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Q&A Claire Marie Header Update

Design

Sonic Branding With Claire Marie

  • Words Vidula Kotian
  • Images Justin Sisso
  • Date 15 April 2021

A significant number of female-identifying artists are making their mark in the music industry and here to help them along are labels like Les Filles that represent them exclusively. The artists they work with defy categorization such as the Paris-born New York-resident Claire Marie Rutledge whose impeccable taste in music and interiors has seen her straddling both careers as well as cities in the recent past. For Les Filles, she handles the label’s expansion into Europe and works as a music curator to create custom Sonic Branding for hotels and high fashion brands clients such as Chanel, Dior, Kitsune, and more. We had a brief chat with her about all things music.

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Q. Since your whole family is musical, do you think musical talent is genetic?

I am certain that growing up surrounded by others with musical talent develops your ear for sound. Listening to my dad playing piano and training at night definitely piqued my curiosity early on and was central to what became my taste for music. I also started going out at an early age, following my big brother to underground parties in Paris where he was playing. The idea that music could be considered “genetic” is a little challenging for me as I believe becoming a musician requires a lot of work and perseverance. You have to always push yourself more and more in an industry that is ever-changing.

 

Q. How did you end up working with Les Filles?

My brilliant business partner and founder of Les Filles, Bec Adams was my agent. After two years of collaboration, we realized that we have diverse skill sets that worked together so harmoniously. We decided to put our strengths together and formed the perfect partnership to expand the label, especially in Europe.

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Q. How do you decide on the sonic content for a brand? Is there a difference between what you would choose for online and a physical space?

Some brands want to create an experience around music aligned with their brand identity so you have to imagine and create an immersive sonic experience based on their creative direction. I am quite visual so I usually get to know more about the brand by studying past campaigns and products, putting together some moodboards of how I imagine the brand would sound and feel. After this, I create a sonic identity that is aligned with the brand’s aesthetic and their core audience.

Alternatively, some brands want sonic content for a particular event or experience, like a product launch or digital event. In this case, it is based on the specific brief. But the most exciting element to me is really the challenge of how you can capture an experience that reflects the personality of the brand and its community purely through sound. Designing sounds for a physical space is a separate scope of work. The time of day when the listener may come across the music is really at the forefront. For example, in a hotel lobby, you wouldn’t play the same vibe at 8am as you would at 6pm.

 

Q. Which is your favorite genre of music? Why?

That’s a hard question. In my line, you have to be open and willing to learn many different genres. You build your repertoire day by day, listening to diverse styles in order to be able to work with a large palette of clients and audiences. Personally, the first thing I do when I wake up is to instinctually select music based on my mood. If I feel tired or anxious, classic or ambient are my top picks. On the contrary, if the sun is shining and the morning feels energized, I could totally be caught playing my latest disco crush at a super high volume––which makes my husband laugh a lot!

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“If the sun is shining and the morning feels energized, I could totally be caught playing my latest disco crush at a super high volume—which makes my husband laugh a lot!”
Claire Marie Rutledge

Q. You’re a Parisian…how did you end up in New York?

It’s somewhat of a classic story: I fell in love with an American boy—and the city. As a New Yorker, you want to be a Parisian and I think, vice versa. I will be forever grateful for what New York gave me and what it continues to give me every day.

 

Q. Which records give one a glimpse of New York nightlife?

From my collection? I would say in my top three would be a classic called In The Evening by Sheryl Lee Ralph for the beat and lyrics. Life in New York can be so hard but after dark new energy finds me and I light up and live like a star. This track reminds me of a night out at James Murphy’s private club in Williamsburg, Night Moves. Especially in times like these, it reminds me how much I miss dancing, the clubs, and the energy from other people all moving as one.

The second record I would say is Aaj Shanibar by Rupa Biswas—it’s disco jazz from 1982. I love integrating this brilliant track to my soundtrack of the night as it’s not very common to listen to instrumental and vocals from Bangladesh. It’s high energy with disco beats but nuanced with long jazzy instrumental segments and sophisticated drum breaks so that when you play it, everybody’s moving.

The third track would be I Heard a Sigh by Cortex. Ah, Cortex! They are a French jazz-funk band from the ’70s… It’s everything I love. A true rare groove, mixing headhunter-style funk with Brazilian flavored jazz and heavy bass.

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Q. Best gig you ever played? Why?


May I mention two? The first was in the summer of 2019, when I opened for Billie Eilish at Sunset Beach in The Hamptons for Chanel and played C’est si bon / That’s the Way I Love You by Madleen Kane at the beginning of my set. Now, whenever I hear that song, it transports me back to the sunset on the horizon, the ocean glistening like diamonds while all our guests were wearing Chanel from head to toe, dancing in the moonlight. It was magical.

The second was at The Blind Man’s Ball produced by Matte Projects on a Halloween weekend a few years ago. It was this wild party in a mansion one hour north of Manhattan. People were fully invested in dressing to the nines, the energy was unmatched, and the guests couldn’t stop dancing. I was playing in the Pompon Room, which was in collaboration with the Parisian club of the same name and the atmosphere was so incredible that my set got extended. My best friend and I actually got matching tattoos that night at the event—it will stay forever and ever in mind.

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Q. What got you into interior design? How would you describe your aesthetic?


My husband and I have always shared a passion for interior design. As a Creative Director, he has always had an incredible collection of books and magazines like Cabana and Apartamento. He really expands my knowledge, taste, and eye for interior design. Almost two years ago, we bought a getaway house in the Hudson Valley of New York which became our playground for creativity. I’ve learned quickly that sourcing and investing in designer pieces is 100% worth it and how to balance that while working on a tighter budget by buying non-branded or vintage furniture. In addition, I worked for four years as a Creative Producer at The Gathery where I had to source décor and furnishing to create a one-of-a-kind environment and play the role of props stylist on set which was really fun.

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First design foray Claire's house was the perfect experimentation ground

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A creative playground Claire's getaway house in Hudson Valley

I would describe my aesthetic as minimalistic and calming. I am very inspired by Swedish and Japanese principles when it comes to the design and function of space—having only a few strong pieces that focus on what is important. I feel overwhelmed and distracted when any interior gets too busy.

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A brownstone in New York The stunning results of her first foray into interiors

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