INTERVIEW: Bryan Clark "Gossip, Inspiration & Slander"

I recently sat with Bryan and we talked about where he comes from and how he arrived with the project he has completed. A very diverse project which is has both acoustic and electric versions on a two CD set.

Gossip, Inspiration & Slander features Clark working with many fabulous musicians on the acoustic portion, all of them handpicked for particular songs by both Clark and producer Erick Jaskowiak. The select list includes fiddler Casey Driessen, Chris Pandolfi on banjo, Matt Flinner on mandolin and acoustic bassist Bryn Bright among others.

Bev: Welcome! What a pleasure to sit down with you. Please tell me a little of the history about you.

Bryan: Born in New Orleans, moved to Texas when I was a toddler and lived there through my Senior year; I got very serious about playing during that time. I put a band together and we played all over; I knew it was what I wanted to do, even though my parents were not convinced. I attended college in New Orleans for a couple years, and then transferred to USC in Los Angeles and studied Jazz guitar. At age 24 I was asked to tour with a major Jazz artist, but I wanted a degree in composition so I attained my Masters at UT in Austin, TX. I went back to LA and there I was offered the opportunity to get a Doctorate. I also did a lot of session work and playing during that time. I did an internship at BMG records in Beverly Hills and they let you take any of the CD’s they had, so I stocked up every week and that is when I discovered Bluegrass from Ricky Skaggs. I have been in Nashville for four years now and here we are!

Bev: You have a new CD project out titled Gossip, Inspiration, and Slander, can you share how you came to name it this?

Bryan: I had been going back through some old journals that I keep and as I did, I was remarking to my wife about what they contained and I said to her, there is nothing in here but gossip, inspiration and slander .. and as I said it, the bells went off and I knew that was what I wanted my CD title to be. It fit because the Bluegrass Purists will most likely hear some of the tracks and I can just imagine the reaction, and the Jazz people will not understand all of it in any case, they will be talking about it and it will either inspire them or they won’t like it.

Do you have a favorite piece of work on this project?

Bryan: I like them all. The one that came out most surprising is Raven King which is an acoustic track. I did record it previously and it sounds nothing like the original. It has been my wife’s favorite song, and she wanted it on the project, but I wanted to re-tool it, which she was not immediately pleased with, but the new version turned out well and it is growing on her.

Bev: If you were asked to classify your style and genre of music, how would you name it?

Bryan: I don’t know. It is just music. If we have to choose a name, I guess Texas Americana. It is not Honky Tonk. The lyrics have a story telling aspect, but there is definitely some of the Texas style.

Bev: You are asked to do a lot of session work, do you prefer that compared to live performances?

Bryan: I enjoy the immediacy of playing live. You feed off of the audience. Session work is self gratifying. So I enjoy both for different reasons.

Bev: I know you do some soundtracks for television and movies, including soundtrack work for America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, and a number of shows on ESPN, can you tell me about the first time you were asked to do something like this?

Bryan: I had received a call from the Producers Lab in LA and they needed some 30 second cues. They asked for Techno Metal like Rob Zombie, Surf Rock like Dick Dale, and Happy Acoustic like Jewel with no vocals, Jangly-bird stuff and some Atmospheric type music. All of these are so different from one another, but it helped with me having the background in composition, it allowed me to channel the sounds I needed to produce. I had a great time with the assignment and to this day continue to work with them.

Bev: You are also a college professor with a doctorate and you teach at Belmont University. For the past three years you have been teaching music history, the history of American song, composition, arranging, and ear training at the university. How do you feel this works to your advantage or disadvantage in the industry?

Bryan: Depending on what is going on, for example, if I wanted to do touring where I would be out for several months at a time, then it is a disadvantage. Other than that, I really do not talk about my degrees that much. Some of the industry people tend to be intimidated by my education, but people who know me know that I am not about what hangs on the wall or what letters come after my name. There are session players out there who play much better than I do. I have had some advantages with doing reviews and papers etc on different things from an academic standpoint.

Bev: Do you prefer to write your own music or are you just as content playing others work?

Bryan: I only play original music of mine when I record. Unless there is a co-write. Live performances, I do covers I love, but they are very obscure and bouncing from genre to genre. I never script the live shows. Jazz allows that … where Bluegrass usually goes from A – Z so I get to incorporate both.

Bev: What kind of audience to find you have when you play live?

Bryan: There is a range. Those who seem to resonate with the record so far are 18 to 50, which is a big range. Thirty-something’s seem to maybe get it the most. I think they understand the lyrics and can relate to and appeal to them.

Is there any artists that inspired you and compel you want to do this as a career?

Bryan: XTC, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, Allan Holdsworth, Stevie Ray Vaughn. There is so many people I grew up with in Texas that were amazing, so I would go see them, and the best part was there was no hyper-formatting and more free range stations so you could hear a wide variety in any given day.

Bev: With the surge of internet based promotional tools, do you have a game plan in place for promoting this CD?

Bryan: With everything changing, I always stress to my students to think of themselves as content providers and not just artists. I am always trying to offer a glimpse of who I am as a human being as well as the music side. I have blogs, and we will do pod-casts, and reviews. I have always been in that market, and enjoy exploring the emerging possibilities. There is a lot of traffic out there that does not necessarily buy the record, but they are interested in you enough to keep coming back, so hopefully they will come to a show and spend some money and buy a CD.

Any funny stage moments or other stories?

Bryan: There has been a lot, but nothing lately. We get our share of people who get drunk and want to sing with the band.

Bev: What is next for you?

Bryan: CD is all done, we are working on getting it out to radio, getting reviews out there to help promote us and of course get out there for live dates and play in the Bluegrass circuits.

Bev: What is the best advice ever given to you in relationship to your career in music?

Bryan: To always be persistent. Never give up. I think that is the key to the music industry.

Bev: Thank you very much for your time and sharing your passion of music with me. Is there anything else, about your current CD or other work you want to share?

Bryan: No, I think we covered everything. Music is a wonderful thing and I just am glad I can do my part.

For more information on Bryan Clark check out his website at or follow his blog at

No comments: