Claye ADD

Interview with Clay

04/12/2016 by Gardy Stein

Interview with Clay

"You can speak to me, you can message me, you can say something to me, and we will talk, because you are a person and I am a person, and for me, that's what comes first!"

Respect! That's a virtue I really, really value in people, especially when they accomplished great things or reached a certain level and still don't puff up and turn arrogant, but remain humble and respectful. Clay definitely is one of these virtuous persons, and despite having just released a wonderful debut album called Art & Soul that firmly establishes him among the stars of Reggae Sky, he stays a people's person who takes his time to communicate with fans and friends alike – respect! And who, despite having had some issues with the were-to-be producers Silly Walks, doesn't lose a single bad word about them – respect! 

In an amazing in-depth-interview (during which I received probably the best compliment an interviewer could ever hope to get), Clayton Morrison opened up to Reggaeville on subjects such as the journey of his album, his interest in the psychology of music sales and future projects:

We talk on a Sunday. What does that look like for Clay?
A Sunday for me is pretty much the same as every other day, actually. I'm routinely into family time, you know, I wouldn't say relaxed time, because I'm always working, even when I should be sleeping or whatever, but I always find something to do. But, yeah, Sunday is typically family time.

Did you do a release party over the weekend?
No. I was supposed to do a release party, but I was supposed to not say anything as yet. They wanted it to be a sort of surprise, so no one should really know… That was supposed to be on Thursday, but something happened to the guy's mum, so he had to deal with that. You know, family first. Apart from that, no. I think I'm quite old-school… everybody says I should do it and I can do it, I know musicians and venues and all, but… I mean, I'm taking a lot of risks right now and I just want to do things differently, not like everyone else. A lot of people tell me to do a release party, but I was just so excited to get this album out and enable people to get it and... I want to talk with people, you know what I mean, they can just get the album now and listen to it and then we talk. That for me is really cool, I really like that.

Do people already get back to you on the album?
Yes! You know there is a lot... I mean, the messages that I get are really cool. Like, there is a lady that just lost her father and the album came out at that time and she got it and wrote to me. I was humbled by that message, because her father died like a week ago and you should be in a bereavement mode, and if you find time to write me that message, it says a lot. It says I have a responsibility. And it's good, I could give her some peace of mind. And other people tell me "Hey, I love your album, I really like what you are doing!" It's good!

Tell us something about the journey of the album itself. Maybe you can share some of the stories behind the songs with us?
Sure. Initially, I was supposed to do this album with Silly Walks, but we are not working together anymore. I mean, I'm coming from being a producer myself, you know, and this stuff is part of the music industry, any industry actually. When you do a joint venture, sometimes you start out with an idea or a plan together, but sometimes it goes crash, you know, and then you just have to understand that maybe it's time we have to step away, because otherwise one party will be happy and the other one sad, so the best thing to do is make everyone do a kind of forking. So, we started out and it was supposed to be with them, but then we had some differences of opinion and I decided to continue the album in a way… You know, I'm really into doing stuff how I want, because I want it to be me, so I decided to just do it on my own.
The tracks now… the thing is, every song is like a baby to me. I really love them because they are different elements of me. Like, Chat And Gwaan Bad is a really cool song, a cool vibe. When I heard the riddim from Big Finga, from the Evolution band, and Hold On, these two, I really liked the elements in those riddims. And Hold On to me, when I first heard it, I felt I needed to be as sincere as possible, so it's a song I really like because it's telling the message that you need to really just steer your cart. It doesn't matter what, any dream, you know, if you are strong in it, then it will happen. And then Happiness, I really like doing love songs too, like I Love You, I'll Miss You, I'm known for and I like these songs...

I realized that!
(laughs) I like happy songs, songs that will make you feel happy, whether it's a song about life, love or hate. So I guess the whole album as a project is a story line that tells you "You know what, just do what you want to do, because either way some people get it and some won't, so whether people get it or not, you're happy that you actually did it." So you have to feel comfortable with showing you as a person, that's the whole story line. I mean, I really love Hold On because it's so real to me. And then I'll Miss You, I really like the acoustic vibes. I like Indie music a lot, so I did it to include stuff like that. In Criminal, which is the last song, I wanted to do a traditional rough vibe, you know, because it was a vibe track, it's not really properly recorded, I was just vibing to a song. So, in short I think Hold On is a song that really stands out, but I'm being hard by saying that because every song is special to me.

How did the cooperation with the Evolution Band come up?
I met them through Silly Walks and then we were doing the MTV stuff with Gentleman, and then… you know, when you meet people you kind of click with them, and I became very good friends with Josie. I mean, I'm really close with the whole band, but especially with Josie. And I like working with him, we've been doing some stuff together. He told me some ideas and sent me his stuff and I'm a producer too, so we were sending ideas back and forth, so, yeah, that's how I met them. And they ended up playing on the other songs too... I mean, they pretty much play most of the instruments, but I brought in some other musicians as well, and I actually play most of the piano parts, I did most of the additional stuff.

Where did you record?
I recorded the vocals here in London. And the album is out on CountryBus, that's my own label. The First Chapter EP was released on this one, too. I've always had a label, several labels, but I set up CountryBus because I kind of like the sound and the vibe.

Do you produce other artists as well on that label or is it just your music?
I do produce other artists, but not on that label. A lot of people ask me, though (laughs), but I really created this label to house what I'm doing. I mean, maybe I will do it, later, you never know.

And how did you get Beenie Man to feature on the song?
Ah, that's a story... I'm working with Gentleman, preparing an album with him and Ky-Mani Marley. I am the main producer and songwriter of that album, so I always spend a lot of time in Cologne with Gentleman. I was supposed to do a weekend at his house again to get some stuff done, but what happened was that I missed my flight because I had left my passport (laughs). I called Gentleman and said "I missed my flight!" and he said "Don't worry about it, it doesn't matter. Beenie Man is coming down for us to do something on his album and I think it would be nice if he could do something for your album as well!" And because I missed my flight, I was able to come back home and do a version of that song so Beenie Man could be on it, so it was for a reason, you know... and then I was recording Beenie Man, and I even did some piano overdubs for Beenie Man's album as well, and, you know, the vibe just clicked and I played him some stuff and he just went to the booth and did it. So it was Gentleman's suggestion and we just clicked in the studio and it was natural, I think he liked my stuff.

Are there any other artists that you'd like to work with in the future?
Ahm, the thing is, you know, I am... how do I say this... I don't really have a specific artist that I want to work with, but I am open to the idea. I mean, I could have asked Gentleman to do a song on the album with me, because we are quite close now and he would have done it, but I am still... I believe in the process of not doing things too spontaneously... I mean, I am spontaneous, but when I have a song and a vibe and I am still fresh in people's ears, I like people to understand me as Clay, and what I bring to the table. I never really thought about it, but most artists that do really cool music, I would work with them. Just at the moment there is not one specific artist that I'm looking out for. But I wouldn't say no, if the opportunity comes, then we could do it, I'm really open.

Will there be a tour?
I'm not sure yet... I've been talking to a few people, but I just trust in the process too. Even though this project is self-released, I'm still in the process of understanding the ways around touring with the album and how everything works, but I haven't thought about it fully and I'm actually getting advice from people who are in that field, discussing if it's better to do the tour now or later, but it's in the making.

Does that mean you do everything yourself? Promotion, management and so on?
I have a manager. But I like promotion, so I do a lot of promotion myself, I'm sort of s one-man-band too, yeah. I do have people that call and do other stuff to help, but sometimes I like to get the wheels turning first and then when I contact them or anything, I meet them halfway.

Wow, respect. But honestly, I know a lot of people would love to see a full Clay concert. We did get a little teaser over here last year when you showcased a few songs with Gentleman, but…
I really want to do that because I think I have so much to offer… and I actually have the concept in my head! I play it over in my head, like how I would do it, what I would do, and it would be really interesting, with the acoustic vibes and I'm a people's guy and I do a lot of jokes when I'm performing. You know, it will just be me, and I want to do it. But I'm happy that I'm not doing it yet, a full Clay concert, because how I want to do it, I would want to have the power to do it the way I want to do it because I don't want it to be fans coming to listen to this guy you know, I want it to be like 'Hey, we are all here and we are going to have a good time!' That's how I want it to be. If you come to a Clay concert you should leave and say "You know what, I love that guy!" That's for me… I want it to be that, to channel this love. I hate singing at people, too. I want to have you, sing for you and with you.

How about the London scene, do you perform there, do people know you there?
I haven't performed in London. To me, London is where they get things last. It's funny because I have a lot of people and radio guys messaging me, so it's coming around, and I have a BBC profile, so my songs are played there, but I have a bigger fan base outside of London in the country parts, so they definitely know me. It's happened so fast and most of the traffic that I have and the people who are really on it are from Europe and Latin America. You know, that's the good thing about Germany, for instance, they don't waste time, they just say "Hey Clay, we love your music!" London takes forever, they love it, but they take forever to say it. So sometimes you have to concentrate on the territories that really hit you and want to see you. But it's in the making here, too!

Looking into the nearer future, is there something on the horizon already, any new projects?
Well, as I said I'm doing this album with Gentleman and Ky-Mani Marley because I still embrace the production side. There is another collaboration coming, we are talking about it right now so I don't want to say anything about it yet, but it’s a cool band… For me, the next step is an acoustic version of the album, of Art & Soul, because I just want people to hear the album in another form. Sometime you really like the lyrics and you just don't want… you want to have a peaceful time to listen to the song, so that's what I'm working on next. And then I have a few more single songs, I'm working with some people and I just take it from there.

Following your Facebook-account, I see that you always reply to people, whenever they comment something and probably also when they send you a message, you always reply to them. That makes you very tangible, very manifest.
You know what? I really like it because it does motivate me, but I also do it because I feel I owe.... I have a duty to people and I wouldn't even say fans, you know. I understand that time is important and I know there are a lot of people who see and like some stuff, but they just like it and that's it. But when someone takes their time to actually send me a message and say something, I have to respect that time and the gesture, and I feel like sometimes in the social network, we get lost in between the fan thing and I don't like to do the superstar fan stuff. I like people, I'm a people's person and I really try to... I don't have a huge fan-base, but I'm happy because I can speak to people and I really hope that I can continue to do it. I love it! And I respect people and I like it when they reach out to me.

Yes, and in the same way people respect that too! Like, when I hear friends telling me 'Clay answered me!' it makes them feel special too. It's a special thing for them that the artist takes the time to answer them too, so... keep that up!
I really want to, man, I really hope it doesn't get overwhelming where I can't manage.

I also saw that on your homepage you have a blog and you keep putting out discussions. I don't know if it was your latest, but the one I saw asked about music and what would make people buy music... I didn't check all the answers, what did people say?
The funny thing is, I changed that into a news kind of thing, but I'm gonna put it back up because... I felt that maybe I have to start a different page with, it because it's something that I always wanted to address. I'm just trying to understand… I had a few interesting comments. Some people said "Look, I want to get to know the artist first." My take on buying music, I actually don't think... I think the artists suffer, that's my honest opinion. Because if you think about the typical night out, someone will go and spend money on drinks, you know. The thing is, you purchase a drink from a drink company that you don't know. You never spoke to them, they never speak to you, you drink it and it's finished, and it's more expensive than a digital download song. And everybody will go out and listen to the artist online, but it's very hard for someone to pay 99 cents for a song to literally support that artist. And it's a song that you can pass on to your children, a song that can motivate you and change your life, inspire you, make you feel good, you know… Whereas after you drink the alcohol or whatever, it's gone. But the song will stay, you can listen to it again the next day or next year, you know, and 99 cents, it's nothing.  And if people do the streaming or Spotify... I mean, I'm on Spotify, but if people rather pay 9,99 to listen to everything and then the artist that they actually need to support to give Spotify the music is suffering. So, I was trying to understand the mindset behind why would someone go and buy that. And I also understand that sometimes it takes people maybe two, three, four albums to support this guy, so I have a lot of stuff that I want to talk about!

Now, I want to put this on the record, I really respect Reggaeville for what they are doing. As an independent artist, we need that medium, as a Reggae artist we need that support, we can't just rely on somebody organically hearing your songs, because sometimes people aren't aware of what's going on. The thing is, there are some… when I'm talking about media that doesn't really support artists that need it, I mean that they have to say "I'm gonna support this artist because he has the potential to become a staple, an artist in the industry who can actually be a pillar, he is that kind of artist." So we need to help to put him on a platform to strengthen the genre, you know, because the stronger the genre gets, the bigger everyone gets. The bigger the blogs, the bigger the magazines, because there is a stronger core which is the artist, acting as a pillar. I always compare Pop music to Reggae and I realize that at any given time in Pop music there are so many different new artists who get a platform, so the genre is stronger. With Reggae, there is only a handful of medias, and there isn't… I mean, there is so much good music, but it doesn't get highlighted! These are the conversations I want to spark. Not necessarily because I want to put my opinion out, but just because I want to understand what people think, too.

That's great! And I think a lot of people would like to follow that. I mean, you always hear this subject brought up, but it's mostly lamentations like 'Ah, people don't buy music!' and so on. Nobody really sits down to ask for the reasons, so when I have some time, I will definitely follow that discussion. Did people say something about different mediums as well, like whether they rather buy CDs, Downloads or Vinyl?
I'm really happy you ask me this, because I want to put it back up. You know, one woman especially, she was saying that for her, she will buy stuff, but she will stream the music first to get to know the artists, to understand what he's saying. Which is really cool! And then some people are just into Vinyl and some into CDs and stuff, so, I guess my understanding is that some people will not buy a digital download because they are not into that format, but if you had a vinyl they would go and support that, you know. I guess what I pick up from this is that everyone has their preferences, and if you can meet some of the people halfway, then it is cool. Still, I think that personality and the artist is the first part of the selling, that's what I realize. And I don't like to say buy music, I mean technically we buy but it's kind of like a support, because, you know, if you like a piece of music, if you like my album, I don't have to tell you to buy it. It's there and you see it, and you will get it if you want. So, this is why I never normally say "Buy the album!" but "Here it is, here's the link, if you want to get it."

It's really interesting. I think the approach that you sit down and learn about the artist, it's not all people who do it, because not all people have that level of consciousness. A lot of them just hear a song on the radio and like what they hear and kind of follow the hype...
Look, I really like what we are doing and the questions that you are asking me. I really don't like interviews (laughs), but I guess… I love your review on the Clay:List, that was wicked, really a killer. So I was looking forward to this interview because I knew that it would be a really cool conversation. And I'm right, you know! (laughs) I think for me, getting to know the artist… I mean, I really want people to get to know me. I really do, and I want them to know that I am actually not perfect too. At any given point in time I can say something unorthodox or whatever and that's what makes me me. And I want people to understand "Look, you can speak to me, you can message me, you can say something to me, and we will talk, because you are a person and I am a person, and for me, that's what comes first." Yeah.

Thank you, Clay! Enjoy the Sunday eve with your family.