Interview: Clay Melton

Could you share the story behind your latest song and what inspired its creation?

I wrote “The Lottery” after a very long year of touring and was reflecting on ditching past mistakes and changing my ways from chasing empty thrills like partying and realizing I’m just lucky to be doing what I love and to have family and friends to rely on.

How do you approach the process of songwriting, and are there any specific themes or emotions you tend to explore in your music?

I tend to write from a therapeutic space in my mind. I often feel compelled to write about something because it’s helping me deal with feelings I have about my own life or life in general.

As an indie musician, how do you navigate the balance between creative freedom and commercial appeal?

I think about the listener when I’m writing but I don’t prioritize how something will ‘market’ or appeal commercially over whether or not I’m making the music and art that I’d like to make.

What do you find most challenging about being an independent artist in today’s music industry?

The balancing act of wearing all the hats simultaneously, having a team of some sorts is absolutely necessary in my opinion.

Can you talk about your experiences collaborating with other artists or musicians? How does it influence your creative process?

Again I think having a team is necessary, I collaborate heavily with my live band before going into the studio and trust their ears and opinions like my own. I tend to write the meat of a tune before I bring it to my live band, Zach Grindle on drums and Zachary Cox on bass, and then see how their input lifts the idea. I’d rather stand out of the way and see what their thoughts are before I bust in the room and start telling everybody what to play. What would be the point of collaborating then?

What role does technology and social media play in promoting your music and connecting with your audience?

it’s a necessary evil but I wouldn’t be honest if I told you I didn’t wish I could throw my cell phone in a river.

Are there any particular artists or genres that have had a significant impact on your musical style?

I grew up heavily influenced by a lot of blues, R&B and classic rock bands. More contemporary artists like Nirvana, The Foo Fighters and Manchester orchestra are more modern influences. Also a huge Pinegrove fan.

Indie musicians often have a close relationship with their fanbase. How do you engage with your fans and build a dedicated community around your music?

I always feel the most connected with our fans when we’re on stage. For me it all comes back to the live show, performing and writing music is what I originally fell in love with. Social media engagement and all the digital aspects are just a way to keep playing and making music for me.

Could you describe a memorable live performance experience or tour that has had a lasting impact on you and your music?

We supported a rock artist called Des Rocs in 2022 and seeing how hyped his fanbase was every night was really inspiring.

In an era of streaming platforms, how do you feel about the changing landscape of music consumption and its impact on independent musicians?

I feel like that page has turned long ago, music’s not going to go back to having monetary value any time soon, at least not for still-growing independent artists. It’s similar to how MTV began to burn holes in the pockets of artists; the artists pays for the music video, their label gives it to MTV and in exchange for air time MTV charges ad space and the band sees no return from that revenue but then sees more people at their shows because they found out about them on MTV. In Today’s world independent artist are not only expected to front the cost of making the music but also expected to crank out content in exchange for the chance to connect with more fans who eventually come out to a show where artists finally see some sort of financial return through ticket sales and merchandise (both of which are being scavenged by venue merch cuts and ticket sale ‘fees’). I’m not bitter and certainly not in this for the money but I do think we’re all sort of chasing a dragon while the money is being made by people who never have a single part to contribute in the creation of the music. I think the best thing artists can do is educate their fans on how to support them in a meaningful way.