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Claudillea drops second single ‘Don’t You Know’, a force of positivity within uncertainty

Claudillea Holloway is a woman of the world. With a wealth of cultural and musical experience under her belt, her second single ‘Don’t You Know’ finds the singer-songwriter and multi-talented artist develop a diverse and expansive sound world. Taking inspiration from her travelling and musical background, the single looks to inject her sound into the ears of fans of opera, pop, classical and much more. “I was born in England,” she tells me. “Then I went to Seychelles which is where my parents met and where Mum is from originally. And then grew up in Borneo and then went over to West Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur – [my] folks are still there. Then I went to Michigan for boarding school, then New York and now London.” 

Grounding herself in London as an independent artist has allowed Claudillea the opportunity to work with a close knit team of female creatives for the music video of her latest track ‘Don’t You Know’. “What I’m really proud about with it is the DP and the director were both female and for me [because of] the rooms I’ve been in thus far to create music, has always been male dominated. And I was like, ‘OK I haven’t been able to control that thus far, but what I can control creatively is the direction of what and how the visuals are going to be.’ ‘Habanera’ was directed by a female director – Rebecca, ‘Don’t You Know’ as well; I was very adamant. Especially because I was Executive Producer of ‘Don’t You Know’, I was like, ‘you need to create a team that is not cis straight white male, you know.’ It was a predominantly female crew, even the grader – the colourist was female, the focus puller, the PA, gaffer, scuba diver, all. I’m really proud of being able to put a team together like that.” 

Visually a subdued, raw production, the video for ‘Don’t You Know’ is in stark contrast to the first release ‘Habanera’. The video of the latter is a dark and mysterious storytelling of the 1875 Opera Aria’s title character Carmen. Sung completely in French, Claudillea is seen in a heavily choreographed epic driven by scenes colourised in red, driving the emotions of the fiery underbelly of the lead character. ‘Don’t You Know’ however takes a predominantly blue hue to align with the message of the song – one of tribulation and pain. The core beginnings of the song were inspired by her sister, Claudillea says. “I start you know with the chord progressions – I’ll come up with a chorus or a verse. But this one in particular I was in the studio working with Leo the producer and we were working on another track. Then we were taking a break and he started playing chord progressions and I started making a loop, and I started singing along. Around that time it was late November-December and my sister was in Bath. She was teaching; she was doing her PGCEs and was waking up at like five in the morning in the dark to go and teach. Prior to that she’d be in isolation for like fourteen days. She was not in a good headspace so that was weighing on my mind and so I started singing the main melody of the chorus [hums chorus]. And it’s a falling note, ‘you fall’ [sings] and I was like, ‘oh shit,’ it was just like you mumble gibberish don’t you and we do fall. We do – I fall all the time emotionally and it just sort of flowed and ‘Don’t You Know’ was created I guess.” 

A message of positivity within a cloud of uncertainty, ‘Don’t You Know’ is a soaring ballad which looks to help the listener “find solace,” Claudillea notes. “I was writing it almost to her to say, ‘you know what? Don’t you know, don’t you know babe,’ because she’s my babe – anyone that’s dear to you. ‘Don’t you know babe that it’s going to be fine?’ It reminded me of a time at the end of my time in New York and I was in a really dark place. I was doing the bare minimum of going to work – I was teaching and somewhat socialising with a couple of friends, but every time I was home I was curled up into a ball in bed. And it was like for a good four months I did not get out of bed. I didn’t understand – you know, you think, ‘oh my God I’m never getting out of this,’ and then I did. I dipped in and out of stages of depression and I know personally I lean more to the side of going to the negative, rather than the positive; it’s a mindset. I’m working on it but I had a tendency – because I’m highly emotional and we feel everything; we’re empaths. So you know, every time I’m low I’ve gotten back up. I do know that feeling of being in a really freaking dark place and thinking there’s absolutely no way that you’re going to get out. Funnily enough a week before ‘Don’t You Know’ came out I just put on my [Instagram] Stories, ‘tell me what’s going on with you guys,’ and a girl messaged me saying, ‘I’m in a really horrendous place and I don’t know if I’m getting out of it,’ and I was like, ‘this is exactly why I wrote this song.’ To anyone just like that girl, just like my sister, to know that life is like that and it’s just knowing, just trying to find some sort of solace in that moment to know it’s OK, it will be OK.” 

With a new EP on the horizon set to be released in the new year, Claudillea tells me that the general theme of the tracks is one of “chaos,” working with themes close to her heart. “I would say they’re a bit more activist-like. A bit more social commentary on the on-goings of the world. I have lots of things  that I care about and enjoy, and think about. Mental Health and the Socio-economic climate weighs on my mind a lot. I think they’re tied together really, they’re very intertwined so I guess the EP is a social commentary on mental health [and] the Government.” With upcoming tracks looking to inject a message of “activism” based on these passions, she also references a move away from her Operatic roots as a whole. “There’s not much in terms of Opera in Malaysia,” referring to her travelling roots. “I wasn’t really exposed to it in Malaysia but I started studying classically and I was like, ‘I want to be different’ to like my friends at school who were listening to Whitney and all of this. And fell in love with the more classical repertoire and then we were in London one Christmas, and I went and saw the ‘La Traviata’ at the Royal Opera House with my mum. I was like, ‘oh my God, this is amazing.’ Then sort of pursued that a bit more and serendipitously met this man who was a conductor at the boarding school that I went to in America. And he was like, ‘you have potential in this and why don’t you come over and study in the states?’ ” 

This journey led to Claudillea discovering issues with the Opera industry – mostly of affluence and accessibility. “That’s why I’ve stepped away from it. [Laughs] So that’s my big issue with the Opera world. I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to it, to the world and to the art form, so I can understand it – I had a gateway into it. Even while I was in New York I couldn’t afford to go to the Metropolitan Opera. Opera is a lot – there are two intervals in between the acts so I literally stand outside the Opera house and people would leave after the first act. I’d be like, ‘can I have your ticket?’ and they paid like four hundred dollars for a ticket. It’s a different world. I go in and there’s a certain demographic in there and that demographic isn’t going to be around for much longer unfortunately. So I was just like, ‘this is not the environment which I agree with,’ because for me Opera was the pop music of its day. It was accessible to almost everyone and now it’s just this elitist thing that is very hard for anyone to have accessibility to. And they’re long, it’s dated, they need to shorten in my eyes – even I would go to an Opera and fall asleep. I love it but it’s just too long, you know. I think that’s why after I graduated I dedicated like ten years to thinking I wanted a career in that field and I was like, ‘you know what? There’s a different way here I think.’ I think that ties back to growing up with different things around me, is that there are just so many parts. Like I have friends who think there is one path when you study Opera and I’m like, ‘guys there are different ways you know.’ ” 

Although moving away from Opera itself, channeling her classically trained voice into her latest tracks has seen a dynamic genre-bending production for both tracks. Claudillia’s self-proclaimed ‘OPPOP’ sound is an ever-developing range of genres for the artist. “It can be described as simple as thinking of something like K-pop. Everyone was like, ‘just call it Popra’ and I’m like, ‘that still has for me this veil over it of a specific thing and that’s not my music.’ I’m not just singing popular songs in a classical-operatic way. And so ‘OPPOP’ is [just] a mash-up. Sometimes it could be operatic – Opera Aria mixed with something else. Or it could be a pop song which I’ve written, which shows a little bit of the operatic vocals shimmered on top. But you know, it’s difficult because I don’t want to put myself in a box. Even saying ‘OPPOP’ – I feel it’s a little bit of a box, you know. I just don’t want there to be any sort of boundaries – I don’t want there to be limits to me and my artistry.” This unrestricted mix of genres coupled with her theme of “chaos” will look to drive the EP’s unpredictable sound. “I’m hoping through [the] EP and having a feature on one of the tracks it does introduce me to newer audiences, I guess that’s the goal of every artist isn’t it – to find your people. Lots of people have opinions about what I should do, I love that when you go on YouTube and see, ‘you should do this, you should do that, don’t do this, don’t do that.’ What I’m doing is probably not going to work for everyone, especially for my social commentary. But you know, the comments that I love receiving the most are like, ‘yes, you do you – you do whatever you want to do.’ I get these on my YouTube and I’m like, ‘they are my people! They get me, you know.’ ” 

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