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Clairo on Feeling Seen and Supported by Carly Simon’s Music

‘There’s nothing you could add or take away from her legacy, because she’s always been truthful’

Carly Simon, June 1971.

Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

For this year’s annual Women Shaping the Future issue, we asked 12 of today’s top musical acts to talk about the women who have inspired them most in their lives and careers. Here, Clairo talks about the cross-generational appeal of Carly Simon’s songwriting.

I was introduced to Carly Simon through my parents, more specifically through my mom. She was like, “Oh, yeah, you’re superlate on this,” and I was like, “I know! Please enlighten me.” For a long time, I only really knew Carly for “You’re So Vain.” But once I heard “Nobody Does It Better,” it set off everything. Part of me couldn’t believe that those songs were the same person, because they’re just such different moods.

My mom is a very spiritual person. When she was in college, Carly Simon’s music acted as this safe space for her and her friends to hang out in. Every time she went back to Carly, it was this understanding place, where she could have her guard down and feel understood. That’s what I get from Carly’s music, too, and that’s something that I strive to have in my own music. She makes you feel very seen, and that’s what my mom loves about her.

The biggest thing that I connect to is her lyrics. I specifically remember where I was when I heard “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” for the first time. It was around the beginning of 2020, and I was alone on my porch. I listened to it and just felt like I hadn’t heard something that cut so deep within me, ever.

It was one of the songs that was the catalyst for my [upcoming] second album — whether it was her chord changes, or watching her play the piano and how effective that was and how much I want to bring that to my own shows, or how honest she is in her music and how she’s not afraid to voice fears that she has for the future. Everything that she was saying felt like exactly the thoughts that I was too scared to let myself think about marriage and relationships and the future. At 22, it’s a strange age to be thinking about that. You could be so far away from ever experiencing that, but it could be closer than you think as well.

As I move forward with the next record, I’m talking a lot about how scared I am to have children and to move on to this other chapter in my life. Listening to that song was so eye-opening to me. Every time I listen to her, I feel like she’s talking to me directly or saying something that took a lot of courage to build up to say.

Through everything that she went through with such a public relationship, I think she handled it with grace. She has always just been, like, “I have nothing to hide. Here’s everything about me, take it or leave it.” That’s something that shows strength more than anything else. She’s always been that way. There’s nothing you could add or take away from her legacy, because she’s always been truthful. I think ebbs and flows in someone’s life are much more normal than we think, and especially with someone as famous as Carly, I feel like it’s hard to look at people with such legacies and not think that their life is perfect. The fact that she was always so upfront about everything that wasn’t perfect, I think, is what makes her the most important to me.

From Rolling Stone US