This feeling of freshness is more like a fact of life for up-and-coming roots/reggae/rock artist Jay D Clark. The Philadelphia native — who just set out on his first serious tour Sunday — is set to play more than a dozen dates, each time performing in a new city with a different band backing him up.
Clark’s Local Flavor Tour will traverse the east coast over the next six weeks spanning from Florida to New York and utilizing local and regional acts to back the him along the way.
It’s an ambitious idea that Clark sees as exciting creatively because it allows him to perform unique live versions of his songs each night.
Clark will make his tour’s second stop Thursday at Drink! in downtown Myrtle Beach, with local reggae/rock band Treehouse providing the soundtrack for his feel good rhytyms and catchy lyrical hooks.
ListenUp spoke with Clark recently to discuss his music and his decision to head out sans band. Here’s what he had to say:
Your bio reads like a menu of creative professions — actor, director, artists, etc. — how did you get involved and all that and why did you choose to pursue music now?
I consider myself an artist, in general. I’ve worked on a lot of things and it’s like when you try to make movies and you’ve got a screenplay and you’ve got to coordinate all that and try to portray that vision.
It is so much different doing music, because making music is just so much more personal thing and you can really experience and feel the emotions behind it every time you’re on stage. And you can do it 100 times and have it come out different every time and there’s something really special about that creativity and the freedom that gives you.
Is there one type of music that got you interested in playing or has it always been this funky mix of styles you have going on now?
It’s always been like this, because I had a lot of influences. I’ve actually been to Grateful Dead concerts and hip-hop and R&B shows from back in the day when I was a kid.
My family business was a screenprinting company, so we’d do a lot of T-shirts for bands and I kinda grew up around the scene. But I was an athlete and didn’t really play instruments and it wasn’t until I was in college and sort of figured out I wasn’t going to become a professional soccer player and that’s when I started delving into the film and playing guitar.
Can you talk a little more about how you got into music as a career?
I was lucky enough that through a film project I worked on for 4 years I worked with Schooly D — who has a lot of clout in the hip-hop world — and then Chuck Treece came on board and he and I bonded. He’s been in the studio with Dr. Dre and he played on a Billy Joel record and with G. Love and The Roots.
Working with guys like that on your first record and having them tell me that I have the ability to get to a certain level and get my stuff out there really helped so much as far as giving you courage and know how.
I’m completely self-taught as a musician. And it was like when you don’t know you don’t know something then it’d cool cause you just don’t know. Sometimes you think about it after the fact, but when you’re just up there strumming a guitar, you’re playing with emotion and not really thinking about the sound sometimes.
So what went into your decision to decide to use different backing bands for your tour?
Chuck [Treece] again was such as influence on me in that, because you learn a lot from a guy who works in the studio and works with bands and fills in for bands like that.
He basically said how hard it is to have a band and hit the road and get above all the drama and bullshit that’s going to happen. People have kids and lives and mortgages and some things in the music business can be super hard to attain when you’re dealing with all that and trying to play your own music.
I’ve played in front of 2,000 people before with a band that didn’t even know each other’s names walking on stage. And some people will tell you you’re crazy, but when you start jamming and you’re playing with great musicians they’re gonna find the right groove and people are going to respond to it.
Being able to create unique live versions every time you play that are never going to be heard again in a sense, that’s pretty cool.
Was the choice a mostly logistical thing or is this more of a creative experiment?
Well that’s the thing, it kinda started as a logistical thing, but for me as a musician that’s not nearly as seasoned as some others that I’ve played with, the creative part of it really has started to appeal to me more.
When I’m jamming out with some guy who’s never even listened to the music before, but he’s giving the best bassline you’ve ever heard to this song.
It’s just like, wow! I’ve played with other guys 10 times that are really good musicians and they’ve never hit what this guy is hitting the first time he’s playing it.
And being able to get people to get up and dance to original music, where they don’t know you, they don’t know the songs but they guys you’re playing with are rockin’ it so hard that they innately jump up.
Did you have any prior knowledge of any of these bands beforehand or is it mostly something the got set up on the fly?
Trying to put together this tour was pretty daunting, but basically we did a lot of research and found a lot of really good bands. It’s really a numbers game, if you hit up 10 really good bands in an area and get three or four responses then you’re more than set.
It’s definitely a little bit of both connections and word of mouth, but the Internet opens up the ability to check out completely random bands. You got their info right there and so you hit them up, tell them what you’re doing and they’re either down with it or not.
We’ve been amazed at just how many really good, up-and-coming bands are down with it. Once we explain the process it’s not a matter of “Hey, learn this song and play it this way,” it’s more like “We’re listening to you guys and you rock it so I want to incorporate your sound into my songs for a night and see what happens.”
For us touring, I have basically one girl who’s going to be setting up selling merch and helping get the word out, but that’s a lot better situation than having six guys to pay that have rent at home to pay. That can be a very hard process for bands.
And also, getting to come into towns like Myrtle and play with a cool band that you are excited to hear their stuff and they’re out there promoting it and helping create a buzz for it, that’s really been cool.
So, do you even get a chance to rehearse with these bands or do you just show up and start jamming?
The way I’ve been doing it right now is just putting the ball in their court a little bit. Saying we can be as prepared as you want to be, because I’ve already done some pretty big shows completely unprepared and they’ve worked pretty well.
So it’s really up to them. I can set a setlist, videos that are 45 minutes long that show you a breakdown of an entire set. I can send the songs and the chord changes and the lyrics … or I can just get up on stage with them and feel out the crowd and say “You know, this song right now feels right,” and just start playing something.
It’s like a lot of times when you’re playing with friends late night, just jamming some pretty amazing things happen. And to be able to recreate that live on stage is pretty sweet.
Has it been a mostly smooth experience or have you had some spots where maybe you weren’t vibing with the bands that you sat in with?
There’s been some shows that are not as good as others, but there hasn’t really been any disasters by any means. There’s one show where the bass player in this one band wasn’t really getting it and was just kinda off with me and it was a shame, but we still had people out there dancing.
As a musician you know when something’s rocking and when it’s not. There’s definitely times when I get off stage and the guys I played with were so happy we got through it and they’re amazed like “Oh that was awesome, let’s do it again!” and I’m thinking that it was cool but not nearly as jammin’ as some of the other times.
It can be kinda hit or miss, but I think that playing with bands that are already a tight unit is really going to help the cause.
Have there been any really amazing acts along the way that make you wish you could stop and stay in that town and play for awhile?
We’re just starting to really spread out a little bit and some great opportunities are sprouting up and I’m sure that’s going to happen along the way.
If I had enough money right now I could build a killer band from Philly musicians I know, but again that’s a hard business and until you get to a certain level it’s a battle to roll with a band like that.
Do you see yourself ever settling in with a full-time band or would you prefer to just continue doing this?
That’s the thing, I’m just kinda like water, you know. I’m fluid, I’m open. Anything’s possible.
I haven’t really seen to many people doing what I’m doing and I think it helps set me apart.
But when you think about it old Blues guys used to do this, going town to town getting backup players and Motown used to travel with one band backing up like four different acts.
But I’m sure there’s other people doing something similar, it’s just one of those things where how do you keep music progressing forward, and for me this is it.
What are your plans for new material, I see you’ve done a lot of live recordings and things but do you have another studio album in the works?
That’s another thing about Philly is there’s so many great musicians and studios that I’m always having people ask me to c’mon in and record. It’s just one of those things where I’ve got 20-30 new songs written and I’ve been starting some here and there, but really without resources — without money — it’s hard to just lock someone down for an amount of time.
Me and Chuck Treece are still working on stuff here and there and working with all sorts of other people. Even when I’m on tour if I’m somewhere a couple days and someone’s got a studio, I’ll jump in there and throw down my tracks and maybe they can build on those tracks with local musicians there.
With technology the way it is, as long as I can lay down my tracks and vocals then all that can be bounced around and taken in a lot of different directions.
What can folks expect from a Jay D Clark live show?
Well, I’ve definitely been into more Reggae these days, and I get into playing some chill rock and bluesy sort of stuff. But I’m just trying to play feel good universal rhythms.
You know I’ve got fans in their 60s and fans in their teens. Being able to connect universally on the rhythms and them delivering lyrics that are catchy and conscious, but that are ultimately going to make you think about it. When it sticks in your head and you’re singing it over I want you to think “What was he talking about?”
I just want people to question everything, because the world is a really crazy place right now and we should all be trying to figure out how to get together on solutions. We need to find true peace and stop letting these controlling systems make us divided.
See more from Jay D Clark at Reverbnation or Myspace.