Marketing a reggae-meets-bossa nova record to the masses is no easy feat in the digitally-driven world of 2019, but Los Angeles-based Claude Fontaine isn’t letting the present influence her future as she searches for inspiration in the past.
The singer/songwriter first found her creative calling while living in London and frequenting a local record store where she would listen to vintage vinyl, experiencing sounds that she had yet to be introduced to. Falling head over heels for those genres with roots planted firmly in Jamaica and Brazil, she set out to create her own throwback record, eventually returning home with a newfound musical motivation. The end result is her beautifully-crafted self-titled debut, available now on Innovative Leisure.
We recently sat down with Fontaine to discuss seeing her dream through to the end, grappling with stage fright, and why her nickname was “fantasy child” growing up.
TrunkSpace: You recently released your debut album. Do you feel pressure to make a splash with this particular collection of songs given that for many people, this will be their first introduction to you as an artist?
Fontaine: I hope that people connect to the songs, of course. But it’ll be interesting, these particular styles of music have been lost in the ether for quite some time now, so perhaps the songs will need to seep in rather than splash for people to become reacquainted.
TrunkSpace: What goals did you set for yourself when you first decided to make this album a reality and do you feel like you accomplished them now that you’ve called wrap on the writing/production side of things?
Fontaine: What was most essential for me throughout was to stick to a dream I saw very clearly from day one, and to figure out how to translate that dream into something real. Sometimes that meant a few attempts in certain areas, and there was a lot of experimentation along the way. After all, it was my first time approaching this kind of music and it was a significant learning process. I was lucky enough to have a producer who has a great understanding and affection for the genres as well, and he supported my relentlessness to make the record sound like it was perhaps something lost long ago. Through trial and error I hope we got pretty close.
TrunkSpace: Some amazing session players stepped in to work on the album. What did you learn from them and their collective experience, either through asking questions or observing from across the room?
Fontaine: What I was most inspired by was the otherworldly spontaneity of their imagination. The freedom and inventiveness they were able to channel through their musicality is something I’ll always aspire to and was truly moving to watch.
TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Fontaine: Holding the record in my hands. I made this album with the intention of it living on vinyl one day. Two definitive sides, Reggae on side A, Bossa on side B. From having a mere idea, to touching a round piece of wax, a relic of sorts, that preserves the stories close to my heart, I think that’s been the most fulfilling.
TrunkSpace: The album has been called a love letter to classic Reggae and Brazilian music. Do you think your next album will have the same feel and vibe, or will it be a completely different take on a completely different set of sub-genres?
Fontaine: I feel I’ve barely chipped the ice. There’s so much I have yet to explore in both styles. Though I’ve done a lot of my homework, both genres still feel so relatively new to me. The love letters have only just begun.
TrunkSpace: Would 10-year-old Claude be surprised by this album? Would your past self have anticipated this musical path?
Fontaine: I’ve been a passionate and imaginative person my whole life, deeply inspired by the outside world from a young age. My parents nickname for me growing up was “fantasy child”. I was always dreaming, so this album feels quite in line.
TrunkSpace: Where are you most at home in your creativity? What conditions – external and internal – do you need to be able to sit down and write?
Fontaine: At home, in a certain stillness; almost a meditative quiet. Typically with tea by my side. I wrote this whole record at my breakfast table, paper and pen in hand. Always by hand.
TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Fontaine: I would say in my live show. I’m prone to crippling stage fright. It’s something I’m working through but being a shy person, it’s where I’m most critical of myself as an artist.
TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Fontaine: Signing with my label and receiving the opportunity and creative freedom to make the record I sought out to make. I’m still pinching myself.
TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Fontaine: I don’t believe I would. The unexpected is what I find makes life most exciting. Plus the future has never intrigued me as much as the past.
Claude Fontaine’s debut album is available now on Innovative Leisure.