On music, long-distance relationships and supporting local talent.

Words by

Carlos Mangubat
Jen Cloher’s music is about as honest as it gets. Her fourth self-titled album, featuring newly released track ‘Forgot Myself’, is an authentic documentation of her life experiences. 
But when she’s not writing and recording, Jen’s using her political voice to promote artists’ rights and helping to run Milk! Records. Founded with partner Courtney Barnett, the label gives the duo a platform to encourage and support grassroots music, a long time passion of both artists.

We sat down with Jen to chat music, long-distance relationships and supporting local talent. 

Congratulations on your album release. What’s your favourite track on the album?

It’s hard to say I have a favourite. I like all of them for all different reasons. 

I see you have just released the track ‘Forgot Myself’. What inspired that song?

It’s a documentation of having a long distance relationship with a partner who’s continually travelling overseas for work. My partner, Courtney [Barnett], was away for 18 months over three years. It was hard to stay in contact with poor reception, different time zones and different schedules, while trying to maintain a life back in Australia. 

Anyone can relate to those strange situations, when you’re not there for big moments in your partner’s life because you’re living in separate time zones. 

Where are you excited to perform the album? 

My next tour will be around England, Europe and then America. It will be my first time in The States. I'll be opening for Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett, for their new album. 

What’s your favourite place in the world? 

I recently went to Mexico and I really enjoyed the experience there.They have their own culture. It felt like [the people] weren’t looking for their own identity. It was as though they knew who they were. The food, the art and the fashion – all of those things were very authentic and original and indigenous, which was inspiring to be immersed in. 

What brought you to Melbourne? 

My parents are from New Zealand and I grew up in Adelaide. I’ve been in Melbourne for the past 16 years and I love the way of living here. 

What do you think of the Melbourne music scene? 

There's a great music culture in Melbourne. It's had the opportunity to evolve and be supported over time. We have good laws regarding venues and opening hours, as well as community radio that supports grass roots music.   

What makes you so passionate about supporting local talent? Did Milk! Records come from that passion?

Courtney and I started Milk! Records as a way of showcasing bands and friends who make special creative and interesting music. It’s been really fun working on the label.  

It also gives artists a sense of belonging, knowing they have support and are being supported. It’s nice to be part of something bigger than your own little world.

What advice would you give young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Best advice to give to anyone trying to find their path is one: Trust your intuition – listen to that gut feeling. Two: Follow your bliss – go after the things in life that inspire you and lastly, don’t listen to the negative voice that tells you that you can’t do what you want to do.

What do you like to wear when performing?

For me, clothing is about how you feel, not so much on how you look. If you feel good in the clothes you wear, that’s all the matters. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone uncomfortable on stage. It’s awkward when you see a performer, and their clothing is wearing them (rather than the opposite). 

Would you consider yourself image conscious?

If you saw me right now, [you’d see] I’m wearing a giraffe onesie and Ugg Boots. I’m not fashion conscious but I wear what feels good. 

I think to have an amazing wardrobe, you need to be consistent and go out and invest in good pieces. I’m a bin shopper, which doesn’t work.  

I think for musicians like St. Vincent or Olympia or PJ Harvey, fashion is part of their performance. It’s an extension of their art, it’s not just a flimsy accessory – they’re making the artistic statement. Whereas, I haven’t extended into fashion as an artistic pursuit. I go out in jeans a T-shirt and play guitar. I think if I tried to be like St. Vincent it would look non-authentic.

Whose style do you admire?

Someone like Patti Smith is a great example of [someone] who is really stylish. She wears loose shirts, pants and boots. When I met her, I thought ‘she’s in her seventies, she’s got her own thing going on and that’s cool’. 

It’s great to see women of that age still wearing what they want: looking alive and looking cool. I don’t think age has to preclude from influencing people or making a statement. 

If you could wear one outfit for the rest of your life what would it be?

Giraffe onesies and Ugg boots! 

You can catch Jen Cloher on her Australian tour in August.


The Foundry
Thursday August 24

Oxford Art Factory
Friday August 24 

Mojo’s Bar
Sunday September 3

Friday September 8

Jive Bar 
Saturday September 9

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