Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - by Robert Cas­tro

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.

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