This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Clare Bowditch On Overcoming Self-Doubt + Being Your Own Kind Of Girl

Family

Clare Bowditch is an ARIA award-winning singer, actress, storyteller, partner and mother of three. This week, she added ‘book author’ to her increasingly impressive list of talents. 

Your Own Kind Of Girl is a memoir about the stories we tell ourselves, and what happens when we believe them. It’s a typically generous Bowditch offering: completely unarmed, full of heart and funny too. 

Clare invited us into her home in Melbourne’s inner north, which she shares with her husband Marty, her twin boys Oscar and Elijah (12) and daughter Asha (16).

1st November, 2019

Clare and her husband Marty at home with her twin sons Oscar and Elijah (12) and daughter Asha (16). Flowers by Babylon Flowers. Plants by Hello Botanical. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Clare at home in Melbourne’s inner north. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Clare with her husband Marty, who she played in bands with for years before admitting they loved each other. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Twins Oscar and Elijah. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Clare with her eldest child Asha. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Clare with Elijah and Oscar. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Clare recently released her poignant memoir, Your Own Kind Of Girl. Flowers by Babylon Flowers. Plants by Hello Botanical. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

In the kitchen with the fam! Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Ashe Davenport
Friday 1st November 2019

‘I imagined one day I’d be a grown up with kids and a dog and someone to love, where I’d make music and then write a book. It’s curious to me and quite wonderful that it’s indeed what’s happened.’- Clare Bowditch 

Clare Bowditch raised her family in an urban community in Thornbury, in a house with no back fence and a mulberry tree in the yard. She creates without fences too, whether it’s music, her memoir or her company Big Hearted Business. She doesn’t like to compartmentalise. Her feelings are a package deal. 

Clare’s new book, Your Own Kind of Girl is a special gift about overcoming self-doubt and finding your creative voice, but at the book launch she only wanted to say thanks. She presented flowers to all the people who helped her, and at one point asked an entire row of extended family to stand in the audience so they could be applauded too.

We met for lunch at North Island in North Fitzroy. She wore an orange printed dress, cinnamon coloured sunglasses and bright earrings that fluttered either side of her face. Clare Bowditch is fresh flowers personified, and orders a ‘stiff piccolo,’ because she’s no shrinking violet.

Virginia Woolf said you need a fierce attachment to an idea in order to see it through. What was yours to your book? What kept you coming back to it?

When I was 21, I promised myself I’d one day write it, which was 21 years ago now. It took that long. I needed to wait and see if my life worked out or not. Back then I couldn’t have imagined it would. I was dealing with what I now know was anxiety in turbo drive. I was in the throws of a nervous breakdown, but I found some things that helped and I was able to recover. Through art, creativity and techniques to manage my anxiety, I was able to imagine a future beyond my immediate circumstances. I promised at some stage I’d pass the baton. If I look at the past two decades of work, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do. To keep generating that feeling. I imagined one day I’d be a grown up with kids and a dog and someone to love, where I’d make music and then write a book. It’s curious to me and quite wonderful that it’s indeed what’s happened.

Would you say you manifested it?

I took the action steps, I guess. I had a really clear dream as a kid of what I wanted to do. I forgot what it was, as we often do in life. Things get in the way, our self-doubt gets in the way, but then I learned some ways to get through it.  

What do you find works best for you in overcoming your self-doubt? I know you named your anxiety Frank, which is great.

Frank is an umbrella title for a feeling of foreboding. I came up with it during the very early recovery stage of my breakdown, when I didn’t really know how to separate my emotions. Now I know it was just anxiety that needed training. Reading Jack Kornfield helped a lot, as did a really practical little book by Dr Claire Weekes called Peace from Nervous Suffering. She was a stalwart of the Australian post-war veteran field. She helped people deal with anxiety before it really had a name. Slowly, slowly I was able to work past it, but it took until I was 27 to have the guts to put my own songs in the world. I’d been building that courage from age 21. I still have self-doubt, but these days it can motivate me. It tells me I’m onto something. My songs have always sat in me like pets. I can’t rush them. They come when they’re ready and my job is to make room for them. So I just keep showing up with my pen and paper.

Who did you write your book for?

It’s dedicated to Rowena, my sister who I lost when I was young, Doctor Clare Weekes and my dear friend John Patrick Hedigan, who was the first person I shared my songs with at 22. We started a band together and he introduced me to this cool drummer called Marty (now my husband). John fell in love with my best mate and they went on to have kids too. He passed away earlier this year, so his story is in there too.

It’s a love story and it’s dedicated to the legacies of their grand lives, but I think it’s for anyone who is still suffering from self-doubt and needs something positive to read. The first half isn’t an easy read, but it’s a true read, and I really believe if we tell the truth it helps people feel less alone. It’s a hopeful story. 

It sounds like emotionally expensive behaviour, for which we’re eternally grateful. You give so much of yourself in your music too. How do you replenish the tank?

I think it’s a self-generating engine, the giving and getting, so that’s fulfilling in itself. I’m also restored by the same things that helped me recover when I was 21, baking, gardening, walking, reading, crushing flowers in my hand and smelling them, hanging out with my kids. Simple small things, like sitting with my cup of tea and reading my Design Files!

How do you and Marty share the parenting load?

We were in a band together for four years before we finally admitted we were in love with each other, then we became parents soon after that. So the working relationship was already pretty clear, and we had a firm idea of how we wanted to parent. It was crazy, foolhardy behaviour, but it worked for us. Early on I took on the role as primary carer due to biological reasons, I was a breastfeeding mum, but both of us have always been all hands on deck. I feel very fortunate that we get along well. We have to make an effort these days, but he’s my biggest champion, really, just like I am for him. 

Your Own Kind of Girl is also the name of a pretty special song of yours about body acceptance at any size. What does it mean to you?

I wrote that one for my audience, in response to some beautiful letters I received. I often still get choked up when I play it. I wanted to encourage people to count themselves in. I had to tell a painful story of my own to do that, but I truly believe our peace and strength comes from accepting ourselves for who we are. Our relationship with our bodies is complex and glorious. It’s a big journey. I’m happy to have a song like that out there. Every time I play it, it reminds me that my instinct was right. We’re more than our size. I didn’t know it for a long time.

The world has already started telling my daughters what they should look like. I’ve got a three year old who is conscious of the size of her belly because someone at daycare told her it’s because she eats too much.

It was three for me too. That’s when I first got the message. Now you get to say to her what my mother said to me: ’You’re not too big, you’re a peach and you’re gorgeous.’

Here’s the reality, our body size is a complex interplay between genetics and the way we store our food, and the way we eat in response to things and the size of our forefathers. We haven’t really been able to have a great conversation around that. But we have frameworks like Health at Every Size and great nutritionists like Ellyn Satter, who has some really useful thinking around food. Have a read of her in the context of your daughter, because your baby girl has done nothing wrong.

I will. Thank you. Is fostering a positive body image something you do consciously in your household?

My kids have never had to have a conversation around it for themselves. Curiously it’s not an issue. I’ve always been really open with them about my history, and what the temptations were likely to be for them based on the images around us and the stories we’re told. They understand not to comment on a person’s size, just as we don’t comment on their gender, colour, sexuality and so on. They get that every human has a right to be here in this world and be who they are. You do, I do, they do. They also understand the complexity of the grief I was brought up in and how that factored in. 

Have you found writing your book to be a healing experience?

One of the good things about navigating sadness early on in life is that it gave me the sense that I was never going to be ‘fixed.’ There’s functional and non-functional, and things become non-functional when we have no way to speak the truth about our feelings. I used to think there was some place I’d get to in the future where everything would be perfect. Then I realised there wasn’t, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Carey Grant described his journey to healing as a process of pulling away barnacles and discovering more barnacles. Do you relate to that?

Yes, but there’s gold in there too. That’s why we keep searching. Our barnacles are our circumstances, and we have no say over them, none, just like we can’t choose the weather. Just like I can’t choose my body size or birth. But we have this opportunity to choose the next thought.

Your Own Kind of Girl is about the point in my life I decided to tell myself a different story. If I’d continued to tell myself that there was no hope for me, then that would have perhaps been what was lived out. But I told myself I had a chance at a more hopeful story, and I decided to believe it.

This Week

News

Museum-Quality Art Pieces At An Affordable Price!

LUMAS Gallery’s Melbourne outpost makes limited art editions and photographic artworks more accessible for all.
Sponsored

Giveaway

Our Sustainable Summer Edit + Giveaway!

WIN our edit of summer essentials, made from organic, sustainable, biodegradable materials, recycled plastic, and even ocean waste! In partn...

Christmas Countdown

Local Wines, Craft Beers and Gift Packs At Blackhearts & Sparrows - With 10% Off!

We've perused the shelves of our favourite local wine supplier, to create our very own (discounted!) Xmas gift guide for you!

Sustainable Homes

A Dream Off-Grid Retreat

The Elemental House in High Camp by Ben Callery Architects is a cosy weekender, designed with sustainability in mind.
Lucy Feagins
  5 hours ago

News

Share The Cheer With ‘Cake + Kindness’ Christmas Edition!

The wonderful Merchant Road Events, La Marzocco Home and Market Lane Coffee are coming together December 7 for a bake sale that supports wom...
Miriam McGarry

Christmas Countdown

Bookish Gifts For Christmas With Thames & Hudson - And 30% Off!

Today, we’re perusing the bookshelves at Thames & Hudson… who are offering a staggering 30% off all of our Top Picks for TDF Readers!

Architecture

A Sculptural Home Inspired By The Hepburn Landscape

A distinctive Corten-clad house designed by Robert Nichol and Sons, just outside Hepburn, Victoria.
Amelia Barnes
  20 hours ago

Stays

A Magically Restorative Waterfront Getaway In Tasmania

Once a dilapidated shack, Captains Rest is now one of the most in-demand boutique accommodations in Tassie!
Amelia Barnes

Dream Job

Beatrice Preston Zly, Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop

The RMIT graduate shares how hard work, passion and preparation helped her land her dream job at the iconic Australian brand!

Art

The Art Of Abstraction With Emma Currie

In the lead up to our Art&Artefact exhibition, we visit the studio of one incredibly talented emerging Melbourne painter.

News

Blooming With Love In This Silent Auction

Join Cecilia Fox, Katie Marx and Georgie Boy in raising funds for beloved creative Shonel Bryant of Nomad Styling, who is embarking on treat...
Miriam McGarry

Shopping

Level Up Your Bathroom With Baina Organic Cotton Towels

These modern, organic cotton towels make us want to ditch every weird towel in our linen closets.
Miriam McGarry

Homes

An Interior Designer's 'Comfortably Minimal' Home

The interior designer shares her renovated Glen Iris home, styled for chic and relaxed family living.

Creative People

Get Your Goals In Check, With These Original Artworks By Beci Orpin x kikki.K

kikki K has teamed up with the legendary Melbourne artist to create three original artworks based on new year's goals. Here's how you can wi...

News

The Ko's Christmas Market In Geelong

A one-stop Christmas shopping event in Geelong on December 13 and 14th, complete with fashion, jewellery, gardening, ceramics, food, music,
Sasha Aarons

The whole family together at home. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

FAMILY FAVOURITES

Rainy day activity

We play a Dutch game called the sjoelbak.

Sunday morning breakfast

My husband is a wonderful cook. Eggs with herbs is his go-to with buttered toast. And a bloody good cup of tea.

Date night?

One of the secrets to working with your partner and still having a love life is going on regular Wednesday night date nights. We usually just find a hole in the wall and toast to the week that’s been.

Go-to album?

Donny Hathaway Live.

Weekend getaway?

We are lucky to have good friends in the town of Castlemaine, it’s only an hour and a half from Melbourne, so it’s the perfect quick getaway. It’s also got a wonderful arts community so sometimes we catch a show at the local theatre.

Ultimate ‘me time’ experience? 

Lying in bed with a cuppa and a wonderful book with golden hour light streaming through the window.

Clare’s first book, Your Own Kind Of Girl, is available now from all good bookstores!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Family

Que Minh Luu Talks Parenting Through Producing, Class Systems + Grief

The ABC TV producer shares her experiences as a single parent of four-year-old Alfie, after the death of her partner, radio producer Jesse C...
Ashe Davenport

Family

Artist Julian Meagher On Creating Through The Parenting Fog

One of our favourite Sydney artists on working through the doubt and exhaustion of parenting, ahead of his exhibition at Sydney Contemporary...
Ashe Davenport

Family

Alison Bell On The Joys And Humiliations Of Working Mum Life

Ashe Davenport talks with the co-creator and star of 'The Letdown' on ABC and Netflix, about turning her parenting struggles into a hit TV s...
Ashe Davenport

This Week

Art

The Art Of Abstraction With Emma Currie

In the lead up to our Art&Artefact exhibition, we visit the studio of one incredibly talented emerging Melbourne painter.

News

The Ko's Christmas Market In Geelong

A one-stop Christmas shopping event in Geelong on December 13 and 14th, complete with fashion, jewellery, gardening, ceramics, food, music,
Sasha Aarons

News

Blooming With Love In This Silent Auction

Join Cecilia Fox, Katie Marx and Georgie Boy in raising funds for beloved creative Shonel Bryant of Nomad Styling, who is embarking on treat...
Miriam McGarry

Stays

A Magically Restorative Waterfront Getaway In Tasmania

Once a dilapidated shack, Captains Rest is now one of the most in-demand boutique accommodations in Tassie!
Amelia Barnes

News

Museum-Quality Art Pieces At An Affordable Price!

LUMAS Gallery’s Melbourne outpost makes limited art editions and photographic artworks more accessible for all.
Sponsored

Sustainable Homes

A Dream Off-Grid Retreat

The Elemental House in High Camp by Ben Callery Architects is a cosy weekender, designed with sustainability in mind.
Lucy Feagins
  5 hours ago

Giveaway

Our Sustainable Summer Edit + Giveaway!

WIN our edit of summer essentials, made from organic, sustainable, biodegradable materials, recycled plastic, and even ocean waste! In partn...

Christmas Countdown

Local Wines, Craft Beers and Gift Packs At Blackhearts & Sparrows - With 10% Off!

We've perused the shelves of our favourite local wine supplier, to create our very own (discounted!) Xmas gift guide for you!

Shopping

Level Up Your Bathroom With Baina Organic Cotton Towels

These modern, organic cotton towels make us want to ditch every weird towel in our linen closets.
Miriam McGarry

Christmas Countdown

Bookish Gifts For Christmas With Thames & Hudson - And 30% Off!

Today, we’re perusing the bookshelves at Thames & Hudson… who are offering a staggering 30% off all of our Top Picks for TDF Readers!

Dream Job

Beatrice Preston Zly, Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop

The RMIT graduate shares how hard work, passion and preparation helped her land her dream job at the iconic Australian brand!

Creative People

Get Your Goals In Check, With These Original Artworks By Beci Orpin x kikki.K

kikki K has teamed up with the legendary Melbourne artist to create three original artworks based on new year's goals. Here's how you can wi...

News

Share The Cheer With ‘Cake + Kindness’ Christmas Edition!

The wonderful Merchant Road Events, La Marzocco Home and Market Lane Coffee are coming together December 7 for a bake sale that supports wom...
Miriam McGarry

Homes

An Interior Designer's 'Comfortably Minimal' Home

The interior designer shares her renovated Glen Iris home, styled for chic and relaxed family living.

Architecture

A Sculptural Home Inspired By The Hepburn Landscape

A distinctive Corten-clad house designed by Robert Nichol and Sons, just outside Hepburn, Victoria.
Amelia Barnes
  20 hours ago

Similar Stories

Family

Que Minh Luu Talks Parenting Through Producing, Class Systems + Grief

The ABC TV producer shares her experiences as a single parent after the death of her partner, radio producer Jesse Cox.
Ashe Davenport

Family

Artist Julian Meagher On Creating Through The Parenting Fog

The Sydney artist reflects on working through the doubt and the exhaustion of parenting, ahead of exhibiting at Sydney Contemporary.
Ashe Davenport

Family

Alison Bell On The Joys And Humiliations Of Working Mum Life

Ashe Davenport talks with the co-creator and star of 'The Letdown' on ABC and Netflix, about turning her parenting struggles into a hit TV s...
Ashe Davenport