Clare Bowditch: You Were Born To Be Happy, Don't You Know That

Considering it’s called The Winter I Chose Happiness, Clare Bowditch admits the title of her new album is a little misleading.

It’s not like she was unhappy or anything. Just, like, super tired. And, speaking on the phone from her Melbourne family home, Clare sounds worse for wear tonight too.

“I’m losing my voice. It’s fun,” she explains with a raspy chuckle. “I got up real early and sung the anthem for the returning Olympians. We had to get up at three because… Well, we had to get up at four, but I chose to get up at three to get ready.”

And therein is the Achilles Heel of the lil’ lady Rolling Stone recently crowned 'Woman of the Year' for her contribution to culture. Clare likes to go one step further. Or a hundred steps.

“I’m used to overdoing it,” she admits. “But it really came to a head for me when we were in Berlin."

“There was a growing interest in Europe in my music and we were looking to expand into that market. Marty and I had 18 month-old twins and a five year-old daughter and I was touring heaps and becoming quite a public figure with all the roles I volunteer for…”

You can see what’s coming next, can’t you? Clare couldn’t.

“I was really, really exhausted and I went to see my GP because I wasn’t sleeping and I had a thyroid problem and I was just getting sick all the time…”

Clare didn’t see this next bit coming either. Ready?

“And my hippie GP sat me down, handed me a tissue and told me my body was my best friend, but I was treating it like a machine. She said, ‘You were born to be happy. Don’t you know that?'”

Perhaps for the first time in her life, Clare had to choose to let something – or some things – go. Within a matter of days, she and her partner had decided not to pursue an international market and to stay in Australia until the kids grow up.

Thus, Clare Bowditch chose happiness. In Winter.

If her last album, Modern Day Addiction, was about external addiction, The Winter I Chose Happiness is about the ones we hide on the inside: the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and why we’ll never change, without ever stopping to ask the questions.

“Every individual has their own hook, their own addiction,” Clare opines. “Whether it’s the way we talk to ourselves or the cream we buy or the clothes we wear. For me, I spent most of my teens dieting – I was on my first diet at the age of 8 – and it is as dangerous as any other addiction, and of course there was my ambition as well.

“And we tend to be critical of others when we see addiction in them, but when we see our own it’s different,” she says. “It’s that old Buddhist saying, isn’t it? The people who annoy us the most have the most to teach us.”

There is something liberating about identifying one’s own failings, as if the simple act of naming the thing weakens its hold. For Clare, the decision to abandon her European goal was easy. “At the very beginning, Marty and I sat down and said ‘If we can make a living out of this, then we will have succeeded’, and now we’re thriving,” she says unashamedly. “So the only grief was that part of the ego that says it’s what you’re supposed to do, to keep getting bigger and keep taking more. Once I got straight on the equation, it was easy.”

More difficult, however, was adjusting to her newfound contentment. Being happy feels good, but it’s difficult to be happy and cool. The issue first surfaced during a singalong session with Gotye.

“I was writing a song with Wally and the same word just kept coming up: Happiness, happiness, happiness.” she says of what would become the single, 'You Make Me Happy'. “Now, I’m an indie Melbourne musician and we’re bred to be cynical so I wanted a cooler word. I wanted a cooler song, but happiness it was.”

The joy is all over the new album, but it’s weaved throughout Clare’s life too. Next year, Clare will launch a mentoring program for the people she calls “big-hearted creative-entrepreneurial-types” who want to make their living doing the things they love.

“It sounds like Oprah, I know,” she laughs. “I remember once hearing some author reading from a book called Choose Happiness and thinking it was such a crock. Choosing happiness? But that’s the conversation I’ve been having with myself this year."

“We need to remind people about the possibility of happiness,” she explains. “Because we are more powerful than we think we are.”

What are you waiting for?

The Winter I Chose Happiness is out now. With Winter now behind us, you can catch Clare Bowditch at these dates over spring/summer:

Theatre Royal, Hobart, September 12
The Gov, Adelaide, September 21
Lizottes, Dee Why, September 27
The Factory Theatre, Sydney, September 28
Old Museum Concert Hall, Brisbane, October 11
A & I Hall, Bangalow, October 12
Astor Theatre, Perth, October 20
Regal Ballroom, Melbourne, October 26
Drama Theatre at GPAC, Geelong, October 27
The Wheeler Centre, Melbourne, December 1
The Arts Centre, Melbourne, December 8
Riverboats Music Festival, Echuca, February 16
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