CLAY MELTON BAND
When does inspiration find any of us? For Clay Melton, it was at the tender age of eleven when he listened to Jimi Hendrix playing ‘All Along the Watchtower’ while riding in the car with his father. Clay was mesmerized by Jimi’s sound and style. So he asked his parents for a guitar, and only time would tell if music would become central to this young man’s life. Soon Clay was strapping his electric guitar and amp on his bicycle and peddling his way through the neighborhood to a family garage where he practiced with his good friend, Kyle Tomchesson. His ability with the guitar was growing faster than anyone could imagine, and after a year and a half of lessons, his teacher admitted that he couldn’t take Clay any further. Since then, Clay has taught himself, and like Hendrix and SRV, he plays by ear. By the age of thirteen, Clay was playing live in clubs all around Texas. At fifteen years old, his stage experiences as a guitarist and songwriter began to grow: The Dallas International Guitar Festival proclaimed, “Clay Melton one of the TOP 10 Guitar Players in Texas under 20 years old!” The emotional intensity of his live performances at such a young age was incredible to say the least. In October 2016, at 22 years old, Clay approached the world famous SugarHill Recording Studio where such greats as Beyonce’ and the Rolling Stones have recorded. He met with owner, Dan Workman, long-time mentor and fellow member of The Recording Academy (the Grammy’s). Dan assembled the talented team of Steve Christensen (Grammywinning engineer), and Josh Applebee (amazing drum tech). Planning began for Burn The Ships, the first full-length album from Clay Melton, releasing Summer 2017. Dan remarks, “I’ve had the privilege of watching Clay evolve from a gifted intuitive guitarist to a complete performer and songwriter. He has managed the hardest of tasks: crafting a musical identity that lives up to the promise of a precocious talent.”
Clay bares his soul through his original music. His songs are authentic to the core, and they expose his very intimate and personal vulnerabilities. Clay is not an imitation – he is unique and his music is crossing genre barriers for good reason.
At the 2016 SXSW event in Austin, Texas, Paul Heath, CEO of Radio X Brussels, met with Clay in a busy, bustling hotel lobby and the following interview took place. It was not a rehearsed monologue but rather an all-telling impromptu conversation that reveals Clay in his own words. A very interesting self portrait: I could go on and on about this musical genius but we decided to let you hear some of his music via youtube.
PN: When did you start preforming and where?
Clay: I’ve been performing here in Houston since I was about 13, my first perfomance was at a place called Main Street Crossing in Tomball. PN: How old are you now ?
Clay: I’m now 23 PN: How would you classify your music. (genre)
Clay: We really explore man genres through out our new album, from rock to groovier soul and ambient rock - I would say overall we have a guitar driven rock sound.
PN: Who are your biggest influences (musically )
Clay: Hendrix kicked everything off for me, then I grew a big love for SRV & Zeppelin, naturally. The Beatles and John Mayer have been big influences as well. But I love to listen to all kinds of things, music is so interesting to me in that way, theres no way anyone could ever explore everything there is to explore with music through out time, it makes me excited about exposing myself to different styles. PN: What does music mean to you ?
Clay: In complete honesty it’s one of the deepest and dearest passion in my life. Right when I picked up a guitar I was really smitten with the instrument and all of the possibilities and just the world it introduced me too. Growing up playing music and trying to create and gigging out a lot brought so many friends and different experiences into my life I would never change. It’s always been my dream but there was definitely
a point in the last three years where it because a certain fact within myself and my own resolve that I was going to make music and work the hardest I could possibly work to do what I love to do, make music.
PN: What are your goals Are you dreaming big but keeping yourself grounded?
Clay: My self purpose and goal is to be able to continue to create musically for the rest of my life and hopefully by sharing my music with people they can find the same inspiration, comfort, excitement and joy that I’ve always, always found in music. A love for performing live is something that definitely hooked me young. I genuinely every part of the process when it comes to playing out live and connecting with an audience.
PN: Is your music more about the words than crazy solos and big beats
Clay: It’s all about the song, some are more musically driven but I try to bring passion and true expression to the lyrics I write.
PN: Who do you like that has paved the way for young artist like your self IE (Elton john , John Mayer, Ella Fitzgerald )
Clay: There are so many artist that have paved the way for all of us, musically and artistically. I’m really into music history and there’s so much to learn from educating yourself about the artists that have created throughout history. John Mayer has definitely brought me some perspective on what it means being a part of the music industry in today’s world. There’s a great talk he did at Berkely college where he talks about his approach to keeping artistic integrity within himself as a songwriter but also being honest about what he wants and making a decision to sometimes write towards a wider audience to enable him to make the music he wants to make and share it on the scale a successful artist like himself can. PN: What is your take on self esteem
Clay: Gary Vaynerchuk is someone I’ve been studying recently. He’s a successful entrepreneur and he speaks about being selfish in order to be selfless. I think that happiness often comes when people do what they love to do, and so I think doing what you love to do regardless if it’s easy or maybe what someone else wants for you or not - that takes a lot of self esteem and confidence and so for me I think it’s very important to practice confidence and trust your own gut.
PN: Are your songs about relationships, worshiping God, or tell me what you try to convey in your music
Clay: I’ve definitely written some love songs - some you’ll hear on the album. But I like to explore different messages and topics. Some songs are simply for expression. “Love Out Loud’ talks about appreciating what’s in front of you because life is short and everything changes. “Hold on to what you love, it can all be gone tomorrow” - I have a song called “Rain” and it was written around this specific moment we’re I was having a (creatively) great day, which is my favorite kind of day. I was playing guitar outside and it was beautiful then all of a sudden rain clouds came out and it began to rain. The song speaks about when you’re riding a wave of positivity and negativity tries to creep in and you have to tell it to go away sometimes. I finished writing most of the lyrics and went back outside that day and the rain had passed and I ended up finishing the lyrics regarding that moment right after the rain. When things start to get back on track it seems. - all that aside I actu- ally most of the time love rainy days.
PN: Do you get your inspiration for your songs from what you see at school and from other friends
Clay: As I learn more about songwriting so many normal things seem like songs. I think it can be tough for younger artists to express lyrically at times because they typically have less experiences that are outside of their home and friends. Having truths to speak to makes inspiration much more natural as it should be. I’ve definitely found in this phase of my life there’s so much change in the people around me going down different paths and myself on my own and it brings a lot of perspective on how things really are sometimes. That’s somewhere I’ve been drawing inspiration from, new truths that you discover only with age haha.
PN: Are you trying to be a role model for others? Do you have any advice for other teens who are wanting to get in this?
Clay: I believe there are so many people better than myself for someone to admire and model their behavior after - but I do believe that doing the right thing is absolutely always the right thing and that’s something I try to live by. Be kind to others, do what you love and always give more to someone than you receive. Those are fundamental for any young person to truly believe - now if you’re wanting to get into music and it’s something that you love, do all of those things but also, you need to unapologetically work as hard as you possibly can at what you’re good at - If you love music, you love to play the drums, or the bass, flute, keyboards or guitar, sit down everyday for a couple hours and practice (to a metronome, I can’t express how important that was for me) - you’ll hit a point to where you pick up your instrument and it’s a way of expression and that is the most freeing feeling in the world.