Dig­ging down to find Clare

After five years on the TV se­ries Nashville it’s time to tell sto­ries about her­self and her loved ones

Central and North Burnett Times - - READ - BY Seanna Cronin

PLAY­ING her­self is the most ex­cit­ing role yet for Clare Bowen. The Aus­tralian ac­tress and musician, best known for por­tray­ing Scar­lett O’Connor in the Amer­i­can mu­si­cal drama se­ries Nashville, is in the mid­dle of writ­ing and record­ing her de­but solo al­bum.

After re­leas­ing more than a dozen al­bums with the Nashville cast, this will be her first state­ment as an artist.

“It sounds funny but I’ve had to dig through ev­ery char­ac­ter I’ve ever played to get to me,” Clare tells Week­end.

“And I have to make sure I stay there for the whole al­bum. The songs are all true sto­ries that have hap­pened to me or peo­ple I love.”

The 33-year-old will give Aus­tralian au­di­ences a sneak peek at her new ma­te­rial when she re­turns home next month for a 10-date run of shows.

The tour will be a special re­union for Clare and her younger brother Ti­mothy, who opened for her on her tour last year de­spite be­ing di­ag­nosed with blood can­cer.

“He was so brave to open for me last year. He was on chemo­ther­apy at the time so he wasn’t feel­ing too good,” she says.

“We got through it, and then he went straight from the air­port to the hospi­tal for an­other round of chemo. Now he’s in re­mis­sion and it’s a bless­ing to have him up and per­form­ing again. I’m ex­cited he’ll get to have a bit more fun this time.”

It’s the sec­ond time can­cer has struck the sib­lings. On her fourth birth­day Clare was di­ag­nosed with end-stage nephrob­las­toma, a type of kid­ney can­cer. She bat­tled the dis­ease for three years and, luck­ily, has been clear ever since.

Her close call has in­spired Clare to live ev­ery day to the fullest; she could never set­tle for be­ing just a pretty TV star. “I’m the kid who out­lived four life ex­pectan­cies,” she says. “One of my mis­sions is to tell sto­ries that let peo­ple know that they’re not alone in the world; ev­ery­body’s go­ing through some­thing.”

That out­look led to Clare cut­ting off her long blonde locks, a trademark of her Nashville char­ac­ter, two years ago to prove to girls bat­tling can­cer that beauty goes be­yond long hair.

“That’s the stuff that lasts,” she says. “I would rather be re­mem­bered for be­ing kind than pretty. I don’t re­ally care about the way I look. It’s the way you treat peo­ple that you leave be­hind.”

Ear­lier this year she also ded­i­cated her de­but sin­gle, Love Steps In, to her brother and his can­cer bat­tle.

“Watch­ing per­fect strangers at the shows with their arms around one an­other, hav­ing met through this story that I shared, is why I’m so ex­cited to come back to Aus­tralia,” she says.

“To do that in the coun­try I was born in is such an honour.” Clare grew up along the Min­na­murra River near Shell­har­bour on the NSW south coast but her no­madic fam­ily – her fa­ther is a chef for Qan­tas and her mother is an in­te­rior de­signer – also spent time liv­ing in Zim­babwe.

She left the Univer­sity of Wol­lon­gong after land­ing her break­through role in David Field’s crime drama The Com­bi­na­tion.

“I was up for what­ever ad­ven­ture came my way; that’s the way you have to do it be­cause the act­ing in­dus­try isn’t easy to get into,” she says.

“That was me learn­ing to act on cam­era be­cause I didn’t have any train­ing at all. They took a big chance on me and I’m for­ever grate­ful to David for that.”

But if it wasn’t for a few wise words of ad­vice from Cate Blanchett, Clare may never have ended up on Nashville.

After the suc­cess of The Com­bi­na­tion, Clare was cast in the Syd­ney The­atre Com­pany’s pro­duc­tion of Spring Awak­en­ing; Blanchett is the com­pany’s co-artis­tic di­rec­tor.

“We re­ally didn’t know each other very well, but she was just very sweet and en­cour­ag­ing,” Clare says.

“She loved the show we put on, came back stage and talked to me. I don’t know what she saw (in me).

“She asked me if I ever thought about go­ing to LA.

AS A CHILD WHO ‘DIDN’T DO SO­CIAL WELL ’, MU­SIC WASHER LIFE LINE

‘‘ One of my mis­sions is to tell sto­ries that let peo­ple know that they’re not alone in the world; ev­ery­body’s go­ing through some­thing.

“If Cate Blanchett tells you to do any­thing, do it – even if it’s scary.”

Within a year of book­ing her one-way ticket to the US, Clare au­di­tioned for and landed the role of Scar­lett – a young poet turned song­writer, whose folk and Amer­i­cana songs are in­flu­enced by a chal­leng­ing child­hood.

It’s a char­ac­ter that has taken her around the world sev­eral times over, and turned her into a house­hold name for coun­try mu­sic fans.

“No mat­ter where you come from, that sto­ry­telling and fam­ily ori­en­ta­tion in coun­try mu­sic speaks to peo­ple,” she says.

“Nashville re­ally has the best fans in the world. I know ev­ery­thing comes to an end at some point, but I’m just hav­ing fun right now.”

The Nashville jug­ger­naut is show­ing no signs of slow­ing down. The se­ries was re­cently re­newed for a sixth sea­son and the cast’s live shows con­tinue to sell out in the US and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“I can’t be­lieve the po­si­tion I’ve found my­self in,” Clare says. “We film for 10 months out of the year and we tour to­gether ev­ery sec­ond week­end or so, but it’s far more won­der­ful than it is tir­ing.

“For me it’s all sto­ry­telling and I couldn’t pick which one I’d like to do more. Per­form­ing live is fun be­cause you get to meet and hug peo­ple, but I’m also blessed to be in a po­si­tion where I get to tell sto­ries recorded and filmed.”

◗ Clare Bowen plays Toowoomba’s Em­pire The­atre on July 13, The Star Gold Coast on July 14 and Rock­hamp­ton’s Pil­beam The­atre on July 15.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Aus­tralian ac­tress and singer Clare Bowen, who got her big break on the US TV se­ries Nashville, is tour­ing Aus­tralia with her solo al­bum.

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