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Clayton Shay : Midwestern Roots to Nashville Boots. Get To Know One Of Nashvile's Biggest New Stars

Clayton Shay hails from the corn fields of Illinois, but has called Nashville home since 2018. Clayton's love of traditional country lyrics with his own modern twist, has lead him to over 80k Spotify monthly listeners and 1M views of his "Signed Another Man" music video. With a smooth and soulful tone, it is no surprise that Clayton has made Nashville home. Clayton is modern day country, his own way.

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You grew up not too far from where I have family, so I thought it would be kind of fun in Backstage Bobbi style to start off with some Illinois trivia to see if you know your home state.

Can you name a president from Illinois?

Abe Lincoln. All that easy I'm golden.

Can you name the Stanley cup winning NHL team that we have here in Chicago?

The Blackhawks of course.

What classic Christmas movie was filmed in the Chicago suburbs. If I go like this, will it help you *Puts Hands On Face*

Home alone was filmed in Illinois? No way. I had no idea.

Can you name a band or singer from Illinois besides yourself?

Brett Eldridge. And I mean, there's also there's Mo Pitney and Drew Baldrige.

And last, this is tricky. What is the Illinois state snack?

Food, corn.?

Yes! Its actually popcorn!

I figured it was something of that variety. Oh my gosh. Okay. So I'm impressed with myself.

Let's talk a little bit more about the music. I know that you were actually in a band in high school. So was music always the goal or did it kind of just start off as this hobby and manifest into your career?

It wasn't something that I considered as a real possibility for a career for me probably until honestly, till after I graduated college. Yeah, I have always just had a knack for music. I've always enjoyed it. I've always loved performing. But yeah, I'd have to say like college time, I started hitting open mikes a little bit and I started a band up in Bloomington, Illinois. While I was going to school while I was getting my degree and I got my degree in 2015 and liberal arts and science and I don't use it at all now. I got my degree and basically I was, I was set up from my professors to go into graduate school and I was going to be a counselor, a clinical counselor. And I basically was at this crossroads and I went to my professors and I was just like, "Hey, look, I have this opportunity to pursue music as a career. And I think I've got a shot at it.” And they're like, you should absolutely do that. So I had some really good advice from them and I'm I'm blessed and I'm very thankful that they pushed me in that direction rather than what you would think a professor would do, which would be to push you into academia. I love school, so there's nothing wrong with, with going that direction. I just, you know, you gotta do what makes you the happiest?

I know you've only been in Nashville for a couple of years. So what, what prompted the move and then did you go in cold turkey or did you kind of know, know anybody? I know, you know what I mean? Some people that I've talked to, they kind of move up in packs, like what was the experience like for you?

I had been down several times just like checking out areas and more or less just going to Broadway. And that was what really sold me on Nashville was Broadway. Just seeing that it was the hub for musicians. So I guess to answer your initial question, what was like the deciding thing for me was after graduating and I played around Illinois for a while and it seemed like there was kind of a, a glass ceiling. Like there's only so far I could get there. I love Illinois and I, I love all the experiences I have playing music there, but it's kinda like wherever you, you know, whatever thing you want to dive into, if you want to do it to the best of your ability, you need to go where the hub is for that thing. So I always use like Marine biology. If you want to be a Marine biologist, you need to be near the water. So if you want to be a country artist, then you can, you need to be where all the country artists are. So that's what made me decide. And I actually had a very interesting initiation into the city.

So I opened for blackjack Billy back in it must've been 2016 probably. When I was still in Bloomington and I kept in contact with them. I was a huge fan of theirs and whenever the time came to move down to, I hit up the guitar player, Jeff and I was just like, Hey dude, do you want to grab a beer? I'd love to catch up. He's that? He's like, actually, man, we need a bass player. So if you want to do that, we'd take you. And so I, you know, I'm, I was a front man and never had an experience with that at all.So I was just like, yeah let me see what I can do. And he's like, well, our first shows in like a month and a half and Denver opening for Midland, so get up and get on it. Yeah. So I basically just locked myself in a room for like a month and a half and practice base and figured it out. So that was, that was my, my moving to Nashville was pretty much immediately touring. So as soon as I moved here, I locked myself in my room and just worked on base until I was ready to go. And then kind of, yeah, all the 2018 was a lot of touring with those guys and yeah. And then it transitioned into myself.

Do you feel that 2020 allowed you to be more creative with everything slowing down, or did you struggle?

Yeah. creativity definitely suffered for me especially like initially right off the beginning and that just doesn't work for me to do zoom wrights. I have to feel the people in the room, you know, if there's not that connection between each other, then it's just not a co-write to me. I might as well be writing by myself. When you're not doing normal life things and you're not going out and meeting your friends out for a beer and doing the things that you normally do, that that's where I get a lot of my inspiration from. And that's so when we stopped doing that for so long, it was like, I wasn't out with my friends, hearing them say song titles that I, you know, that's what happens when you're out with your friends. If you're a songwriter, you hear somebody say something and you're like, Ooh, that could be a song. And you write that down on your phone real quick.I have a really long list of song titles.

I know you've been able to write with some really awesome up and comers! Names like Cooper Allen and Backstage Bobbi alum, Jordan Rager. Do you really thrive writing with other people?

Oh yeah, definitely. To be completely honest, I could probably count on my two hands. How many times I've ever written by myself? Just because most of my writing since I've started has been in Nashville and almost always you co-write. I know a lot of people that still do write by themselves, but I just feel like it's like, it's like working on a project, like a class project, you know. If you got three people, three minds on it, it's going to be better. Sometimes when you got three people in a room, one person writes most of the song, but those other two people are there to be like, Oh yes, that's it. Or no, that's not it. You know? So even if there's two other people aren't contributing as necessarily, they're still there to have another set of ears on it. And I think that's pretty powerful. And then the two guys, you mentioned Cooper Allen and Jordan Rager. Like those guys are pros in the fullest sense of the word. So I very much so shoot to be the worst writer in the room if I can, because I want to, I want the, I want to learn, like, that's what I want. I'm not a huge fan of rights where it's, it's mostly on me to write the song. It happens. It always happens. But yeah, I love my favorite rights are with people like those guys who are super talented and are challenging me to like step my game up and like stay on par. And those two definitely do that. Cooper and Jordan are our pros. So shout out to those guys.

I know you just announced that you just tracked your next single. Is there anything you can tell us about that without giving too much away or getting in trouble?

Sure. Yeah. No. yeah. That's, I'll tell you everything. I don't, I'm not afraid. Yeah, it's, it's called “Knee On”. I wrote it with my buddies, Andrew Capra and Ryan Robinette about, probably about two and a half months ago maybe. And I'm super pumped about it. It's probably my favorite song that I've released yet. Yeah, it's, it's different from both the other two singles. But it's, it's more along the lines of like a girl, like you it's, it's very uptempo, but it's also not super poppy. It’s way more rock and very like I guess one of the reference tracks for it was “Boots” by Hardy. So like very, yeah, very very rocking.

The new right now Signed Another Man. have to know, is it comfortable place of experience or was this just this awesome idea that you guys had?

You are not the first person to ask that? So it's, let me, let me say it this way. I guess almost everything that I write comes from some kind of experience, whether I've experienced it firsthand or somebody I know has, and I've seen them go through it. So, so no, not directly. It's not something that I experienced specifically to the song. I think it was four of us in a room sharing experiences and trying to be like, all right, how can we make this relatable, make it unique, make it cause I mean, whenever I write a song, I definitely want it to either make you feel something or try to challenge a way that you think, you know, try to make you think about something differently. So that was the latter of those two things. Just kind of what we were shooting for was challenging the way people think about breakups and how they typically go. So to answer your question, no, not specifically, but at the same time it is something that we drew off experiences. I am very proud of where this song has lead me!

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