A Page is Turned

It was December of 2004, and I was on my way to Nashville, Tennessee. I was 19 years old and in way over my head. We were heading to a studio owned by some country legends to record a few silly songs I had written in my bedroom. I was about to work with a producer I had never met, and honestly I probably wasn’t sure what a producer even did. I went into a soundproof booth wearing a t-shirt that said “Nashville”, and sat down to bang out some chords on a piano that Vince Guaraldi (the Charlie Brown guy) had played the week before. I couldn’t even operate the sustain pedal correctly. I was the poster boy for the term “green”.

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Our first band photo 2006

Shortly thereafter came some interest from record labels. Brennan and I had played probably 2 acoustic sets when we played our first label showcase. I hope no video evidence of that exists. We completed our lineup and began to practice for 3-4 hours a night, 4-5 nights a week. A couple years and a hundred shows later we signed with Warner Brothers/Cause for Alarm records. I’ll never forget going to the bank with our advance checks with the big “WB” printed on them. Over six figures. Most money I’ve ever held in my hand. I remember depositing the check, writing a few to pay for the record, and leaving enough to write myself and my bandmates checks for a few thousand dollars a piece. I did my best to not feel or act like a big shot. There were flights and touring, writing and recording, and practice, practice, practice.

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Signing our deal in 2008

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What there wasn’t though, was money. We made our money last as long as we could but before we knew it we were working jobs. I never actually quit mine. Ultimately, the label decided to pay for but not put out the record. We continued to have tv placement after tv placement, but we had no way to capitalize. We constantly played shows and barely broke even or lost money. We eventually broke the WB record for a tv placements by a new artist. These are cool and all, but the money they made just went to the label to pay back the record. By December 2010, we were finally able to part ways with Warner. The following February, someone from the label called and told us that Warner was keeping the record, and we wouldn’t be allowed to release it. Thanks to a ton of time and effort by our manager Jon, we were able to release the record on our own in September 2011. We borrowed a few thousand dollars from our parents to pay for the artwork and disc production, and had an amazing cd release show in our hometown. Over the last year we have exhausted ourselves trying to figure out how to make this thing work. We toured again, and again we lost money. We’ve had immense help from our friends Phil and Alex, whom helped fund and make a music video and basically kept us afloat.

See what this job takes is an extraordinary commitment and sacrifice. I make no bones about it, our best chance at success is to take out a loan and tirelessly hit the road, leave our families, sleep in our van or at stranger’s houses every night and barely make enough money to buy Wal-Mart brand bologna. We could do all this for a year or two until we are in debt up to our eye balls, and maybe…. maybe have a shot to make it. The problem with all of this, aside from being completely irresponsible, is that we aren’t the ones who really pay for it. It’s our wives, parents, children. They have to foot the bill, and for us the bill has already been too steep to add any more to it.

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With Michael Brauer at Electric Lady Studios

Let me be clear, we are not breaking up or quitting music. The Undeserving is just changing direction. We have more songs to release, we just need some money to do so. What we won’t be doing any longer is pursuing making the band our primary source of income. This means a whole lot of things but what it really means is we are going to do something different. We are going to change the way we approach things, and probably even change our name. My bandmates have started a project that they are having a great time doing, and they will spend time working on that. Meanwhile, I am concentrating on writing another record. This time I’m not worried about what’s good for radio, the masses, or what a label will think. I’m just writing a record because that’s what I love to do, and it’s what I believe I’m supposed to do. I don’t know how I will pay for it, or who would buy it anyway, but I don’t care. I believe truly great songwriting is a lost art, and I’m gonna tackle it as best I can. I believe no matter what happens that a great song can effect someone’s life, and that’s why we started this whole thing anyway.

I don’t know how to describe the emotion of this. I don’t know what my career will look like in 5 years. I’ve been chasing a dream for a long time, and now the dream has evolved into something different, and to continue to chase it, we have to do different things. I don’t have any regrets about the last 8 years, and I am truly thankful for everyone that blessed us every step of the way. We had some experiences as a band that I will tell my grandchildren about. I am so thankful to my wife for her constant support, all of our parents, our friends, manager, and all the people we had the privilege to work with along the way. You know who you are and we love you. Most of all I am thankful to anyone that ever heard one of our songs, came to a show, bought a t-shirt, and showed support in any way. You have kept us going this long, and you will keep us moving forward. We are truly, undeserving.

Clay

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3 comments

  1. Clay, thanks for giving those who don’t know you real well a little insight. You are an extremely talented young man and I was just thinking about you this week – how much I enjoy your music – and how much you enjoy your music and how blessed you are to have such a great family. This adventure of following Christ is like no other – you have had wonderful opportunities and I’m sure more life experience than most young men your age – God has your dream and I have no doubt that He will continue to lead you in many more wonderful experiences and grow you along the way – as a believer, husband, father and song writer – I’ll continue to pray for you –
    Blessings!
    Kathy Mac

  2. I’m so sorry that things haven’t gone as you wanted them to. When I watched the “Baby, run away” video last year, I got excited because I thought you would be able to release a new album; then months passed by and I didn’t hear anything about it, I got worried because I thought that things may have not worked out and you had disbanded… I just want to tell you that you are a very talented band, I knew it from the first moment I heard Something to hope for on tv, and as I browsed for more of your music on Youtube I fell in love with your work. So, please know that I will always support you, no matter what direction you take and I will be waiting for your return. God bless you.

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