The Colliding Whimsy of a Carefree Approach: Clare Cowley takes us through ‘Desire Notes’

Clare Cowley, a musical enchantress, conjures folk magic with her delicate vocals and bluesy melodies.

Clare Cowley’s “Desire Notes” takes you on a whimsical journey to dusty candlelit bars and wild frontiers. Each song feels like an ancient folk tune with hidden magic, transporting you to a realm of sing-along hypnosis.

In “Need a Cuddle,” the accordion and Spanish-like guitar strokes create a visceral image of communal dancing and spontaneous romance, tinged with Clare Cowley’s bittersweet lyrical musings. “Next Time You Go Travelling” carries a tipsy loneliness through plucks and textured strings, capturing the yearning of wandering souls. “Ashamed” exudes cowboy melancholy, enticing us with its theatrical and dangerous allure.

Musician Clare Cowley
Credit: Charmaine Lyons Photography

Clare’s album is a world of imaginative metaphors and whimsical descriptions, where her warm charisma draws you in. Her music possesses the ability to hypnotize and transport you, which is not so dissimilar to the development and inspirations behind the music

To delve deeper into her enchanting sound, Clare shares insights into her album’s writing. From an initial embaressment of what felt like a country music guilty pleasure, to shared stories over a hitchhiking adventure, to the stream-of-consciousness prose of Haruki Murakami, she explores the shaping of her unique musical universe.

Join Clare Cowley on this extraordinary musical adventure, where melodies dance with abandon and ancient tales come alive. Her album invites you to a place where hidden magic lingers in every note, allowing your imagination to soar. So let’s gain a behind-the-scenes look at what exactly was going on for Clare as she developed the lush and theatrical world behind ‘Desire Notes’, and learn to find inspiration around you as you navigate your own path.

Clare Cowley


My Reason – inspired to write in different styles by Bob Dylan and Gillian Welch.

One of the chapters in The Chronicles of Bob Dylan, talks about challenging yourself with different song styles. I felt like I wanted to write a country song. I had been listening to The Harrow & The Harvest; marveling at the vocal sincerity Gillian Welch delivers in her ballads and practicing singing along with David Rawlings’ elusive Harmonies.

The spacious country where I worked at the time with the Maranoa River running through provided the right environment to write it. At first, I felt embarrassed about sharing my country song, because I was uncomfortable about how much I loved country music.

But once I got the go ahead from some of my consiglieres about the song writing, including my little sister and brother as well as singer songwriter John Gordon, from my hometown of Allora, I accepted what I had made and the song took on its own life, including harmonies by my siblings, lap steel guitar and my very own country style music video made on the farm where I grew up.

Next Time You Go Traveling –  inspired by a character I met on the road.

Next Time You go traveling is a song I wrote about hitchhiking up north. My boyfriend at the time was a supportive type in all the wrong ways. He wanted me to show more skin, so we’d be more likely to get a ride. It is my favorite song to banter about because the main character is so tangible.

An 84-year-old sweaty, dirt clad miner, driving home from work, picked us up in his pale orange (originally white) van. We were hitchhiking out of Katherine and he knew we could probably share the drive back to Three Ways while he slept in the back.

On the way he shared stories over light meals when we stopped for a break. While eating spam with him one day on an aluminum park bench, when my BF was out of ear shot, he let me know that I could do with better company next time I go traveling. 

Dancing Like Fighting – inspired by Lovers that didn’t arrive, Don Mclean & reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Written on an upright piano, the song takes on an optimistic tone in an effort to laugh off the reality of time passing too quickly to keep up with. I use a typical melancholic metaphor of autumn to describe my crushes as ‘leaves falling past my face, watching (them) go and find another girl to settle down with’. And likened it to the feeling I got listening to Don McLean on Vinyl and one of his covers, Somebody Loves Me.

The song, originally composed by George Gershwin; has a kind of dark comedy going on, that laughs at the meaninglessness of romance with lyrics revealing frivolous shouts of maybe to ‘every girl that passes by’, meanwhile a bright melodic undercurrent fuelling a desire to keep going despite various rejections and being worried about ‘who she can be’. DLF deals with this borderline effect that occurs when you do, dance, and make yourself vulnerable by expressing yourself in front of the world.

The line ‘floating in a tank of water, watching people watch in order’ is inspired by a scene in the book Middlesex, where the character goes on a journey seeking a sense of belonging, by continually putting themselves out there. Arriving in a moment where they could let themselves be frozen in the gaze of others or keep moving along their line of sight.

Surfer – inspired by the silent jogging escapee mood in J J Cale Recordings

I referred to J J Cale’s songs After Midnight and Crazy Mama as a reference for the way we edited Surfer in the studio – which is funny because I was put onto Cale’s music by another surfer who I dated, cos I didn’t listen to my past self and went out with another one, who probably thinks this song is about him, so vain, ha ha!

Need A Cuddle – inspired by the tumbleweed methods of the beat poets.

The lyrics came from a continuous writing journal I had kept since art college, where I first read On the Road by Jack Kerouac and books by other Beat poets. I made drawings and prose inspired by the way they let their environment and associative thoughts rule the page.

Lately I refer to Patti Smith, Tim Winton and Haruki Murakami as teachers in this method. In continuous writing, I get to embellish my trains of thought by capturing them as they arrive and letting them go again, sometimes colliding with each other.

Allowing a lyrical painting to take form without grammatical rules was freeing to sing with and the melody arrived as a sweeping serenade featuring the line that resonated the most at the time, Need A Cuddle.

Watch The Sky – inspired by space and acceptance of my relationship with my dad.

The expectations I had of a relationship with a ‘man of few words’ was unrealistic. I endeavored to capture the sense of a loud quietness this realization gave me, a feeling I associate with the hard to pin down relationship I have with the big sky and land.

I had listened to Ed Keupper a lot while commuting on trains between the coast and Brisbane, feeling refreshed from arriving in QLD after a six-month trip through parts of Europe. From the train window, while watching harsh light line the yellow grasses, shimmer the creeks and back the trees and hills; I absorbed through headphones, a lesson in making music, with the land as conductor. Ed Keupper & his Oxley Creek Playboys feat.

Felicity Urquhart, recorded a version of Camooweal, a song by Slim Dusty. The noisy quietness of the atmosphere in lands known as Australia, is captured in it; Animating further, Slims’ poetic accounts of being on the road. Watch The Sky is spacious and rolling like moving through towns and relationships, not without respect for what is learned.

When recording, I crooned this song into the microphone because it featured in a cabaret I wrote and toured about finding my voice inside the spirit of my father’s big soothing singing voice.

Dive into the entire album, and keep an eye out for the next musings of Clare Cowley.