They say you can’t go back home again, but Joni Clare begs to differ. The Portland-based musician recently returned to Blu, the site where she recorded her first album.
Clare, who fronts the art-rock band The City Pines, got her start in Wisconsin. She began singing in the church at a young age, and added piano to her repertoire soon after. A lifelong performer, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee with a degree in music. While in school, she found a musical home on the Pfister Hotel’s 23rd floor.
When asked about her development as a musician, she recalls the church music of her youth, which taught her how to write melody into her compositions, and she cites artists like Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson as additional influences who helped shape her songwriting skills. As she reviewed her evolution from a small town girl who loved music into a professional musician, she noted lessons she’d learned on the journey. Her advice to young musicians is to remain authentic. She encourages artists to fully express what they are feeling and to take care of themselves physically and emotionally, as the body is the whole instrument from which to perform. On a pragmatic level, she recommends making recording equipment a key part of the creative process, to ensure bursts of creativity are captured and retained.
After chatting, we slipped into the closed Blu Lounge where the artist revisited the site of her first professional recording. She sat behind the piano, raised the fallboard, and within moments, music filled the room. She has the voice of a coffeehouse angel: soft, clean and clear. Her fingers danced across the keys as the sun streamed into the room. I watched her lose herself in the music, and soon I followed her into her dreamy world at this concert hosted just for me.
When she paused, I expressed my gratitude at having the opportunity to be a part of this intimate performance, and told her that this moment she created was evidence that I was “living my best life.” She smiled broadly and replied “I have a song about that,” and launched into another piece.
The music filled the air.
I closed my eyes, taking it all in and immersing myself in the moment. I felt a catch in my throat, overcome by my good fortune at having one of the best views in the city to myself while listening to this talented woman play beautiful music, just for me.
In that moment I wished my time here would never end- but I know it will, and soon. That knowledge makes these experiences all the more precious. And the sand continues to run through my hourglass.