MANILA, Philippines – Sometime in early 2021, Clara Benin couldn’t sleep. All night, she was kept up by thoughts of what ifs, regrets, mistakes, memories, and other ghosts from her past.
It went on like that in her head for several nights until one night, she sat at her laptop, turned on her digital workspace, and wrote until she had a song.
After recording a demo and sending to her closest friends (who were all asleep because it was 3 am), she listened back to the song again and cried.
“I just felt this sense of relief na finally I’m able to release all these thoughts and I’m able to create something beautiful out of this thing that’s been causing me anxiety for many nights,” she told Rappler in an interview.
Songwriting has always been Clara’s healing ritual when it comes to processing emotions, however tricky.
“Wine” – a fan favorite that Clara wrote in 2014 and whose studio version was finally released in 2020 – reads like a song about unrequited love, but was really inspired by Clara being overwhelmed by schoolwork and just wanting to drink a glass of wine.
“It’s Okay,” released in May 2020, was written in the early days of the pandemic. With lyrics like “We won’t be the same/ I’m forever changed/ I cannot unsee/ What’s in front of me,” the song was Clara’s ode to the times, and a reminder to take it easy in hard times.
Her latest single “blink,” the product of those sleepless nights in 2021, is no different.
“Surprisingly it just took me one night to finish the song. I guess because the nights prior to that, I’ve just been thinking about how to write the song so much and every day, I journal all my thoughts, so when I finally opened my laptop and opened my logic session (where I record my music), when I opened that, it just came out, everything I wanted to say and everything I was feeling,” she shared.
“Kung baga (that is to say), it was cooked already, ’cause I’ve been baking it inside my head…. I was able to just let everything out in that one night,” she said.
While the raw version of the song was complete in early 2021, Clara only released it on December 26, after working with Gabba Santiago on drums and electronic musician The Ringmaster as producer.
Their subtle instrumentals and production work add a new layer to the track, which is ultimately still anchored on the simplicity of Clara’s voice and guitar.
“I always feel protective over my songs. They’re like my babies, so it’s really important for me to work with people that I really trust,” Clara said, sharing that both her collaborators on “blink” are her friends, so they understood what she wanted to do.
Since its release, the song has already been played 176,349 times on Spotify (as of this writing). Released under the international record label OFFMUTE, it has potentially reached listeners not only in the Philippines, but in other countries.
“It’s kind of surreal just thinking about how this song has reached so many people not just around the Philippines and possibly around the world, through the internet. And I’m just here in my room, doing music,” she said, laughing at how her song is more well-traveled than her at the moment.
Clara admitted that she still struggles to write songs about love and “happy things” which only makes sense, because there’s not much to process about happiness.
“I don’t know, I’m just more drawn towards sadness when it comes to writing music. That’s when I feel like I need an outlet for it, so songwriting has always been that,” she shared. “I think that’s my challenge, that’s a challenge for me, writing more upbeat songs.”
Whether the world ever hears those upbeat Clara Benin songs or not, one thing’s for sure: she will be releasing more music this year.
“I wrote a bunch of songs the past two years, just working on the demos. I’m finally able to record them,” she shared, adding that she hopes to release an album this year and more music videos.
Even as she shares her music with thousands of other listeners, her songs will always remain personal for Clara.
“I try not to think about releasing it or what other people think about it…. As much as possible, I just try to write the song,” Clara said.
“Songwriting has always been therapeutic for me,” she said. “It’s mine first and foremost before I give it to the world, so I try to enjoy that moment while it’s still mine, before giving it out to my listeners.” – Rappler.com