Singer-songwriter Stephen Clair to play The Linda Tonight

Singer-songwriter Stephen Clair wasn’t planning on recording his latest album with the band who had previously backed Donald Fagen, but as someone who has come to trust his creative instinct, he knew that it was important to throw out any preconceived ideas of what he wanted the album to sound like, and recognize a good thing when it comes knocking. 

Clair’s latest record, To The Trees, is kind of an amalgamation of Where the Wild Things Are and The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. It features songs of different shades of parenting, and growing pains – all the while it’s got a kind of whimsical wonder to it – but not in a silly way – it’s got that wonderful trait that only children seem to have: an innocent sense of curiosity.

It doesn’t make his music any less mature or sophisticated, because it has all of that….and more.

I recommend you check it out now before you finish reading this article or buy tickets for the show on Friday….and believe me you WILL buy tickets once you hear the music.

Clair usually looks to the calendar for his cue to get back into the studio and start recording a new record. His preconceived idea was an album recorded live with a big band in a studio called “The Building” across from the river where he lives in Marlboro, New York. 

And so, he went to visit the studio and came across the three guys who play on the new record. The Restless Age (Will, Lee and Brandon), and was blown away by their musicianship, chemistry and skills in the studio.

“A little month after the visit, I rediscovered another collection of songs I had off to the side,” Clair told me over the phone. He decided to revisit these songs and record them instead of the ones he was focusing on for a time.

“I’ve never had this kind of experience before,” he said, talking about his time recording with the Restless Age. “The three of them just flowed in and out of mastering the controls and tracking while being in the mix. We would track multiple parts in all the same moment,” Clair said. 

Personally, my favorite song off the record is the killer track ‘Let It Out.’ You know you came across a great “underground” artist when you find yourself listening to the record time and time again. 

When Clair is not recording or touring, he is a songwriting teacher for his school called the Beacon Music Factory. Clair likes to throw writing prompts at his students, which can be parameters or rules. 

“The thing that I try and teach people to take away from this kind of prompt, even when you’re in a situation where you’re not given a prompt when lightning does strike, even that inspired idea – whatever it is – has a certain set of rules, and if you can unlock what those rules are, it can help you keep going.” 

“Most of my records, I tend to go a little crazy with electric guitars, so this time I really wanted minimal or not electric guitars. So when you make choices like that, it really helps shape the path.” 

For Clair, whether he is writing his own songs, or teaching people tools to write their own, he says it’s kind of like solving a puzzle, like doing a crossword puzzle. 

Like so many of us, whether you are a musician or an avid fan – or both – Clair’s love for music blossomed in his early teenage years. And what’s even sweeter than falling in love with music in general, is falling in love with the non-commercial, the artistic, the deranged and the experimental forms of expression that are fearless and knows no bounds. 

“I had an epiphany when I was 15 years old, when my friend made me walk to SPAC with him to see this band I never heard of before, it was the Talking Heads. It blew my mind. Wow, there’s this other world I’ve been waiting for.”

Clair plays WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, The Linda, Friday, March 27th. Showtime is 8 p.m. 

Tickets can be purchased here.

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