Philip Claypool is a country singer/songwriter who resides in San Francisco, California. He just released his second CD entitled "Come on Back Home". The album was recorded in Nashville with top notch musicians from the Music City. With catchy tunes such as "Strong One", "Come on Back Home" and "Three More Beers", it's just a matter of time that this CD will be on the country charts. Philip was raised in Memphis and you can hear the rich area influences in his music. Watch for Philip to burst on the country scene in a big way. I recently caught up with him.
R.V.B. - Hello Phillip?
P.C. - Hey How are you?
R.V.B. - How are you doing.
P.C. - I'm fine, actually I was talking to the phone company today so how good can it be?
R.V.B. - Yeah those damn conglomerates... they got you by the short hairs.
P.C. - They sure do man, they sure do
R.V.B. - hahaha. Are you in Nashville?
P.C. - No, I'm in San Francisco today. I usually live here most of the time. I keep a small apartment in Nashville. Right now I'm hoping to get enough traction with this record so I can acquire a decent agent and go out and tour again. I grew up in Memphis and I love the south and I went to college out here in Santa Barbra and I never wanted to go home.
R.V.B. - I hear a lot of nice things about San Francisco. I hear it's beautiful.
P.C. - Oh yeah, right now it's about 62 degrees outside and foggy. As Mark Twain said "The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco".
R.V.B. - Have you been there for a while now?
P.C. - Well I'm going out and doing gigs and traveling. I leaving next week to go play in Canada for a week.
R.V.B. - Were you around when Candlestick park was still there?
P.C. - You know last Thursday was the last night of Candlestick... guess who played?
R.V.B. - Who?
P.C. - Paul McCartney. It was the home of the Beatles last concert and Paul McCartney came and played. They had 50,000 people there. He did the last concert at the stick. In true Candlestick fashion it was a nightmare. A quarter of the fns didn't even make it in to see the show because traffic was so backed up. That place is always a nightmare. It's either too cold, too hot.
R.V.B. - Too windy
P.C. - It's a horrible location.
R.V.B. - That's what I hear. The opening was facing the bay so you got that damp bay breeze.
P.C. - Oh yeah. You know the area around it was a landfill and Neil Young does his Bridge concert there every year. So you sit out on the grass... people would have a cigarette and they would put their hand on the grass and they would start to ignite from all the trash buried beneath the lawn. hahaha
R.V.B. - hahaha that's horrible.
P.C. - It's all good. We got a new stadium for the 49'ers closer to San Jose actually and then we have Giants stadium which is a gorgeous stadium so it's pretty cool.
R.V.B. - Yeah they have that McCovey cove.
P.C. - Yeah it's awesome.
R.V.B. - So you grew up in Memphis and you turned out to be a country guy. How did that happen when Memphis is kind of a blues town?
P.C. - Well here's the weirdest thing. The first music I loved was Memphis soul and blues. B.B. and Albert King, Al Green... loved the blues. Then frankly, it was in the mid sixties, I got into the Beatles and loved their harmonies and I actually kind of learned to sing off Beatle records... harmony stuff like Crosby, Still and Nash and that kind of thing. I really loved singing. I loved playing guitar but I realized early on that my short stubby fingers were not good at lead and I better concentrate more on my voice.
R.V.B. - You really do have a really cool, really good voice on the new record.
P.C. - Thanks man. I was actually really into roots southern music, soul... things like that. I sort of ventured from that. The British bands I really love. The great guitar players, Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher and then Memphis was such a cool place for music. That's where Mott the Hoople and Bowie had their first sellouts in the United States. It's kinda bizarre. It was a real melting pot of music. I got to where I was more into singers then I was into bands. I liked the bands that had really killer singers.
R.V.B. - When did you move to California?
P.C. - In 1975. A lot of the guys in the band went on to play with the Beach Boys. One of my guitar players in my first band was Brian Wilson's musical director and plays with the Beach Boys. My bass player plays with Mike Love's version of the Beach Boys. You know I really got into singing and harmonizing. I started writing my own songs. When I started writing my own songs... I'll never forget, my mom came in and she said " You know, you're a country singer" and I go "What?". She goes "Philip, when you're not trying to sing like John Lennon or David Bowie or Bruce Springsteen or Bono... have you ever listened to your voice when you're singing your own songs? Listen to your voice, you're a country singer". This is a true story, I joined this band in 1990... they got signed to Curb Records and it was called the Lonesome Romeos. Which was me and a guy named Ron Aniello. We were kind of a John Cougar meets country meets Springsteen, roots rock band. I was on the cover with a cowboy hat and long hair and our sound was kind of like a little bit Springsteen you know? Oddly enough, I had gone back and played the Jersey shore with a band I had out of Santa Barbara. One of my best friends was Toby Scott who has been Bruce's engineer for ever. So Toby started recording Ron and I and when we were doing our first CD back in 1990 for Curb Records. At the end of the session, my buddy Toby who works for Bruce goes "Hey Philip, play those songs of yours and lets record them". So I laid down about fifteen or twenty of my own songs, singing in my own voice rather then the voice I used for rock and roll per say. I'll give you something that your gonna laugh your ass off (Puts on an English John Lennon accent) I really learned to sing like John Lennon for the longest time you know? I was very nasal and I thought I was in the Beatles forever. I decided rather to be John and be angry at old bits and everything, I just thought I'd be more like Paul and (Switches to Paul voice) I really don't know why John is so mad at me, I don't understand?
R.V.B. - Hahaha
P.C. - So I can pretty much mock any voice and I mean I can sing Nat King Cole. I'll do Bono, I'll do... whoever's out there I can kinda mimic but Toby goes play your own shit and let's just record it. So I laid down about thirteen songs and about three months later I get this phone call from a record label in Nashville... Curb. "Philip, Mike Curb heard this tape and at the end of the tape there's this guy singing these songs. We'd like to know who the writer is because Mike loves the songs". I said "those are my songs". She goes "You don't write, Ron does all the writing". I said 'Those are my songs and she goes "Please tell me you're not the singer". I said "Yeah, that's me singing when I don't give a shit. That's just like taking a pee for me, it's natural". She said "We want you on a plane back to Nashville" and next thing you know we cut ten songs... demos and half the demo track ended up being keepers for my CD back in 95/96... The Circus Leaving Town.
R.V.B. - I see, now did you tour the Nashville area to support that record.
P.C. - Oh yeah, I went out on the road and did a big radio tour. Carl Perkins was on the record with me and he and I traveled around together. I went and opened some shows. My management at the time felt that I shouldn't play too much locally in Nashville. They wanted to keep me a little kind of mysterious and unfortunately that year USA Today gave me number three country album of the year. All my reviews were great but Curb was still kind of a growing smaller label and frankly they had their hands full with Tim Mcgraw and Leann Rimes. I got kind of shoved to the side.
R.V.B. - That happens
P.C. - It does happen. You can be the hottest red sports car on the Chrysler lot but if they're selling white mini-vans, that's what the salesman are gonna push. They don't want to work to hard to make a sale. I've always been a little bit left of center. Some people will even write that I'm an Americana artist because I don't follow trends. Lyrically and musically, it's my Memphis roots. It's a blend of a number of different styles. The musicians in Nashville really enjoyed playing on the records. I was actually admired for it. What a neat thing.
R.V.B. - On the album Come on Back Home, I went through each song. The first one that I noticed right off the bat and it got me laughing is the 1-2-3 Beers and you'll look like Britney Spears. I could imagine hearing that in any small smokey club in Nashville.
P.C. - Oh Britney Spears, I wanted to release that first. I was discouraged from it from promotion people saying "You can't come out as a joke artist. You need to do something with a little more depth to it first".
R.V.B. - That song reminded me of the Garth Brooks song "Family tradition". It's a real party song. I loved it.
P.C. - It's a real honky tonk song. I'm thinking about releasing that next but right now I'm working with Come on Back Home.
R.V.B. - It says in your press release that you wanted to do songs from life experiences. Do you have a new girlfriend?
P.C. - No I'm currently single hahaha. I kinda had a muse for this record. I had a real beautiful girlfriend of mine and we went out a little bit. I would just hear about her life. I wasn't the guy long term for her. We were very close and she would share with me things about her life where I would recognize things that were maybe missing for her. I wrote "Come on Back Home" and "Strong One" for her. Both of those two songs were for the same person. "Come Back Home" is about a girl that kind of went after the wrong things. She had the wrong Ideals and was just not real happy. I live in San Francisco where it's has the most expensive rent in the world. It costs you $30 to go have a beer and a burger for lunch. There's a lot of people who come here and they want to get that whole glamour life. Marry a commodities trader or stock broker and live in a huge house. That doesn't always happen and a lot of them end up having to go home. She was talking about moving back and I thought "I'm gonna write a song about that and write it if that I was the guy back home saying "Hey it's still ok, come on back home. It's the same place you left and people still care about you".
R.V.B. - It was very strong song writing from start to finish, throughout the whole album. The songs are placed right. You know, you have a couple of ballads and then you have an upbeat song. It flows nicely.
P.C. - Thanks man, yeah that's a big deal. Sequencing an album is so important.
P.C. - Oh, Way Out There?
R.V.B. - Right
P.C. - I didn't write that song but I chose it because when i heard it I thought "That's a song I should have written". It was written by a guy I know pretty well and he was a co-writer on "Write You a Diamond"... the ballad. That song was written by Billy Montana and another guy. When I heard it, it reminded me of the same person I wrote "Strong Enough" and "Come on Back Home" for.
R.V.B. - Yeah, I kinda got the same drift.
P.C. - Exactly. It seems like the same girl right?
R.V.B. - It did. Now there's kind of like a play on words when I first looked at track 8 and it said "God You Were Good Last Night", I was expecting a song about a religious person. It was a good play on words.
P.C. - Hahaha . Actually if you play close attention, the second verse says "Wife, you're looking so fine in your Sunday best". I really did get the idea for that song because I've written some songs for my church here in San Francisco because I'm kind of a church going guy. I'm not religious but I have a faith. One morning one of my pastors came up and asked me if I'd written any new songs, in church. I'm such a smart aleck. I said "Yeah I got one, God you were good last night hahaha".
R.V.B. - Hahahah. How did he like that.
P.C. - It's such a funny idea. I gotta do that about a guy staring at his wife in church. All he wanted to do was get her home and back in bed.
R.V.B. - Well you know, I enjoyed that one. Hahaha
P.C. - Yeah, I like the choir in the backround on that.
R.V.B. - I guess that's kind of a honky tonker' also right?
P.C. - Absolutely, Yeah. That tongue and cheek fun stuff.
R.V.B. - Now when you write your songs... Do you put a guitar in your hand and come up with a melody or write a melody and then come up with the words?
P.C. - It's a question everybody always asks and here's my answer to that. When you speak the words, they sing their own melody. In other words, like when you hear a great speaker or if I'm saying (emphasize)"God you were good last night". You can hear the melody. If you speak it and that's the hook line... It usually has a melody just in the speaking of it. If you listen to great speakers or great singers when they talk, they're interesting to listen to as well. I don't talk like this (monotone)"God you were good last night". So what happens is I usually find a cool hook line or a title and it has a melody already built into it and then I try to build something around that. So most times I start with a phrase or a theme phrase and it usually has it's own built in melody which I can hear and try to expand on.
R.V.B. - I see. Track 11 seems to be a little different than all the other tracks. It seems to be a little more jazzy.
P.C. - Here's how that song came about. We actually cut fourteen tracks in two days in a studio in Nashville. We went and re-did some vocals and did a couple of overdubs back in L.A.. I got my musicians that I had played with before on my previous record so it was kinda like getting the band back together. By three o'clock the next day and we had them booked until six... we had cut everything, including three other songs that are not on that record. One of them just didn't work out. Another was gonna be on the record but it was another cover song and I just didn't think it represented me as a country artist and another one was one of my original songs that just didn't work out. I even cut 'No Reply" by the Beatles with a Calypso beat just for fun. Like with a Kenny Chesney beach beat hahaha. At the very end we still had time left and normally when the studio guys are done, they want to get home to their families or go have a beer. We were having so much fun the guys went "Come on Claypool, don't you have anything you want to do? What's your favorite song in the world that you love?". I said "I've always wanted to record Ray Charles version... which is that real slow jazz. He did that song "You Don't Know Me" which is an Eddie Arnold tune on one of the greatest albums of all time... Modern Sounds of Country Music by Ray Charles. So we got the computer out and listened to it. They wrote out a chart and all of them kinda knew it. We started to play at the tempo of his record and half way into the first verse our producer Michael Lloyd stopped us and said "Slow it down. I think we got something really neat here". So we slowed it down a few clicks. That song was played one time and that vocal from start to finish was one take. When I got done with it and I walked in the room and Ed the engineer said "You are one singing S.O.B., you have got to sit down and hear this". I sat down and listened to it and I just got goose bumps. My producer said "We have to put that on the album. It shows you as a singer and it has so much emotion in it". So we put it on the record and it's a favorite of most everybody who owns the CD. They all come back and go "By the way, that version of "You Don't know Me" is just a mindblower". I do love it... it just works, it's beautiful.
R.V.B. - Yeah, it's a very nice song. It's a good way to finish up the album. So of the songs that you wrote on this current CD, which one do you feel you like the best?
P.C. - I think the coolest song that seemed to work in terms of the band and the music and the energy... there's something about "Come on Back Home". It's got a great guitar riff, it's got cool instrumentation, it's got good lyrics, it's got a bridge, it's got a breakdown. It has all those neat components within three minutes.
R.V.B. - It's has a fiddle lead and an electric guitar lead.
P.C. - Yeah, yeah, it's really cool. I just love the way it plays off. I think the sounds are great. It's just really well played. I think it's the best sounding cut on the record, other than "You Don't Know Me" but that's a standard. I think the other song that really tends to get people lyrically and spiritually and a heart felt level. The ballad "God's Very Best"... every couple that hears that song thinks it's their song. I'm a big John Lennon fan and when you can get a catch phrase that's so simple like you are "God's Very Best" or when John Lennon did "Love is Real, Real is Love". I thought that song was such a great complement to a woman or a partner. I am really thrilled with that song and the way it came together as a ballad.
R.V.B. - That is a beautiful song
P.C. - But Three More Beers and She'll be Brittney Spears, shit I'll listen to that all day long hahaha
R.V.B. - And I'll pop open a beer also. When you were in Nashville, did you try out any of these songs in like the Bluebird or anything"
P.C. - No I did not. to be polite, you know I went back to live in Nashville most of last year and it has changed a great deal. I don't really like standing in line so I can go play two songs. Nashville has gotten so popular that everybody and their uncle are there and for good reason... God bless them... there's always room for more good stuff. In order to go play the Bluebird and for me to come back into town after being away for a while if I try to go to songwriter night, people know who I am. You call in and you try to sign up at 4 in the afternoon and you get there at 8 o'clock. They're going "You'll probably go on at 1:30 in the morning". I'm not going to sit there for that long and you know I already had a record deal. I already had my songs from our record so I wasn't really sell the songs, You'll find in a lot of those places people are promoting their own material and hoping that somebody might hear it and buy it. You can really get lost... you can spend every night of the week standing in line at some room and having six Miller lights and still not get a chance to play. So I didn't do a lot of that. I spent most of my time last driving 40,000 miles from radio station to radio station singing two songs at the 8am morning show, the noon show and the afternoon show. I was out schmoozing radio last year.
R.V.B. - Well that's smart
P.C. - Yeah and this year oddly, enough... I originally didn't have "Come on Back Home" as a song I was gonna do on my album and my promotion company said that "Strong One" was a great first single but we don't her "Three More Beers" to be a single for you yet because they thought it was maybe a little too chauvinist for radio. They said "We don't know if you got a better song on here than 'Strong One" and we want you to do better on the chart position than you did last time. then you can get an agent and get out on the road". So they actually called me up and asked me if I had anything new. I sent my promotion people four songs of just me and my guitar. They called me back up and said "We think that song Come on Back Home is a smash". So I went and cut it.
R.V.B. - That was a separate trip?
P.C. - That was a separate trip. It turns out, sonically I think... It just stands out so good.
R.V.B. - So that's why obviously you chose it to be the title of the album?
P.C. - Yeah exactly. I was originally gonna call the album "Strong One". I changed it and re-did my graphic for the cover because I wanted to release the album when I had a single that was really popping. Hopefully I'll get at least in the 20's and top 15 on the Music Row chart and hopefully be able to expand into Billboard stations if I'm lucky. Strong on is on the Music Row chart right now. I'm playing on the secondary market. You're not gonna hear me on the biggest station in Los Angeles or Nashville, the giant stations but you're gonna hear me on a lot of secondary market stations.
R.V.B. - How about the college stations?
P.C. - If College stations are playing it - I don't know because they don't report. What I'm trying to do is get on the Billboard station charts so that other stations will look at those charts and follow suit. This way you can see what markets and where are you popular. "You're doing well here. Why aren't you playing this record...right". I'm an independent artist now... I'm not on a major label. I'm doing everything from stuffing envelopes to ... right now I'm making Barbeque sauce to send to DJ's.
R.V.B. - Hahaha
P.C. - Hahaha. Whatever it takes dude. I've sent out barbeque sauce to every radio station this year.
R.V.B. - Well whatever it takes. That's not a bad idea. So let's say it does hit in Alabama. Do you have guys ready to go?
P.C. - I can either take a small band... It's hard because you have got to have twenty cities in a row. You can't just go and fly people out just for one city. What I'm trying to do is get a good regional following in an area where I can either play with a full band or go out with my fiddle player or maybe even one other guitar player and a percussionist and do something really hip. I'm a pretty good guitar player and singer and I can hold a crowd without having an eight piece band to do it.
R.V.B. - Well any way... congratulations on your great collection of songs. The album flows very nicely.
P.C. - Thank you very much man.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Philip Claypool visit his website. www.philipclaypool.com
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