Episode 001: Clayton Bellamy (The Road Hammers, The Congregation)
My guest today is Clayton Bellamy who with The Road Hammers have won 5 Canadian Country Music Awards, a JUNO award, and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year. They are the best selling Canadian country band of all time. He has an exciting new project called Clayton Bellamy & The Congregation whose sound is a high-octane blend of gospel, R&B, and riff-driven hard rock.
CLAYTON BELLAMY SHOW NOTES:
1:30 3rd record released this year, Greatest Hits with The Road Hammers, Black Mountain Whiskey Rebellion and The Congregation.
3:00 Musicians on the album with The Congregation – Scott Baggett, Pat Buchanan (Cameo, Hall & Oates, Cyndi Lauper), Audley Freed (The Black Crows, Sheryl Crow), Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Mark Knopfler, Joe Walsh), Greg Morrow. 2 drummer concept for the band
6:00 Beginnings, Grade school teacher told parents that they should encourage Clayton in music because he had a gift for it. Singing in choir in school and church. Age 15/16 started playing in bands.
7:50 Red Deer College Music program major in vocal performance and music business.
In college, the music business professor said: “If you don’t do the business, you don’t get to do the music.” Clayton took that on as his philosophy for his career.
9:30 Life between college and The Road Hammers “I was like a stray dog” He spent 7 years on the road with a band honing his craft and learning how to engage an audience when they don’t want to be engaged.
13:20 The Road Hammers audition for Jason McCoy. Jason’s drummer Scott Christenson recommended that he meet Clayton. Clayton came to audition over prepared and impressed everyone. Joel Stewart – producer of the Road Hammers tv show for CMT was filming the audition.
18:40 Clayton reflects on just how green he was back then having never set foot on a tour bus, never seen what a national tour looked like, never had a record deal or a manager or a publisher. The album went platinum and debuted at #1. “East Bound and Down” went #1 and they had 3 top 5 singles. He describes the experience as “Preparation meeting opportunity”
Awards – 5 CCMA, 3-time group of the year, Juno for country recording of the year.
20:30 – won Group of the Year at CCMA again
22:20 – US fan base and becoming part of the fabric of Nashville having the industry know who they are and playing the Grand Ole Opry.
23:30 – Clayton was never exposed to country music growing up. When he first got into it he listened to Steve Earle, John Prime, Towns Van Zant, Guy Clark and loved their storytelling. He listened to rock and roll growing up – Humble Pie, Otis Redding, Joe Cocker, The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.
24:50 – The rock influences are what he brought to the Road Hammers. Jason is a classic country historian that can answer any question and never be stumped. The way Jason and Clayton approached the guitar differently – Clayton from rock, Jason from country and that is what set the band apart.
26:40 – The Congregation was a reinvention of himself and moving on from the singer-songwriter style of his previous solo albums. “This was kind of like for lack of a better term my Ziggy Stardust album”
28:25 He talks about his previous solo albums Everyone’s a Dreamer in 2012 and Five Crow Silver that was not accepted by the country audience even though they were critically acclaimed.
30:40 David Bowie quote: “unless you are swimming in the deep end where your feet can’t touch bottom then you are not creating your best work, you are not living dangerously enough with your art.” Clayton: “if that is what he says that I got to do then I’m going to do it because this stuff that I am making now is shit and I don’t want to make this anymore. I don’t believe it. If I don’t believe it, how am I going to expect anybody else out in the world to listen to it and believe it”
32:45 Clayton explains that he was stuck in formula songwriting for 10 years knowing what he is going to say before he said it and knowing how the song will be laid out ahead of time.
34:00 “One of the best compliments that I’ve heard since this music has come out with the Congregation, is that people are saying that I’ve found my own music that this sounds like me because my whole career as a solo artist I’ve always heard that the music doesn’t match the man.”
35:00 Advice for artists Clayton quotes his friend Mike Plume “Building a good career is like laying bricks in a wall. Every day you go out and you are laying those bricks, that foundation so as you are going up that wall and that wall gets higher as you continue to work, if somebody pulls a brick out from under you, you only go down one brick. There are always going to be setbacks. But if you win a singing contest on tv and overnight become super successful and then somebody pulls a brick out from underneath, you go right back to the bottom, you disappear.”
36:40 Advice – treat your career like you are running a small business and every day you get up and you hustle and do good work. Surround yourself with excellence and develop relationships.
37:45 Bursary to help kids in the arts. The Northern Lights school district. Kids can apply to get money to help them further their fine arts education.
40:30 Clayton’s big picture WHY?
42:30 Dad’s advice: “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”
Everyone sees the success of a band like The Road Hammers but what they don’t see is the more than a decade of work that Clayton put in before even being in the band. A key thing that Clayton mentioned was his college professor saying “If you don’t do the business, you don’t get to do the music.” He took that to heart and always took care of the business aspects of his career.
Next, he spent 7 years on the road honing his craft and learning how to engage an audience and all that prepared him for the success of The Road Hammers. Clayton mentioned the quote “Preparation meeting opportunity” and he came to the Hammers audition over prepared and got the gig.
Another important part of his story is after all the success; he felt a need to reinvent himself. The singer-songwriter solo albums that he put out were not an honest representation of who he was as an artist. He is a rocker at heart and he needed an outlet, he needed to get out of his comfort zone and take some risks with his songwriting. The result is his new project The Congregation.