Clairo is ready to be honest — she's built her entire brand on it after all.
"I'm still not really sure what my sexuality is, but I do know that it's not straight," the Throwaway singer tells Out, a nervous smile curling her lips.
We're sitting in a press trailer behind the Coachella Music Festival. The AC blasts in our faces and wafts her hair, a welcome reprieve from the desert heat. It's weekend two, and she'll perform her final Coachella set in just four hours. She anxiously picks at the label on her water bottle, clearly unaccustomed to talking about subject matters so personal.
At 20-years-old, Clairo is slowly peeling back the layers and letting the world truly see her. It's time to share who she is, and not just for her — for her fans.
"At a certain point I looked at my platform and I was like, 'I haven't really done enough,'" she said. "I didn't feel like I was using it to its fullest extent when I had this part of myself that I had never let anyone see, that could benefit other people if I talked about it."
In 2017, the then-18-year-old went viral with just her voice and a laptop. She recorded the track and video for "Pretty Girl" herself, a quietly rebellious, tongue-in-cheek commentary on the expectations of young women. "I can be a pretty girl/shut up when you want me to," she sings with a smile and an eye roll.
She had no idea how her life was about to change when she clicked that upload button. It currently has over 31 million views.
With her gentle demeanor, effortless wit, and ethereal voice, it's easy to see how Clairo caught the world's attention, and how she catapulted onto a Coachella stage in less than two years.
"Uploading the video was one of the best things I think I ever did," she said. "When I saw those numbers continuously doubling every hour, it was so crazy to watch. People calling me days after I'd put it out. It was this huge transition between being a kid in my room to getting calls from labels and industry people and trying to gauge how I could possibly end up being a musician."
It happened so fast that Clairo sometimes seems to still be in a state of disbelief.
"It still doesn't really make sense to me. Sometimes it's really hard for me to remember that this is what I do now. This just happened so quickly, it's so amazing. 'Pretty Girl' gave me everything and I'm really happy with it, that I could put it out and have it connect with so many people."
Earlier this month, Clairo sauntered onto the Coachella stage in Balenciaga trainers. She threw out a simple, "Hello!" before jumping straight into her set. Eyes closed, her voice wafted through the venue like a cool breeze on a hot, summer day, one that demands you to pause and soak it in. Her voice is magnetic, and loyal fans in the audience quietly sung along to every song. "I don't see you dancing at all," she laughed at the crowd. She moves a bit awkwardly around the stage, as if she's still getting used to commanding the attention of so many at once. Charm oozed off of her like sweat.
The transition from bedroom-pop to a stage wasn't easy for Clairo. "You're in your zone and your space" in your room. "You're in your little world. It's hard when there are people staring back at you when it's usually just a screen."
But with practice and honesty, she's slowly getting more comfortable showing people who she is on and off stage.
"It's been a really difficult time because obviously, I just jumped into the deep end right away. But it was necessary and it was a really important journey for me to embark on. Every day it gets a little bit better and that's all I can ask for. I'm lucky that I have people around me and supporting me that will stick around for the good shows, and will see the growth, and will understand that it's something you have to work at. Performing doesn't always come naturally. It's something that I've had to learn."
The first mention of her sexuality was in a tweet, a true Gen Z move on her part.
"B.O.M.D. is also G.O.M.D. for ur information," she casually wrote, "was wondering how to ever say this publicly LOL."
If you don't speak in acronyms, B.O.M.D. is one of the tracks on her 2018 EP diary 001 and stands for boy of my dreams. "Put me in your dreams at night/I shouldn't tell you this/You're the boy of my dreams," she croons over bubbly pop synths.
G.O.M.D. was a cheeky way to let her fans know that the person in her dreams is sometimes a girl.
"I did it in the most ridiculous way, I don't know why. I just wasn't really thinking. I was like, 'I should just do this.'"
It was just two tweets but it was a big moment for Clairo.
B.O.M.D. is also G.O.M.D.
— claire cottrill (@clairo) May 29, 2018
"It was really impulsive, but it's been something that I've obviously been dealing with since I was a little kid and something that I've only been able to vocalize in the last year, just for myself," she said. "Hearing those words come out of my mouth, it's like, 'Whoa. Are you sure?' And then, 'Yeah, you're sure, bitch.'"
She couldn't have imagined the sweet response she received.
"It actually ended up being good," she continued. "I got overwhelming support. I am slowly coming out of my shell with it."
Clairo's not ready for a specific label, but her group of friends at college have helped her get comfortable with her attraction to girls and she's exploring her sexuality on her own time.
"When I got to college, all of my best friends were gay, so it was so easy for me to open up to them and talk to them about my struggle and feel a sense of acceptance that I didn't have growing up," she said. She hopes her experience can inspire others, especially the young girls that make up much of her fanbase.
"When I knew I had that support system in my real life, that's when I just knew I had to [come out]. Because there's so many young girls that listen to my music that are probably going through the same thing and need someone that they look up to or listen to to tell them that it's okay. That the things that they're feeling, whether it's confusion or if they're gay or straight, whatever, it's okay."
Backstage during the festival, Clairo received some words of wisdom from openly gay indie artist King Princess. "I talked to McKayla about it the other day, and she told me I'm having my gay sob right now, where I'm just letting all my emotions out and finally crying from that experience when I was 12 years old, 'Why are girls so hot?'"
She now finds beauty in what were once painful memories. "Expressing that and crying for all those moments, it feels good and I feel a lot more like myself. More than I ever have in my life. I'm lucky that I've been able to be in a position where it's so heavily supported. In the music scene, everyone is really open, and it feels so good. I just know that if I was still in college, I don't know if I would have said anything."
Clairo is ready to share that experience; upcoming music will feature songs explicitly about her relationships with women as well as men.
"They're a little corny and they're just happy songs," she told Pride, after detailing which tracks of her current discography are about girls. "They're about women, they're for women, or for the gay experience, and instead of it being this emotional sad thing that you're talking about, that you're going through."
"I also think that it's something that should be celebrated, that is a happy time. I don't hear enough happy, dance-y songs that are meant for girls who like girls."
Expect new music very soon. Starting June 20th, she's going on tour with "Talk" singer Khalid.
Photos courtesy of Coachella.