One look at Jeff Clayborn and you might think you’re in the wrong place. Is this a country music artist or is this a real-life cowboy? This guy definitely looks like he belongs on a cattle ranch somewhere out west, but there is no big sky property in Montana. Just a guitar and a man writing country songs he wants to share with everyone.
Digging way back, if you walked into Clayborn’s house when he was a young boy, you would see him walking around with a cassette recorder doing “interviews” with his family in the style of a baseball commentator. He was a big fan of the Texas Rangers and he thought it would be “the coolest job” to be one of those commentators for the Rangers, so he was practicing.
Image courtesy of fwweekly.com
There was always music in the house. Clayborn’s father was a minister who also served as the choir director at his church. This meant the family spent a lot of time in church, but mainly for music. Clayborn had two older brothers and all three boys were involved in the youth choir and learned a lot about singing and arranging parts in church. “There were three boys and we were rowdy, but when we weren’t fighting, we were singing”, said Clayborn with a laugh.
Jumping ahead to their teen years, those rowdy boys were heavy into football. For Jeff Clayborn, especially, football was everything. He went to the University of Arkansas and the University of Colorado, playing quarterback at both schools. Also, I have to admit, I was assuming, by looking at Clayborn, that he is, and always was, nothing but country, including his musical tastes. I was way off base, which truly proves you can’t judge a book by its cover.
“For my Dad, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Aerosmith, all of that scared the dickens out of him! He just thought we wanted to play and start bands in the garage, and that’s all we wanted to do, so he kept our hair short and told us that the music business was not only tough, but impossible, and to do sports, that sports were cool. The music business was nothing but trouble.”
In a sense, Clayborn listened to his father’s advice, but not completely. He never stopped playing. There was always a piano and he was always in a group. He was in one group called The Oreos, where, “I was the white guy in between two black guys”, explained Clayborn with a smile. They played weddings, brunches, talent shows and just about anything they could get their hands on, and they played R&B. “We played Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Commodores, Jackson 5, all that stuff.” In addition, Clayborn was involved in theater and jazz band, so as much as music may not have always been supported, it never stopped.
Don’t assume Clayborn’s father was a music hater though. He was a fan of barbershop quartets, jazz and The Ink Spots. His Mom really loved the arts, particularly the ballet, opera and Broadway musicals, often taking the kids to Dallas or Fort Worth to see the touring shows that were in town. All of this helped give Clayborn a well-rounded knowledge and love of all types of music.
Eventually, Clayborn became a member of the Texas Boys Choir in Fort Worth, and he admits, one of the main reasons he was eager to join is because he heard they got to travel, and he was always excited about going to new places. It was something that gave him good experience with singing and it was something musical that his mother was completely supportive of.
Sports, however, were still the priority, and once Clayborn entered college and began playing football at that level, he began to realize that it “was like getting in a car accident every weekend.” The physical toll it was taking on his body made it hard for him to give up, but as soon as he did, he immediately began studying broadcasting and film and went straight out to Hollywood. “As soon as I called it quits on athletics, I went all in on show business.”
As I listened to Jeff Clayborn talk about all of these different musical influences that have touched his life, I couldn’t help but wonder if they left a mark on him as an adult, or if he’d “gone country” and never looked back. I mean, as I said at the beginning, he really looks like the kind of guy that will live and die with country music playing in the background and that’s all it will ever be. So, I asked him about that. His quick answer was, “No. I could never pick one genre.” I then dug a little deeper and asked if I looked at his playlists what would I find. “Anything from Luther Vandross, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Van Halen, Tony Bennett, heavy metal for working out, country for relaxing. I play jazz piano to relax. I’ve always listened to guys like Conway Twitty, George Strait and Waylon Jennings, they’re my favorites. I love the stories.”
He talked a good deal about his love of storytelling and film. He told me how out in Hollywood he was training to be a Junior Literary Agent and all they did all day was read scripts, half-hour comedies, one-hour dramas, movies of the week and scripts for film. He would read spec scripts for shows like Seinfeld or King of the Hill, so storytelling has always fascinated him, in any form. It wasn’t a huge jump to go from reading scripts to writing country songs, because everybody knows that no other genre of music tells stories better than country.
Clayborn’s latest single, “Last Ones to Leave” (Betsy Walter, Charles W. Ebert, Jeffrey C. Lamun) talks about being the last people to leave just about anywhere, but usually a bar. As Clayborn describes it, “How many times have you heard, ‘Last call!’? Then you start playing in bands and you play until the end, and you’re the last ones to leave. The bartender’s trying to get out and you’re trying to pull drums off the stage.”
Video courtesy of Today in Nashville and YouTube
He continued, “Or, it can be you’re the last ones to leave in a restaurant or the last ones to leave at parties. It’s been my style, I’m a night owl and Chuck’s (Ebert) the same way, so we just decided to write about that. Then there’s those times where they lock up the doors and the bartender says, ‘You’re not leavin’ anyway’, and he lines ‘em up. That’s our favorite line in the song, ‘We all smile when he pulls that bottle down’, meaning he’s gonna sit down with us and have a few drinks with us and we’re gonna extend the evening. That whole saloon, cantina kind of thing. I think social media has kind of taken us away from that. People aren’t going out as much as they used to. They’re at home on their phones or on the internet and they look at the clock and the time gets away from them. It’s too late to go anywhere, they spent all night on their phone. I think there will be more songs about that coming out.”
“Caddy in the Campground” (Betsy Walter, Charles W. Ebert, Jeffrey C. Lamun) was the last single and it’s a funny one. I wanted to know if the story in the song was true and what better person to ask than the songwriter? “It is. We were at the Grammys, and we were sitting around drinkin’ and havin’ fun and I asked, ‘What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?’ and Betsy, one of the writers, says, ‘Well, I rented a Cadillac, drove up into Yosemite Park, got out, while we were up there lookin’ around, I locked the keys in the car. When I came back and lifted the handle, the alarm went off. People started coming out of their tents and were saying, ‘What in the world is going on?’, and the alarm was going off for about 45 minutes. She called the rental place, called her Dad, called everybody and the alarm wouldn’t stop in the middle of the night in a very peaceful setting. Then it was kind of like, ‘What the Hell is a Cadillac doing in a campground?’ So, there’s this thing with songwriters, as they’re telling a story, there’s kind of this pause, where everyone kind of looks at each other for a minute and then they go, ‘That’s a song’, so we went back to Texas and we wrote it.”
I encourage everyone to listen to the song, because it’s a fast-paced tune that’s pure fun, but then Clayborn told me that there’s a video for “Caddy in the Campground” and that “the video just wrote itself”. I took the time to watch it and he’s right, it absolutely wrote itself. Take a look.
Video courtesy of Jeff Clayborn Music and YouTube
The Grammy-winning producer of Clayborn’s album is Chuck Ebert, who worked with The Jordanaires for 30 years. That says a lot about the professionalism that went into making this record.
Clayborn met Ebert simply by being in the right place at the right time, in this case, a furniture store. Not one to normally cold pitch his music to producers, this time he had a go-between, the guy who worked at the store. He happened to know both men, and urged Clayborn to talk to Ebert. Rather nervously, he approached Ebert and mentioned that he was a songwriter and surprisingly, Ebert asked him what kind of songs he had. Clayborn told him he had a song called, “Good Bar Attender”, about being exactly that, a good bar attender. Tip well, don’t be a jerk to your server or your bartender, that sort of thing. It turned out Ebert was looking for a song just like that. They hit it off and the rest is history.
Video courtesy of Axon Entertainment and YouTube
If there’s one thing that needs to be driven home about Jeff Clayborn it’s that he wants to give back. Give back to what? Just about anything or anyone that needs it. Children, families, animals, you name it. Clayborn never married or had children of his own, and he feels maybe the reason that path was cleared was so he had the time to help out others who needed it. He’ll dive in wherever he can and credits his publicists at Kore PR for sharing his enthusiasm for helping out these causes. Kore often seeks out hospitals along his touring route that welcome artists to visit with sick children. He also enjoys working with an organization called Bikes for Kids, that help build specialty bikes for kids that are disabled or underprivileged. The organization is worldwide. “I wish I could do it all”, says Clayborn, “I can’t sell you a car, or a house or a cow, but I can sell you a cause.”
Perhaps Clayborn isn’t a salesperson, but maybe after you see a picture of his boots, you’ll consider looking into some Rod Patrick Boots, which he has a sponsorship with. These are some fine-looking boots for sure! “These are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever put on. They fit to your foot immediately, you don’t have to break ‘em in. They have a great sole, I love how I can run around the stage with ‘em. They custom make your boots, so they measure your foot in all different ways.” He couldn’t say enough about the service that Rod Patrick Boots provides and how much he adores the fit and the look of the ones he had on. Look them up if you’re in the market for a great pair of custom boots.
Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country
While he has no sponsorship with a hat company yet, Clayborn is quite happy with American Hat Company, which was the brand of hat he was wearing the day we did our interview. Believe me, as a huge fan of hats, it was nice. I even told him, that was a hat I would steal. I mean, I wouldn’t actually steal it, but he knew what I meant. I really, really liked it. I would wear a hat like that, I didn’t care if it was a guy’s hat or not. “I’ve got some loyalty to these guys”, he told me, even though he isn’t endorsed by American Hat Company. I even learned some “hat etiquette” that Clayborn received from the pros over at American Hat. No felt between Memorial Day and Labor Day, only straw, and you don’t ever put a hat on the bed. I am positive I’ve broken these rules numerous times, and I’ll probably break them again, but don’t think I won’t catch myself most of the time. Who knew? I guess there’s your first clue that I grew up in the Northeast and not Texas. Nevertheless, I did love that hat. It was black felt and it was badass.
Photo courtesy of Patti McClintic and Think Country
Of course, being from Texas, Clayborn’s fan base is big there. He’s also got a good stronghold in the Midwest and even in Nashville, but now he’s working to spread out and create a demand to play on larger stages. He wants to play more gigs, but fans are more familiar with him as Jeff Lamun, because he played with his own brother as The Lamun Brothers. Now that he’s gone solo, and going by Jeff Clayborn (Clayborn is his middle name), he’s having to find those same fans and get them to realize that he’s still the same person, just going by a different name and coming at them with a whole new catalog of great music. “We need to earn it, and you earn it on the road.”
If Clayborn is “earning it” on the road, he isn’t kidding when he says that. From May 11-22 this year, he’s heading over to Ireland and Scotland to do a radio tour and hopefully get a little slice of time to play a couple of gigs too. It’s becoming more commonplace for American country artists to go over to the UK to present their brand of music to fans there as a starting point. It’s been said again and again that UK fans are extremely receptive to what singer/songwriters here in the States have to offer. He’s very excited about it. If you’re in the UK, be sure to find Jeff Clayborn’s music and be ready. He’s coming your way soon!
I opened the floor, so to speak, for Jeff Clayborn to talk directly to his fans, and fans-to-be, about his music and what he’s all about for a bit. He was so happy to have the opportunity to really tell everyone, in his own words, what they can expect.
“I want to thank my fans for going and listening to, and seeing live music. Know we’re going to really bring it to the live stage. Go to the circus, go to the Wild Bill show, go to the show and be there for the experience. We’re bringing a fun, energetic show, something that’s very engaging and hopefully, all of our songs are fun. We’re going to bring you great songs. I just want to hear from you, so go to jeffclayborn.com and click on The Cantina Crowd. I want to know who’s diggin’ the music and write to this community. It’s a newsletter and a way to connect with fans. I want to help people get into the moment. I know social media isn’t going away, I know it’s important for business and personal reasons too. It’s a great way to connect and make new friends, but the best way to do that is to go to a show, go to a bar, go to a street festival and be surrounded by music and just hang out among each other. It’s just a scene. Let’s get “the scene” goin’ on again. Facebook is not a scene.”
It was refreshing to hear an artist so enthusiastic about connecting with fans and even better, about having his fans connecting with other fans. I loved his idea about making “the scene” a thing again. I’ve always been all about live music. To me, sitting and listening to music in my headphones is amazing, but there’s nothing like watching it live with fans that are loving it as much as I am. That’s what a “scene” is, and not a “bad scene” like the ones we see night after night on the news. Live music is a “good scene” and one that we all could use a lot more of in our world. Clayborn’s Cantina Crowd isn’t stopping there either, he runs contests and all sorts of fun things on it. He’s doing something now that’s sparked by his “Last Ones to Leave” single. Tell a story about how you were the last one to leave a bar, a restaurant or a party. Take a picture of yourself and the bartender because there you are, the last one to leave. Post it to Clayborn’s social media pages. Isn’t that fun? That’s fun!
In rehearsals now, Clayborn is getting ready to tour, so keep an eye on his website and socials for dates soon. If there’s anything I took away from our interview it’s that Jeff Clayborn is one of the most well-rounded, well-spoken artists I’ve ever come across, and without question, one of the most enthusiastic. He is so ready to go at this next chapter of his music career with everything he has, and he’s not the least bit arrogant about it either. He knows there’s a lot of work to be done and that he needs to earn everything he’s looking to gain. That’s something I can respect and I think you will too. Give this big ‘ole Texan a shout on his website by subscribing to the Cantina Crowd. I think before long, you’re going to be one of the “Last Ones to Leave” Clayborn’s very own cantina every night.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Clayborn Facebook
Jeff Clayborn can be found:
Rod Patrick Boots: https://www.rodpatrickboots.com/store/pc/home.asp
American Hat Company: http://americanhat.net/
*Featured image courtesy of Jeff Clayborn Facebook