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Clara Amfo discusses ITV Studio Sessions and the magic of music on TV

The new show welcomes Yungblud, Becky Hill, Sekou, Cat Burns and more for interviews and performances.

By Will Richards

Clara Amfo
Clara Amfo (Picture: Rojal Myers)

Clara Amfo has told Rolling Stone UK of her love and passion for music on television, and how it feeds into her new ITV show Studio Sessions.

The show, which is available on the ITVX streaming service now and airing episodes each Friday night on ITV1, sees Clara welcome performances from British artists across a range of genres and career stages.

The first season of the show sees musical guests including Yungblud, Sekou, Cat Burns and Becky Hill all given their own dedicated episode featuring interviews with Clara and a series of performances including a special cover.

“I love performance on television, and I want to share that with people,” the host tells Rolling Stone UK of the show.

Read our conversation with Clara Amfo below, about Studio Sessions, why 2024 is set to be a bumper year for British music and the Black artists finally getting their overdue flowers.

Studio Sessions is airing now – what made you want to work on the show?

I just love performance on television, whether it’s an awards show or someone playing on daytime TV, I just enjoy it. I’m always gonna love [Later… with] Jools Holland. I’m always gonna love Top of the Pops, and I’m hoping that someone’s going to think that about Studio Sessions. It’s a chance for artists to showcase what we love them for.

In my time interviewing people, there are some artists who only love being in the studio, and they don’t like performing. For other people, that’s where they come alive. The great thing about our show is that they get the whole show to themselves – it’s not a split bill, it’s all about them.

Was this aspect of artists’ personalities important when choosing your guests? I particularly think of Yungblud here, who is as alive and energetic in an interview as when he’s on stage…

I really enjoy talking to him because he never lies. He’s really ready to always come with the truth. Anyone that has chats with me, knows that I’m not into the ‘gotcha’ approach or trying to get a viral moment. That’s not my style. I’ll happily go anywhere that an artist wants to go, if you want to get into deep stuff, even if it’s perceived to be controversial or provocative. I’ll happily go there with you always. But I hate small talk – despise it.

I’m just interested in asking [an artist]: ‘What is the truth about you? What’s the human side of you that we maybe don’t get to see and that has filled the songs that that we love?’ A lot of artists have been able to like reclaim their narrative, particularly on social media, but I do still think there is something to be said for literally sitting down opposite someone and just having a connected, light conversation.

With artists able to connect to fans so instantly and on their own terms, what can your conversations on this show – or in general – give an artist and a fan that, say, an Instagram Live couldn’t?

As basic as it sounds, I think it’s about bringing a comfortable level of truth on their terms. When people know you’re not trying to dig them out or trying to manipulate them, they will happily share more. I’ve been in interview situations myself where someone will ask me a question and I’ll think, ‘Well I know what you want me to say to this so you can get your headline, and I ain’t doing it babe!’ If you ask me respectfully, human to human, on a level, I’ll give you a better answer. I offer that same respect to our artists and they feel they can relax with me. I’ve never bent their arm to get them to share anything.

What was the thinking behind getting artists to perform covers during their episodes?

Covers are just another great way for artists to tell stories. You can tell a lot about someone by their tastes or the songs they hold really close, especially when you see how they interpret it. It gives you a window into an artist’s psyche.

Away from your show, what excites you about music in 2024?

I do feel like, for me, this is the first year of feeling like we are out of the gate after the bulk of the pandemic. Festivals are coming back, and people are being a bit more energised. Until now, we’ve still been feeling the post-COVID hangover. A lot of venues were hit badly, which was such a terrible shame, but there’s been a lot of reinvestment which is really exciting.

In terms of artists, I’m loving seeing so many black and POC artists existing outside of hip-hop and R&B. This isn’t a new concept, but there seems to be a louder side of it now. Whether it’s Master Peace or Nova Twins or Rachel Chinouriri, it’s like: ‘Don’t call me an R&B artist!’ I have got a cameo on Rachel’s album, but I actually do really enjoy it!

I also love seeing women have more agency especially in the production space. Seeing these mix engineers getting their flowers is so great. They’ve always been there, but I just think we’re just in really loud time. I’m hoping that gets reflected more in festival spaces – you can get women to headline things, guys. It’s possible!

And finally – what’s on repeat for you at the moment?

I’ve been rinsing the Dua Lipa album. I think it’s her best work yet! I really enjoy Future Nostalgia but I LOVE Radical Optimism. I think it’s the great record for the start of summer. I love that she worked with Danny L Harle and Kevin Parker. Rachel Chinouriri’s album I absolutely love, and I hope it gets the credit it deserves. I was in Ireland the other weekend so I was listening to lots of Kneecap and CMAT. I’m also looking forward to the return of Joy Crookes. I think she’s really special.