Guitarist Releasing New Singles
March 31, 2023
Clay Melton is an up and coming blues singer and guitarist. One thing on his side is that he is from Texas. There is something different about blues guitarists from Texas.
Melton recently released “Alive On A Wire” and is set to release his second single, “Runner” on April 14.
We recently had a Zoom interview with Clay to talk about his new singles and album as well as his career and his future plans.
Greg Drugan: Where are you Zooming in from today, are you at home?
Clay Melton: Yep, I’m in my living room in Houston, Texas.
GD: I wanted to congratulate you on your latest single, “Live On A Wire,” It is more of a rocker than your usual blues. I really like the harder rock edge. Was that a conscious decision to lean more towards the rock sound?
CM: Yes, it is definitely the most rock forward release that we have out right now. I kinda wanted to stretch in that direction early on with this batch of songs that we are releasing. Then our second single, “Runner” that’s coming out April 14 is a nice follow up step that also blends in some of our blues sounds.
GD: I got the chance to listen to that song, it’s a little funkier too.
CM: Yeah, yeah. I was listening to a lot of The Meters and the Neville Brothers and a lot of New Orleans funk. It’s definitely not a funk song, but I appreciate it.
GD: These two singles have me looking forward to your new album. When can we expect the album to come out, maybe sometime this year?
CM: We’re looking at a spring of 2024 release just because we are so tour heavy this year. With “Live On A Wire” and “Runner” we tracked them right here in this room, just me and the band. We worked with our long time producer who moved back to his home in Columbia during the pandemic, so we’ve been doing all of our mixing remote with him. So there is a world where we finish the album down there. While we are on tour, this house is being renovated and knocked down to the studs, so it will be a new space. What I love about recording it ourselves is being able to take the time with it, to sleep on it and then come back to it. A lot of it is written but we are working on the record.
GD: That’s great news. That seems to be the new trend, artists will release a bunch of tracks before they actually release the album. Why do you think it’s headed in that direction?
CM: A lot of people are doing the single release method just on how music is consumed. I still love listening to albums, that’s how I grew up listening to music. That’s how I think about the music that we work on. Because recordings are kinda like timestamps. Where the artist is, where the song is and the performance itself is in that moment. I think we want to get the singles out ahead of time so we can share the music and have something fresh when we hit the road this year.
GD: Very good. Now are you guys a trio, that’s kinda what I’ve seen in some YouTube videos?
CM: Yep, a power trio from Texas. I was influenced and listened to a lot of ZZ Top growing up, as you do living in Texas. Playing in a three-piece is fun because everyone has a roll to fill. With the group that I have, Zach Grindell on drums and Zachary Cox on bass, we get along well musically and personally.
GD: Obviously that’s how Stevie Ray Vaughan got started with Double Trouble, but then later added Reese Wyans on keys and the Hammond B3, which is just a great blues sound. Is there any chance of adding the B3 to your sound?
CM: If you find someone that plays as great as Reese Wyans, you ask them to join your band! (laughs) I would love to have keys and I would love to have brass one day. Right now, it’s just simple for us on the road.
GD: You mentioned ZZ Top, who else influenced you growing up?
CM: I first got into guitar listening to Jimi Hendrix, like many guitarists do. From him, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top. I read a lot of interviews where they talked about their influences so I really got into the blues and blues history. I love all the Kings, Freddie is one of my personal favorites. Albert Collins, I’ve listened to everything from Robert Johnson to Son House. When I was in middle school, I wasn’t listening to what was popular. There is an obvious path from blues to classic rock. A lot of that music is what I’ve been influenced by. Before I got into guitar, my dad gave me his briefcase full of cassettes and there was Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Foreigner, Pink Floyd, all kinds of stuff. I was exposed pretty early to a lot of roots and classic rock and that’s what stuck with me.
GD: That’s all good stuff right there. Besides the guitar, do you play any other instruments?
CM: This is my grandparents house, they built it in 1973. My mom grew up here, and I’ve been coming here a long time. I moved here right before the pandemic. There’s an old Wurlitzer in the front room and it hasn’t moved since the 70s. So I plunk around on that. I’ve always thought about drums in my songwriting. I can program drums and talk about what I want much better than I can actually play. I’ll leave that to the drummer.
GD: Who was the first person that you saw in concert and how did that impact you?
CM: I have two answers to that question. The first one that was impactful and I decidedly wanted to go to that my dad took me to was Eric Clapton. He had Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II with him. I had never heard of Derek Trucks and he blew me away. Before that I got dragged by my family and my sisters to see Rascal Flatts. They played phenomenally, but it's not my cup of tea.
GD: Hey, they’re from Ohio so it’s not that bad!
CM: Are they?
GD: Yeah, from Columbus.
CM: They put on a good show.
GD: Being a younger person, it seems that tracks and ProTools seem to be accepted in live performances. What is your take on artists who use “a little help?”
CM: It doesn’t bother me none. I think that people never get tired of seeing the real thing done on stage. Real people with instruments in their hands making it happen, in the moment. That’s what I gravitate towards, personally. We’ve done songs where we recorded some organ parts and we were touring as a three piece. We said, “screw it” and put some key parts on a pad and played along to it. What’s important is, if we have are going to have anything playing in the background, and currently we don’t, will the song still be impactful if the backtracks die? I don’t want to be relying on anything that’s not being performed. I think there’s a difference with performing with (tracks) or relying on.
GD: I totally agree. If you have a keyboard part that you need to make it sound bigger on a song or two, I have no problem with that. But when you are playing along to a track, for the whole show. I’m all about the live music. That’s the vibe I get from you, is that you’re totally live and that’s great.
CM: Yeah. I fell in love with playing the guitar, then I fell in love with playing live. It is a separate thing. It’s a high that a lot of musicians chase.
GD: I read that you have opened up for Grand Funk and Robert Cray. Did any of those guys give you any advice or pointers?
CM: I don’t have specific bits of advice from either artist. They are both rock and roll and blues royalty. Anytime you play with an artist of that caliber or are around, you just learn by watching. You learn how they interact with the crowd, the way they put on a show. Sometimes how they interact off the stage. Robert Cray and his band had a very rock feel to it and you could tell they had a lot of fun with it. It’s always educational to see the pros do it like that.
GD: You mentioned hitting the road and you have extensive tour plans. What are your plans and are you coming to Cleveland? We would love to see you.
CM: We are on the road through the fall. We are kicking off the next leg of the tour at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival on April 22 and we are on the road through May. Then we are hitting the east coast and we will actually be in Columbus on July 29th.
GD: I’ll have to check it out. Two hour drive is nothing for me!
CM: Rock and Roll! We’ll put you on the list!
GD: You’ve pretty much said it all. You’ll be on the road. You have a new single coming out in a couple of weeks. Are there any plans for another single later in the year? I know you said the album is coming out next spring.
CM: We are focusing on writing. This summer, we are going to be on the road so much, we are probably going to keep recording. We have a couple of things in the barrel, but we are waiting for the second half of the year. We’ll be posting some live footage to tie people over until the album comes out in 2024.
GD: Clay, I’m going to get the word out. I really like the two new singles, they have a more rockin’ edge, which I’m all about but I also like the blues. We’d love to see you.
CM: We’d love to get up there. I appreciate you having me on!
GD: No problem! Take it easy.
If you like blues with a rock edge, I think you will like Clay Melton!
Check out his latest single, "Alive On A Wire" below.