Earthbound, but reaching for the sky

09:55 AM CDT on Thursday, October 9, 2008
By Lucinda Breeding / Staff Writer

Clay McClinton lives up to both of his names. His work is earthy and humble, and manages the authenticity his Grammy-winning father, Delbert, is known for.
McClinton makes a stop at Dan’s Silverleaf on Friday night. He’ll play songs from his debut album, Out of the Blue, and its follow-up, Son of a Gun.
McClinton was born and raised in Fort Worth. He spent some years in Nashville, Tenn., before playing anywhere he could in Europe. Afterward, he came back to Texas to settle in Austin.
McClinton said the changes of scenery ended up teaching him more than he anticipated.
“I went to the school of hard knocks in Nashville. My heart is in Texas,” McClinton said. “It definitely gave me a variety of influences. I went to Europe with two other guys, and we met all sorts of other people and we played in a lot of places. We ended up playing in front of a bakery because a guy there gave us bread and a bottle of wine every night.
“It was a learning experience. A flamenco guitarist showed me some things on the guitar. It’s important to be a sponge, to be open-minded to what is out there,” he said. “Art is art wherever you go. The more you know about the rest of the word, the more you know about the making of it.”
McClinton said some of his best lessons were dealt stateside, mostly from studio musicians who clocked in to recording sessions to play anything needed, from any genre. McClinton said he saw some of the best guitar playing in Nashville, and it taught him how to be a student of any kind of music.
McClinton bends honky-tonk wailing around the pulse of blues. His stories are about the Everyman, the guy trying to save his romance and the man who can’t help but close down the roadhouse.
He said his songs usually start with a melody.
“Whether I’m driving or taking a shower, I’ll start humming it. Then I’ll start playing, and I have pages of hook lines. That’s a little trick my dad taught me. That’s mostly how I do it, but sometimes, I have an experience or a friend has an experience — if you’re sad, you sit down and write about. But, yeah, it usually starts with a melody,” he said.
McClinton is backed by one-time Denton resident Dave Carroll on drums, Denton musician Zeke Benenate on bass and Nick Litterski on keyboard.

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