A Spotlight Interview With Scott Clay
A new album release from Scott Clay shows a ton of heart and soul with bright and genuine songs that really let the artists presence hit as hard as it should with songs that have style and a certain kind of swagger to go along with the colorful and vibrant performances by all parts.
The Let It All Lay Bare album is intense int he best ways possible with rolling rock singles, folk-rock sounds, classic rock, acoustic based tracks and so much more.
This record is bountiful and endlessly fun. The instrumentation is a wild array and is able to really help Scott paint vivid pictures or perform with that energy and staple feel he's got.
And that's what it is with this artist. He has this sound where you know its him when you hear it. It takes a while to get there but Scott has it down pat.
This album is packed with life and stories, points of view and some emotion as well and the ones that are meant to feel good really do. There is a warmth and welcoming tonality to this release that just makes you feel like you're ready to handle the day.
The album is massive and gives you a wonderful set of songs that complement each other well and have a way of sticking with you for days sometimes.
There is pretty much something for everyone on this album and most tracks are super danceable and memorable to say the absolute least.
With the release of such a robust album, we wanted to touch base with Scott Clay to find out where this record may have come from and what may be next for him. here's what happened.
RAG: Okay so let's start with Let It All Lay Bare album. This record has super classic Americana feel to it! Where did this album come from?
As soon as we had finished production on my 2020 album 'Time Will Tell' we jumped directly into pre-production and recording sessions for this current album. I had such a fabulous time working at the Hall of Justice studios in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, WA with producer Mike Davis that I wanted to continue the sessions. We had wrapped up mixing on the previous album and I told the producer that we may as well dive straight into a new project. So we assembled the same core studio musicians and started recording live with the four of us within months of completing Time Will Tell.
I had also recently started lessons on performing lead melodies for electric guitar, so that played a big part in shaping the new songs that we were tracking. It was a way for me to further enhance the melody of my vocal performance, by playing melodic parts on the electric guitar that would blend well with my vocal performances. Also layering the electric guitar parts added so much power and authenticity to the songs, in the past I had worked with studio musicians to record electric guitar parts, and this album was a chance for me to work directly from my guitar to add these tracks.
I was also able to further develop my relationship with this producer and studio musicians so we felt much more comfortable critiquing each other's work, and being more creatively vulnerable with each other. That helps significantly and improving the project. It was wonderful to be able to creatively connect and challenge each other’s ideas. I had also become much more familiar with the studio space so I was able to feel much more comfortable in the recording process for the new album.
RAG: So how did this all begin for you? When did you fall in love with music really?
I dove straight into music at 14 when I found my mothers classical guitar in the closet of my room. My best friend Jeff, had also recently picked up a guitar, so he and I challenged each other to learn from several beginner books, and jam together to explore more about music. These early years were such a wonderful foundation for my musical career, I feel as though I learned so much during these years that I continue to use to this day.
My local youth group at church was looking for someone to help lead songs, so I was asked to do that within a few months of just starting to learn guitar. From there I continued performing, and within a year of playing at those early youth services I was performing regularly two nights a week in front of hundreds of people. I performed pretty relentlessly in the first five years of discovering guitar and developed a lot of stage techniques and worked with a full band throughout these years. I played rhythm guitar and sang backup and lead vocals. By age 19 I was recording in a studio and songwriting with another group. And from there I stepped into a solo gigging career.
RAG: Who is in your headphones right now?
I got a chance to see the Band of Heathens recently in Nashville at Basement East, and have been absolutely geeking out on the Remote Transmissions album that they recorded and released during Covid. It’s an album full of cover songs, I feel like this record most clearly represents their life performance. There are some amazing juicy music theory concepts, and great production on this album, I’ve been listening to it cover to cover for several months now. I often get obsessed with one album and continue listening to it until I learn most of the songs on that album. I’m fairly certain that a few of these cover songs will make their way into my setlist.
RAG: What inspires you to write a song?
My current approach to songwriting is to just record 20 second samples of any melodic ideas that come out organically. Often times I'll sit down at the guitar and have a quick melody that comes to mind, I'll record that 20 second clip and then just leave it sitting on my phone for several months. After some time I'll have 40-60 of these short 20 second clips saved up, then I'll listen through these snippets and pick out whichever ideas seem to carry the most emotional weight. From there I'll start into pre-production and let the songs build themselves, some take on a life of their own and become finished recordings, and others never make it very far along the process. It's been a really fun way to build songs!
RAG: I'm hearing some great styles on this song. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
There were several disparate influences that came together for this particular album. The number one influence was The War on Drugs, who also had inspired producer, Mike Davis. They had a very interesting method of building a song from an analog drum loop, and surrounding it with lush electric guitar melodies and vocals. We used some of their production and arrangement ideas on the recording of the current project.
I had also had a chance to watch Gregory Alan Isakov perform live at Red Rocks recently and that performance inspired me to write some of the more ballad, folky songs that ended up on this album. He has a simplicity and pureness to his approach in performing and writing songs and I really wanted to tap into that for some of the songs on this project.
There are also a few songs from Amos Lee's record, Mountains of Sorrow Rivers of Song, that had wonderful production elements to them that we really wanted to try to capture on this project. I feel as though that Lee's record is beautifully balanced between captivating rhythm section, lush guitars, pianos and vocals. It’s challenging to create an album that has such balance across the spectrum. But we really tried to set the bar high and achieve that with this project.
RAG: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
I spend a lot of my time traveling, so I’d love to check out state and national parks as I’m on the road. I also love to watch live shows and go to concerts. I spent a lot of my day doing IT support for a consulting company that I manage. If I get a chance to go on vacation you’ll typically find me hiking or camping in the mountains. I was able to spend some of my free time in 2020 getting into timelapse photography, I did this at night while camping and got some amazing star photography that ended up on a couple music videos that are being released with this album. So photography and videography have also become a recent passion of mine! Here is an example of a music video that has some of my timelapse night sky photography. Scott Clay – Open Country (Official Video): https://youtu.be/9M4LCyYLJ1w
RAG: Would you say live performances are a big part of what you do?
Absolutely! I’ve had a blast touring full-time over the last two years with a very fun looping rig that really adds a lot of qualities to my life performance. I’ve also got several fall band shows coming up over the coming months as we prepare to launch the album. I love performing live and it has also been such a great way to meet fellow artists on stage, I feel like such good relationships are built in building live band bills. I spend nearly all my time touring and it has helped my studio recording and songwriting immensely.
RAG: This album feels like a big undertaking, is there any advice you'd give to other up and coming artists out there?
The biggest piece of advice I could give to an artist would be: consistency. It is so helpful to slowly build your career and songwriting skills: music is such a broad undertaking and requires so much development that I feel like nothing worthwhile happens quickly. It’s important to just hold steady and pursue your interests over long periods of time. For the most part my albums take three years from design to completion. And of course there’s all kinds of emotional and personal development that happens during those three years, so it can often be tricky to stay consistently excited about the work that you’re doing. But if you look at the trajectory of your songs over time it’s quite powerful to keep at it and keep writing and producing.
RAG: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
As far as I can tell full-time live touring will continue for the foreseeable future, so there should be many live shows happening all across the country to support this project. I’d love to perform for as many fans as possible over the coming years. I am also in post-production on an 11 song full-length studio album that was started in New Orleans with producer Ben Ellman, so that should be coming out in the next year or two. Plenty of new music and live performances happening in the near future! I’ll also be doing a live stream of the album launch party, so everyone can check out that performance on September 22nd, here’s a link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/album-release-party-tickets-387014078527
RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Please check out, comment, and share my YouTube videos which I’ve put so much work into over the past two years. I feel like they are a great representation of my music, and I would love for everyone to check out the work that we’ve done! Here is my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/scottclay
Also don’t forget to check out the list of shows coming up, there’s a huge chance that I’ll be in your area sometime within the next six months so I’d love to connect with you at a performance! www.scottclaymusic.com