Clara Benin, the talented Filipino artist, has embarked on a musical journey that transcends the confines of genre, embracing a broader musical evolution and a more profound exploration of vulnerability. Her latest project, the emotionally articulate second LP titled ‘Befriending My Tears,’ has recently been released, nearly a decade after her folk-acoustic breakout debut, ‘Human Eyes.’ In a candid interview with NME, Clara Benin reflects on her musical evolution, the challenges she faced during the creation of her latest album, and her unique approach to songwriting.
The album begins with the track ‘Imposter Syndrome,’ where Clara Benin candidly delves into feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. With briskly plucked guitar lines, bright synths, and ethereal harmonies, she artfully captures the essence of battling one’s inner demons while persisting in the face of adversity. Benin’s lyrics lay bare her struggles, singing, “These days, I’m not liking myself / Do I just fake it till I make it? I’m afraid I never will.” Yet, she ultimately conveys a sense of resilience, declaring, “Life is strange, but I’ll just ride it out anyway.”
‘Befriending My Tears’ is a project that Clara Benin began crafting during the onset of the pandemic, and it has since made its way into the world. However, she acknowledges the weight of expectations that comes with releasing a new album after such a long hiatus. Benin admits, “I was feeling so insecure when I was writing this album. It’s been eight years since my last full-length, so I thought, ‘How do I do this? Does anyone even care? Will it still matter?'”
Clara Benin’s musical journey was influenced by her upbringing, surrounded by songs that resonated with a diverse range of listeners. Her father, Joey Benin, was a drummer for the iconic OPM band Side A, known for timeless hits like ‘Forevermore.’ Clara’s own path in music led her to craft folk-inspired confessionals reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, while incorporating elements of rhythmic guitar pop akin to John Mayer. She credits her father and these two influential musicians for sparking her love for the guitar and guiding her musical endeavors.
Benin further honed her craft at Elements Music Camp, a songwriting program that has produced notable alumni such as Reese Lansangan, Ben&Ben, and Bullet Dumas. Over the years, she transitioned from acoustic to electric, releasing singles between albums and exploring the realm of melancholic balladry with her 2020 EP, ‘Fragments.’ Clara Benin also collaborated with fellow artists, as seen in the uplifting lockdown anthem ‘A Day At A Time’ with Gentle Bones.
When reflecting on her diverse discography, Clara Benin emphasizes her desire not to be confined to a specific genre or label. She remarks, “Indie is very vast. It can be a lot of things. And I think I have also been a lot of things through the years. I really don’t want to box myself [in] as a girl with an acoustic guitar.”
‘Befriending My Tears’ is a testament to Benin’s willingness to explore various avenues of songwriting and expression. She grappled with the decision of whether to convey her genuine emotions or delve into other themes. Clara explains, “Should I go with my real feelings or do I talk about something else? Do I tell myself it’s OK? Or should I tell myself it’s not OK? Because sometimes both are valid.”
In her latest album, Clara Benin skillfully navigates these internal dialogues, creating tracks that capture both sorrow and vitality. Her lyrics resonate with raw emotion, offering solace and empathy to those who may be struggling. In ‘Keep Still,’ she sings, “How long until I come undone / feels like I’m the only one trying too hard… Look at me, I’m still alive / Kicking and screaming on the inside / Every second, every borrowed breath / A miracle in itself.” In ‘Darling I’ve Been There,’ she extends a hand of understanding to anyone experiencing a slump, singing, “I’m all ears and my judgment is love / I won’t let you get stuck in a rut / cause darling I’ve been there / So, get up, take my hand, let’s run.”
Many of the songs on the album offer glimpses into Clara Benin’s personal journal entries, while others are fictional narratives grounded in her own experiences. In ‘Small Town,’ she reminisces about her teenage years in a close-knit Bacolod neighborhood, vividly imagining encounters with an old boyfriend. These diaristic details, from the gritty sand between her toes to moments of introspection while listening to Joni Mitchell on a midnight flight, provide deeper insights into her storytelling.
‘Blink,’ another track on the album, explores her love-hate relationship with the beach, stemming from her struggle to stay present and relax. Benin concludes, “In a blink of an eye / This could all be gone / So I take my time / And just have fun.”
Despite the album’s title, Clara Benin acknowledges her ongoing journey to redefine her relationship with tears, which has often been associated with notions of vulnerability and fragility. She shares her personal growth in this regard, stating, “I think it’s important for everyone to have that little cry session maybe once a week if needed. Depends on your threshold, I guess. But yeah, that was a really big realization for me in the process of making this album – that it’s OK to cry. We’re all trying to heal our inner child.”
Clara Benin’s musical evolution is a testament to her willingness to explore diverse emotions and experiences through her artistry. ‘Befriending My Tears’ not only showcases her growth as a musician but also offers solace, understanding, and a sense of kinship to listeners navigating their own journeys through life’s complexities. Clara Benin continues to break boundaries and embrace vulnerability, proving that her musical path is one of authenticity and evolution.