A happiness street art installation by Claire
Stopping my bike along Columbus Boulevard to admire the boats roped to one another felt like, just for a moment, I had been changed.
When I first started approaching people for this project, I wanted to identify people with compelling stories. And, moreover, find out more about becoming a newer version of myself through them.
And in that moment of clarity and simple joy, I realized that, perhaps, it was possible.
It is easy to believe in change in an evolutionary way–to believe that someone can appropriately adapt to their environments, make healthier choices or to sort through their finances more conclusively. But to believe in change in a fundamental and integral way was something I had never previously been a convert of.
Talking to Claire McGinley, it’s easy to get swept up in the seemingly boundless promise of her perspective. In as few words as possible, Claire is the personification of joy. And when I first approached the singer of New York sugar punk band Jackpot, Tiger, I knew that I had found a compelling story to tell.
“I’ve always taken a lot of pleasure in finding the simplicity of something so when I’m making any kind of art–whether it’s music, or writing or visual–that’s what I’m aiming towards,” she explains.
Despite the honesty and stunning simplicity of her voice and manner, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint the place where Claire lives on the emotional spectrum. She is nearly impossibly human and has a rare knack for appreciating the dynamic nature of life and art.
“I love to read French to English translations because the French have about an eighth of the amount of words that Americans do so when it gets translated, it gets translated into the most basic form.
In that way, they’re always saying the most basic thing that they can. And for me, especially when I’m expressing myself, I’m always trying to do just that. I want to get it down to the most simple and basic version of itself,” says Claire.
Courtesy Mautner Photography
As an artist, Claire’s history is long and uniquely influenced by a close network of intimate family members and friends. At a young age, Claire was exposed to idea of art as a plausible lifestyle.
“Growing up, my parents always had awesome taste in music. They were always listening to punk rock and jazz–all these things that were so second nature to me so they were almost nostalgic to me instead of exciting.
But, then I started listening to all these bands like Belle & Sebastian and Rilo Kiley and Modest Mouse–all of these bands that I had never heard before. It kind of gave me inspiration to start writing music,” says Claire.
That inspiration was realized during a six week break during her time in college.
“I remember my brother (Kevin McGinley) always saying that to play guitar, or any other instrument, you just have to become obsessed with it. You have to live and breathe it and then it will become a part of you. There is always more to learn but the basics will just become a part of you.
And I thought that felt a little daunting. I felt like it was so incredible, like it was a lot to take on. But, during my freshman year of college, I had almost six weeks off so I sat my brother down and asked him to teach me three chords. And he said okay.
He taught D, E Minor and G. And then I printed out tabs of the song I wanted to sing. To play was just another opportunity for me to sing at that time. It became this other option.
Eventually, it was exactly like [Kevin] said. I just became obsessed with. For six weeks I played guitar all the time. I got all of those weird callouses on my fingers–you know, exactly what they say happens when you start playing guitar.
So then I went back to college and that summer I started writing music.It just became another way of expressing myself and that was really cool,” she continues.
Jacpot, Tiger’s contemporary iteration currently consists of four members: Claire, Kevin McGinley, Alex Kahn and Eryck Tait. To say that the band is close is a little bit of an understatement. They are connected in a lot of really personal ways.
“It affects [the writing process] but I feel really safe with them. I like that we can make everything a Jackpot song and not just one person’s song.
And it doesn’t get in the way as much as you would think it does. Which has been sort of surprising and strange. I remember for awhile, especially with Alex, it was this really crazy roller coaster thing and, for awhile, I would get really nervous to play songs in front of him. Eventually, I got over that.
[Songs] are just expressions of a moment and it’s funny to see how fleeting that moment ends up being, anyway,” says Claire.
In addition to her career as a musician, Claire is also a highly multidisciplinary artist, dabbling in writing and in visual arts. And it is at this intersection of vision that I find Claire really compelling. When you talk to Claire, she is exactly who you think she is. She is the many things that make up Claire but she is also an artist in the most specific and, simultaneously, broadest terms.
“I never considered myself a musician which is funny because if you met me at this point in my life, you might think that I am. I sing at work all the time and I’m in a band. But I don’t think that.
My parents have always made sure that I knew that this was an option, which I feel like is really unique–the idea of being an artist. My Dad would mention people like Patti Smith growing up and he would just say, ‘Oh, this person was an artist.’
I always enjoyed writing. That’s my therapy. I can get up and write a few pages every morning. Pretty recently, I got into visuals arts for myself, just to have that expression but not necessarily in a way that I’m familiar with.”
According to Claire, indulging in these many different mediums of expression is liberating.
“I can get a little overwhelmed and that’s why I have my feet in so many things, just to test the waters.
It’s also fun! You can find inspiration in anything as long as you’re open to it. I think part of the reason that people don’t put their hands in different things is because they’re scared. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s art. You can’t really mess up.
Having this tiny bit of knowledge and experience in all these different things, it’s helpful because I can go to them and they’re all safe. None of them are alienating,” says Claire.
Jackpot, Tiger is set to release an new album in the upcoming future that embodies a lot of these dynamic visions. Keep an eye out for their release!