Essex girl CC Clarke says that music has always been in her blood. Nowadays, she might balance music and her “other” career as a beauty influencer, but she started out in musical theater. At college, she was writing her own lyrics and ad-libbing during productions, and that’s when she realized that she was born to play herself.
“I started songwriting from quite young,” she told us during a Zoom interview. “Poetry from the age of ten and then it soon turned into songs by the age of 13 or 14. By the age of 17, I had my first manager and was in the studio, had a taste for that. It’s never stopped since. I’m in my late 20’s now, and it’s something that I’ll never stop pursuing. I’m so grateful, the different, unexpected twists along the way. I was a very deep child, writing about all of the problems in the world. Why was there suffering and injustice? My mum was like, ‘where on earth does she get this from?’ She definitely didn’t expect me to be writing about all of that, that’s for sure.”
Clarke describes her sound as soul-pop — heady blend of the artists she grew up listening to such as Gwen Stefani, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Jorja Smith, and Rihanna. Born and raised in Essex, she now lives in Hertfordshire outside of London, and she loves having the UK stamp on her music.
“For me, that’s really important because for so many years there were a lot of artists in the UK trying to be American,” she says. “It didn’t make sense to me, and I always wondered why we put on American voices. I have so much respect for anyone that really puts their stamp on their UK project as someone from the UK.”
Clarke’s latest single is “Boys Do Cry,” which she says addresses the stigma associated with mental health, especially in men.
“The more that you talk about your feelings, the more open you can be and the more that they thrive,” she says. “When you stop communicating, that’s when they break down. Seeing that firsthand really inspired me to write this song and to get this message out there. I didn’t know quite how many people it would touch. It’s not just about boys, it’s about anyone not being ashamed to cry. Cry, dance to it, feel happy, but also feel reassured that you’re not alone.”
The artist has a direct line to her own audience thanks to her work as a beauty influencer. That whole thing started when she was touring with bands, and people would ask about her makeup. Rather than repeat herself constantly, she began filming online tutorials.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing to be honest,” she says. “I started doing Instagram and documenting what I was wearing, in terms of my fashion and makeup for shows. I was always the girl in the band that was doing everyone else’s makeup, or the cast’s makeup at the theater. It was something that I loved. Beauty ran in the family — my mom was a makeup artist so I took on a lot of her creativity. I do feel like being an artist in the music industry is about embodying everything to do with art from fashion to stage set and presence and makeup.”
Fast-forward to now and she has 2 million followers on Instagram, plus 583K on TikTok and more elsewhere. He certainly has influence, although she prefers to refer to herself as a “digital creator.”
“An influencer in my eyes is someone who has a large following, because they’ve either attained followers from a TV reality show or from being a makeup artist or anything,” she says. “But I prefer to refer to myself as a digital creator because I create for my audience and I’m obviously an artist. For me, that is more of a craft. If you’ve got a large audience these days, you’re influencing your audience one way or another. But whether you’re specifically creating anything to teach them is another thing. I’m creating specifically for my followers and what they want to see.”
Keeping on top of it all is a job in and of itself, especially when considering that Clarke has a six-month-old baby to take care of too. It’s not easy, but she loves a challenge.
“It’s not even just one platform anymore,” she says. “It’s finding your niche on each platform as well. You have to evolve with it. I was always looking ahead of the trends. I want to make it relevant, keep things moving and make sure that people are enjoying the content, along with being true to myself and not losing the message that I want to continue to put across to my audience. Which is really encouraging them by means of makeup, music or fashion, to embrace themselves. Inspiring other people to have the confidence to do something that they’ve always wanted to do.”
With a child comes the opportunity to “mommy blog,” though that sadly brings trolls with it. Mom shaming, she says, is very real. Still, she’s doing things on her own terms and coming out on top.
“In my mind, the dream is if I can continue to meld these worlds together because they’re both my passion,” she says. “I’m never going to be performing without a full face of makeup on. Trying to be glam. I think there’s a way that I can make that dream reality. On Instagram, I have separate posts as well. Getting the balance is tricky because all the music I’m doing, I can’t put out on social media, I have to wait until the singles are released. But it’s definitely something I see as going hand in hand.”
Looking ahead, Clarke can’t wait to tour as soon as it’s allowed, and there might be an EP next year. Until then, she’ll keep working on singles, and her beauty videos. It’s what she does. ❖
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.