Forest Claudette
Forest Claudette (Supplied)

Forest Claudette: “I Wanted It To Be Cool and Beautiful”

Forest Claudette travelled to the recent BIGSOUND festival with three singles in the bag and a steadily blossoming online following. But prior to his half-dozen performances at the three-day festival, Forest had never performed live.

Forest Claudette is the solo alias of Melbourne musician Kobe Hamilton-Reeves. The public didn’t catch wind of Forest Claudette until the single ‘Creaming Soda’ was released in July 2022. But the artist’s debut EP, The Year of February, was many years in the making.

‘Creaming Soda’ and Forest’s subsequent singles, ‘Gone Without a Trace’ and ‘Hologram’, display an affinity with soul, hip hop, R&B and pop akin to artists like Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy. The strength of these singles, along with Forest’s live set-closer, ‘Goodbye’, which recalls a ’90s Madonna ballad, cast a spell on the crowds of industry eggheads and music enthusiasts at BIGSOUND, never mind the artist’s relative inexperience.

To coincide with the release of The Year of February, which is out now via Sony Music Australia, Music Feeds talks to Forest Claudette about his journey to date and his plans for the future.

Forest Claudette – ‘Hologram’

Music Feeds: The wider public was only introduced to Forest Claudette a couple of months ago via ‘Creaming Soda’. What was the reaction like to your debut?

Forest Claudette: The reception to ‘Creaming Soda’ was incredible. It’s a bizarre thing to go from not existing as an artist one day and the next, people from around the world are sending me messages on Instagram saying they heard my song and they’re digging it. So weird, but I am so grateful to everyone for all the kind words and support. 

MF: What are some key events in the Forest Claudette story to date? What has your musical journey been like to bring you to this point?

FC: The most pivotal moments were learning violin as a child, learning guitar as a teenager, seeing my middle older brother become the frontman of a band, learning Moses Sumney’s ‘Plastic’, which introduced me to 7th chords, and then messing up the timing of the triple j Unearthed High songwriting competition. All that brought me my management, which led to co-writing and that gave me all of this.

MF: There’s a lot of soul in your work, which is paired with powerful lyricism. Are there any artists who had a major influence on you when you were conceiving the vision for the Forest Claudette sound and style?

FC: When I first started writing with the idea of a project in mind, I was asked what I wanted to sound like and all I could think to say was I wanted it to be cool and beautiful. When I think about it now, I think “cool” was referring to a type of energy, something that would make you move even if you didn’t want to. People like Anderson .Paak and SZA and Duckwrth come to mind for me.

And then I think “beautiful” was pointing specifically at the depth of a lyric and the intricacies of melody and harmony and how that sum total could make you feel. People like Frank Ocean, Solange, Noname, Lianne La Havas and so many others. 

Forest Claudette – ‘Creaming Soda’

MF: You’ve been working with some talented people, including Chris Hartz, a songwriter and musician based in LA. What has the experience of collaboration been like? And what has it taught you about your own songwriting?

FC: Argh yeah, I love that guy. I’ve been so fortunate with the people I get to work with both back home and in the US. Co-writing is something I’ve become comfortable with over the years, but it’s definitely taken some practice. No two sessions are the same but there are things I’ve learned that help to keep songwriting fun and authentic. I feel like co-writing has shined a harsh light on some of my perfectionist tendencies. As it turns out, spending an hour on one line can sometimes kill the vibe. 

MF: ‘Gone Without a Trace’ is a pop song with a lot of heart. Can you tell us a bit about the origins of that song and what it means to you?

FC: ‘Gone Without a Trace’, for all of its energy and what I would describe as more pop-leaning melodies, is a song that still sort of breaks my heart. I wrote most of it after a very intense breakup. I wanted to capture a sentiment of always being reachable while acknowledging and coming to terms with the fundamental shift that occurs when you untangle yourself from someone. 

MF: Three singles in three months is not a bad effort, all of which feature on your EP, The Year of February. How long was the gestation period for the EP?

FC: The Year Of February has had quite a few forms over the years. So, if we’re counting all of them, the gestation period has been about four years. ‘Creaming Soda’ and ‘Goodbye’ are the only songs left from the original track listing.

It’s wild to think about all the time that has passed, but I really am grateful for it. It’s allowed me to grow into myself and my sound. I’ve had time to think about everything, prepare myself for whatever comes and to an extent, let go of some outcome-based thinking. 

MF: Do you feel like The Year of February is an accurate representation of the artist you strive to be?

FC: I guess with regards to the honesty, yes. I feel I will always strive to fill my music with as much of myself as I can. But I feel more so that The Year Of February is an accurate representation of where I am as an artist and where I have been.

Going forward, I strive to create more and more cohesive pieces of work. Not to say I won’t genre bend or reach as far as I please into different sonic spectrums, but I have always been an admirer the “concept album”. So, that’s my goal. 

Forest Claudette – ‘Gone Without a Trace’

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