Chloe Bix

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Nickie Shobeiry interviews Chloe Bix about her musical past, present, and future.

You grew up in a household with professional musicians, and you were playing the violin by age five. Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician? If not, do you remember the moment you realised?
It was inevitable that I learned music, considering my parents were both professional musicians. I’m grateful that I started so young, because you learn so much more easily at a young age, but I never really chose it; I was too young to make that choice, or to understand the long-term benefits of it. It just was, and so I took it for granted. I didn’t value what I was being given, and I fought and rebelled my way through all my musical education! It wasn’t until I started travelling and busking that I realised I had a real gift, and now I’m so grateful my parents had the foresight and tenacity to keep me on track, because I love it so much.

You travelled as a seventeen year old, and then spent eight years on the road. Could you share a little about your experiences? In what way have they shaped you into the musician you are today?
Growing up I was always restless and unsettled. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I hadn’t learnt how to find out. As soon as I could get away, I did. I started off busking up an inter-rail ticket when I was seventeen. That took me to Prague and Amsterdam, among other places. I then went over to Spain because I loved the Spanish language and culture. I worked a season in Menorca as a Karaoke Compare, and eventually I headed to the Canary Islands. I didn’t really have any role models, so I was making it up as I went along, finding work where I could, like childcare, cleaning, painting, lots of busking, bar work, making jewellery from semi-precious gem stones, and bamboo that I’d trek into the mountains to find. I was quite an entrepreneur – I loved the freedom, and I learnt to live by my wits.

That’s really amazing. If you could pick any band to tour with, who would you pick?
Well now, it’s hard to admit, but the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is no longer a priority for me! I’ve played it pretty hard in the past and I now know that if I want to be my best, I need to maintain a healthy mind and body. I believe it’s important to surround yourself with people who inspire you, and who are better versions of who you want to be. Although I’m not strictly a fan as such, in her biography it states that on the day of her concerts, Madonna runs six miles in the morning, then does her vocal exercises and works really hard so that she’s on top form for her gig in the evening. That, to me, is phenomenal dedication to both herself and her fans, and earns my total respect.

If you had to pick the top five artists that have influenced your sound, who would you pick?
I have been influenced by many genres over the decades. I’d say the emotive blend of sounds heard in In The Dark, for example, has developed from my classical orchestral playing as a youngster, and I’m particularly fond of Mahler. After that, I got into really cheesy ‘big hair’ 80s rock, which definitely comes through in Brain Train, and techno influences in the 90s are evident in Logo Girl. My love of Spanish music comes through from artists such as Paco de Lucia, Triana and Serrat, and Gypsy Jazz also makes my spine tingle, so Stephan Grappelli and Django Reindhert have influenced me.

What is your favourite instrument? If you could pick up any instrument in the world and instantly be able to play it, what would you choose?
My favourite instrument is one I can already play a bit, but because of my size I can only play a small one and to me, that’s just not good enough! I play a 48 bass accordion and have to compromise with notes all over the place. I would really love to be able to play a 120 bass! I love the sound and versatility of the instrument, and when it’s so close to your body that you can really feel the vibration of the music.

Could you share one of your favourite on-stage memories? How about one of the weirdest?
One memory we joke about with the Dambuskers still is when we played at a festival and it was pouring with rain. We were huddled together on a tiny stage that fortunately had a cover, but rain was dripping down all around us and running under our feet. I was trying not to poke Steve’s eye out with my violin bow,and we were all trying to stay dry. The real moment came when Mick, our bass player, got an electric shock from his microphone. Health and safety, or what?!

What would be your ultimate venue to perform at?
That’s hard to say, but it would definitely be outdoors with a terrific view. When you learn to sing you are taught to project to the back of the room, and this really helps with communicating your song to your audience too. The further you can see, the greater you can radiate your song, and there’s no better place than the outdoors. It’s so liberating!

What are your favourite songs of your own to play?
I believe words have power, so my most favourite songs to play are those with lyrics that inspire and empower me, such as Ride The Bore, Sophia’s Voice, and Snakes And Ladders. I love writing songs that have truth or wisdom to them, and have the potential to do some good for the listener – whether that be education, inspiration, healing, or positivity.

What’s the writing process like for you? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from deep within. It’s a reflection of an inner journey and an on-going learning process. Only when I have made sense of something and have got past it am I able to sing about it. I love problem solving and have become quite good at working through stuff. Most of all though, I love being able to use my journey and experiences to help others.

When performing to an audience, do you ever improvise, or do you stick to the songs in their original form?
I have to say, I’m an excellent improviser! If everything is falling apart on stage I can cover easily, and I love jamming too. It’s also how I write my songs. Improvising is really just making it up, but it’s also about having the technical skill to play at the speed your brain is working. Saying that, when I’ve crafted a song to perfection, I get great satisfaction from performing it exactly the way it has been written because when I write, every note, beat, and word has been carefully considered.

Could you tell me a little about the process behind the recording of your album, Volcano Child?
The recording of Volcano Child began years ago. It takes time to build up the skills to undertake a project like that, and when I began sketching and mocking up my songs on a Boss BR-600, I didn’t know where it would lead. It’s only looking back that I can join up the dots! I did a music degree so that I could develop my songs and eventually record them. I found myself dedicating the whole of my second year to the project: putting a band together, recording all the tracks, endless hours of mixing, designing the artwork, and planning the album launch, which was a sell out. I’ve never been on such a steep learning curve, and I went down to 6 ½ stone!

What inspired you to write the track, Volcano Child?
When I came back from travelling and started getting settled in the UK, I was finally able to reflect on the time I’d had away. I’d spent a considerable amount of time alone and had got to know my inner self quite intimately. I’d reached a point where I could identify the cause of my teenage rebellion, and make sense of my unsettled childhood. I needed to face a lot of stuff in order to grow. Fortunately, as soon as you do face your demons head-on, they lose power over you, and you are able to grow up. I suppose the song is, therefore, me acknowledging and accepting my true self.

The lyrics to your song, Jessie Price, are a narrative. What was the inspiration behind this one? Is it based on a real person?
Not a real person, no – I was trying to vary my writing styles so I thought I’d write a song in the style of The Levellers. I don’t think the song particularly sounds like The Levellers, but nevertheless it poured out of me. It illustrates a state of emotional ‘stuckness’ that so many people suffer from, that if you look back on past grievances too much, then you turn to stone and stop living.

In addition to being a wonderful musician, you’re also a homeopath. Through your practice, you help musicians with issues like stage fright, loss of their voice, and arthritis. What sparked your interest in homeopathy?
When I returned to the UK in 1996, I needed to do something that would help me as a spiritually developing person, and as a twentieth century income earner. I studied homeopathy to develop business skills, and to have a profession. And because I was really, really messed up. Homeopathic medicine was the only way I could dig myself out of my dark night of the soul, without pouring toxic cocktails down my throat. It has been my ongoing support for nearly two decades now. I have walked the walk, and my experience is my testimony. I am now able to help others safely and gently with their physical, mental, and emotional issues.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received as a musician, that you feel is relevant to people from all walks of life?
Never assume! I can still hear my violin teacher scolding me when I was about ten years old, because I’d turned up to my lesson without a particular piece of music. I’d assumed we weren’t learning that one!

What can we expect next from Chloe Bix?
I’ve just joined an indie-folk-rock band called Red Dirt, and we’re really keen to break onto the festival scene. The lead singer is a bit like Kurt Cobain! He’s a fantastic songwriter, and there’s also an upright bass player and jazz drummer too. You can hear the first track of their new album at here. We’re gigging all around the South of England, and will definitely be in Exeter at some stage.

I’ve also started managing a Frank Sinatra act called Frankly Swing which is focusing on weddings, hotels, and eventually Park Lane.

The Dambuskers are still folk rockin’. We have lots of weddings booked this year, some with country dance which is always a laugh. I’ve also got a feeling I’m going to be writing some pretty fantastic songs this year, so make sure you don’t miss out. Add me on Facebook so that I can keep you in the loop with what’s going on with the Bix!

Like Chloe? Check out her website for more information.