To mark the release of her new album Better In Blak, we sat down with singer Thelma Plum and director Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore to chat all things music.
MC: You’ve just finished filming the video clip for your new single “Better in Blak.” Tell us about your inspiration for the song.
TP: I think this is the most honest song I’ve ever shared with the world. I feel very vulnerable about sharing it; it’s my experience being a young black woman in this country. It can feel pretty hard, but I’m really proud of who I am, as well as my people and the beautiful, strong women [in my life].
MC: Claudia, you directed the clip. How does Thelma take direction?
CSD: I’ve worked with Thelma on her other clips [for singles “Clumsy Love” and “Not Angry Anymore”] and it’s amazing to have watched her progression from the first shoot. She is so much more secure with her presence on camera ... Seeing that transformation has been beautiful.
TP: I used to feel very nervous and unsure of myself in front of the camera – and there’s definitely still some of that there – but most of it has gone away. Working with Claudia and the team reassures me that I’m safe.
MC: Claudia, you crew your music videos with mostly women. Why
is that important to you?
CSD: We had 19 women and two men on set for “Better in Blak.” That was initially Thel’s request, wanting to create that safe space, which I really respected. From a holistic sense, I just love encouraging other women to be creatively in charge in those spaces.
MC: How did you celebrate when you wrapped filming?
TP: It was really late on a Friday night. We all fell into hugs and then left without even saying goodbye to each other because we were so tired. I went home to bed and ate pizza.
MC: Thelma, you have a way of perfectly capturing emotions in your songs – especially in the track “Do You Ever Get So Sad You Can’t Breathe.” Is music a form of therapy for you?
TP: Definitely! I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have that outlet. Writing helps me unpack my feelings, for sure. I wrote “Do You Ever Get So Sad” in my bathroom because there’s really good acoustics in there. I was in quite a dark place writing that song, but it was therapeutic.
MC: You’re about to play at Splendour in the Grass in July. How do you calm your nerves on stage?
TP: I get so nervous! My anxiety can be pretty bad, to the point where sometimes I feel physically ill before I go on stage. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there; but by the second song in, I love everyone watching me [laughs]. I try to find certain people in the audience, and I will look straight at them and perform to them. It centres me and reminds me of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
MC: Claudia, you directed the documentary Her Sound, Her Story last year, which highlighted the music industry’s intense gender disparity. What did you hope it would achieve?
CSD: The documentary was a four-year venture with my friend Michelle Grace Hunder, who’s a music photographer. More than anything, it was a celebration of the community [of women in music] we’ve been able to nurture. It was about connecting with individuals and sharing their stories.
MC: Thelma, you appeared in Her Sound, Her Story. What do you think is the biggest issue facing women in the music industry today?
TP: Oh gosh, there’s a lot [laughs]. I think we need to start listening and believing women. Those two things will help empower women.
MC: What is your hope for the future of the industry?
TP: I’m excited for the day when rich white men aren’t in charge anymore. I literally can’t wait.
MC: Who are you listening to?
TP: I love Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album [Dedicated]. She’s such a queen.
CSD: Ooh I’ve had Caiti Baker and Alice Ivy on repeat lately – and Thelma, of course!
This article originally appeared in the August issue of marie claire magazine.