Studio Visit

Clare Bowditch

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
15th of February 2013
Clare Bowditch plans world domination in the form of Big Hearted Business!  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Clare Bowditch, office details.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Clare Bowditch at the Big Hearted Business conference location, Abbotsford Convent Arts Precinct.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
It is truthfully, cross my heart and hope to die, zero exaggeration when I say that Clare Bowditch is the most beautiful woman I know.  I met Clare a while ago at a friend's wedding (and also allegedly my boyfriend used to work with her at Surf Dive n Ski in the 90's or some such nonsense so he will always claim to have known Clare 'first') but anyway, the truth is, Clare RADIATES.  She has an uncanny knack for making you feel like the centre of the universe when she's speaking to you, no matter who you are.  She is like some kind of real life Lord of the Rings character with internal energy that basically glows from within and kind of completely hypnotises you as you talk to her.  It's bloody lucky she is using these powers for good and not evil. Clare is an incredibly hard working singer, songwriter, businesswoman, actress, public figure, wife and Mum to three, who, along with her husband Marty, has been running her own creative business for 10 years.  She is a true inspiration to me and to many. YES she's also won an ARIA, and been on Offspring (!!), but that's really just the icing on top.  Clare has a LOT going on. After releasing her hugely successful recent album The Winter I Chose Happiness late last year, it was time for Clare to finally pursue a project that's really been bubbling in her mind for years.  It seems to me that this particular project is essentially the culmination of her life's work to date - something that ties all the goodness, wisdom, and lessons learned together, and finally gives Clare the opportunity to give back in a really powerful, meaningful way!  It's a project very close to her heart, and something that I think addresses a massive gap in creative education in Australia.  The project is called Big Hearted Business. 'Big Hearted Business is a practical, creative response to the sometimes overwhelming possibilities of our times' says Clare. 'BHB exists to teach brilliant, creative Australians how to build strong, successful businesses, without compromising their integrity.  We aim to help counter the enormous educational gap that still exists for creative-entrepreneurs in Australia'.  In other words - BHB is a resource and mentorship program that teaches creative people about building their businesses sustainably and without compromise. AMAZING or what? Big Hearted Business was officially launched last month, kicked off with a massively successful Pozible fundraising campaign which reached its funding target in just 6 days!  (You can still pledge HERE and the rewards are pretty amazing!).  Its next phase will see development of a resource-rich BHB website including inspiring weekly newsletters, affordable e-courses, an online mentorship programme and regular Q&A videos from Clare herself and other successful creatives. But the BIG thing coming up for Clare is the very first Big Hearted Business live event, taking place next month in Melbourne, which is a two-day conference that brings together talks and workshops with six brilliant speakers from a great variety of backgrounds, including, um, ME!  Yes I've been asked to speak about my experience with The Design Files... alongside an amazing panel of women including Clare (of course), journalist Catherine Deveny,  founder of Undertow Media and Smiling Mind Jane Martino, amazing blogger and writer Pip Lincoln of Meet me at Mikes, writer and artist Rachel Power, and chef and raw food guru Kemi Nekvapil.  I could be biased but something tells me it is going to be SERIOUSLY AWESOME. Tickets available HERE - but you better be quick!   The event is set to take place on the 23rd and 24th of March in the amazing Abbotsford Convent Arts Precinct, and will include organic catering on both days and a big closing party.  Big Hearted Business donates 20 per cent of all profits to not-for-profit organisations. If you can't attend the conference, but this is all sounding right up your alley, you should still sign up to the BHB mailing list here, which will commence sending out free weekly newsletters and videos next month! OK enough from me - without further ado, I give you, Clare Bowditch.
Clare Bowditch is basically a household name in Australia, though this amazing feat isn't without years of hard work and determination. Can you tell us a bit about your background and the journey that has led to where you are today?
I was one of those kids who always sang, and I was also one of those kids who loved having a job (I started working at 13, for about $10 a day, and I haven’t been out of work since). I also loved doing work experience with creative organisations such as the VCA and often at book/music festivals - I just loved being around things that were 'buzzing'. And to be honest, I think this is a common thing amongst creative-entrepreneurial-types: we like to be where the action is. Now, although I grew up knowing how important my creativity was to me, and was singing back-ups in bands and writing in my journal every day and so on, in the later part of high-school I kind of lost my nerve about the whole 'creative career' thing - I couldn’t find role models who were doing things the way I could do them (I thought this meant I was doing them wrong), and I started to doubt it was even actually possible to make a living doing what I loved. Which is why I ended up in a PR degree (I thought it might help me save the world…ah…!) and dropped out before the first semester, choosing instead to travel, and work in a call centre making money to travel some more. At 21, after a major heartbreak followed by a close encounter with Jeff Buckley, I realised I really was an artist after all, and denying it only led to misery. So, I took myself back to Uni and enrolled in Creative Arts at VCA/Melbourne University, which suited me to a T. The course was about experimenting, and not having to be perfect, and I found great freedom in that, and enjoyed myself a lot. That same year I met my future husband Marty Brown, we started recording albums in his bedroom with our friend John Hedigan, started our band Red Raku, and slowly morphed into being and doing the things that we be and do now. Strangely, in all my years at university in Australia, I didn’t learn A SINGLE THING about how to make my living as an artist! That was something I began to learn in Canada, during my final year of study at UBC. I realised that we really weren’t having the conversations we needed to have around creativity, and what it took to make your living without losing your integrity. That’s why I took over the job of teaching a 'Self Management and Promotion for Musicians' course at my local community house, and now ten years later, that’s why I’m launching Big Hearted Business – it’s here to teach creative people about business, and business people about creativity, in ways that make sense.
Some snaps from Clare's amazing archive of early band life and family life with Marty (her husband, manager, producer and fellow band member) and their kids Asha, Oscar and Eli (YES, twins!).
To say you're an overachiever is an understatement – you're a singer, writer, advocate of the arts, creative mentor and even the occasional actress in Offspring! With so many extra curricular activities how do you manage your various side projects in addition to being a hands-on mum to three gorgeous kids, and still produce quality work? What pearls of wisdom can you share about being such an accomplished multi-tasker?
To put it simply, you have to be prepared to take a risk, fall flat on your face, pick yourself up and keep going. Creative entrepreneurs are gamblers at heart - we’re always looking for the next high, for the next challenge, for the next pay-off. I decided to apply that urge to my business, rather than to the blackjack table, and so far, it’s worked out okay. It might look like I’m doing a lot, but I’m really just working it out as I go. Same goes for parenthood. Mostly, they let me know when I’m off track, parenthood comes with it’s own self-directing guide-book, called 'Kids'!
You model your business philosophy on three pillars - income, creative fulfillment and giving back. At what point in your career did you develop this multi-faceted approach to your work and how did this ethos make itself clear to you?
Yep, that’s the BHB Triple Bottom Line, which basically states that a creative-business is like a three-legged stool - you can’t have one without the other. I developed this theory simply by observing my own journey, and the careers of those around me. Who around was still making great music at 50 and happy? Why was that such a rare thing? What was the combination of factors that made it possible? I concluded that you need to be creatively fulfilled (i.e. it still needs to feel new), financially remunerated (there is little in life that is more depressing than poverty), and contributing to a better world in some way or form. It’s something we’ll talk about at the BHB Conference, I’m sure.
Big Hearted Business is your newest venture – a community-based educational program that seeks to teach Australians how to pursue, create and refine creative employment opportunities for themselves!  Can you tell us a little more about this inspired concept – when did the idea for BHB come to you, how long has it been in development  and what can we expect to see from BHB?
Big Hearted Business has been in development in my mind for ten years (ever since that early realisation that creative entrepreneurs really weren’t being taught the 'entrepreneur' bit in a way that made sense), and on paper for two. We officially launch in March, when we plug in our website and start sending free weekly videos to the people on our mailing list. Essentially, we’re here to help creative people tell a bigger story for themselves by giving them access to practical educational tools that can help them. Our first live event takes place in March with the Big Hearted Business Conference. In July we’ll be running BHB morning teas around the country (see our Pozible campaign for more info!), and as the year progresses, we’ll also launch a series of affordable e-courses, as well as higher-end programs, such as the online creative business mentorship.
You're in the process of planning BHB's first live event - tell us a bit about the event, what's in store?
The BHB Conference is a unique skill-building weekend for emerging creative entrepreneurs who want to enjoy themselves while they learn. It’s held at the stunning Abbotsford Convent Arts Precinct in Melbourne, and it features some pretty amazing speakers! Lucy Feagins for example! Also Pip Lincolne, Jane Martino, Rachel Power, Isobel Knowles, Catherine Deveny, and Kemi Nekvapil. In addition, we want to make sure people feel adequately spoiled, so we’re providing organic catering, superb door-prizes, show-bags, and a big fat Chandon party at the end (now THAT’s what I call networking!).
Which Australian local artists and creative people are you loving at the moment?
I am totally loving Pia Jane Bijkerk, Kate Tucker, and from a creative organisational point of view, I’m totally digging on The School of Life and The Wheeler Centre.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to when you're in need of a bolt of creative inspiration?
1. Dumbo Feather 2. The Art of Non Conformity by Chris Guillebeau 3. Start with Why by Simon Senek 4. How Music Works by David Byrne 5. Hello Giggles 
What does a typical day in the life of Clare Bowditch look like, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep?
I am happiest when I go to bed early and wake up early, but I admit, this rarely happens. In general though, I do wake up, often early, and then perhaps make myself a constitutional cup of tea, and a green smoothie (no really, I am mad about them). If I’m lucky I take a walk with all of my little people, or not, and then comes the school run. After that it all kind’ve turns into a blur, a general delicious sometimes overwhelming chaotic sort-of-blurish-rotation between car, bike, home, office, park, possibly an airport and possibly a music studio or a TV set of some kind. I try to talk to artists and radical people every single day, because they make me happy. Plenty of eating and reading if possible. Lots and lots of kid squeezing. The only regular activity I do every single week without fail is go on a date with my husband (please note, we did not always go on regular dates, or even dates…we just started that carry-on when our youngest twins were five), and work hard to resist the feeling that 'I really should have done more'.
What would be your dream creative project?
Curiously, it’s the one I’m working on right now, which is Big Hearted Business!
What are you looking forward to?
My date tonight, attending the World Domination Conference in Oregon in June, a cup of tea, walking with Monique di Mattina and my new god-daughter, and calling Wally when he comes from the Grammy’s and finding out more about Beyonce and her hair and stuff. "God I love you Beyonce", that’s what I’ll say to her one day when we have a cup of tea together. Also, I’m looking forward to being more useful. What I mean is, my BHB research at the moment is centered around the question 'What is it that stops so many creative people from sharing their genius with the world?'. And it's different for everyone, but usually, it’s more to do with our thoughts than we realise, so when I say I’m looking forward to being more useful, I mean I’m looking forward to sharing ideas that more people can use.
Just a few of Clare's amazing albums, and her super brilliant 'Book of Open Letters', written between 2003 and 2005 and illustrated by Kat Macleod.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Because this is not an episode of Offspring, my pick belongs to Coburg. I just think it’s got so much to say, so much on offer: history, culture, exotic foods, exotic gardens, interesting characters, little families, old people, parks, creeks, cafes, great restaurants, recording studios, and you can feed a band of ten for about $3.50.
What and where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
It was takeaway deli selections from Piedimontes supermarket, eaten in Edinburgh Gardens. Yummo!
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
I’m either preparing for a gig that night, or I’m hanging with my little peeps, and my big guy, relaxing before an afternoon of community (viola to piano to soccer to party and back again). We like to keep our weeknights pretty free but we pay for it on Saturdays!
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Our brilliant artists, of course! There are SO MANY BRILLIANT ARTISTS IN MELBOURNE! Thank you The Design Files for making so many of them 'not so secret' anymore.
Saved my fave snaps to last - aren't these amazing... the early days!  Clare with Marty, baby Asha and random other photogenic people in the days of Red Raku, etc.

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