Clay McClinton has never tried to get away from the music lineage of his father and Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Delbert McClinton, but he is trying to carve out his own path in Americana music, or what he fondly calls Texas gumbo.
McClinton’s blend of Texas country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll is evident in each of the 12 tracks on his latest album, Bitin’ at the Bit, which was released Tuesday. To celebrate the album’s release, McClinton will perform at the Cactus Cafe for the first time Thursday night.
“I like rock ‘n’ roll, country, a little blues, a dash of jazz,” McClinton said. “You just have to know how to collaborate different kinds of style to make your own and hopefully it turns
Bitin’ at the Bit is McClinton’s first collaboration with Grammy-winning record producer and songwriter Gary Nicholson, who has known McClinton since he was 2 years old. Nicholson and McClinton co-wrote most of the songs on the album with contributions by Delbert McClinton, Nashville studio drummer Tom Hambridge and Austin-based artist George Ensle.
“My dad and I were trying to figure out a name for the album and I was so anxious for the CD to come out,” Clay McClinton said. “I told my dad, ‘I’m just bitin’ at the bit, I’m just chompin’ at the bit,’ and a light went off in my head and I said, ‘That’s the CD name.’”
McClinton produced the album with the help of a Kickstarter campaign through which he and his wife were able to raise $43,000. A portion of the funds raised were used for publicity while the rest went toward creating the album.
“I couldn’t go back into debt,” McClinton said. “One of the hardest things about being an independent artist is finding a budget to keep making CDs without any backing or label.”
Born and raised in Fort Worth, McClinton never graduated from college. Instead, he decided to accompany his father on his road trips, playing music.
“When I was 15 or 16, during the summertime my dad would hire me to go with him on his road trips and help with the equipment,” McClinton said. “We would be on the road for a week or so … sleeping on the bus and playing music one night after another. I’ve always [liked] being nomadic. It was the coolest time when I was on the road with him.”
McClinton’s career has grown a lot since his first performance at age 14.
“His music is different,” Nicholson said. “But it has the same soulful qualities of his father’s. Clay leans on his Texas country approach, and he understands what makes rhythm work in songs. He likes to make music that makes people smile.”
Songwriter Bruce Channel remembers McClinton when he was 10 years old performing tricks on his skateboard at his family’s home.
“His determination to just want to do it, his love of music is truly wonderful,” Channel said. “He loves to write songs with his band and I’m just glad to be able to help him write a song here and there.”