Born in Seattle, singer-songwriter Claire Ridgely grew up between Lausanne, Switzerland, and McLean, Virginia, before settling down in Montréal. The city’s fertile musical soil is allowing her to really bloom, these days.
In her apartment in the 514, which she shares with Clément Langlois-Légaré and her lover Adel Kazi – known collectively as the Pops & Poolboy duo – Ridgely is the contemporary incarnation of Aznavour’s La Bohème. Every moment of her existence hinges around songwriting and recording.
Her voice is recognizably soft yet limpid, with an impish timbre anchored in soul, which will no doubt earn her some flattering comparisons to Alessia Cara. In phase with Clay and Friends’ funk and swaying rhythms – a band in which Langlois-Légaré and Kazi also play – the adoptive Québecer is rooted in jazz, and all the genres that flow from it.
Yet, she cut her teeth on lyrical singing before reaching adulthood. “I admit what I’m doing today has more swing,” says Ridgely. “Classical music is quite straight… I think it’s because I didn’t want to be a classical singer. It took a really long time and a ton of songs, that I’ve never released, before I found my voice.”
Now in full control of her instrument and of its colours, Claire even goes so far as to flirt with hip-hop on the verses of “It’s All Over Now,” one of the songs on her EP, which was released on Jan. 29, 2021. She’s still singing, but the her flow and phrasing are on the edge of rap. “It was definitely a challenge. I really went for it,” she says. “That song wasn’t intended for me, initially, but my friend and co-writer Oren Lefkowitz, aka Oscar Louis, convinced me to try it. I dared, I gave everything I had in the recording booth, and I’m really happy with the result!”
But Ridgely isn’t a one-musical-style kind of girl. On “Take The Pain,” the third song on her debut project, she goes for baby-pink and powder-blue pop. At the end of that breakup song, sprinkled with positive musings and a reggae-ish flavour, she cheekily quotes the Spice Girls, singing a snippet of their monster hit, “Say You’ll Be There.” “To me, that band embodies creativity, strong women, good music and sisterhood,” she says.
“Girl Power,” the Spice Girls’ leitmotif back in the day, also permeates Ridgely’s budding career. Her ever so slightly acidic music and her lyrics bear witness to that. “Can We Be Friends?,” a single released ahead of her EP, is based on a conversation with a sexual predator who had followed her home. It was a highly confusing experience for the 12- or 13-year-old girl she was at the time, and she kept the trauma bottled up until she was able to exorcize it on a contagious pop song. “I wanted to create a contrast between dark lyrics about a specific moment that really happened to me, and a bouncy and energetic production,” she says. “I think it’s a little weird, ultimately, but it feels good to dance to a dark song.”
Whether we like it or not, all women evolve in the music industry encountering the many traps set up for them, a rather sordid backstage game that the second wave of the #MeToo movement brought to light during the summer of 2020 in La Belle Province. So in order to avoid having to go forward with fingers crossed, in the hopes of not crossing paths with the wrong people, Ridgley has decided to place both hands firmly on the steering wheel. After completing SOCAN Foundation’s TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship, she looked in the direction of the American market.
“It’s totally part of my game plan, and it would be awesome, but I think you just need to go with the flow,” she says. “I have dreams and goals, but I can never forget that I’m here to make good music, whatever happens.”