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Clairo Languishes Over Domesticity - Past, Present And Future - In New Album 'Sling'


Claire Cottrill, who performs as Clairo, started making music when she was a teen. Her song "Pretty Girl" has over 75 million views on YouTube. And Clairo is a true Gen Z indie pop phenomenon.


CLAIRO: (Singing) I could be a pretty girl. I'll wear a skirt for you.

SIMON: Claire Cottrill is now 22 years old and has a new album called "Sling." It's filled with dreamy soundscapes. Claire Cottrill, thanks very much for being with us.

CLAIRO: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: I tell you, I don't get to ask everybody what's it like to be a Gen Z indie pop phenomenon.

CLAIRO: (Laughter) I don't think you should ask me either.


SIMON: Well, tell us about this album. How did it come about? I gather you're in a pretty bucolic setting for it.

CLAIRO: Yeah. It really all stemmed from a conversation I had with my mom about who she was before she had children and how I know less about that version of her. It's very difficult to wrap my head around, but I just - it's interesting to me that I could potentially be in the part of my life where my family or my children or partner may know less about this version - oh, my God, I'm trying to find the words.

SIMON: Well, I think your mother is onto something. And I think one of the regrets in life in a peculiar way is that I think it's hard for young people sometimes to understand that their parents were once every bit as young.

CLAIRO: Right. Definitely.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the song "Zinnias." Let's hear a little.


CLAIRO: (Singing) Quietly, I'm tempted. Sure sounds nice to settle down for a while. Let the real estate show itself to me. I could wake up with a baby in a sling just a couple doors down from Abigail, my sister, man, and her ring.

SIMON: Where does this song come from in your mind and heart?

CLAIRO: The song "Zinnias" really just kind of exaggerates that domestic dream of living down the street from my sister and my mom. I would go visit my friends at Syracuse between tours - which I love tour, and I think I'm learning how to enjoy it. But I always felt like I was missing something. And with this record, I found that I was missing a real home of my own because I didn't have anything that grounded me to one specific time or place, not realizing that this was the thing I actually needed.

SIMON: Well, I - what happened in the world or what happened in your life that is - made you come to this realization, do you think?

CLAIRO: My mom and my dog (laughter).

SIMON: We wanted to talk about your dog. Her name is - she's - well, she's named after Joni Mitchell, right?

CLAIRO: Yeah (laughter).

SIMON: We were able to meet Joanie before this interview began. There's an instrumental on the album dedicated to her, isn't there?

CLAIRO: Yeah. It's supposed to resemble her energy level over a day.

SIMON: (Laughter).

CLAIRO: And it kind of starts out slow, and then it picks up when she smells food. And then she's kind of running around, and then it gets really sleepy again. And then she's dreaming, and then it's over.

SIMON: What's she mean to you? What does all that mean to you?

CLAIRO: It means everything to me...

SIMON: Yeah.

CLAIRO: ...To say the least. Like, the thing that really changed was I wanted her environment to be really safe, and I did everything I could to do that for her and created boundaries and a schedule and everything to make her life feel comfortable. Then I realized I hadn't been doing that for myself - boundaries, scheduling, giving myself room and space and time. I wasn't doing that at all. So it really changed kind of what I thought I deserved.

SIMON: I feel I got to ask. This week, you know, a lot of the world is taking a look at a distance at Simone Biles withdrawing from all-around competition at the Olympic Games to focus on her mental health. I'm wondering if when you heard her say that, you said to yourself, oh, I know what she means 'cause you, too, have had a lot of fame and a lot of expectation. And I wonder if you can help us understand that.

CLAIRO: I mean, I can't speak for Simone Biles, but I do empathize with the feeling of stopping something to prioritize yourself. And that's only a new feeling for me. But, you know, there's been a tour where I thought I could do it, and by the end of it, I was having crazy breakdowns where I was trying to cancel the rest of the tour because I just mentally could not do it. And I had a small inkling in the beginning of that tour that I probably couldn't do it, but I still did it anyway because there are people counting on you, because there are people coming to the shows. There's so many people to let down. But sometimes I think it's easier in the moment to rationalize how your mental health isn't as important as not letting everybody down. But then once you get there, you know that you should've just listened to yourself.

SIMON: Claire Cottrill - she performs as Clairo - her new album, "Sling." Thank you so much for being with us.

CLAIRO: Thanks for having me.


CLAIRO: (Singing) Mom, would you give me a ring, one for the ride... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.