existence.

To arrive at the doorstep of “Velveteen” was a process. Miriam says, “I ripped my heart out and put it in a song. This is the weight of Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it’s a shit gift that keeps on giving and its hard, tiring work. So many people live like this and often they sail under the radar, but saying “I see the light underneath your door” is stating the precious obvious, for many are we. And I want to believe that I can live in splendor, wrapped in the beauty and security of velveteen. That it’s close -I can feel it coming.

“I wrote this song crying into the keys of an old jazz-bar piano in our apartment in Queens, far away from Aotearoa New Zealand as I began a reckoning with my childhood abuse, neglect and mishandling by the authorities. All while attempting to throw water on the wildfire of justified anger burning in me.

“It is a tightrope walk, leaning on a mystery shoulder of faith just to tame that hunt for vengeance and to try to find a way through the valley. I had on loop the refrain “I’m living in splendor, I’m living in velveteen” … hoping to believe it, fake it til I make it. I wrote this into Velveteen and my own manifesto that I may have been let down and abandoned – but I won’t do that, I will break the chain. I might be a human torch blazing an endless raging flame, but I will break the chain.

Miriam ClancyMiriam recorded “Velveteen” with her band in their Brooklyn studio, drawing from the heyday of 90’s female alt-pop songwriters. Musically, it was important for her to keep the feminine thread strong in contrast to the grunge of the droning middle 8 over the semi-industrial beat, and under the syncopated piano. Miriam says, “I’m stoked with the result. They were all the best guys to have around me when feeling fragile getting this song in the can.”

Velveteen: The video:

Armed with a huge recently-acquired file from the Wellington Police headquarters – after plummeting a hundred times over I decided to use this triggering trail of tears as an IRL art piece to pull the thorn out of my heart and to lean into the rage which all my life I had been conditioned to believe is undesirable and inappropriate. In this video, you see 20+ pages of evidence, reports and statements on a wall, in an old Pennsylvanian railway yard where old train parts are stashed. On the wall is a hand-drawn map of a house which I drew many years ago for my original statement to the cops when they asked me to show where some of the assault happened.

At odds with the stark industrial wasteland – the beautiful pink piano is my safe space, my waka – the vessel that carried me, for music has indeed saved me – it gave me a portal of hope, a door to walk through when it all hurt too much. The words on the wall hang large and invade my view of life with its bollocks ‘logic’, gendered victim-shaming, and overall big-man bias. So with my trusty sledgehammer I do what needs to be done for myself – and for those after me. Because I am a woman and this is the crossing.

Miriam’s closing statement to this press release, and a message to the Police, and to greater New Zealand society are words written by her lawyer at Shine Australia/New Zealand to the Independent Police Complaints Authority: “it is unclear how a minor’s complaint of such a serious nature could get so botched… Police owe it to the children who are brave enough to come forward with sexual assault claims to investigate them to the best of their ability.”

Velveteen Lyrics
I am a remnant

A seed of salvage

I spent my days on the cutting floor

I’ve been abandoned

I don’t want vengeance

For a wrong needs no encore
It feels not like a loss

It leads me to the crossing

It feels not like a loss

It leads me to the crossing
Who weighs the balance?

Who’s sworn allegiance?

These are the days when we don’t know

I am remnant, like many thousand

I see the light underneath your door
It feels not like a loss

It leads me to the crossing

It feels not like a loss

It leads me to the crossing

It’s the hard way
I’m living in splendor

I’m living in velveteen

Click here for more Miriam Clancy

About Miriam Clancy:

Born in New Zealand into a family of musicians, writing her first song at age 9 and fronting bands by age 17 Miriam was caught between the shadow of DIY local post-punk and imported American pop but ended up being mentored by old-school established Māori musicians who were rich in R&B, Motown soul and heavy in show business professionalism. With them she learned to sing for a diverse range of crowds in the often wild pubs of New Zealand. From there Miriam moved into full-time session work, taking her from clubs in Wellington & Auckland to Southeast Asia before swapping the security of the pro vocalist life to become an indie artist, performing on her own terms. She began to deconstruct her approach to music and follow the thread of melodies that had begun welling up while she was alone in her room, and at 21 Miriam started again, just herself and a guitar, in dive bars singing the songs she couldn’t help but write.

After passing on a local record deal Miriam headed to Los Angeles, where a 2005 season led to the NZ release of her debut album Lucky One. It, along with sophomore album Magnetic, was met with critical acclaim and a stack of five star and best of year reviews as she headlined national tours and toured in support of Wilco, Ron Sexsmith and Mark Lanegan. She signed to Mushroom Group’s publishing wing and was declared “A Voice to Move Mountains” garnering APRA Silver Scroll songwriting and NZ Music Award nominations as a solid underground following. Shifting camp from Aotearoa to New York City brought forth her first US release, 2019’s Astronomy, crafted over a couple of years between Great Barrier Island and New York City, with producer Chris Coady at the helm. Again, the critics waxed effusive – “Astronomy is not only well thought out but planned and executed with the brilliance and captivation of a true artist” Ryan Martin – Jammerzine. “Miriam Clancy and her dream theater aesthetic will transport you – with deep cut bass, drum grooves and dreamy synths – a blend of post punk, 80’s new wave, goth, baroque pop and magic itself” Robb Dunker – American Pancake

Fleeing from the hustle of NYC to the solace in the valley of Pennsylvania’s Appalachian mountains brought about a burst of life, and when UK production on a new project with producer Mike Hedges was delayed by the pandemic, Miriam came up for air closer to home and fell into a perfect working match with musician and producer Jeremy McDonald in Brooklyn’s Mason Jar Studio. Pulling in talented friends Will Graefe and Mike Riddleberger, the four created a delicate rock circle that swells and disappears around Miriam’s voice, along with additional drums and vocals by Sean Mullins and Welcome Wagons’ Vito Aiuto. In Miriam’s own words, “This is the most naturally occurring and quickest album I have made – everything felt right.”

Miriam Clancy’s exceptional new album Black Heart is out Friday 20 January 2023.

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