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BGS 5+5: JD Clayton

Feb 14, 2023

BGS 5+5: JD Clayton

Artist: JD Clayton
Hometown: Fort Smith, Arkansas
Latest Album: Long Way From Home (out January 27, 2023)
Personal Nicknames: JD

Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?

Jack Johnson has influenced me more than any other artist. I know that might seem like it’s out of left field but it’s the truth. My dad was given a CD in the summer of 2001 by a friend who had just gone out to California. The CD was Brushfire Fairytales, Jack’s first album. From my earliest years, I can remember riding my bike around the backyard as my dad tinkered with projects while Jack’s albums played from a Sony CD/cassette player. I can remember my dad with tab booklets learning Jack’s songs on the back porch. It was my earliest idea of being a singer-songwriter. And I always knew I wanted to make albums and tour like Jack Johnson.

What rituals do you have, either in the studio or before a show?

Typically in the studio I like to light some incense and turn all of the lights out except for a few lamps. This helps me get into a very interesting head space and I can clearly see my vision for the song. When I’m on the road I like to get the boys together before we take the stage to pray and I ask one of the players to say something of encouragement. Then we sing the classroom song that Jack Black sings in School of Rock… “Lawrence is good at piano…” at the top of our lungs which ends with us all pointing to each other and saying “you’re perfect, you’re perfect… no you’re perfect.” If you know, you know.

What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?

I was writing my song “Cotton Candy Clouds” which appears on my debut album, Long Way From Home. I had about three different versions of the song and I could not figure out how it needed to work within the parameters of the song’s form. I originally wrote it on piano and rewrote it on acoustic to give it more of an upbeat, swinging feel. I showed it to the producer and he couldn’t follow my vision for the song. So, I came home and went for a long walk around the park. I took my phone out and hummed into my voice memo app what I was hearing in my head. As soon as I walked back to my house, I wrote out the form as you hear it on the record. Thankfully I had hired some great musicians to be in the studio who were patient with me as we learned the song together.

Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?

I’d say water has impacted my work the most. My hometown of Fort Smith was founded on the Arkansas River and that region is known as the River Valley. I grew up swimming on the city swim team with my sister so we were constantly at the pool. We would do a two-hour workout in the mornings and then come home to play in our pool at home. I love floating on the Mulberry River in the summertime. It’s the perfect place to unwind for the day. And when I’m not writing or playing shows I try to go fly fishing with my brother and dad. The water is what I know best and I think it has helped shape me into the artist I am today.

Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?

My dream pairing of a meal and a musician would be a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and Paul McCartney. The peanut butter & jelly sandwich is tough because it has to be made correctly. Any variations and you’ve ruined it. It requires two pieces of soft white wheat bread taken from the center of the loaf. The peanut butter has to be Smucker’s Chunky peanut butter. If it isn’t chunky don’t bother coming for lunch. As far as jelly goes, I’m not picky. But I do lean towards strawberry. I haven’t the slightest clue if Paul likes PB&J but I would love to ask him some questions about Sgt. Pepper and Ram.

Photo Credit: Sean O’Halloran

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BGS 5+5: JD Clayton
BGS 5+5: JD Clayton