As a son of the Texas soil, Clay McClinton reflects the country and blues traditions of his native state, while weaving a sound of his own. It’s been called honky-tonk, Americana, and Texas Roots. As a musician he expresses the joy and suffering of being alive. Clay is a soulful singer-songwriter and musician whose talent brings out emotions and moods in his audience. Clay has been creating his unique sound for nearly a decade. Some of his influences are his father- Delbert McClinton, Rodney Crowell, J.J. Cale, Terry Allen, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson.
Clay's musical virtuosity shines with the release of his third album, Livin’ Out Loud (2010). He blends Americana and Texas blues with a touch of country to give us a tremendous follow up to his two previous releases—Out of the Blue (2004) and Son of a Gun (2006). Livin’ Out Loud is openhearted and thoughtful, and often explores the tension between the love for adventure and the longing for home. Clay has taken grand leaps both as a singer-songwriter and as a musician, and the eleven tracks also foretell of great things to come. Much like his earlier albums, Clay wrote or co-wrote ten of the tracks. He was honored to write with Bruce Channel, Dave Duncan, Rob Roy Parnell, Ricky Ray, and of course, Delbert. He produced the album with Kevin McKendree, a longtime family friend as well as Delbert’s piano player. Clay describes the process of creating the album with these and other great musicians as one of self-discovery and personal and professional growth.
In the opening song, “Whole Lotta Work,” Clay rocks the Texas electric blues as he laments what it takes just to have a little fun. He follows with “Puttin’ Down Roots,” a country song celebrating the joy of building and creating a home with his two hands. “Bird for a Day” is a brooding country rock song that expresses the desire to explore the world, free from responsibilities. Several tracks on the album wrestle with feelings of love and loss. On “Driftin’ Away With You,” Clay conjures love in the tropics. “The One You Loved” and “Damage is Done” are both emotional confessionals about heartache and regret. The closing track, “Gone to Mexico,” written by Delbert McClinton but never recorded, is a Latin-infused blues-rock tune that expresses the yearning for solitude away from the technology-driven world. The variety of musical styles and moods on Livin’ Out Loud reflects Clay’s growth and development, and offers promise that his sound will continue to touch the world.
Clay was raised around harmonicas, guitars, and pianos. Born in Fort Worth, TX he spent much of his childhood around a lot of talented musicians, watching and listening. During his early teenage years he spent a couple of summers touring as a roadie for his dad. Clay felt at home in the culture and lifestyle of playing music and being on the road. It should come as no surprise then that by the time he was seventeen Clay had already played in several bands and was occasionally sitting in on guitar with Delbert during live performances. But it wasn’t until he graduated high school and moved to Austin, Texas in the mid-nineties that he began to focus more seriously on his music career.
Once in Austin, Clay began sitting in on harmonica and guitar with local musicians. Austin’s music scene was the perfect classroom for him to cultivate his talent. Several years after moving to central Texas, Clay went on a four-month tour through Europe and parts of North Africa doing street performances with some musician friends. Upon returning to the States in 2000, Clay decided to move to a small mountain town. He settled on Flagstaff, AZ, moved into a converted school bus on the outskirts of town, and started two bands—The Blues Project and Second Harvest. For the next three years Clay was performing locally five to six nights a week. It was in Flagstaff where he met Brandy Alan, who is now his wife and band manager. It was also in Flagstaff where The Clay McClinton Band first took stage.
In 2003 Clay moved to Nashville, TN with the intention of focusing exclusively on writing and producing an album. Nashville provided the creative atmosphere and demanded a level of professionalism that allowed him to grow as a musician and songwriter. With the release of his debut album, Out of the Blue, in 2004, he had accomplished his goal. Clay wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, and he co-produced the album with Vinny Constantine.
By the time Out of the Blue was released Clay had enlisted several musicians who would form the backbone of The Clay McClinton Band for the next three years. While he called Nashville home, most of his time was spent on the road touring; the band was typically booked for about 175 shows a year at venues across the U.S. and as far as Norway. Clay took time in 2006 to return to Nashville and record his second album, Son of a Gun, which Indie-Music.com rated as in the top 25 Indie albums of the year. He co-produced Son of a Gun as well, this time with Kevin McKendree.
In 2007, after three years on the road, Clay moved back to Austin to regroup and begin writing his third album. The current incarnation of the Clay McClinton Band is best described as a cooperative filled from the pool of Austin’s rich community of musicians. He plays regularly at prominent venues across Texas such as the Saxon Pub, Granada Theatre and Luckenbach. In 2009, the newsletter from the historic Gruene Hall in Gruene, TX described Clay as one of their fastest growing acts. With the release of Livin’ Out Loud, Clay is poised to get back on the road for another national tour. We hope you enjoy the album as much as Clay enjoyed creating it!
Written By Gardner Harris