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Clay Cumbie


Posted Aug 25, 2006 by Paul
Filed under: Exclusive Interview
Clay Cumbie is different. What seperates Clay from many songwriters in Nashville is, Clay writes for the newly established Big Loud Shirt Industries. Big Loud Shirt was founded by notorious hit songwriter Craig Wiseman, and not just anyone can write for Craig.

We spoke with Clay recently and there’s something else that sets Clay apart from so many writers we know or have met. Clay is still as wide-eyed as the day he arrived in Nashville four years ago. Older and wiser, but still eager, you can hear the excitement in what he says. He carries his background in competitive sports with him as he works to take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented to him. Clay Cumbie is going to have a great career.

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PKTell us a little about the songs you’re writing at the moment, how would you describe them?

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ClayI’m definitely writing alot these days. I’m really just trying to come up with great stuff that people can relate to. Some days you come in with the big hook ideas and other days you just find a good groove and go with it. I’m definitely an up-tempo person, so I dont dabble with the ballads too much, but there’s always room for a little love makin music.

PKYou’ve landed a writing deal with Craig Wiseman’s Big Loud Shirt, was it a long process to get there and how did the opportunity come about?

Clay- I was playing in a writers showcase last December for BMI over at The Sutler. Perry Howard (who works for BMI) was MC’ing the show that night. He later caught up with me after I had played my set. I walked out to the parking lot to put my guitar away and he walked right up to me and said, “we’ve gotta get you a deal”. To say the least I was speechless in that moment. It’s not every day you hear those words fly out of someones mouth, especially in this town! I think I replied with a simple, “yeah man, that would be great”. After that he gave me some contact info and that was the moment where the ball started rolling for me towards getting a writing deal.

PKNow, you still play live and it’s evident from your bio that being in front of a crowd is something that you enjoy doing, do have plans as an artist as well, or are you concentrating solely on songwriting?

Clay- I moved to nashville to become a recording artist. I love being on-stage and having a good time with the music, and the crowds. I’ve been playing out since I was fourteen. I really cut my teeth in my hometown of Columbia, MO. By the time I was sixteen I was playing 3 or 4 nights a week at different clubs and venues and various open mics, just testing out my songs and building a fan base. I love songwriting too, and especially in country music. I was the kid in High School who bought the albums and looked at the inside of the cd jacket to see who wrote the songs. I’ve always appreciated the songwriter and the craft of writing a song. I definitely gravitated towards singer songwriters as well when I was growing up. Artist’s like James Taylor & Jim Croce. I really respect the guys who can sing, write and play their own material.

PKYou mentioned some rough starts, we’ve all had those, what were some of yours?

ClayWell, everyone has their own path when they make the journey and try to make it in Nashville. I had my ups and downs just like everyone else does when trying to get discovered as an artist or a songwriter. Some days the path was paved, and other days the path was long and bummpy. I moved here when I was nineteen, started waiting tables to pay the bills; and I had absolutely no clue of how to get my foot into any door in the music business. I definitely found myself frustrated at times. From having almost nothing in the checking account to running into bad music deals with different individuals, you learn as you go sometimes, and sometimes that might be the best way to learn.

PKWhat did you learn from that process?

Clay- The biggest thing I’ve learned since being in Nashville is to stay positive and have a good attitude about things. You almost never know when that big break might come. But I’ve also learned that nothing just falls in your lap. It takes alot hard work and alot of determination to make things happen. But if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

PKYou say that the ‘class of 89’ was really responsible for changing the way you approach songwriting, tell us a little about your approach now.

ClayGarth was a huge influence to me when I was growing up. I wore out my Garth Brooks tape on my walkman back in the day. I saw one of Garth’s concerts on T.V. when I was around eight or nine, and was blown away by how he entertained the crowd. From running around that huge stage, to smashing the guitars at the end of the show, he had me hooked. All of those guys are true talents, they each write, sing and play their own tunes. They all had a big effect on me and pulled me towards music, and I still look up to all of them today!

PKWhat are you hoping to accomplish in Nashville as a writer? Would you settle for a number 1 or do you have bigger plans than that?

Clay- I was told by someone once that, “it’s not about one song, it’s about a career of songs.” That quote has stuck with me since the day I heard it, and I certainly won’t forget it. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I know I’m not looking to be here today and gone tomorrow. What I am looking for and hoping for as an artist and as a songwriter is longevity and I think that’s what we all strive for as songwriters. I wouldn’t want to just get a number one and pack up and go home. The ultimate challenge is to see how long you can stick around, and I’m definitely up for the challenge!PK – Who are some of your co-writers?

Clay- I’ve been blessed to meet alot of talented people in Nashville, and fortunate enough to write with some of them as well. I’ve currently been writing with alot of different writers around town. Craig Wiseman, Ryan Tyndell, Rachel Thibodeau, Brad Crisler, Bart Allmand, Melisa Cusick, Tonya Stout, Scott White, Betsy Ulmer, Jenny Farrell, Matt Evans, Robin Lee Bruce, and Cyndi Thomson are a few.

PKWho was your champion, the person who believed in you enough to open some doors and give you the opportunity to do what you love?

Clay- There are so many people that have helped me out along the way. Like I said previously, Perry Howard from BMI was a huge part in getting the ball rolling for me, and really helped me out with getting my publishing deal at Big Loud Shirt. Another person who played a big role in giving me this great opportunity is Shannon Myers who works at BLS (Big Loud Shirt). Shannon was responsible for bringing me into BLS family. He really gave me and my music a chance. And of course I cant forget Craig Wiseman either. I feel lucky to be around such a great talent every day, and to work for the coolest publisher in town!! I will be forever thankful to each of these people for believing in me and my music. I’m truly in a great place at a great time right now. I’m just trying to be a little sponge and soak everything in!PK – What’s the best and worst things about Nashville?

Clay- Well there are alot of good things about Nashville. I was born in Alabama so I love the South. But I also lived in Missouri for ten years as well. So I was deprived of a few southern specialties. I love that you can find fried okra and sweet tea down here. That’s not going to happen in Missouri!! But that’s just the country boy in me talking. I love Nashville. It’s not too big and not too small. You can always find music and it just feels like home to me more every day. The bad things about Nashville? I would have to say driving. We have alot of red light runners in this town. And people tend to freak out when any kind of precipitation falls. Rain or snow. I remember one day when I was waiting tables, they cancelled school for snow and it only snowed half an inch. As I was serving all of the kids who came in that day, I thought about all the times I went to school with snow on the ground in Missouri. I’m talking we didnt see the grass for a month!! So I would say there’s nothing wrong with a little cold weather kids. I think it builds a little character. All in all Nashville is a great town. It’s a unique place and I’m proud to hang my hat in the Music City!

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