The Moment I Knew I Wanted To Make Music: Imogen Clark

by - April 18, 2024

Photo courtesy of Michelle Grace Hunder

Before I could even talk, my dad would put headphones on me in my cot while he was mixing his original music. I’d stare wide-eyed, clearly fascinated by the sounds, and cry uncontrollably when the song ended. Not much has changed, really. Growing up in a household full of musical instruments with a father who wrote songs and played bass in a rock band meant that music always seemed so normal to me. Everyone spent their weekends underage in a pub watching their dad’s Led Zeppelin cover band, right? Mum never played music herself, but she did have great taste in songwriters. I got Violent Femmes from Dad and Elton John from Mum - it was the perfect mixture of ballsy attitude and emotional sincerity that still informs my own writing to this day.

One Christmas when I was 8 years old, I was bestowed with the coveted role of “rockstar” in the family play my cousins and I used to put on (we were always little show-offs). My parents noticed I had a good voice and asked if I’d like to get lessons. For the next 10 years, I’d learn to sing classically with a teacher named Aleda Johnsen in Western Sydney, competing in eisteddfods and singing at charity events every year. Aleda was old-school and strict, and I’m convinced the techniques she taught me back then keep me from injuring my voice during a hectic touring schedule now.

I was so lucky. There were instruments everywhere. I picked up Dad’s acoustic guitar at 12 and pretty much never put it down. I started learning how to play and sing all the songs I loved, from Martin Sexton to Lucy Wainwright Roche. Soon my classical singing was taking a backseat to the cover gigs I’d play in local cafes, pubs and clubs, and this became my job for pocket money throughout high school. It definitely beat working at McDonald’s (although I’d probably have witnessed less fights breaking out at McDonald’s).

At 14, I wrote my first song. I was too scared to play it at any of my gigs, until one night my friend came to see me play for tips in the corner of a café in the Blue Mountains and encouraged me to be brave. Feeling the tiny audience respond to something I’d written, a story about my own life in my own words, was a feeling I’d never experienced, and one that I never wanted to stop. That was the night I decided that playing music was wonderful, but I only wanted to do it if I could play my own songs.

I don’t believe that purpose is written into our lives in any kind of predetermined way. I don’t believe it’s that organised. I do believe we create our own purpose and instil our own meaning to being alive, and I feel immensely lucky that I found something that brings me such joy and fulfilment so early, so I didn’t have to spend my whole life searching for it.

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