It’s not every day you do an interview with an artist who admits that he’s chatting from a street corner in Key West, Florida, watching drunk people fall off scooters. It’s also not every day that you chat with an artist who admits he didn’t start playing music until college and realized that he wasn’t “that bad” when he won a contest to open for Kenny Chesney. Frankly, it’s not every day you chat with an artist, or a person, like Clayton Anderson.
From the beginning of our conversation, it became apparent to me that Clayton was more than just another wannabe-cowboy going through the motions. On top of being incredibly talented, he’s also strikingly humble about his success, candid about his aspirations, determined about his goals and hilarious in his approach.
Growing up in small town Indiana, Clayton admits that he was always surrounded by music. “I’m such a fan of music, I mean I love music.” Clayton says, “Even if I didn’t play it, I’d be out there seeing shows. There’s no experience like it, there’s no drug to replace that feeling you get from a great concert.” Although no one in his family was a musician, he was constantly surrounded by their diverse tastes, ranging from Elvis (his mom) to KISS (his dad) to Conway Twitty (his grandma). “She had no idea what Conway was singing with his dirty lyrics,” He chuckles before singing a line from Conway’s “I’d Love to Lay You Down.”
In addition to his family’s influence, he lists Indiana’s own John Mellencamp as his biggest musical influence, along with Bob Seger and Garth Brooks. “He opened the gate for country music to go out there and reach the pop world.” He says, “Back in the 90’s, people would say that Garth Brooks ruined country music and I think it’d be cool as crap if he comes back and brings country music back to what everybody wants it to be.” Later in our interview, Clayton admits that he had a chance to write with a co-writer of “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and acted like a Garth fan-boy.
Clayton also lists Kenny Chesney as one of his idols, admitting that it was after winning Chesney’s 2008 Next Big Star competition and opening for the superstar in Cincinnati that he decided to really pursue music full-time. He had a brief stint in Nashville, but when that didn’t seem to take off, he hit the road, focusing heavily on college towns. “The only thing I knew how to do really was go play shows and entertain people and have a good time, and that’s what I did. That’s what we’re successful at and it kinda took off.”
After playing shows all across the United States, he headed back to Nashville to make another go of it. Through a fateful night in Mississippi, he met writer/producer Brian Kolb, who just happened to be roommates with two guys you may have heard of: Dallas Davidson and Luke Bryan. Despite acquiring quite the team and producing an album, Clayton shopped it around, but kept having doors closed in his face. “Everybody in Nashville was saying ‘Well, that sounds just like Luke Bryan. Nashville’s a funny town.”
Eventually, Clayton and his band began to get recognized for their ability to sell tickets, and he’s opened for some of the biggest names in country music. He lists Kenny Chesney, Eric Church and Darius Rucker as three of his favorite memories thus far. “One really cool show was playing with Darius Rucker in Pittsburgh. This show I remember specifically because we got to play an hour set, and that’s a long time to play as an opening act,” Clayton recalls. “I told the band, ‘Boys, we gotta bring our stuff tonight, we’re opening for Hootie and the Blowfish.'” But on top of being a musical icon, Darius lived up to this hype. “He’s such a nice person. It’s a great feeling to meet people that you look up to and they exceed your expectations- Darius, Eric and Kenny have all done that for me.”
In February, Clayton released his newest album, Right Where I Belong, which hit #4 on iTunes and #50 on Billboard‘s country chart, a feat Clayton credits solely to his devoted fan base. “I call my fans ‘friends’ because I feel that connection to them. I don’t like the word fans, they’re just my friends,” He says. “I’m very lucky that they’re passionate about it and have gone out and told people about it…And that’s what’s given me success, it’s my friends.” The title of this album is also evidence of where he is at this point in life. “The record’s called Right Where I Belong and there’s nothing more powerful than those words right there because this is right where I belong…and there’s no other place I’d rather be than right there on the stage playing these songs.”
One song on the album that stands out to Clayton is called “Doin’ What You’re Doin” and was born from a real life situation. He recalls, “We put the first record out and we went to record companies and they’d say ‘Clayton, just keep on doing what you’re doing’ and I’m like ‘That’s not what I want to hear.'” He jokes, “I want a million dollars, I want a truck, I want a contract.” When he sat down to write with co-writer Troy Thompson, he admits that he was having a bit of a pity party, and the song came from that. “It started out serious and then turned into a party song with a message on the bridge.” In a deep thoughts with Clayton Anderson moment, he says. “You gotta keep on doing what you’re doing no matter where you’re at in your life. If you’re happy and you feel good about it, you gotta keep doing what you’re doing. That’s how cool songwriting can be. And that’s how cool life can be. It’s simple.”
As he looks forward to the rest of 2014, there are big things in the works for Clayton Anderson that he can’t talk about just yet. However, until he can disclose his big news, he’ll hit the road and play shows across the country. He also has no regrets about where he’s been or where he’s going, “I moved to Nashville thinking that if I don’t go, I might be a grumpy old man one day saying, ‘Well, what if I would’ve tried?’ This way, I have no regrets. I have absolutely zero regrets and I’ve tried with everything that I have and I’ve been very fortunate and lucky.”
As Clayton continues on his road to success, he couldn’t be happier, “I might never be this happy in my entire life.” He admits. “It’s such a great place to be.”
Clayton Anderson – Your Love Is Like Country Music