A funny thing happened a few months ago: I walked out of my house and into one of Chlöe Howl's video shoots.
No, seriously: she shot it in the street - Mayola Road, to be precise - with her single 'Work' regularly blasting out as our neighbours completed their morning routine.
There are worse things to wake up, to be honest. 'Work' is the title track of Chlöe Howl's recent EP, an absolute ear-worm that matches a growing awareness of trap production to some slick pop moves.
When I tell Chlöe Howl this story she's as surprised as I was. "How funny!" she gasps. "That’s… so embarrassing."
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What inspired you to write ‘Work’?
I wrote it at a time – quite similar to the songs that are coming out now – where I was listening to a lot of US based hip-hop and R&B. I hadn’t heard a lot of people in the UK channel a lot of that and it was kind of all I was listening to. Me and the guy I was writing with were like: well, maybe we should try writing a song that stems from those influences.
The concept came from a time when I’d had a self-worth epiphany. If somebody is interested in you – and you know they’re interested in you – then they can fucking work to prove they’re worth your time. You can hold off and if they stick around then you know that they’re worthwhile. Mainly it was knowing that someone is interested in you and expecting them to prove themselves before you bother falling for them!
That trap influence is all over your new releases – it’s there in ‘Millionaire’ as well…
Yes! I wrote those songs around a similar time.
What is it about Stateside hip-hop that captures your attention?
I think nowadays, especially with Spotify, everything is so chilled. Everything is downbeat but I like how rap music still has that downbeat, chill vibe to it but is still so dance-able. It goes off whenever you’re out! I like that… the merging of somehow being quite chill but at the same time being upbeat and energetic.
Spotify does tend to spew out a Certain Kind Of Music, doesn’t it?
Completely. It’s all very chill.
Do you feel pop is an increasingly narrow field?
I think it’s still quite broad. I think there’s still a lot of people doing interesting stuff. Maybe in the mainstream everybody seems to be chasing a similar sound. I think that happens whenever there’s a particular genre of music that becomes mega popular… then everybody starts to think: oh, I wanna slice of that pie!
I think that’s going on at the minute but underneath all that there’s still a lot of people trying out different stuff. It’s just when those different types of pop have their moment is the question, I guess.
That’s very true – there’s more than one pie.
So many pies!
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There’s a lot of breadth on the ‘Work’ EP – you move from 90s R&B to chilled electro pop.
Obviously I like everything to sound cohesive, and make sure they fit, but I don’t want to pigeonhole my creativity. Also, I love so many different genres of music so I feel like I’d be limiting myself to only stick to one pool of influence. So it’s fine – I feel like creating, and being creative, is about pulling in different forms of inspiration from different places. So I’ll always try to do that, I guess.
‘Millionaire’ was written at the same time as the EP, then?
I wrote ‘Millionaire’ a little later in the year, but ‘Work’ was last summer. I wrote them around a similar time. I was working with… he’s actually my ex! I was working with him, and we wrote ‘Work’ and ‘Millionaire’ and that’s how you can hear similar influences in them, because I was working with the same person a lot.
Does having a steady team around you benefit your writing?
Yeah. The guy I work with is called Chris Zane, and all the songs are finished with him. He has a studio in Brixton, and that’s where every song is vocaled and completed. That’s my base. I know a song is about to have a bow tied on it when I’m heading to Brixton to finish it.
Is it a relaxed situation? Or do you tend to push yourself quite hard?
I think I push myself hard but in such a relaxed way. I was in a session yesterday and the guy was like: this is the most chilled sessions I’ve ever done in my life. And I was so confused! I was like… is it?! I’m just doing me, this is how I write! This is how I do every session!
I think I’m quite introspective when I’m writing. I like to collaborate and everything but I have to figure stuff out in my head. My sessions are normally quite laid back – it’s not like people are shouting melodies into the room, going “this is a fucking hit!” Mine is way more calculated and more introspective. I push myself to try out new things all the time, and when I can hear myself getting stuck in the same box I challenge myself to try something new.
My sessions are so chilled, especially since I work with Chris so often. We’ve got our thing of getting in, immediately going for lunch for two hours, then having an hour of gossip, and then somehow at the end of the day we’ve got a song.
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You seem to work very independently now – is it freeing to operate without those shackles?
Well, I mean being in a studio session your label never really had any control over how that went down, so it’s really unique to you and the person you’re collaborating with. I feel like I’m more independent now in the sense that I’m the only person pitching the songs that I need. So when I go into a session it’s all about the songs I think I need at that particular time. And if I don’t get a song from it, or if I don’t like a song, I’m the person who decides that at the end of the day. That’s really cool.
In one way it could be seen as more pressure, because everything is on me, and it’s all on me to figure out what I need. But also, just having that space to be truly creative, and only explore your creative impulses without any external interference has definitely been quite freeing.
And have you thought about an album yet?
I guess so… It’s such a funny climate for albums, isn’t it? Especially in pop… everything is so single led. I know that at the end of everything I will have an album but I think now for me I am just creating a song, thinking “well, this is fucking sick”, putting it out and just doing music that way, until I get to a position where I think: now I’ve got a body of work that could accumulate into an album.
Right now I’m just focussed on re-building from where I was before. The process I’m doing now – writing songs and putting them out when I feel like it – is way more fun and freeing.
You made your live return last year – what did it feel like to get back out there and see people once more?
When I first came back I was like: I haven’t played a show in three years. And I was like: oh my God, I have no idea what this is going to be like… can I even perform live? Do I have nerves? I had no idea what I was going to be like onstage.
Then I just got out there and I was like: oh… this is so easy, this is where I’m meant to be all the time! I found it really fun. Before, as a human being, I was a lot shier, and I was a lot less sure of my personality, and I was a lot less confident in who I was. And now I just know so fiercely who I am as a person.
What’s really fun is the interactions I can have with my fans are a lot more real and a lot more honest, and that’s something I’ve really enjoyed onstage and meeting people afterwards.
The unfiltered Chloe Howl – the semi-skinned version has been removed from the shelf…
I guess so! I think many people probably wish I had a filter but it’s all good.
So what’s next?
We’re working towards another EP, so that’s in the works now. ‘Millionaire’ is the first stepping stone into that. Generally: keep releasing music, keep playing shows… and keep smashing it!
Finally, if you were actually a millionaire what’s the first thing you would buy?
I mean… it’s funny because a million is actually – technically – not a lot of money these days! If we’re talking a frivolous purchase… a fucking boat! I’d get a yacht. When I was in Ibiza we went on this boat trip and we were out on the bay and I was like: oh my God, look at these super yachts! People were living the dream. So that would be number one frivolous purchase.
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'Millionaire' is out now.
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