Radar Band Of The Week – No 13: Clare Maguire

Clare Maguire – the latest big voice to get chequebooks – and Jay-Z – a-quivering…

“I don’t think I’ve performed well unless somebody’s had an extreme reaction,” says Clare Maguire, giggling at the knowledge of her own aural superpower, a voice which makes people do extraordinary things.

When she first unleashed it at a school performance, a hall full of parents sat aghast. When she dropped out of school aged 16 and started posting her songs on MySpace, electro popster Primary 1 was so desperate to record with her that he offered to meet in a lay-by on the M1 if she couldn’t afford to get to London. Jarvis Cocker, Plan B and Mike Skinner all wrote songs for her.

And when word of this magical voice first spread, every UK and US major label courted the then 19-year-old Brummie; she was whisked to Leonard Cohen rehearsals in Malibu by Rick Rubin, offered a rumoured million-pound contract by Universal and plied with shots by Jay-Z at his NYC restaurant.

“He walked in and goes ‘Clare Maguire! I heard your music, it’s great’,” she says. “He brought us upstairs and ordered everyone shots. I said to him, ‘How can you tell a star?’ and he said, ‘You can see it in their eyes.’ I said, ‘Can you see it in my eyes?’ and he said, ‘I can see it.’ And I said, ‘That’s probably because you gave me about five shots!’”

However much Universal finally landed Maguire for, it was enough to set industry tongues wagging. But then, Maguire’s MySpace was wiped of music and she disappeared for three years, living “dark times… extreme isolation and vulnerability” on an east London council estate while writing with Salaam Remi, James Ford and Linda Perry.

But it wasn’t until she met Fraser T Smith – the man behind Number One hits for Tinchy Stryder and Taio Cruz – that the dark times ended, the ball began re-rolling and her sound fell into place: a mainstream-leaning, electro-flecked amalgam of Eurythmics, Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac and Florence.

She might be about as schmindie as a WOMAD knitting circle, but she’s punk at heart and her voice is a siren call loud enough to lure the hardiest Factory Floor fan on to pop’s craggiest rocks.

Need To Know

*Clare wrote and recorded her first demos while working in Topshop
*She’s such a huge fan of Kings Of Leon that she’s followed them around on tour
*She wrote her album in two fortnight-long bursts – half of it in a “dark space” and half in a “light space”. She means mentally, we think