Dream. Believe. Do. Interview #6 Finding your voice

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Copying – styles, ideas, forms – is common in the arts, especially as one begins. What gets exciting is when one finds their own voice and feels confident enough to step out in their own direction. Clark and Co – a fairly young music group – found their own voice, which has fueled them to move forward and keep growing.

DENNIS: I'm really happy to be sitting here today with a very unique group of people. I'm sitting with a company called Clark & Company. And what you can’t see right now is Clark & Company is actually made of three people. It's a music band. And what you also don't know is they are siblings. And what you also don't know is that they are triplets on top of it. So with me, I’ve got Simon, Sophie and Cooper Clark. And really happy to have you guys here with me today.

SOPHIE: Thank you.

DENNIS: So as I've mentioned, this is the Dream Believe Do interview where we like to talk to people about a dream that they had, what they did to achieve it and how you might try to accomplish that. And I’d like to know a bit more about where did the idea for Clark & Company come from?

SOPHIE: Well, let’s see, so way back in middle school, I would say, that's kind of when we started getting interested in music.

SIMON: Well, we've always…

SOPHIE: Yeah, we've always loved music.

SIMON: Do you want the “beginning” beginning?

SOPHIE: We were born… Okay. Well, yeah, we've grown up with good music. My dad has good taste in music, so we grew up with like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, all that kind of stuff.

DENNIS: Classics.

SOPHIE: Yeah. So we've always kind of liked that. So, in middle school we started listening to that stuff a lot more and kind of turned away from like the mainstream stuff, I guess, because we’re middle schoolers and we're trying to be different. But actually, Cooper and Simon were the first to get involved and actually start playing that music.

SIMON: Yeah.

SOPHIE: Well, I mean, we all took piano lessons and all that when we were eight and stuff. And the boys hated it. And I guess I liked it more than them, but we all kind of, yeah… it was interesting. We were all in one room playing piano at the same time, so were all three had a lesson at the same time, which was…

DENNIS: Pretty chaotic.

SOPHIE: Yeah.

SIMON: We had a classic, strict piano teacher, you know.

SOPHIE: Yeah, she thought we needed to get our eyesight checked because couldn’t read the notes!

[All laugh]

SIMON: But look at us now.

DENNIS: There you go!

SOPHIE: Yeah, but that was fun. And in middle school, Simon started really taking up the drums and then Cooper actually used to play guitar.

COOPER: Yeah, on and off. Yeah.

SOPHIE: And then we found this program called School of Rock. And the first thing we got to do actually – because we only had like a couple kids that were interested because it's like a brand new program – they actually needed people to play with Roger Waters from Pink Floyd who was coming the Century Link to play a show. So they called School of Rock and they're like, “Do you have anyone that will be able to like sing a song with them on stage?” And they're like, “Yeah, we have like about ten kids.” Like my brothers were the only ones in it, but they needed more people, so my parents were like, “Do you wanna do it?” So I was like, “Sure.” So we got to actually sing Another Brick in the Wall with him on stage. That was the first thing we did. And we all thought it was the coolest thing ever, because you know, you're on stage on the Century Link stage and that’s amazing.

SIMON: With Roger Waters.

DENNIS: Sure! So you guys were involved in music. You're all taking piano lessons, you started moving to drums, you're playing with guitar a bit. You stuck with piano and then the School of Rock thing came along.

SIMON: That's what got us into playing the shows.

SOPHIE: That's what got us into really like playing in bands and stuff.

SIMON: Yeah, so from there…

SOPHIE: Yeah, well the boys first started… well, they first were enrolled and then I was…

COOPER: By this time, I was playing bass.

SOPHIE: Yeah, Cooper has switched to bass. And they started doing it and then I got a little jealous and I was like, “You know, I feel like I could do that.” And I think that’d be cool if I sang. So I told my mom I wanted to do it. So she signed me up. And that’s when I realized that I really liked singing and performing because it's something I've never done before. And at first, it was really hard for me sing in front of people because I was a very shy kid growing up.

SIMON: Yeah, we all were.

SOPHIE: We all were. And so performing was… being in that program was something that really taught us how to be a band and how to work with other kids and to be confident.

DENNIS: Right. So the School of Rock was a place to work with other people with some mentors as well.

SOPHIE: Right. They put you in like a group of kids to be like a band.

SIMON: And they would teach you like cover songs and you’d play shows already.

SOPHIE: Like classic rock kinds of songs.

DENNIS: Oh, OK. Right.

SIMON: So that was our main introduction into the whole music scene.

SOPHIE: Right. So we did that in middle school until like freshman year of high school.

DENNIS: And so, then, that’s when Clark & Company broke out?

SOPHIE: Well, so through School of Rock, we met a guitar player named Gage Clark who was interesting. His last name was Clark, but he's not related to us but it kind of worked out like that. So we were like, like we kind of learned how to do the whole band thing, the cover things. We were like, “Okay, why don't we start our own band?” So we actually started this cover band called Strange Antics. It was a rock cover band.

COOPER: We had a few originals.

SOPHIE: Yeah and that’s when I started writing music because I kind of got tired of playing the covers and I was like, you know…

SIMON: Everybody plays covers.

SOPHIE: Yeah. So we decided that we'll start writing songs. That’s when I started to try to write songs. So we did that for a couple years until our sophomore year, right?

SIMON: Strange Antics just didn’t work out.

COOPER: Yeah.

SOPHIE: Well, I kind of realized that it wasn’t really working for me to write these rock songs. I didn't like the guitar solos and the really loud, you know, loud stuff. So actually, Clark & Company really started with this one song I wrote this one day. It's called When It's Raining. It's on the first album. And I wrote it and it all just kind of like came together magically. It was kind of like a “movie thing” where you write it and you're like, “Oh my gosh. This is what I wanna do.”

DENNIS: So writing that first song, then, you were able to find your voice?

SOPHIE: Yeah.

DENNIS: Also find that it wasn't the rock and roll you were looking for?

SOPHIE: Right.

DENNIS: You were trying to move away from that into your own sound, your own look and feel. And from that, it's really when Clark & Company started to take shape pretty much?

SOPHIE: Yes. I actually sent this song to my guitar player and he said, “Okay, Yeah, we need to add all this guitar.” And that was the point where I was like, “No, I want it to be only piano.” So that’s when I was kind of… I was talking to Simon, I was like, “You know, we could just do this with just the three of us.” And that we're just piano, bass and drums. And that was, it was a little scary for me, because we always kind of had this guitar to kind of, like, hide behind. And it was kind of like a confidence thing for me because I wasn't always just like the only front person; I had like a guitar player too. So it was all kind of on me to really like become the front person and be very…

DENNIS: So what did it take? I mean, how hard was into break through that barrier of fear?

SOPHIE: Well, the first show we did with just Clark & Company, I was so nervous…

COOPER: Yeah, me, too.

SOPHIE: …because I wasn't very confident in my piano playing. Or I mean, I had this whole new wave of songs that came and I did not know…

SIMON: Well, the first show wasn't even… The first show, we were too nervous to just do it.

SOPHIE: Yeah, we did have like Strange Antics and then we did a debut of Clark & Company for like four songs.

DENNIS: Right. So it was like a soft introduction. You had the whole band with you at that point?

SIMON: Yes.

SOPHIE: Yes.

DENNIS: You're doing the Strange Antics covers and so forth and started working in some of your own work into it?

SOPHIE: Yes. And then we were kind of wondering what people would think about it, but after the show, we had so many people come up to us and they were like, “Oh, my gosh. This is great. You guys need to do this. This music is awesome.” So we were like, “Okay, let’s do this full time.” So that summer, I wrote like every day, all day. And we practiced all the time and we really got these songs down. And I feel like they were a lot more meaningful than anything we'd ever written. We took a long time to kind of make sure they sounded how we want them to sound. And we worked together to make them our own thing. So it was really cool.

DENNIS: So you got the feedback that people really liked your new work, so you started writing more songs?

SOPHIE: Mh-hm.

DENNIS: What continued to build your confidence? What's helped you to build your confidence to move forward as Clark & Company?

SOPHIE: I feel like the biggest thing for me is just when playing music for people and having them respond to it. So like, they're like, “Oh, that one song that you played at this time, that really meant so much to me.” And those are the things that just make it worth everything.

DENNIS: So, it fuels you, but a lot of people… I’ve talked to a lot of people who are afraid to go up on stage to give a speech or to stand up at a party and give a toast even or whatever and yet you say that you feed off the audience and the energy they give you back, right?

SOPHIE: Mh-hm.

DENNIS: How do you channel that? How do you get rid of the butterflies? Or do you get rid of the butterflies?

SOPHIE: It was really hard at first. I mean, I think at this point, we really don't get nervous anymore. Because I feel like we’ve become so confident within…

SIMON: Within our music.

SOPHIE: …the support of everyone who's been supporting in over the past couple years. I mean, when it's new, you're like, “Oh, I don't know if people are going to like this. I have no idea what the response is going to be.” So that’s where the nerves come from. But once you have a good foundation and you know you have people supporting you, then I feel like that goes away a little bit and you start to really believe in yourself. Just because like response is so important and just the support of everyone. I always love our shows and how it brings people together. And it's just a great feeling. So that’s what fuels it for me.

DENNIS: That's cool. What's been the hardest part of trying to move forward? Or has there been a hard part?

SOPHIE: I guess it kind of evolves in to like directions that I wanna… like we started with more of a singer-songwriter sound which was just the three of us. And it's kind of been like experimenting with different things; like we added horn players and we recently just kind of experimented with strings and all that stuff. So that’s been fun. It kind of is just fueled by my like random thoughts of creativity. Like, last summer, I really got into jazz and older music and that's kind of how that came about.

SIMON: And you can hear those shifts in styles between the two albums.

SOPHIE: Yeah, the two albums are very different. And it's interesting because it's kind of like the two phases that Clark & Company has gone through.

SIMON: And now we're kind of going into another one for our new album.

SOPHIE: Yeah.

DENNIS: Yeah? Moving into different direction. You're evolving further.

SOPHIE: Well I think it's really important because you have to have something that keeps fueling you to go further and further.

DENNIS: And what is that? What is it that’s fueling you to move forward?

SOPHIE: I mean, music is so interesting to me and the different styles of music that I love to experiment with. I love to just be inspired by different genres, by different time periods of music. It's really interesting to me. And then I have people that come up to me that have lived when that music was popular. And they were like, “How did you come up with that? Because you're like eighteen.” And I'm like, I listen to it and then I try to make it with kind of a modern twist, which is what I like to do. So I find that really interesting.

DENNIS: What's been the biggest surprise on the journey thus far?

SOPHIE: I think probably just the response of our music. And a lot of times, it's the audience because we weren’t really sure like what our audience was going to be when we first started. But it's actually like a lot of older people really like our music, which is great for me. I mean, you'd think that we would want like our age people enjoying our music. And some of them do, which is great but I think it's great that older people enjoy our music because we’re young. And so it's a cool connection between the two.

SIMON: I was really surprised on how fast and how successful we got. I was kind of skeptical going right in and you now, I kind of liked the rock stuff and I liked the guitar player – he’s a good friend of mine. But then I was like, you know, I don't know if this Clark & Company thing is a good idea. But then we got like these two albums, and we're getting all these awards. Just the success is very…

SOPHIE: It happened really fast.

SIMON: Yeah, so it was really cool.

DENNIS: You're surprised by the success?

SOPHIE: Yeah.

DENNIS: Cooper, any surprises?

COOPER: I really like how we can, in Clark & Company, the whole concept of Clark & Company is we're “Clark” and then the “Company” is just anyone we wanna bring in that's a musician that fits our song.

SIMON: Yeah, like the horns would be the “Company” and…

COOPER: So you never get bored with the band because it can change. Like, they don't care if we bring in new people or let them go for a few songs. It's ever-changing. So it's always so surprising. It’s always fun.

DENNIS: That’s cool. Okay. You're pursuing your dream, it's happening, things are falling in place, you're getting awards, you’ve got two CDs out, a third one coming. You’re all from a school for rock music that evolved into a pivotal event. They got you started when you sing on stage and then you had your initial band and now you're into Clark & Company and growing. Lots of people are out there trying to pursue their dreams. What advice do you have to them to encourage them to move forward? What thoughts do you have to encourage other people?

SOPHIE: I honestly think it’s just so important just to make sure you do it and make sure you actually start your dream. Because like we all have those times when we're like lying in bed at night and you're like, “Oh, it would be so cool if I did this.” But you go every day and you think about it and it makes you happy but you never actually start it. And that's probably the biggest thing for me is just, like, Clark & Company could have always just been an idea for me. And I could’ve kept doing the rock thing, but never actually tried to just have the three of us play and then none of this would ever happen. And usually, if you have like a gut instinct, and you know that you're passionate about it, it'll work out. Like, if you're passionate enough, then you'll be successful. That’s what I think.

SIMON: Some advice that I have is just don't give up. I mean, to share a story time into that – my brother and I would always, you know, through middle school and high school there are always jazz bands and ensembles that you would audition for, right? And Cooper was starting to play bass and I was playing drums and we were taking private lessons and we would audition for these and we would never get in. And we didn’t let that get us down. We just kept going. We made sure we kept re-auditioning. And yeah, we got in in high school. But it middle school, we just could decide, “Oh, we're not good enough to get into these bands. We'll never make it. Let’s just give up and go play sports or whatever.” No, we kept doing, we kept practicing and then we decided, “Oh, we don't need this jazz band thing. We can just start our own group.” And look what that’s become. So there's always something more you can…

COOPER: Even though we did get into jazz band eventually.

DENNIS: So, you finally got into jazz band. That’s a valuable story right there. You ran into this obstacle, you're taking lessons, you're playing these instruments, you didn’t make it. And you could have easily walked away from it, but instead you took that and went in different direction and made it happen.

SIMON: Yeah.

DENNIS: That's great. Listen, this has been great. I thank you all for your time. I've got Simon and Sophie and Cooper Clark. Clark & Company. Their website is ClarkCoBand.com. I'm Dennis Hodges. Dream. Believe. Do. Thanks!

SIMON: Thank you.

SOPHIE: Thank you so much. That was awesome.

I welcome your comments and suggestions. Feel free to write me at dennis@xpelli.com or you can leave comments here. Thanks! Dennis




Dennis Hodges
Dennis Hodges

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