Clara Oman: A mainstream talent to be watched closely From Now On

Saturday 1st December 2007

American pop rock singer CLARA OMAN visited the Cross Rhythms studios recently. Tony Cummings reports.

Clara Oman
Clara Oman

I sit in the room next to Cross Rhythms' live studio listening to Clara Oman being quizzed by presenter Jonathan Bellamy. Until a few days ago no one at Cross Rhythms had heard of Clara but here she is, this live wire singer/pianist from Fort Collins, Colorado visiting Cross Rhythms, the last but one of 30-odd UK radio stations she's visited as part of a radio station tour. Clara is with us to drum up interest in her debut album 'From Now On' she's recorded for British record label Right Recordings. But before she gets to the music chat and performance - her helper has lugged an electric keyboard up to CR's fifth floor studio so she can sing a song live - Jonathan shows off his prowess of web research by pointing out that in 2006 Money Magazine named Fort Collins, Colorado as the Best Place To Live. Clara agrees. "I loved living there. It's beautiful. It has every season in its time, but its mild - it's not like really hot in the summer nor really cold in the winter. It's just beautiful. It's an amazing place so there's lots of outdoors stuff, everybody hikes, everybody's healthy, on the streets - walking and running. It's great."

So why did she relocate to Nashville? "When a lot of people think of Nashville, they think of country music and my genre is not country music, There's no fiddles in there or anything. I moved to Nashville because of the songwriting community. A lot of people move there to be songwriters and not just for country music. I thought that if this is a community of people who are really taking their songwriting seriously, it would be a good place to be. I've been there for a couple of years and wrote my first album there. When I moved there I realised that there is so much talent that there weren't going to be people knocking down my door saying, 'Oh you can sing, do you want a record deal?' So I kinda took control of my own career and went out and got recording software, played as many instruments as I could and made my own demos out of my apartment in order to try to develop every aspect of music."

Ironically, considering that Clara's pop rock is poles apart from country music, it was a Grammy-winning country artist, Billy Dean, who was to give Clara her big break. After performing at church one evening, she was approached by Billy's wife who suggested Clara send Billy a demo. Billy recognised Clara's potential and was so impressed by her voice and songwriting that he offered to become her manager. Just how impressed the music biz old hand was with the unknown singer/songwriter is shown in his comments on Clara's press release. "Clara Oman is one of the most gifted all-round singer/songwriters and producers I have met. To have this much talent at such a young age is mind blowing. I have been in the business myself for over 20 years as a singer/songwriter and producer, and when I first heard Clara's demos I was amazed to discover that she not only wrote the songs herself, but also arranged, recorded and produced them all in her tiny apartment in Nashville."

Clara grew up in the Church. She remembers, "At 13 I was the church piano player. I was playing up there with the organist doing all the hymns and helping. To me being a Christian means being the face of Jesus in the world and trying to be a light, and just live as he lived. Obviously it's not completely possible, but that's the goal, to just be a light in people's lives and to be what Jesus would have been if he were here now."

Clara never felt drawn to the CCM scene but instead pitched her talents into the mainstream pop world. She tells Jon Bellamy, "God gave me this gift of music. It was really the only thing that I knew to do with trying to be out in the world and meeting people and loving people and hopefully impacting people for good. I always thought it would be a cool idea that when someone listens to you at home, when someone possibly turns to your music you could be what is there to comfort somebody during the dark time, or you could be what is there to get someone excited where they're having a great time - in the highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like if only I was a doctor and could really make a difference. But then I think about the power of music, I think about the fact that you could be the voice that someone listens to when they really need some comfort. That makes me feel hopeful that I can do something positive."

Clara is well aware that the pop scene is full of people who learnt their music gift in church but have subsequently slipped into unchristian lifestyles or developed egos the size of houses. "I do feel grounded," she declares. "But I also think it would be ignorant to think that I'm safe from all of that too. The way that I want to protect myself from getting a big head or whatever, is to keep people around me who are real and who know me and love me. Because if I keep those people around me they are not going to let me become something that I'm not."

'From Now On' is a snappy, finely crafted album of radio friendly pop rock songs. One of the many memorable songs on the set is "Comparing With Kirsten" which skilfully nails the sin of teenage jealousy ("She's the new kid in your class that/Always has the latest fashions and/All your hand-me-downs are looking/Jane-plain ordinary"). Says Clara about the song, "Growing up my dad always told me, 'Clara don't compare, don't compare.' I had an older sister and younger brothers and was always saying 'she's got this and she's got that.' In school it's so difficult with all of the peer pressure. We didn't have a lot of money so it was, 'I wish I had cooler clothes, cooler house, cooler everything'. It's so difficult when you're comparing with other people to feel thankful and good about what you have. There's a line in this song that just says, 'you're not ordinary'. We need to stop comparing because we're all special. If we embraced just who we are and what God has given us individually I believe the world would be a better place." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


Reader Comments

Posted by Richard Francisco in Boston Massachuset @ 01:37 on Aug 9 2017

Amazing singer and very professional in dealing with other people.

Posted by Steve in Yorkshire @ 00:46 on Jan 18 2008


The track 'No More' proves to be a total delight with Clara cast in surely her best role as she gently reflects at the keyboard. It is undeniably beautiful and truly characterises the performer's wonderful ability of creating absolute intimacy through her touchingly genuine vocals.

Clara returns back to 'rock chic' mode on 'Meant To Be', which again lifts the action with another powerful chorus routine before the unquestionable masterpiece of the whole compilation - the mesmeric 'Let You Go (Song For Peter)' - has the performer vainly attempting to extend time before she bids farewell to her beloved departing brother.

But Clara comes back with a real bang on 'This Is My Time', spitting total defiance and resolution to the world, while a remix of the opening 'Mother Mary' track finally brings this glorious work to its conclusion.

Clara Oman is a simply stunning talent. Time stands absolutely still the moment that she takes to the microphone to perform her wonderfully crafted songs.

And while the listener is regularly carried along on her sweeping melodies and beautiful tones, no doubt with their heart strings being stretched to the absolute limit, it is noticeable how she will suddenly change keys and lift the whole sound to a totally
different level, somewhere mystical and magical, high above the clouds. I believe they call that place heaven.

Be prepared for moments of close reflection and times of real sadness while you accompany the lovely Clara on this memorable journey, but also recognise the immense joy that this wonderful lady instils into the hearts of every person fortunate enough to hear her sing.

A real rollercoaster of emotions, 'From Now On' is a total delight from first to last.


Rating 10/10

Posted by Steve in Yorkshire @ 00:44 on Jan 18 2008

Nashville singer Clara Oman takes everyone on a real rollercoaster ride on her stunning debut album 'From Now On' (published by Right Recordings).

Despite being a protogee of country legend Billy Dean, who helped the artist produce her own album, there is no real evidence of that genre on her first offering as Clara serves up an intoxicating mixture of hard driven rock and glorious ballads.

From opening song 'Mother Mary' - a stomping anthem to the suave and sophisticated movie hero James Bond - to last, Clara truly delights the listener with the sheer warmth of her simply beautiful vocals.

Her superb first single 'Forgetful Me' follows next, a plaintive and regretful self-examination about the perils of lost love and the ongoing and seemingly endless heartache that it brings.

Clara retains that theme on her next track, the self-defensive and dark 'How Does It Feel', while her subsequent offering, the simply outstanding title track 'From Now On', clearly shows the artist's wonderful ability to mix shades - with exquisite moments of delicious tenderness sharing the stage alongside a memorable sweeping chorus.

The album is injected with a sudden burst of teenage angst on 'Komparing with Kirsten' - think shadowy-eyed Canadian vocalist Avril Lavigne - where Clara rues being compared to the absolutely perfect Kirsten.

This song also features - unless I'm seriously mistaken - the gentle and rich tones of a warbling flute, while Clara finally ends the piece with a rather endearing and heavy sigh of resignation. But don't worry Clara, Kirsten really can't compare.

The spiralling 'Rollercoaster (With You)' follows next and provides a truly dramatic mid-point to the work, with a new relationship providing sharp twists and turns with sudden rises and falls as the artist's emotional defences are suddenly breeched.

More ...

Posted by billy dean in nashville, tn. @ 17:37 on Dec 12 2007

Thank you so much Tony, for supporting Clara. In this day and age of drug re-hab artist with their "shock and awe" tactics to become famous, you gave this clear minded, dedicated to her craft, talented little girl a voice on the radio. My hope is talent still means something to us all....many thanks...billy

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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