Cloves on Finding Her Sound (and Herself)
With her crystal clear vocals and intimate, minimalist melodies, it’s not surprising that Cloves (real name: Kaity Dunstan) gained immediate internet recognition for tracks like “Frail Love” and “Everybody’s Son.” However, like most so-called overnight sensations, this 20-year-old singer is actually anything but. The Melbourne native has performed for years in other bands, and she landed on her perfect Cloves sound only when she found herself: discovering what she wants to be, as both an artist and as a person. Fresh off her new EP XIII and ahead of her Coachella debut (!!), we talked with Kaity about stage fright, badass women, and keeping her eye on the prize.
When did you start playing music?
I’ve always played in bands growing up. I played in a punk band when I was 12, and then some other groups, and I eventually decided to do my own stuff and write my own music. There wasn’t an agenda to it; I wanted to make an album and that’s really it. Cloves stuff, I’ve been writing for it for the past three years—which is a long time for me!
Something that most people might not know is that you were on The Voice Australia. What was that like?
[Laughs] Well, I auditioned when I was 16, and it opened my eyes up to the industry a bit. It helped me find out who I wasn’t, and who I wanted to be.
After playing in other bands, how did you land upon the Cloves sound?
It’s me in a nutshell, honestly. I think it just takes time to find out who you are. I’m not saying that I 100% know who I am now—I’m always changing—but I think that this sound that I’ve found is a stream of consciousness for me. It’s how I hear things in my brain. I was so confused growing up, just like everyone is at 16! But I feel like I’m finally where I need to be.
Sometimes, just having life experiences can help.
Totally. The sounds of melodies and chords I like are based upon influences I grew up listening to, but it’s also about me just maturing as a person. My whole thing is, I do just want to say what I think and what I feel. Even though my songs are personal, I want people to take them for their own lives.
Who are some of your models in music right now?
Brittany [Howard] from the Alabama Shakes is an incredible human. She’s such an artist and I look up to her. She’s amazing and such a boss.
Do you still get nervous before shows?
Um, yes. I get nervous to the point where I can’t eat for the whole day. I do this thing where I’m like standing backstage 10 minutes before I’m supposed to go on and I suddenly get scared that I can’t sing. So I’ll be singing softly to myself and my manager will walk by and be like, “Kaity, you’re fine.” Then I’ll get out there and remember that this is where I want to be. I’m definitely not very chill.
What’s been the craziest thing that’s happened to you within this past whirlwind year?
Playing Coachella. I didn’t expect it at all! We put the first song out the middle of last year and then just the fact that I’m playing, period, is so cool.