Former opera singer and Northern Irelander Claire McKeown is joined by Claire Boutelle, Aimee Jacobs, Danielle Mandell, Dayna Richards, Jacquelyn Sky, and Cynthia Zitter to create a unique chamber pop choir dubbed Honey Child — and you’ve never heard anything like it. With a backstory that is full-on movie material, L.A.- based Honey Child was birthed from tumult and talent. This ensemble is a one-of-a-kind musical experience, and one you’ll want to keep up with. Their self-titled debut album will be out February 9th, and we can’t wait.
We were excited to speak with Claire McKeown, the founder of Honey Child about her background, current projects, and creativity.
Honey Child is a much different project compared to your opera/classical background — what made you take a different musical path?
I was about ten years deep into my training as a Wagnerian Soprano and performing scenes from Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, and Die Walküre at The Orange County Performing Arts Center. There was a Q and A after the performance and I got to talk to my audience. They clearly loved me and were excited about my voice but it hit me hard that these are not the people that I want to spend my life pleasing. I wanted an audience of freaks like me! I wanted my peers.
I fell into a dark spot after turning my back on my Operatic dreams. I started partying way too much and had a complete nervous breakdown including a brief conversation with the devil. I had never written music before that and I haven’t stopped since.
What was the inspiration for the fun and eclectic “Gotta Wait Another Night” music video?
It’s the classic tale of a night and day in the life of a baroque goddess who takes her nun to the beach.
Sprung from the brilliant mind of the Director Dawn Carol Garcia (Kaputt by Destroyer, Mercy by TV on The Radio) and produced by Cheeky Films. I think the original concept was to mix the worlds of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Sarah McLachlan’. We loved the idea of a performer that dressed up even more in real life than their stage life. The main characters are based on alter egos of mine from past music projects. I have played a nun (Suor Angelica, Dialogue of the Carmelites) on the opera stage and the powdered wig look is from my last band, Dirt Bird.
When casting the role of the Nun I had my hottest friend in mind for the cigarette smoking nun role. Dawn thought that was too predictable and suggested to go left field and cast a man. My friend Daniel Leland Crook (Crook) popped instantly into mind. I knew he could play this part with elegance and just enough of the madcap we wanted.
The video ends at El Matador Beach and yes plenty of “You Maniacs, You blew it up” (from The Planet of The Apes) were recited while there. We picked this place because it is usually filled with surfers and were hoping to ask one to swim on the board to break up a struggle between me and my nun in the ocean. It would have been hilarious but there was not one Surfer there that day. Instead we were gifted with this beautiful couple taking wedding pictures on a rock that allowed for the gloriously ridiculous moment in the video that I think would have made Fellini proud.
What’s been the most exciting part of forming Honey Child?
I love making videos, I love writing and arranging songs, I love performing, and I love recording but the true excitement of Honey Child is during our practices. Every Sunday night I make dinner for the 7 of us and we all gather around to eat, talk, and sing. It is the highlight of my current life and such a treasured time.
How do you bring elements of your Irish background to this project
I think that finds its way in through the collective unconscious pumping in my blood of my ancestors. I also have a soft spot of sweeping melodies and songs that tug at your heart like ones in Only Our Rivers Run Free, The Fields of Athenry, and As she moves through the fair. My voice is very Irish, too. We are blessed with clear voices and I am told that you can hear my dormant Irish Accent best when I sing.
Favorite part of being in an all-female group?
I get to make music with 6 of the best musicians I know and create a sound that constantly moves us all to tears.
Everyone is so kind, thoughtful, helpful, and respectful. I hope that Honey Child is creating this positive environment but I am pretty sure I also just lucked out and attracted good humans. I’ll never understand why women are portrayed as caddy in pop culture because I have worked with men and women and it is always the women who are the most integral and free of drama.
Honey Child, as a band name, has Southern/Americana vibes to it. Was this intentional, or is there a story behind the name?
I used to have a choir director back in Middle School that would always call me Honey Child …but not in a good way. I think I may have given her a hard time because she was always pissed off at me. One day she and I were alone in the choir room and she started laughing and said “I can’t wait for you to go to High School because you’re going to be a nobody”.
A normal person would have let this crush them but I took it as such a complement. She thought I was a somebody!! At least at that moment. So a couple of years ago when I was thinking of starting a choir project it made complete sense to call it Honey Child.
Who do you hope to inspire through your music?
Anyone who thinks they are a nobody.