Onliness (songs of solitude & singularity)

I can finally announce that ‘Onliness (songs of solitude & singularity)’ will be out on 14.4.23 you can pre-order Vinyl, CD & digital Wavs here.

I have re-worked, reimagined and re-recorded some choice song selections from my back catalogue. Performed, arranged and produced by me, in my onliness.

Not a ‘best of’ or a ‘greatest hits’, not mere repackaging but a real & complete reclamation.

The first single ‘The Tangled Tree’ written in its entirety back in 2004 (many years before duos or labels) just me, my guitar playing/writing and my song. Now back where it belongs, in my hands.

Watch/Listen here

And as i say…

“Bright lights rise out and over the fire”


Cover Photography and Videography by Alec Bowman_Clarke

Guitar/Vocals – Josienne Clarke, Drums – Dave Hamblett, Keys- Matt Robinson, Bass – Alec Bowman_Clarke

Mixed & Mastered by Mike Hillier

[ no title necessary ]

Photo Alec Bowman_Clarke

I usually write a piece to mark the turning over of a new year, containing some lessons learned and goals for the future. It’s normally wordy and longwinded but this year’s lesson & goal for the future is one of few words, even less words, sometimes none.

No explanations needed.

Actions speak louder. The truth is self-evident. I don’t need to prove a thing to anyone but myself and I can do that silently.

So have a silent night and a gloriously speechless new year from me folks…


Things You Might Not Have Heard…

My first EP from 2006! You’ll probably recognise the title track but that’s me playing the guitar part I wrote on my trusty Alvarez MD60, brand spanking new then, I still use it today… The Tangled Tree EP

Singing & songwriting are hopelessly naively cynical in that way little me was. Lots of things I wouldn’t do today but also plenty I would. I was 24 which is old enough to be better than that but I always was inclined to take my time, no protégé am I, more tortoise than hare.

I flirt with the folk genre in the use of imagery but it’s not trad by any means, I was going be hard to pigeonhole, tough to pin down.

Confrontationally demure, Earnestly honestly cynical, Acerbically articulate, succinct…

And utterly unprepared for an industry of arseholes

The Tangled Tree EP released 2006

By 2018 I had honed it all a bit & was asked to write songs for playwright Zoe Cooper’s adaptation of ‘The Snow Queen’ for the National Theatre ‘Let’s Play key stage 2 education project My second writing commission for The National The Snow Queen

Songs written, composed & arranged by me. The superb guitaring is the wonderful folk king legend David Delarre. The drumming is my fave Dave Hamblett & bass by Sonny Johns. Recorded by engineer Sonny in The National’s recording studio in one afternoon. Writing songs for children aged 7-11 to sing is a very different discipline to writing for myself. They need to be pitched higher, not contain too much melodic or lyrical complexity but they simply MUST contain the right emotional impact, they can handle & deserve depth.

I got to watch a performance in Liverpool in Jan 2020 (These are not privileged kids, these plays are made for state schools) It was amazing & I can’t describe the feeling of hearing their tiny voices sing my songs so well & with such heart. One of my favourite projects of my career.

The Snow Queen – Six Songs – The National Theatre

A couple of ‘lost songs’ written in 2007/8 & demo recorded in 2009 One of them isn’t even finished, often the way, some of them get finished, some take years. I’m gradually getting better at writing… But I never got round to using either of them.

What I hear now is that my guitaring really wasn’t bad, wish someone had told me that, anyone, at the time. But alas my insecurity about guitar playing is the perfect opportunity for some bloke to grab my work & pass it off as his own isn’t it. Lost songs & lessons learned.

2 lost songs written in 2007/8

Lastly my weird little 2PrivateMatters EP ‘Doubts Run Out’ with Alec Bowman_Clarke Recorded at home during the long days of lockdown, these are song demos I made that Alec has given his industrial noise treatment in Ableton… Every noise made out of my original song demos Each songs settles a little score & lays to rest some past wrangling

“When all the weapons are spent out, when all your doubts are run out / You sleep so soundly in your bed / When all the words of someone else aren’t in your head”

2PrivateMatters EP ‘ Doubts Run Out’

“I give you nothing like the nothing you gave me / That’s how you win / That’s how you won / No, not to hurt you / But to stop you hurting me / That’s how it ends Slate and sleek, grey Wait and see Wait / Weigh down with stone.”

Grey Rock by 2PrivateMatters

Sorry, is the key to a door…

A genuine apology is a respectful and restorative thing. It will set you free, but you have to mean it.

I have only ever refused to accept one apology in my life 

That was because it was half-hearted, vague and insincere. It did not address any of the hurt or unhappiness caused. 

It wasn’t genuine, it was merely a small step up from the standard “oh come on, don’t be like that” more usually used to dismiss my feelings & get things quickly back to the status quo.  

Beware of those, they are as amorphous and intangible as smoke.

So this one refusal was somewhat of a turning point for me and my reply to it was simply: “for what? There is SO much”

This song is about that, a refusal to accept a hollow, meaningless apology that will not amount to any change…


Sorry, is the key to a door 

That you will come through 

And hurt me some more 

All my good deeds are dust on your desk 

Shiny stone medals 

To hang in your chest 

So maybe if I meant a thing at all 

You’d let me know 

But you didn’t know me 

I’m just a host 

A host for your dreams 

All that you hate 

All that you wish for 

All that you ain’t 

Sorry, is the key to a door

That you would come through 

And hurt me some more

There comes a point when reconciliation is no longer an option, talking is just wasted air, understanding isn’t out there. You aren’t cared for, you are merely a survival mechanism for a distant, damaged person, who doesn’t know you, who doesn’t want to know you. They just need you and they hate you because they need you. 

‘Host’ From ‘In All Weather’
‘Host’ – Official Video

Ever Decreasing Circles…

It baffles me with a particular type of awe and envy that there are people out there who do not have any idea what it’s like to deal with people who posses a personality that could be described as narcissistic (I know most intimately & mainly refer to the covert type). Who have never experienced first or second hand the effects of gaslighting, coercive control or manipulation. That for them most people are decent, say what they mean and “falling’s out” are simply that “six of one, half a dozen of the other” small, well-intentioned miscommunications. What glorious rose-tinted bliss is this! They have never known the heart-racing, hot-faced, panic attack chest tightening, reality-bending befuddlement of the person opposite you swearing that night is day as you point vigorously at the sky in desperate incredulity. When you later remind them that last time you talked they swore night was day, they say they didn’t say that and so you splutter, foam at the mouth and descend into a very specific kind of madness. Everyone thinks you’re crazy, maybe you are crazy, you definitely feel a kind of crazy.

I’ve known many, they were there before I was born, they can be your close relatives. Some people’s approval you will never earn no matter how hard you try. YOU simply do not “deserve” it. If they gave it to you they’d lose it for themselves, they are on a perpetual seesaw of competition for ok-ness, you can never balance it out, if you give them things they simply sink to the bottom of a vast positivity vacuum never to be acknowledged or seen again. And they aren’t coming back in the form of reciprocation, oh no no, it ain’t gonna happen, ever. I refer you back to my earlier statement about how… “YOU simply do not “deserve” it”. There are some people in your life you will be afraid of, is the reality I’ve always known. They don’t want you to say you are afraid of them, they become hostile when you do, so you must not say it but you feel it and you know it and you live poised and waiting for the next literal or metaphorical blow.

I feel like I’ve attracted them, amassed them throughout my life, they can tell I’m a suitable target. I have a peculiar type of compliance that doesn’t look like compliance to the casual observer. I know many lovely people too, when people are kind, open and honest my personality is not at risk, we enjoy a clear communication, a safety and an open handed, mutually caring friendship. But my head is marked, those people see me coming, I am easy to guilt, desperate to please and wilfully principled enough to frame as unreasonable. Convinced by my conditioning that somehow it is my job on this earth to make others feel at ease, their feelings are mine to anticipate and sooth.

But not anymore, I’ve been on a four plus year journey to break old habits and learn die hard new ones instead. I cannot be guilted or shamed into compliance. I cannot be told my resistance to mistreatment is anger/unreasonableness or bad behaviour on my part.

No. Is an answer in itself.

You will get out what you put in. If that’s nothing, then it’s nothing. I owe no one proximity. I owe no kindness to those who show me none. Call me “difficult” or “angry” and all you will hear is your projection bouncing back to you from a closed door.

I no longer live in fear of your negative opinion of me.

I know and recognise the signs and the behaviours and I am out of there before you finish your twisty little sentence.

It’s a long road but I dream of life without them, any of them.

If you’ve got no idea what I’m on about, good for you, think yourself lucky and I hope it stays that way for you. But please know that your experience is simply that, YOURS and others may differ wildly.

If you do know what I’m talking about then I’m sorry that you do xx

Reimagined, Re-worked and Reclaimed. Making New Things Out of Recent Ruins…

Taken by Alec Bowman_Clarke

As mixing begets mastering new things take their shape, their space & in time, their place. 

I’m making new things out of the wreckage, sifting through the rubble, a decade of my wasted work, to find the important particles of enduring gold.

Taken by Alec Bowman_Clarke

Foraging for the diamonds amid the rust, restoring & forming them into something sparkly & renewed. Retelling the old stories with their whole truth, & nothing but that.

Taken by Alec Bowman_Clarke

Pushing away the dead wood & now released from the drag of other’s need to be a part of a story that is not their own. Songs that were always built by my head & hands alone, get set right & reconciled. No one else pinning my heart to their sleeve & wearing it with unwarranted pride.

Taken by Alec Bowman_Clarke

So with all that picked out and put away I will eventually present to you something new. Something truer to my singular vision. Something I can stand by, live with & survive on for many years to come…

I can’t wait to tell you more about it in a less cryptic way 💗!

Things I Didn’t Need

Unused cover shot for ‘Things I Didn’t Need’ 7″

This ltd edition 7” white label single/b-sides came out 3 yrs ago today. Only a couple of hundred were ever made & (to my knowledge) no more have been pressed. So it stands alone, a little timestamped signpost of where things got truly interesting for me.

This is the first release from the phase of my work I can say I’m truly proud of, my (duo) output up to that time was always weirdly compromised. To be honest if I could I’d take a torch to what I produced between 2011-2018. I’m proud of my older songs, the writing itself, but not their recorded versions. This single release in 2019 was the start of a singular vision, writing that got the setting it deserved not the setting that best served someone else’s desire to showcase their technical skill.

‘Things I Didn’t Need’: A love song to myself from the perspective of the fragile male ego, something I’ve come to know more about than I care to, and one of the only times I’ve written a song from a male perspective. The subsequent two B-sides – ‘Season & Time’: appearing later that year on full length album ‘In All Weather‘ bears a Nick Drake reference for its title. It picks apart the resigned futility in communicating through song. ‘Never Lie’: (revisited on 2021’s ‘a small unknowable thing’) acts as a response to the self-delusion of the A-side’s protagonist.

It was the first tiny rumblings of the storm I was cooking, the storm that ultimately shed all the things I never needed. A first step on a bold journey to a better place for me and my songs.


Things I didn’t need

That song plays 

And my heart actually aches 

I need a guarantee 

Though I detailed all the things I didn’t need

And it turns out 

I’m weaker than I would care to seem

Come to me, this is enough 

Before I turn my head and it disappears to dust 

What have you done to me? 

What will this do?

Now I cannot think of anything but you 

That song plays 

And my heart actually aches 

I need a guarantee 

And it turns out there’s a weaker man in me 

And his need is more than I would have believed 

Come to me, this is enough 

Though I cannot give you anything but love 

What have you done to me? 

What can I do? 

To show you I’m the only one for you 

Come to me, this is enough 

Though I cannot give you anything but love 

What have you done to me? 

How can I be? 

The only man that you will ever need?

Season And Time

Singing is just talking to a tune 

It’s trying to convey something, desperately 

To communicate 

With the added use of futile music 

I’m pretty sure you never understood a word I said 

Still I’m pinning all my sentences on melodies instead 

This one struggles with structure 

It wanders in its rhyme and it’s reason 

They never got me nowhere in my season and time 

Love me like you ought to 

Or leave me if you don’t

Cos I’m tired of talking 

And I’m running out of notes 

Blue sky in the morning 

And birds fly along the shoreline

Beautiful pictures captured in a rhyme 

So love me like you ought to 

Or leave me on the line

Where I’ll sing beautiful pictures

Of my season and time.

Never Lie 

Read yourself a story that you wrote 

Tell yourself whatever lies you like 

I can never lie 

The truth is sharp it hurts my eyes 

Walk around a hole that’s in the floor 

Pretend like you don’t see it anymore 

I can never lie

The truth’s so bright it hurts my eyes 

There’s a sound 

Drowning out all the other sounds 

How do live with that din in your ears? 

If you can only learn to let it lie 

Then all the falling stays up in the sky 

I can never lie 

The truth runs all through my inside 

Just pretend you didn’t hear 

And nothing good will ever disappear 

I can never lie, dear 

The truth is like a needle in my ear 

There’s a sound 

Drowning out all the other sounds 

How do you live with that din in your ears? 

You’re Not Shit At Singing, You’re Just Afraid

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 08: Josienne Clarke performs at Islington Assembly Hall on February 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

So i wrote recently about how my guitaring got worse over the last ten yrs because i didn’t feel like a ‘guitarist’ anymore for psychological and emotional reasons. In that piece i promised to write this, to elaborate slightly on my personal observations of the connection between technical ability and frame of mind in singing/playing instruments.

It’s a connection I’ve noticed in myself many times, I play the saxophone, I’ve played it on most of my records but for several years in early 2000’s I was convinced i couldn’t get a note out of it. And while i thought that, I couldn’t. The bottom fell out of my belief in myself and it became true and just as suddenly it became untrue and i merrily toot away on it now. It’s that simple and that complicated.

But i want to talk about singing because its my main skill, the thing I’m kind of known for, you all think I’m good at it and you’re not wrong. But there isn’t a world of inherent genetic difference between you and me, I wasn’t “born with a gift” that’s bullshit. You’ve got the basic physical make-up, the vocal chords you have and so there’s some luck in that but it’s not everything. It’s a small percentage of the overall skill.

MOST IMPORTANTLY the main beauty of singing is YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE GOOD AT IT!! You’re allowed to be shit, it’s for everyone. Just open your mouth and something comes out and the act of it is proud and glorious and full of joy. However far from the melody or key you stray you’re still offering something wonderful, the art of participation.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 08: Josienne Clarke performs at Islington Assembly Hall on February 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

I’m not a singing teacher or vocal coach, this is not practical, technical advice. I’ve considered it but singing and teaching other people to, is not the same skill set. So I don’t say this as a tutor i say it as the personal observation of a professional singer. These are my hot opinions not necessarily fact.

According to ME, the good singing equation is: 90% self belief + 10% technique

Going for that high note is a leap of faith, the more you believe you’ll land the other side the more smoothly you approach the jump. So go for lessons of course, they can give you great technical advice and professional support but you need to work on the other 90% just as hard. Allow yourself to fail, learn to love the sound you make, YOUR voice as it naturally, actually is. Croaky, breathy, pitchy, quiet whatever! I can think of an example of great singing in all those categories.

I know, I know easy for ‘Sweet Pipes Clarke’ to say but honestly the secret to my singing is mainly that I’ve always thought I was shit hot at it and I really wasn’t to begin with, I was average, it’s the only thing I’ve ever thought that about so I go for it…

Sing like nobody’s listening

Here I am – aged about 3 singing averagely

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – OCTOBER 17: Josienne Clarke performs on stage at Usher Hall on October 17, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

The making of …a small unknowable thing

I want to talk briefly and gushingly about some of the men behind a small unknowable thing first, it’s a very female album and it promoted that heavily BUT here are the men (& women) who helped me make that possible

Dave Hamblett – Drums

The drumming on this record is standout. I’ve worked with Dave Hamblett for a good few years now and his playing just gets better and better. I was clear in my mind beforehand that I wanted pulse, too many years i have wasted in a previous guise watching my fast thumbed right hand guitaring get replaced by beatless languid over complicated string meandering. So i set Dave with the task of bold, strident nippiness, he’s extremely good at blending into the meld of soft acoustic music so i had to encourage him to play out on tracks like ‘Super Recogniser’ and ‘Sit Out’, but when he gets going it’s really something to see & hear! He’s a real technical master and a perfectionist at his craft, he doesn’t quit till it’s exactly right, every hit of every beat on every drum in his kit. Luckily he’s so good it doesn’t even take long to get it so! He’s also a real collaborative person so he’s equally happy to lay down an electronic drum part and let us pass it through beat repeat and granulator.

Matt Robinson – Keyboards

Keyboards and Synths were central to this record sounding like it does, I began using them on ‘In All Weather’ and i wanted to continue and develop their part in my sound. Matt Robinson is one of the most laid back musicians I’ve worked with he just plays about until the sound is exactly how you want it, just wobbly enough with just the right amount of grit and fuzz, he’s never phased by anything you ask him and so quick to work out from my inexpert explanation what it is I’m trying to ask for

Mike Hiller – Recording, Mixing, Mastering

As someone who has worked in many studio situations with many characters, predominantly male, I was looking for something VERY specific and I had some really firm thoughts about what I didn’t want. The majority of the recording and all the mixing and mastering were done by Mike Hillier. He’s been a reknowned engineer for years and has specialised predominantly in mastering. I’ve had him master many things for me in the past and his work is always superb. I first contacted him because I had a question about mastering, I knew what i wanted but I wasn’t sure how to get it. (this is his absolute sweet spot, he always knows how to make a thing do the thing you want even if the thing you say you want isn’t exactly the thing you want! He always knows!) I was asking about how i need to record and mix the record in order to achieve my intended master. He was able to articulate this perfectly. I then realised if he was a) going to master it in the end anyway and b) knew how it should be recorded and mixed in order for that he would surely be the best person to chaperone & shape it through that process. So i took a deep breath and asked if he would, he said yes and he did. I could not be more pleased with his expertise and effort. He listened so carefully to everything I said and never forgot a note or request I made however small it was. He made great suggestions but never tried to imprint the record with a signature sound. He pushed at the boundaries of my comfort and understanding in certain mixes & subsequently this record is the pinnacle of what i have achieved to date, I learned many things and i grew as an artist in the way that is the hallmark of great collaborative work.

Alec Bowman_Clarke – Bass

Alec Bowman_Clarke played the bass and equally didn’t play bass when it wasn’t needed, he was all about adding only the notes it required. Focussed entirely on the goals I had and helping me achieve them. Obviously he took the cover images, promo photos and directed the videos (there’s still a couple to come!) He’s been in his own quiet way the MOST important person to this process, his skills are superb and mighty useful but more vital is that his support is unwavering, unselfish & the reason I am here today.

Nick Turner – Engineer Extraordinaire

Nick Turner helped with some last minute additional recording at his beautiful Watercolour Studio in Fort William, (which is essentially the local for me now I’m based in Scotland) No-one else knows better than he does how to place a TLM170 in front of my face & recording the guitars with him was fast, furious and an awful lot of fun!

Mary Ann Kennedy is a famous woman of course and she played the harp for me and it absolutely made the track, I love working with her so much and I hope to work more closely with her in the future if she’ll let me!

Learning what I can from the Master!

Other mentions include Aaron Miller who made sure every line of artwork was seamless & straight! Alison Clarke who made all those butterflies, Pias for placing just enough copies in record shops across the globe. Elizabeth Aubrey for writing a stunning bio that framed the record clearly & perfectly. Ellie Ball at SomeoneGreatPR for promoting it sensitively, supportively & superbly. Everyone who’s reviewed, played it on the radio & mentioned it, in print or online.

So it’s done and out there and I hope you like it, cos I do, I thoroughly enjoyed this process with these people, which isn’t a thing i’ve always been able to say. Thank you x

a small unknowable (happy) thing