Photo Credit: Alissa Wyle/Holy Smoke Photography
Thinking back even 10 years, I was not stable enough to do much of anything let alone pack a bag and head to a whole new country. I wasn’t as strong as Claire Gohst was, and at a much younger age than I. A lost soul in Singapore, Gohst headed to the states to pursue music and soon found herself emerging as the artist known now as Paper Citizen. A singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Paper Citizen is all hands on deck about her craft, including her latest single, “Goodbye.” We talked about the rough roads of her past, the path she took to get to where she is presently, and what journeys lay ahead…
Kendra: So I do want to start in the past with you having to navigate life at 17 in Singapore. I know this is an unfortunate reality for many kids in the LGBTQ community in the US and have heard a wide variety of stories stateside, but what was it like in Singapore as an LGBTQ youth?
Paper Citizen: I grew up in a religious household and community. I went to a Methodist girls’ school for 10 years, and my father was a reverend at a Methodist church. Christianity was the pinnacle of reference for every purpose in life. Not only is it considered a “sin” in my family, but gay marriage is also not legal or recognized in Singapore as the government considers this as a misalignment of their citizen’s values.
I felt a lot of disapproval from my community as an LGBTQ youth, many sentiments of “pray the gay away,” “it’s just a phase,” or “what a waste” were incredibly depressing, invalidating, and lonely at times, but also helped me not accept the status quo, appreciate and seek out an open and loving community of people like me that would end up shaping the person I am today.
Kendra: Were there facilities at the time to help, did you have friends to fall back on?
Paper Citizen: I wasn’t aware of any facilities back then and didn’t know how to find them either. Through my ex-partner, I was able to make friends in the community I felt I could fall back on.
Kendra: You have to have a great deal of resilience in you to then pack a bag and make your way to Boston. Was music sort of always the light at the end of the tunnel for you?
Paper Citizen: Music and the community that surrounded it was truly the place I felt safe to fall back on; songs transcended age, race, gender, and sexuality. It brought us all together and I’ve always felt rewarded in life for being able to give and receive the gift of music. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
Kendra: There are plenty of musicians who don’t take a single lesson in their life, but you chose to educate yourself at Berklee. What was something you learned there that remains priceless?
Paper Citizen: I’d say it was learning about music production and music theory! Being able to write and produce my own music has been incredibly empowering and exciting. It’s completely changed how I hear and appreciate music and opened many doors for me in the industry.
Kendra: You’ve noted Paper Citizen is about crafting indie rock for the lost souls out there, which – do you think that’s more encompassing now after the whirlwind of the pandemic?
Paper Citizen: Yeah I do think so! Writing music is how I navigate through all the chaos to make art. Personally, I’ve struggled with catching up to the trends of digital art today, while still embracing the analog world. I don’t care to appease a trend but I do care to learn about new technology and the sounds we can use in modern music today. As it is with all new things, it’s confusing at the start and often feels like I’m lost in the sauce of the new world, but I know I’m making ground by developing my craft…all we can do is try!
Kendra: Now your debut EP dropped back in the before times in 2016. Looking back, how do you feel you’ve grown as an all-around artist from ‘Postcards in Transit’ to 2021’s ‘Wandering Gohst?’
Paper Citizen: Artistically I feel like I’ve grown so much in my writing, both musically and lyrically. I feel like I’ve developed my own voice and become a well-rounded musician and artist. Emotionally, I’ve been able to open up and dig deeper within myself and discover expressions I didn’t think were possible. Technologically, I feel like I’ve become more comfortable in the studio with ideas and developed new tools for creativity, which has shaped the sound of my records in the last five years.
Kendra: Since your last EP you’ve dropped a few singles, including “Goodbye.” You’ve said it’s about running uncontrollably towards something, but listening – it’s more a someone. Do you think that love and passion are two emotions that move you most through your day to day?
Paper Citizen: It was about something, the experience of an escape, a fantasy, a release…love and passion are emotions that color many of my life’s experiences, especially in many aspects of music, from writing, sharing, collaborating, learning and teaching. When you feel this intensely towards the thing you do most, I think it becomes your calling.
Kendra: Time for a side note…since April showers bring May flowers, I’d love to know what song makes you bloom with happiness and why?
Paper Citizen: “SHKN,” it’s all about the start of something blooming and feeling vulnerable. It is about experiencing the excitement of love, being open, and moving into a new phase.
Kendra: Lastly, with “Goodbye” out now, what else can you let us in on? Are you touring this year, already working on new music?
Paper Citizen: Yes, I’ve been in the studio with new songs that I’ve been really excited to play at shows. I will be on my first east coast tour this July and would love to see you out there.