Clarissa's potential has never been a problem. As for her attitude, we'll leave that to her for comment...
But what isn't up for debate are the tangents of talent which Woods possesses; artistic branches that are deep-rooted in her every move, at times literally, which mirror those of fellow dancer-come-singer FKA Twigs, who we'll soon come on to talk about.
Yet, whilst Twigs' career was moulded in the shadows, Clarissa had an opportunity to exercise that earlier-cited potential long before now to become centre-stage. Something, again, which we will come on to, but her confidence to turn down that offer might just give you an indication into the positive attitude that she harbours within herself.
Looking forward, a rise to the top beckons for Clarissa, and in a way in which she sees fit - whether that is done so quietly, like leaves in the wind, or with a bark, is probably up to her! But, for now, let's take a skip and jump and dive right into her latest single.
First of all, you have just dropped ‘Attitude Problems’, what can you tell us about the track itself and the music video that accompanies it? I would say the track is a 'Fuck You' to anyone who has a problem with people having a certain type of attitude. It's a very empowering track as well, especially for females and really urges us, as women, to speak up and let ourselves be heard. The inspiration for the track came from men telling me I had an attitude, but I was just a strong-minded person. I just wanted to be able to have my say back!
Was that men in the music industry, or just men in general? Both! People talk about equality but I'm yet to see that. Then, when I started making music, and wasn't doing it in the way certain people wanted, I was then the 'problem'. That can't be the case just because I'm a woman. I'm here now and I'm going to stand up for both myself and other females.
We love that! And what about the music video? The music video is gaaangster! (Laughs) It's just very me. We have the dancing element in there and the choreography; it's hard, it makes you feel good, it's empowering, you know? It's that bad bitch energy that everybody talks about! (Laughs) It's dark, yet colourful, it's grimey, yet fun - it has everything. It's just attitude all in one video.
'Attitude Problem' would land within the rap/trap genre; do you write your music with that sound in mind? Not at all. I write music first and foremost and then whatever is created from that will then fall into either hip-hop or trap. I always have an idea of what sound I am leaning towards, but it doesn't always come out like that! So I would say it's a blend between trap and hip-hop.
You have developed yourself into a solo act in recent years after having performed as a backing dancer for artists such as N-Dubz, which is a similar journey to the one taken by FKA Twigs - what was it that triggered your desire to be a solo artist? Well, you say that, but I was always singing as a child! So, for me, singing has always been the priority, despite my journey maybe not reflecting that. It wasn't until I went to a music and dance school that the dancing side really began to take off and took over ultimately. I'd meet people and they'd recognise me as a dancer which was strange!
FKA Twigs has mentioned that she shut off her dancing past after she got signed because it frustrated her that more people recognised her from videos than her own music, but does it frustrate you when people recognise or refer to you as 'Clarissa the dancer'? Honestly, not at all. I recognise that dancing is a part of me and a part of my artistry so I don't mind it!
We have seen you perform live and you like to incorporate dance in to your shows so, from a performance point of view, which artists do you look to for inspiration when it comes to choreographing a live set? Beyoncé.
One word! Yeah! (Laughs) Beyoncé. She has been my inspiration from day 1. I look up to her for the way she carries herself as not only an artist but a woman as well. She's a dancer, a singer, a performer; she creates her own sets and brings ideas to life and that is truly inspiring for me. I don't way to say I copy her as such, but I see similarities in the way my process works within my music.
On the subject of live shows, you were a warm-up act for Deno Driz at the start of 2020 which must have felt your trajectory was on the rise; was it frustrating to have to then put that on hold when we went in to lockdown in March? Not at all, it was actually the best thing that could have happened. Before Deno I actually had Tion Wayne as well but it wasn't even my intention to perform at all at that stage. But, when I did perform, I only really had my versions of cover tracks from years ago like Meek Mill's 'Blue Notes' or Drake's 'Pound Cake', and had a bit of a creative block. So lockdown really gave me the opportunity to focus on creating new music that suited me as an artist. I was able to go into ghost mode and recreate myself and my sound and firm up the direction I wanted to go in.
Do you have a plan in your head for where you see your music going in 2021? We have a full EP ready to go alongside 'Attitude Problem' which is going to show one side of me, and we have another EP which is going to show another! It almost sounds like two different artists which is an element of my sound that I love in that I am able to switch the vibe up. I was always scared to show that vulnerable side to myself incase people tried to jump on it and attack it. But now I'm ready for people to hear it and show both sides to my sound. I use rap to portray my strong side, but I am slowly letting that softer energy come out with singing, and I can't wait for people to hear it!
Your music career could have started slightly sooner, however! You turned down an offer from Sony Europe, tell us more about that one! Honestly, it was just awful what they wanted me to do! (Laughs) They wanted me to be this European country/dance artist and I had never heard a sound like it! I dont think I could have bounced back from that if I took the deal just for the sake of joining the label. It was very weird... The music did not sit right with my soul! (Laughs)
That was when you lived in Austria, but you were born in London to Mauritian and Scottish parents and grew up between there and Glasgow. Firstly, do you think your experiences in London have helped to shape you as an artist? I think it definitely has but more so in relation to dance. A lot of people say I dance like a 'Yardie' which is a Jamaican and I'm like 'Rah. I actually do!'. But I do have Jamaican family members who have influenced my sound as well. My uncle, for example, has that deep, soulful sound when he sings. But, overall, I think London has had a massive impact on not only my music but everyday life, down to the way I speak. I'll say 'bruv' every so often! (Laughs) It also let me see how people were moving down there and the work that was needed to reach that level.
Secondly, with regards to Glasgow, do you think that the diversity in the city has allowed for the underground music scene to really take off in recent years? (Hesitantly) Ye...ss. Growing up, though, all my music references would be American. London then started to pop off with Grime when I would be down there with Dizzee Rascal and Kano way back in the beginning. But, nowadays, this generation has really brought this scene forward and there's a hunger and desire to be successful.
How would you evaluate Glasgow’s position in the UK with regards to music output and where can you see it going? It can definitely be the next one to blow. I look at someone like Sean Focus and can totally resonate with his music whilst it still stays true to him as an artist. I feel that London is very connected, whereas Glasgow lacks that business-element to our scene right now - whether that be artists working together or being able to go on national-acclaimed radio stations like 1Xtra. I think that people here want to be seen as that one person who makes it out of Glasgow as opposed to coming together with other musicians and taking the scene forward as one. But we're in the Up 2 Standard Studios right now, and they are really trying to bridge that gap amongst artists and push the full scene which is brilliant to see and be a part of.
You’re representing both Glasgow and your passion for standing up for women with the Glasgow City kit in our shoot, but did you have much interaction with football growing up in such a footballing city? Come on the gyal! (Laughs) But Celtic was my team! My step-dad down in London supports Arsenal so they are my English team too. But for my brother and I, we idolised Henrik Larsson. All Celtic fans do, mind you! My mum loved Thierry Henry, though. I think naming the dog 'Titi' was probably a step too far! (Laughs)
You also appeared in the Glasgow campaign for the Nike x BSMT collaboration - how special was that? It was great to be involved in! Mobo gave me the call as they needed a model for the video and I was in! It was great to meet everyone and be on the set that day.
On the back of that, how would you describe your own fashion style? I like to be edgy and different to the curve whilst being able to mix it up. I like to go from oversized jeans to flares to tight-fitting. I just dress for me and how I feel that particular day. I don't really know the word to describe my style so I've just used 'edgy' ever since someone in school said it to me! (Laughs)
You also make your own clothes which are really sick - how did you find yourself realising your potential on that front? I was just creating different things and wanted to try it out! I called it 'She Who Creates' on the back of that but it also comes from a phrase in ancient Mexican that derives from the TV show Queen of the South. I actually bumped into Sammy who told me that Teresa from the show reminded him of me, so that's how it started!
Do you have any plans to turn that in to a brand? Not really! It was just something I wanted to make for myself. But I made a few items as merchandise after a show when people liked it and they asked for one! It's not something that I'm focusing on right now, but it might be something for the future!
Lastly, if you could choose to collaborate with one artist from the UK in 2021, who would it be? Honestly? Beyoncé.
Within reason, Clarissa! (Laughs)
We'll say Beyonce for 2022! So give us another one for 2021. Jay-Z! (Laughs) People will say that is far-fetched and it's never going to happen, but you can never say never. I feel like if I was given the opportunity to work with someone like Beyoncé she would push me to my limit and take me to a whole other level of artistry and how to operate. That is the kind of people I want to surround myself with. I want to be in an environment that I feel pressured to be the best artist I can be.
Location: Up 2 Standard Studios, Washington Street
Photography: Connor Stewart
Styling: Stonewaller / Clarissa Woods