This is a BAD situation, to be enjoyed with Clarissa Diokno
“You can’t please everyone and learning to say “no” to the things or people that don’t contribute to your goals or happiness is important to know and understand.”– Clarissa Diokno
There’s a five hour time difference between here, Manchester, UK and Ontario, Canada where Singer-Songwriter, Clarissa Diokno is based. That means any of the 73 thousand Canadians living in the UK, with a touch of insomnia, are already celebrating Thanksgiving.
Though, from what I understand, folks over in Kitchener and Waterloo haven’t been hanging around… Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival, (the second-largest Oktoberfest in the world) is likely in full swing and won’t be quietening down for another week… albeit dampened by the lingering global pandemic.
However, it really is a pleasure to share this interview at such a special time, with sincere gratitude to this inspiring and multi-talented artist. Clarissa, blends her smooth, yet raw and soulful vocal style with modern pop production, uses her music as therapy and connects with the listener through relatable lyrics of events in her life. She’s recently released her new single, “BAD” and, with lockdown out of the way, is now back to performing on the live stage once again.
So it really is a treat for us to say ‘Happy Thanksgiving’, and ‘thank you for the music’… Here’s Clarissa Diokno…
Hey Clarissa, first of all – huge thanks for taking time out to talk to us!! Let’s kick off with a bit of an introduction – do you want to tell us a bit about you?
Oh hey! My name is Clarissa, and I’m a huge music lover. I grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, and have been living in the Waterloo Region the past 13 years. I’ve loved singing ever since I was a wee one (I basically came out of my mama’s womb singing). After singing covers for a long time, I’m so happy I made the decision to start writing songs and sharing my own music with the world. I write about my feelings, experiences, and whatever is on my mind. I’m having a lot of fun on this musical journey, and I want to continue doing it for a long time.
A thought just passed through my mind, wondering what your mother’s reaction might’ve been had you emerged, belting out Queen’s “I want to break free” in the hospital!! That would be pretty awesome. Seriously though, we speak to a lot of artists who feel music in their bones from such a young age, yet don’t get to live that life until much later on. Is that true for you, and what did life look like before being a musician became your profession?
I’ve worked so many different types of jobs before I decided to fully pursue music. Some of those jobs include working at a sushi and bubble tea kiosk, English tutor, karaoke host, social media manager, and call centre supervisor. I’ve also done a lot of acting and modelling, which I still do every so often while pursuing music.
Wait, wait, wait…. on the subject of acting, can’t skip over this! You appeared in ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’, and I believe that was your first venture into acting? That’s a big deal! How did that come about?
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was the first movie set I’ve ever worked on! I was only a background extra, but it was such a fun experience! What’s funny is I found the casting call for the movie on Craigslist, and I thought it was a scam. I was brand new to the film industry so I had no idea how any of this worked, but I ended up going for it and it was totally the real deal. I got to be on set for a couple weeks, met a lot of friends, ate some delicious meals, met some of the cast, and I can even spot myself in the movie! If you watch it, you can see me in the background of the battle of the bands scene with Matthew Patel!
Yes, I saw!! You say ‘only a background extra’… I say ‘I’ve interviewed a Hollywood actress!’ Not something you can say every day so I’m holding on to that! Jumping back to your past roles and all the various avenues you’ve explored… what was keeping you from the music, and when did you decide to go all-in?
The only thing that was holding me back before was… myself. The possibility of making a career out of music was always just a dream. With the pressures of society and family, pursuing music wasn’t even an option but more something you do as a hobby just for fun. I also wasn’t sure if I was good enough to even bother. It was just a matter of shutting out any negative and doubtful thoughts and remembering the reasons WHY I love music and singing. You will never know if you don’t try, so I decided to try.
Total respect for that and staying true to yourself. You talk about your love for music; your style has been described as ‘hypnotic pop’ and ‘contemporary R&B’. How would you describe the type of music you create, and where do you typically draw influence from?
I love all kinds of music. I don’t like limiting myself to certain genres; I love keeping an open mind to any and all genres. I’d love to broaden my musical taste and potentially be inspired as well as improve my songwriting skills. I definitely do love pop and R&B though! I feel like I go through phases of listening to certain genres at certain times in my life. I listened to a lot of pop and R&B when I was in elementary school, and a lot of rock and punk during my high school and early university years. I’ve also found myself taking a huge interest in oldies, specifically the 60s and Motown. Let’s just say I’ll give any and all music a chance! If I don’t like it I’ll move on, and if I do, I’ll continue to listen. Honestly, with all the hybrid genres these days, I would love to come up with a new genre by combining some of my favourite genres. That would be super cool!
That would be cool! And in terms of creating music, you mentioned earlier that the writing and sharing of your own music is a great source of happiness for you. Obviously, the feeling of completing a track, listening back, and hearing people’s reactions gives that sense of accomplishment… But before all that happens, what is it that drives you to create, and where does your inspiration come from?
I have goals that I want to achieve and that motivates me to consistently work on my craft, my brand, and all the things I need to do to achieve those goals. My inspiration comes from within and from anything I experience in my life, whether that be an event, something a character says in a movie, a certain thought or feeling I had, or something someone said to me. If an idea pops into my head, I have to immediately write it down or record it or I will 100% forget.
I know that feeling, particularly when it comes to lyrics… my Notes app is stacked with random, broken ideas. Writing things down does serve as a trigger when it comes to the inevitable ‘brain-fade’, and I think it’s fair to say almost all artists experience that at some point… What’s your coping mechanism in those instances?
Trying to overcome a creative block can be quite a challenge. Sometimes it’s just not in you some days, and that’s okay. We can’t be creative and productive 24-7; it’s just not possible as human beings. I think taking a short break (a few days away from working on your art) can help new ideas form or even help previous ideas come to the surface again. Even just taking a walk or going to a place you’ve never been before or meeting up with a friend can spark inspiration. We just have to remember that these creative blocks are temporary and we can and will find inspiration again.
I’m interested in the different approaches people have when creating – do you have any particular processes or customs that you apply when you’re working on a project?
There are currently two different ways that I find myself creating. Usually, I will have a specific line in my head that I will write down and try to come up with a theme based on that one line. Most of the time it has to do with something that happened to me or something I had just heard, maybe in a movie or TV show, or something I’ve read online. To be honest, this particular way of writing can sometimes be a challenge for me and I come out with a lot of incomplete songs from it, haha. I’ll definitely be working on figuring out other ways I can write.
The other way I create is I will come up with a chord progression on my keyboard and just play around with it until I feel I’ve got a solid progression down. I’m not technical at all, but when something sounds good to me I will run with it. I’ll start singing random words and melodies over the chord progression until something sticks. I have a notebook with a lot of ideas and phrases that I also pull from sometimes. You’ll always find some gems in your notebook (or phone notes) so look over it from time to time!
I definitely relate more to the first approach you mentioned, though some of the tracks I’m most pleased with have literally come spontaneously and seemingly out of nowhere. Looking back at all the projects you’ve worked on, is there a particular song that you are most proud of, or one that has special meaning for you?
There’s a song I wrote a few months ago called “Perforated Heart” that I think is really special. It’s unreleased and is currently just a voice memo on my phone. It’s slow and sad, and it makes me feel things. I’m proud of it because I think it’s well written, the melody is haunting and beautiful, and the lyrics are clever and emotional. It could use a bit of tweaking as well as a bridge, but I think I can definitely do something with this for the near future.
Hope so!! We’ll be keeping an eye out for that. And, speaking of lyrics that make you feel things… I came across a quote a while back which really had an impact on my life; “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. Is there a particular lyric or quote that has had such an impact, or means something special to you?
There is a particular quote that has made an impact on me. “The older I get the more I realize the value of privacy, of cultivating your circle, and only letting certain people in. You can be open, honest, and real while still understanding not everyone deserves a seat at the table of your life.” I’m not exactly sure who said it, but it really struck a chord with me. It made me think about all the people and things I was allowing to take up space in my life that, in the end, didn’t deserve it. That’s the journey of life though – you live and you learn. You can’t please everyone and learning to say “no” to the things or people that don’t contribute to your goals or happiness is important to know and understand. I’m actually excited to get older and wiser and just become more aware and confident about what and who I truly want and need in my life.
That’s a really valuable life lesson, thanks for sharing that – we live and learn indeed! Regarding career advice, what would you say has been the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given to date?
The best advice I’ve been given is to set goals, both big and small, that you want to achieve in the short- term and long-term of your career. What do you want to achieve one month from now, one year from now, five years from now, or even 10 years from now? Write them down and always refer to them. These goals will motivate you to work smart and efficiently, and it will give you the discipline to consistently put in the work.
And, following your decision to pursue music full-time, you’ve undoubtedly learned some valuable lessons firsthand. What advice might you give to artists who are yet to be discovered and taking those early steps in their careers?
The advice I would give to artists that are yet to be discovered is to honestly just be yourself and people will resonate with it. You can’t please everyone, but you don’t have to. Find that one thing that really makes you unique and let it shine. Consistently work on your craft and push your boundaries. If you believe in yourself, you will create magic. If you are honest and constantly put yourself out there, they will eventually notice, and I promise you, great things will happen. Keep going.
You really do seem to put that advice into practice too – I’ve obviously seen your YouTube videos, and get a real sense that you’re not playing up to the cameras at all… your sense of humour really shines though, it’s endearing. How important is social media to you in terms of promoting yourself as an independent artist?
I would say I’m very social media savvy and understand the importance of quality content. I try to be everywhere online and make sure my music is easily accessible to everyone. I update my socials consistently about what I am up to on a day-to-day basis as well as any projects I have going on. I also do a weekly livestream where I sing and chat with viewers from all over the world. My livestreams are a fun and safe space where people can be themselves, tell stories, laugh, and listen to some tunes. It’s important to take care of the people who already support you and connect with new people who might want to support you too.
Obviously those livestreams became super important for artists during the pandemic, but before that you’d performed many live shows. Thankfully you’ve managed to get back to that again the past couple of months. How does it feel to be back ‘live’?
I love performing live. There really is nothing like the joy and energy you feel when you are doing what you love and are passionate about in front of people who are willing to listen. For a long time I had been performing cover songs and it’s amazing to see smiling faces sing and dance along to their favourite tunes. That’s the beauty of performing familiar songs in front of an audience; they are able to recognize them and get involved. But, I just recently had my first experience performing my original songs in front of a live audience and it was absolutely incredible. Sharing your own story through song is such a beautiful thing., and I’m so happy and so grateful that I get the chance to do this. I never thought I would be singing songs that I wrote in front of people and that they would even care to listen. It’s an amazing feeling.
As for the livestreams, now that things are starting to return to normal, do you intend to continue those in addition to live gigs?
I had actually already been live streaming for just over a year before the pandemic hit. The live gigs came to a halt, but that didn’t stop me from singing and trying to make a living from it. I used my knowledge and experience in livestreaming to start making an income from singing live virtually. I sang literally every day for 2-4 hours for many months (which was probably way too much haha) in front of viewers from all over the world. I actually started to notice an improvement in my singing! I think live streams are a great way to work on your craft, slowly but surely build a fanbase, and stay connected to your listeners. Although live gigs just started back up again, I’m definitely going to continue livestreaming as I think it’s very important to keep getting better at what you do and also stay engaged with your listeners.
As a new fan, I’m happy to give you confirmation on that… the availability of this kind of ‘behind the scenes’ content (like The Making of Confusion, which I just had to include) really helps to build that following. Thankfully, that’s how we found you – actually, it was your latest release, BAD that gave us our first experience of your work. Can you tell us about this track?
“BAD” is currently my favourite song I’ve ever written. It was the easiest yet most difficult song I’ve written. It expresses all the feelings you may go through after you end a relationship with someone because you believed you were “bad” for them and that they deserved better. Your internal struggles led you to sabotage the relationship. You felt that you couldn’t give them the love they needed at the time.
I clearly remember writing this song in the summer of 2020. I was sitting on my couch with my keyboard, played a D minor chord, and the chorus just flowed right out of me. It’s interesting because I never start with the chorus. I always start with the verses and usually run out of things to say for the chorus. I got lucky this time! Although it was a sad time in my life, I think something beautiful came out of it.
I want the listener to take whatever they need from this song. The message may be a bit dark, but I think it’s very truthful and relatable. Even though the meaning of the song is specific to me, maybe it could mean something different to someone else, or maybe there are people out there who are going through or have gone through the exact same thing. I love that music can be interpreted in so many ways by different people.
Great track and an awesome video! Last question Clarissa… What’s next for you? Will we be hearing the “Perforated Heart” track, or some genre-blending tracks in the near future?
I’ve got some new music that is currently in production, and there are some songs that I’m excited about that I need to finish writing. I’m also hoping to share more video content. All I want to do is create and share it with the world.
Well, thank you for such an awesome interview Clarissa, it’s been really cool, and we wish you all the best for everything that’s yet to come in your journey!
Clarissa can be found on all the social platforms, via the icons below;