Singer/songwriter/guitarist Clay McClinton's musical sound is woven together with rawhide and hemp, barbwire and willow reed. It's that eclectic sound born in Texas where honky tonk, Delta blues and soulful rock meld seamlessly. Clay's debut CD, Out of the Blue, is a collection of self-
penned songs that epitomize his personal blend of influences against a backdrop of stripped-down production where less is definitely more. Clay not only wrote or co-wrote the material, he also co-produced the CD not long after his career move to Nashville.
The honky tonk of Heartache, horn-powered Left My Baby Blue and the Texas swing of Rambler somehow fit together like soulmates. Other cuts bear the distinct influence of Clay's blues-legend father, Delbert McClinton. Starting to Itch and When It Rains are co-writes with Delbert, but Clay's solo write, Far Too Long, displays his dad's influence as well. Being his father's son, it's not
surprising that Clay's eclectic influences lean toward songwriters Willie Nelson, Tom Waitts, Bob Dylan, J. J. Cale, John Hiatt. But his personal progression also includes bluegrass greats such as Doc Watson.
Few artists have pursued their careers with the clarity and conscious exploration that mark Clay's self-designed path. He grew up in Ft. Worth and began learning guitar and harmonica from both his father and older brother, Monty. At age 19, he began to pursue music as a career more seriously.
"I always thought, growing up around Dad, that playing music was the coolest thing," he says. "I never really thought about doing anything else. At the same time, I don't have to be in the spotlight to enjoy the creativity of music. If someone likes what I'm writing and wants to take it and record it their way, well, I've never understood why anybody wouldn't want that. I look forward to producing other artists as well."
As a teenager, Clay played in a couple of bands around Ft. Worth, but after graduation he moved to Austin. That would be the first of a series of conscious steps towards his self-development as a musician and songwriter and, eventually, producer as well. In Austin, he sat in with bands, but mostly absorbed the creative atmosphere that clings to the town. Clay was never interested in having strictly a cover band. From the beginning he wanted to develop his repertoire of originals before taking to the stage full time.
The young artist's next move was actually a trip across the ocean to experience the rich cultures of Europe. He and a couple of musician friends played music in hostels and enjoyed exploring different ways of living. One of the songs on his debut CD, Left My Baby Blue, Clay wrote during
his European journey. "I traveled across Europe for four months", he says. "I thought it would help me as a writer, and I believe it did, plus it was a hell of a lot of fun."
When he returned to the states, Clay decided to find a cozy place to focus on performing and decided to explore Flagstaff, AZ. Soon afterwards, he began playing in two distinctively different bands whose other players also performed predominately their own music. The Blues Project drew on Texas stomp and southern blues for their sound, while Second Harvest was an acoustic blues/bluegrass/folk band. Clay immersed himself in playing live, performing five or six nights a week with experienced players such as Wild Billy Kneebone, Brian DeMarco and Andrew Lauher,
just to name a few. After a couple of years in Flagstaff, Clay added The Clay McClinton Band to the mix, in which he and his Telecaster took center stage.
Clay's most recent relocation was different from the others. At 29, he felt he had to make a serious effort to hone his writing and production skills. That meant making the move to Nashville, a town nicknamed Tin Pan South because of the rich songwriting community. It was a move his father had made more than 15 years before.
From Ft. Worth to Austin to Flagstaff to Nashville, with a sojourn to Europe in between, Clay's journey has clicked along a single track, one designed to expand and develop his musical career. Out of the Blue is a final exam of sorts, born from his self-made curriculum. With his first co-produced CD of original material, Clay McClinton has crossed a demarcation line in his career, and he's looking forward to whatever musical adventures await him next. "I love performing, but I also like producing
and writing. I love sitting down on a rainy day with a cup of joe and writing and maybe not even performing that song but having somebody else do it," Clay explains. "All three aspects of creativity I think will help me develop and grow in different ways. Writing will help my performing and the
performing will help my writing, and producing my albums or other people's albums will affect all the above. I just don't think you can learn enough. I think they all hold hands."
Out of the Blue
Cut by Cut
1. Heartache (Clay McClinton & Dave Duncan) A guy I played with in Flagstaff, Billy Kneebone, was good friends with Dave, who had moved to Nashville. I called Dave when I got here and asked if he wanted to get together to write.
This was the first song we wrote together, and we're continuing to co-write.
2. Left My Baby Blue (Clay McClinton) I had such a great time traveling all over Europe. My friends and I played in hostels and met a lot of interesting people. I wrote this song on the train leaving Switzerland.
3. Blues in the Morning (Clay McClinton) When I was playing in a blues band in Flagstaff, we had to do a lot of improv, because we played this one place for four hours a night, every Monday night. So some nights we would just make up
some blues grooves. One night I just made this up on the spot. Everybody loved it and we added it to our song list. Of course, I've added to it and fine-tuned it.
4. Lonesome Time (Clay McClinton) This one has no personal reference. Sometimes I just like to write songs everybody
can relate to, and that's where this one came from. The title popped into my head, and I had some chord progressions I'd been playing with, and I just put
it together and filled in the blanks over time.
5. Jeremiah (Clay McClinton) It stemmed from an old buddy of mine named Jeremy. But the more I wrote it, the more it wasn't strictly the truth about him, so I changed it to Jeremiah. Sometimes I write from my experiences, but
sometimes I just make the stuff up.
6. Starting to Itch (Clay McClinton & Delbert McClinton) This song makes me think of the love of my life, Brandy. Dad had the initial idea and I had a groove I was playing with. We wrote half of it one day, and finished it in
one other session. I love writing with Dad, we're respectful but honest.
7. Something's Got a Hold On Me (Clay McClinton) This and Texas Memoryare the two most personal songs for me on this CD. This one is about the personal ups and downs of moving across the country to a different world, you could
say. It's about being down and excited at the same time. I wanted this to purposely be abstract. Something's got a hold on me could refer to many different things. I want to give the listener an opportunity to have it mean
something personal to them.
8. Far Too Long (Clay McClinton) This is the first song I ever wrote. My songwriting wasn't developed at that time, so it's a little abstract. It's a little more amateur, but I wanted it on this CD because it's got some tradition
in my background. I played it in my bluegrass band and in a band in Austin and my blues band. And Dad's always loved it. When people say I sound like Dad on this one, I consider it a compliment. I have my own style, but he's the man. I highly respect him as a singer and songwriter and performer. It's nice to have someone like him to look up to.
9. Texas Memory (Clay McClinton) Talk about your personal songs, this is
my bio, right here. Nuff said.
10. Rambler (Clay McClinton) I wrote this song in about 20 minutes, sitting on my couch in Tennessee. I had a cup of coffee, looking out at the rain, and I had this lyric. I started writing down words and I was done with it. It
was one of those amazing things. It was just an acoustic song, and I had no idea how I was going to produce it. I got Buddy Spicher on there playing viola; he's a legend.
He's played with Bill Monroe and Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, and I didn't even know it when we were recording. He's magnificent to work with. He's kind of the wild card on the CD.
11. When It Rains (Clay McClinton & Delbert McClinton) I had to get used to the rain when I moved here from Arizona. It felt like it rained all the time; it took some getting used to. But it also made me write more. I came up with the
chord progression and the chorus. My dad really liked the dark, haunting feel of it. So he jumped into it with me and helped me finish it.
Vocals & Acoustic Guitar: Clay McClinton
Bass Guitar: Tim Marks
Drums: Kenneth Blevins / Bryan Owings
Lead Guitar: Kevin McKendree / Hans Holzen
Upright Bass: Kyle Kegerreis
Viola: Buddy Spicher
Organ / Piano: Kevin McKendree
Trumpet: Steve Herrman
Baritone Sax: Dennis Taylor
Produced by: Vinny Constantine (Lostdog Recording) & Clay McClinton / Engineered by Vinny Constantine (Lostdog Recording)
Recorded @ The Rock House in Franklin Tn / Mastered by: Jim DeMain @ Yes Master The CD costs $15 - we pay all tax and shipping charges!
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