MOJO magazine says of her, ‘Probably the best singer you’ve never heard”.
Music was at the heart of every family celebration and Claire learned to harmonise listening to her mother, aunties and Grandma all sing together.
Her grandmother had been judged the best singer in Ireland at the age of 12 by the great John McCormack himself but when Claire got her first recording contract with Island records in 1971,her grandma still asked her when she was going to get a ‘Proper job.’
She had been on course to go to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she would have developed her interest in acting but when her managers, John McCoy and Tony Demitriades secured her a recording contract with Island records, the label of her favourite band, Free, she didn’t hesitate to say goodbye to the girls at St Mary’s Convent and head off to London to pursue a career in music.
She recorded two albums for Island, ‘One House left Standing’ and ‘October‘, toured the USA and Europe promoting them and appeared on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, before leaving to join the Kinks’ label, Konk. Ray Davies produced her third album, ‘Stage Door Johnnies’ which she again promoted in the U.S. and Claire brought back her American band to record the second for Konk, Abracadabra, which she produced herself at the age of 21.
Somehow fate decided that Claire was not to set the charts alight but instead allowed her to plow her own furrow, experimenting and exploring her musical world.
As the UK was gripped in political turmoil which was reflected in the rise of Punk Music,Claire started working with Wishbone Ash,first as a backing singer and then as a co-writer of one of their most atmospheric rock anthems,’Living Proof’ which she wrote with Wishbone guitarist, Laurie Wisefield.
In 1980 she married Beggars Banquet founder Nick Austin ,released a single ‘First Night in New York on WEA records followed by ‘Touchpaper,’ which was her transitional album to the world of synthesisers.
In 1985 she had moved to the East Sussex countryside to bring up her daughter Tara, and recorded her most successful album to date,’Voices’ which was groundbreaking and garnered critical acclaim as well as a no.1 spot in the NEW AGE charts.The BBC used the music in their popular history series ‘The Domesday Book.
By now she had two more daughters,Susannah and Isadora. Inspired by the beautiful Sussex countryside, she released another transitional album, but one which brought her back to more traditional song writing styles, ’Love in the Afternoon‘. It would seem that Claire had now found her niche, a songwriter who blended an English rock anthem style with a pastoral, dreamy, new age sensitivity.
Then life took another turn. She broke up with Nick, though they remain close, met and started working with dance DJ and composer Andrew Warren and embarked on another musical journey into electro pop.
The album ‘Summer-with Andrew Warren’ was released in 1995 but Claire’s pure voice was out of step with the hip-hop sound that was becoming more popular in dance music so it remains a collectors piece, 500 copies only were made.
She re-released her back catalogue through ‘Voiceprint records’ before learning in 2004 that Eva Cassidy had recorded her song from Stage Door Johnnies, ‘You take my breath away‘.
Suddenly Claire’s career was revived again and she went on to release ‘The Lost and the Lovers’ before signing with Esoteric to release her first compilation, ‘The Minor fall the Major lift.’
She’d be the first to admit that making a living on the fringe of the music world has been very precarious at times but she wouldn’t have it any other way ‘My songs are crafted in the hurly burly of life, I roll with the seasons like you do, I occasionally rise to the triumphal summit like you do and I deal with the hardships that come along from time to time, just like you do. I still have songs inside me yearning to come out, I hope you’ll find them relevant.’
We do hope you’ll take the time to explore some of Claire’s songs for yourself.