Singing History with Chloe

Talking to 19 year old folk singer Chloe Matharu is a delightful experience. Listening to her is even better. Born and bred in Edinburgh, she says, “Someone was always singing around the house, although my family would never consider themselves as musical. My mother has a lovely voice and she used to sing with us a lot as children so I think this is what fired my love of songs.”

From a young age Chloe sang in choirs with encouragement from her family and various music teachers.  Edinburgh, with its youth choirs, open platforms and youth groups such as the Youth Gaitherin, was an inspiring place to grow up.

“I’ve lived in Edinburgh since I was a baby,” she says. “It’s always been my home.  It’s a great city to have grown up in.  It has the intimacy of a town while at the same time having an intense diversity.  There are opportunities to do just about anything you put your mind to here. I love the fact that there are parks and gardens on just about every street so there is always somewhere to sit and have a quiet hour or two.”

Chloe’s mother comes from Pembrokeshire – perhaps that Welsh musical culture is just irresistible  – and her father’s family originate from the Punjab, Northern India, so she has a rich background to draw on and grew up surrounded by traditional and folk music. It was only when she performed an unaccompanied Scottish ballad that she was preparing for a singing exam that she realised that was the type of singing she wanted to do.

Chloe singing“I really enjoyed sharing the story with the audience, and in my own time – it was the first time I felt I was really interacting with the audience.  I like that each song you learn has its own history – one more interesting than dates and composers alone.  It’s the fact that they’ve been passed on down a line of people, mostly being picked up by ear.  Some lyrics are lost and the tunes are changed or altered.  It’s through a unique pathway of Chinese whispers that the song arrives to you to learn and make your own.”

Although far too young to have lived through it first time around, Chloe says she has been hugely influenced by the Folk Revival of the 1960s and ‘70s.  “Old songs are given a distinct new feeling and I think that it’s important to put your own mark on folk songs – you’re adding to its journey.   For writing my own songs I look to song writers from this period for inspiration, such as Shelagh MacDonald, Anne Briggs and Sandy Denny.”

Chloe also lists singers such as Julie Fowlis and another Edinburgh lass, Katie Targett-Adams, as influencing her performance style. “They are just brilliant to watch at their concerts – they grace the stage.”

Chloe has just completed her first year at St Andrews, studying Molecular Biology and Italian. She has an affinity for languages and plans to learn Welsh as well at some point. So far she has managed to fit in all her singing commitments, but she accepts that she may have some hard choices ahead as her workload increases.

“Of course, music will always have priority,” she admits. “These days I just live for the present – at the moment I get the best of both worlds:  Meeting new people all the time, studying and also performing whenever I get the chance.  Eventually I would like to have all my time taken up with singing – an excuse to travel and an opportunity to go on sharing my music with people – but it would have to be a pretty amazing opportunity for me to discount a degree I’ve already begun.”

Yoga helps to counteract any stress and tension that arises from her busy lifestyle, but she still fits in time for fencing, which she has taken up with great enthusiasm at University. “It’s a friendly club and a good atmosphere to learn in,” she says. Aside from singing, Chloe learnt to play the clarsach when she was younger, but admits to letting that slip as she focuses on singing.

Next Market Day, Chloe MatharuChloe has just recorded her debut album, Next Market Day, due to be released this summer, a track from which was featured on BBC Radio Scotland’s programme, Archie Fisher’s Travelling Folk.  It features Scottish Instrumentalist of the year 2009, Lauren MacColl, on fiddle, Ewan MacPherson of International band Fribo, on guitar and Ailig Hunter on the double bass.

Ultimately, Chloe’s ambition is “to bring the many pleasures of Scottish traditional music to a worldwide community, as well as the Scottish audience, since I firmly believe that the rich heritage that I am a part of could be enjoyed by so many people.”

Watch out for Chloe this summer in the Edinburgh Fringe, Fringe by the Sea, North Berwick and other UK music festivals.

Published by

Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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