Blues-rock prodigies are a special breed. They live and breathe the fiery swagger of electric guitars and the irresistible allure of rhythm-soaked sounds. That’s Clay Melton’s musical calling in a nutshell. The Louisiana-born and Texas-based blues-rocker has already spent years performing live. His powerfully raspy voice and wicked guitar licks leave no doubt he’s grown up in the school of barroom blues-rock.
Clay Melton is quickly establishing himself as a rising star, most recently picked to open for Grand Funk Railroad on the Chevrolet Main Stage at the 2021 State Fair of Texas. Past credits also include opening for blues-legend Robert Cray and platinum-selling artist Chris Daughtry.
Bridge: Alright, let’s start with some back story. How did you come about on the music scene?
CM: I kind of came up with what you might call the ‘old school’ way now haha. I started playing guitar when I was 11, started jamming in the garage with friends by 13 and began playing local block parties, open mics and jams around the same time. By 14 I was regularly playing smokey juke joints that my dad (thankfully) would take me to on the weekends. Performing was always exciting to me even then and it didn’t take me a long time to realize it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Bridge: What are you doing to push a positive narrative as an artist and with your music?
CM:I think part of building a healthy and positive lifestyle comes with self realizing your own weaknesses or faults in order to grow. I suppose the pandemic gave me a lot of time to self reflect and come to terms with parts of myself I had ignored or failed to nurture. My last EP “Back to Blue” was about getting back to my roots musically and leaning into what has always excited me about guitar and playing in a band. With our latest live record which has a host of new songs on it, I’ve explored a lot of the themes I was personally experiencing the last 2 years. Owning your red flags or expecting someone else to own theirs is a recurring theme haha. I’ve always been someone who takes criticism’s very well from others or from myself and I kind of view some of those topics in my songs the same way, If I can be confident and realized enough in myself to write about my own weaknesses or struggles then maybe it gives someone the strength to audit their own journey and come out better for it.
Bridge: Are there any rituals you have developed over the years that are helpful to your music making process?
CM: It may be less of a ritual and more of a mindset but something that keeps things honest and fresh for me is not leaning into rituals too much! Every song comes about in a different way and it keeps things exciting and inspiring to follow new paths. It’s part of what keeps me from feeling like I’m writing the same song over and over, which is a natural fear I think songwriters everywhere might relate to.
Bridge: Could you talk about an UP you had in your career?
CM: Oddly enough, we had our most successful EP release during the end of the Pandemic when ‘Back to Blue’ came out in July 2021. Recorded from 2020-April 2021 the process was challenging and scattered due to covid-19 but when it released ‘Back to Blue’ was spun on over 300 radio stations in the first couple weeks and became our first #1 single in the Blues Rock single charts on Roots Music Report. It was odd to have such a successful release after 2020 but it was also very rewarding and a great reminder to keep our heads down and focus on the work.
Bridge: Could you talk about a DOWN you had in your career?
CM: Besides not performing for an entire year in 2020? Haha. I’ve had a lot of the classic struggles of the music industry, band members quitting a day or hours before a gig, sharks and vultures trying to take us for a ride in the business of this industry and enough scary tour stories to keep you entertained for sure. But all of those things are part of cutting your teeth you know? Part of coming up the ‘old school way’ I mentioned before. Lots of people say so because it’s true, but you HAVE to enjoy the journey because that’s the real joy, not the album release days or one performance here or there. It’s the simple fact I get to continue making music daily that makes it all seem like we’re on the UP.
Bridge: How do you think your experience has helped you shape your career and approach your music?
CM: Haha might have gotten ahead of myself on the last answer but I’d love the chance to reiterate: Allllll of the experiences and lessons (hard or easy) are part of what helps make me a more conscious observer of the world, which to me is the job of a songwriter. To take your life experiences and lessons and shape them into a lyric and tune that can make others feel understood, seen or supported in their struggles. Everything along my musical journey has taught me the importance of staying authentic to myself and my musical expression.
Bridge: How did you develop your community of fans over the years?
CM: Never stopping. We all understand with the internet there’s an audience for everything, but just knowing that can make some people feel, “why haven’t I found my audience” or “why doesn’t my audience want to support me?” It has a lot to do with comparison culture I feel. To me, even though our social media numbers aren’t the highest, I’m MUCH more interested in making connections with people in rooms across the states and the world. Those are where you make lifelong fans + friends. The ones that will support you every time you come through town. Build it and they will come is a simple way in this instance to say, just keep doing what you believe in. A word to the wise though, make sure you have people that will always be honest and truthful with you. Nothing will keep you stagnant like someone who’s always telling you yes.
Bridge: Talk to us about your latest single. What was the drive behind releasing the single?
CM: Our latest EP Back to Blue came out in July 2021 and the title track single + EP was all about getting back to my roots on their guitar and in songwriting. I wanted to make a record that felt like the music I have the most fun playing when I just pick up my guitar at home and go off the top of my head. The success of that record really influenced how I approached our new live album dropping in June 2022 which includes a tracklist of never heard before songs presented and captured for the first time in a truly live setting. The songs were very much written with this approach in mind and it’s led me down a path that is yielding a lot more consistency/output in my songwriting and it feels 100% authentic to myself, which is a struggle a lot of new artists go through I feel. We tend to have years of cycling through stylistic interests and experiments and while I’m certainly not advocating for putting your work in a pigeon-hole, I’m saying that if you continue to explore and search for what makes you feel like YOU, you’re eventually going to have that break through where you say “THIS, this is what I’ve been chasing after”. And, hopefully, it all comes pouring out from there.