Have you ever had one of those “pinch me” moments that knocks you off your feet? One that stops you in your tracks, makes you shake your head, and literally take two fingers and squeeze your skin?
That was exactly what my moments following my interview with Clay Walker looked like; and it isn’t just because I grew up on Clay’s music and he has been a family favorite since the beginning of his career. It has nothing to do with the fact that I still blast “Hypnotize the Moon” and sing loudly and embarrassingly on occasion. It is because I was blown away by the appreciative, humble, classy, well-spoken, thought-provoking man that I had the absolute honor and privilege to get to know behind his music.
It’s been far too long — three years to be exact — since Clay last released music, but when the time is right, artists just know. And the time is right for Clay … right now. It was the moment Clay sat down with his “Right Now” co-writers, Shane Minor and Wade Kirby, that made him realize that his future would begin in the present.
It was a process of getting together with two really great and soulful writers and having that spark of magic that really doesn’t come very often. A lot of times you get into a writing session and you finish a song, but it doesn’t necessarily grab you immediately, it has to grow on you awhile. This song had an immediate spark to it. I think everybody was on the same page, pardon the pun, but on the same page as far as what direction we were going with the song, so there was no friction or no “okay, let’s go this way or that.” It was everybody was moving the same direction in a soulful, really melodic way, and Wade Kirby, I think, was the one that came up with the repeat “right now, right now,” you know, that kind of echo phrase, which I think is awesome.
While the writing session was an obvious success to Clay and his co-writers, it wasn’t a done deal that day that “Right Now” would become his first radio single in years. Instead, Clay entrusted those around him with his nine new children, or his freshly penned tracks, and asked “his counsel” to weigh in on what they had heard.
I played all the music for family, friends, and never mentioned anything about me writing a song, which I could really care less if I wrote it or not as far as recording; I just want to record great songs. And then the women ranged anywhere from fifteen to forty and they all picked this song as their favorite, so it was kind of easy to say “let’s go with this song” because it had an immediate impact with women, and, of course, I’m a sucker for women.
It wasn’t just family and friends who were instantly drawn to “Right Now”. Clay also brought the the entire new collection of songs to a friend at Warner Music Nashville and he, likewise, selected the track as the lead single contender off a forthcoming album.
I was feeling pretty confident that this song would have an impact. And, plus, it is a call to action. I feel like people who are passionate, not only about music, but passionate about love and being in love, that this will be one of those songs, I call it a “memory marker,” you know, one that whenever they start hearing it for the first time with the person they are in love with, it will be one of those songs they can always go back to, even if they’re not together in the future, they’ll go back and say “my God, that song makes me feel like I’m right there, right now.” Pardon the take on the song “Right Now.”
Employing a strategic method to the release of “Right Now” right now, Clay is hopeful that leading his new material off with a song that will touch hearts and lives will also give him the opportunity to touch base with a major record label to support his upcoming project. Recognizing that the formula has worked in the past for other artists with experience such as his own, the former ACM Top Male Vocalist nominee is now dreaming with his eyes wide open and the prize very much in sight.
One way that Clay intends to achieve additional success is by remaining true to himself as an artist and evolving in a natural way, rather than forcing illogical methodologies to fit a particular, current mold.
I think George Strait has pretty much been the master of disguise for all the years of his career, meaning he has always been true to himself. But, he always added an element of newness to his production. . . . George Strait has taken his music, and I feel like I’ve been able to do the same thing over the years, and that is micro evolve it.
With the changes of the genre in the back of his mind and his artistry taking center stage, Clay built a collection of new tunes that will “bridge the gap nicely” between his personal hit songs and the hit songs of today. Proof of Clay’s ability to connect the great divide between 1990s country music fans and fans of today can be found at his live shows; events where the first five rows are filled with eighteen to thirty year olds “going completely crazy, singing every word to every song, loving the new music.”
Two of those songs that are continuing to win fans over show after show are “Live Until I Die” and “This Woman and This Man”. Clay is especially fond of these tracks for distinct reasons.
The first one is “Live Until I Die” because it’s my autobiography. It’s a song that I wrote by myself when I didn’t even know what I was doing. I was just a kid writing that song from the heart and I even came up with the melody for that fiddle intro. And, I’ll tell ya, in concert, when that fiddle intro hits the speakers, the place lights up. And then there’s another song, which is probably my favorite song to sing, and that’s “This Woman and This Man,” and when that intro hits, that first guitar licks comes in, the place erupts. You know, everybody feels that song, and those two songs every night, I wouldn’t, I couldn’t even imagine doing a show without performing those two songs. And if I had only do two songs that I had to repeat over and over, it’d be those two.
The fact that such a young demographic of country fans are singing Clay’s older material further solidifies that he is, indeed, an artist who can be deemed timeless in the industry, and timelessness is something the Number 1 hit-maker would love to have attached to his name as a part of his legacy. That, and being remembered for a voice filled with depth and soul.
I feel like I’m probably the most versatile right now that I’ve ever been, meaning I have a huge range. I can sing low and high, and I haven’t lost, I’ve actually expanded my range since I started, and it’s something that I feel like I can showcase better now, but I still think the main thing that people identify about my voice and about my music is the soulfulness; and to me, when I look back as a legacy, I would love people to use that word if they were going to describe me as a singer and say “man, he was one of the most soulful people I ever heard sing.” That, to me, would be it.
And get your ability to visualize turned on, ladies. Clay confided that he loves to test that notable range out by singing in the shower and hearing the results of those acoustics from the bathroom tiles!
People like to sing in the shower because there’s tile and it kind of echoes and you don’t have to sing as loud. I like singing in rooms that have some reflection in the walls, in the windows, the floor, the tile, whatever, because you don’t have to try so hard. To me, I like to hum. When I’m writing, I like to hum softly and it helps me be way more into it if I have that reverberation or that reflection coming back to me and it’s echoing in my ears. It’s kind of like smelling wine. If you couldn’t smell wine, would it be any fun to drink?! Hell no (laughs)! I want to be able to smell the song (laughs)!
Now that Clay has emerged from those rooms of musical solitude with his new songs, he will be playing the Grand Ole Opry this weekend and introducing “Right Now” to the Nashville audience. Following his Friday night appearance, his focus will rest on “building momentum for the single. Building the story for it. Telling the story about how it came about.” The way Clay intends to relay his story and connect with the fans is through social media and live concerts, the ways he finds it the most relevant to share pieces of himself, as well as listen to the feedback from his supporters.
Hearing them. Hearing what they have to say. Hearing how they respond to something. And I think it lets you know are you on the right path? Is this the right single? Should there be more of something like this or something different? Staying connected and hearing what the fans feel and then me reacting to that.
You can connect with Clay Walker right now through his Twitter, Facebook, and website, and make sure to let him know what you think of his single “Right Now”, which can now be downloaded on iTunes by clicking here. Be assured that this wonderfully talented and remarkably kind artist would love to hear from each and every one of you and make you a part of his digital “counsel” as he reemerges into the spotlight. To further ensure that Clay receives the recognition he deserves, you can also request his single on Sirius XM The Highway’s Facebook page to help move the song into regular rotation.
Part Two of our exclusive interview with Clay Walker will be posted later this week and will delve deeper into our discussion about the evolution of country music and his thoughts on the current state of the genre. You do not want to miss out on one of the most thought-provoking perspectives on this topic you will ever read, so stay tuned by following us on Twitter, as well as by checking our website daily for the latest and greatest in country music news.