by Steve Dollar | July 1, 2019

Fledglings: Rhythm and Roots

A young singer-songwriter looks to her musician father and contemporary female artists for inspiration

singer-songwriter Claire Vandiver came to music naturally, Claire on stage
Singer-songwriter Claire Vandiver recorded her first demo with her dad at age 12. Photography by Cirilo Hernandez

At 25, singer-songwriter Claire Vandiver came to music naturally: Her father, Chip Vandiver, is a seasoned blues and rock guitarist whom Southern music fans may recall from the band Southfield. By the time Nashville-born Claire arrived at Daytona State College to study music production, she had already been performing for several years, and she soon left school to pursue music full time. She’s now working on a follow-up to her 2016 debut EP and has already released catchy singles like the mystic “Cassadaga.” Vandiver, a fan of strong female songwriters like Kacey Musgraves and Sharon Van Etten, is honing a blues-inflected sound with soulful vocal flourish and emotional introspection that plays just as well in coffeehouses as in roadhouses, with which the Crescent City resident is intimately familiar. Flamingo spoke with Vandiver about her background and what the future might hold.

Do you have childhood memories of your dad performing?

It had a big impact on me, but no one forced me to do it as a kid. I just wouldn’t shut up. I was blessed to have good parents that believed in me.

What was it like growing up in a musical family?

Oh yeah. I recorded my first little demo [in the studio with him] when I was 11 or 12. We did that in Nashville. I was in my pajamas, and I sang this song. He actually wrote the song for me and it was called “Something That’s Real.” It was about following your dreams.

Your songs have A blues feel, but also assert something emotional all your own. What’s your songwriting philosophy?

My dad’s a big blues guy, and I definitely grew up on blues. But I listen to everything. Over time, I never really wanted to sound like anybody. I stick to what feels right intuitively in that moment. That’s the thing with songwriting, you’re not sure where it comes from. I try to stick to my roots and what feels organic.

When did you start playing in clubs?

I was 16. I started gigging with my father, and we had kind of a blues band. We were doing biker bars and all kinds of stuff like that.

It was pretty wild. Looking back on it, oh my God. I don’t think I was even old enough to be in there. I dealt with a lot of creepers and weirdos, but overall it was a really good experience just to practice and get up there. Plus, I made a little money and didn’t have to work at Winn-Dixie like every other high school student.

Where’s the best place to find you onstage?

Right now, I’m gigging a lot in St. Augustine. That’s my hotspot. They welcome original music. It’s more artsy. It’s a cool historic area and has a good vibe. Also, there’s a good music family there. It’s just on the rise. They’re really doing a lot of work to get things going, to kind of put a name on it.

Read more on Flamingo's up and coming musicians.