By Blair Donovan
I got to sit down with country star Clayton Anderson before his concert last Thursday. I hadn’t heard much of his music before the concert, but I listened in during his sound check, and he definitely exceeded my expectations as the audio reverberated through an empty Brick Street bar.
Tall and thin with a deep southern accent, Anderson got his country roots in a small town in Indiana, Bedford, where he says everyone worshipped music legend John Mellencamp. Mellencamp inspired much of Anderson’s music, but he likes to include a touch of rock and roll, as opposed to just country, to all his tunes. Some of his other music inspirations include Garth Brooks, George Straight, Merle Haggard, Eric Church, and even Kid Rock.
His small town upbringing is also one of his favorite topics to sing about, like how some people love staying in their small towns and others desperately want to get out. Anderson surprised himself by leaving Bedford, but he knew music is what he wanted to do.
His music passion started freshman year in college at Indiana University.
“We were really bad,” said Anderson. “We would just sit around on the couch, me and my roommate, and try to entertain afterparties. We thought we were awesome.”
One night during college, a band cancelled at a local bar in Bloomington, and the owner asked Anderson and his friends to fill in. He says they played the same songs on repeat the entire night for about twenty of their friends, but that’s when he knew he was hooked on music. He continued performing at local bars throughout college as part of a cover band, singing ‘80s and ‘90s pop songs with his friends.
“Everyone was sayin’, ‘man, it’s so cool that you started singing these cover songs country,’” said Anderson in his southern twang. “I can’t help it. I couldn’t get rid of the accent. So we started writing country songs. Country found us. I just can’t shake it.”
Anderson got his first big break in Cincinnati right after he graduated from college. He had a “grown-up job” at the time working with mortgages, but didn’t want to give up playing music, so he entered a Battle of the Bands radio contest. He ended up winning, and got to open for Kenny Chesney at Riverbend.
Since then, he’s performed everywhere from California to New York to the Caribbean. Naturally, he said Brick Street is one of his favorite places to perform because he loves the town, the people, the venue itself, and Oxford’s signature restaurants, especially Bagel and Deli. His most recent concert marked his fifth time performing at Miami, and a handful of students were even lucky enough to star in a music video he filmed in Oxford a few years ago.
Anderson says he gets his own music style and inspiration from his everyday experiences.
“It’s stayin’ out late at night and just seein’ random, silly stuff,” said Anderson. “It gets in your head, and you’re like, ‘damn, that’s a country song.’ My buddies say something stupid and I’m like, man that’s a song. You can pull it from anywhere.”
He also attributes his desire for interesting life experiences to his bad case of FOMO. Anderson never wants to miss out on an opportunity.
As for his personal style, Anderson groaned at the question, joking at how much of a “fashionista” he is. Despite not considering himself extremely stylish, he described his taste as vintage, saying he likes classic pieces that don’t normally go out of style. He donned a green military jacket, a casual t-shirt, jeans, and boots. But not cowboy boots – he prefers work boots, instead, which he says are more his style.
Anderson’s go-to wardrobe pieces are a nice pair of jeans, his boots, and a classic brown leather belt that he considers his “lucky belt.” His belt seems to have done the trick, so far.
Be sure to check out his two albums, “Torn Jeans & Tailgates” and “Right Where I Belong,” which reached number two on iTunes. Also, stay tuned for some new music soon that Anderson is currently working on. Even if you’re not a huge country music fan, I definitely recommend taking a listen to Clayton Anderson. After all, according to Anderson, you can’t get into heaven without listening to a little bit of country!