Scott Clay showcases important relationships, stunning displays of natural beauty, and even famous historical events on Let It All Lay Bare, his fifth full-length album, due out September 23rd (PRE-ORDER). The seasoned performer offers listeners two distinct experiences: The Seattle-based artist will make you feel good, but he will also make you feel. Across his new record, Clay delivers several upbeat, easygoing songs.
When he’s not making music, Clay enjoys traveling and exploring the natural beauty of the world around him. During the pandemic, he visited a number of national parks, bringing his video camera with him to document the experiences. Clay filmed music videos for several of his new songs in national parks in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Utah, and Washington with cinematographers Spencer Johnson and Britt Warner.
Clay began exploring making music as a teenager but didn’t get serious about it until college. He relocated to Seattle in 2005 and released his debut album, Colorful Thing, in 2007; in addition to his four previous albums, he has also released two EPs.
“This album represents an evolution in my musical career, and I am hoping it will connect deeply with my listeners,” Clay says of Let It All Lay Bare. “I feel honored to continue touring and look forward to engaging with my audience on a new level.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the video for the album’s title track, opening song, and first single. This introspective tune began with a loosely written idea of melody and lyrics evolved into “a call to intimacy that’s asking someone to open themselves up to you,” according to Clay. Fans of R.E.M., The War On Drugs and Tom Petty will find plenty to savor in the song’s airy rock sound and soaring chorus. Expansive guitar sound and poignant piano come together with the vocals and lyrics to give the song an emotional immediacy that is further heightened by a scorching solo in the final stretch of the song. The visual of Clay performing in the desert only adds to the songs depth and power.
Watch the video and read our chat with Scott Clay…
Please tell us about this song. What inspired you to write it and how did it come together? What is it about?
I had gone to see one of my favorite Seattle-based musicians, Noah Gundersen, perform at the Showbox, and at his show he had some brilliant moments performing on the electric guitar. I saw a very sparse guitar pedal set up on stage, and he used the guitar to really add power and drama to certain parts of songs during the set, just little moments of power, which contrasted with stark moments of electronic synth and drums. I had been toying with a brand new electric guitar pedal setup at my house, and after I got home from his show, I rearranged some of my pedals and simplified my setup, basically mirroring what I saw on stage with Noah Gundersen. We even happened to own some of the same exact pedals.
That night as I was playing with the new setup, the chorus for “Let It All Lay Bare” jumped off the page at me. I had a very rough lyric, melody, and chord progression, but I knew that there was some power in the song, especially in the lyrics and the way the electric guitar lifted them. So I kept that idea very sparse, and I didn’t add any verses or other lyrics. I brought it to my studio sessions with Mike Davis, and he and I started building a song out together. We did many hours of pre-production on the song — messing with the chord progression leading up to the choruses, different bridges and verse ideas, and adding some Yamaha CP-70 key parts, which contrasted dramatically from the electric guitar. It was a really fun process in pre-production because Mike, who is an amazing songwriter and producer, got to use his creative skills to help construct the chord progressions and add some elements to the song that I would never have written myself.
After we had a loose template, I spent a few months writing several different verses as I was backpacking, camping, and hiking throughout Washington State. I brought a pen and paper along into the woods and spent time by myself building out different ideas for the verse and the bridge. I had a strong melodic idea for the guitar solo and spent time with my guitar instructor to learn a brand new scale to perform the melody that I’d dreamed up in my head. I’m really excited with the progress I made on the electric guitar to be able to showcase this melodic idea.
For the lyrics themselves, I had always felt a Springsteen kind of vibe for the melody and power of a song. I was also inspired by The War on Drugs, so we took their production style into account as we were working in the studio. I kind of felt a push and pull between this being a romantic song but also just purely about platonic intimacy. It felt right for the song to have some romantic appeal, but really, at its core, it was written about platonic connection. In particular, my relationship with my father came to mind as I was writing this, the desire to connect at a deeper level but having resistance to connect, whether it be a generational gap or difficulty in communicating between personality types. My father has been a stoic and pensive person throughout my life, and I’ve always found it difficult to connect at a deep level. So I feel like this song was a call for deeper connection with him and with others close to me whom I desire to know more deeply but fail to connect with at that level.
What was it like recording this song? Any interesting studio stories? Was this one of the songs you recorded before the pandemic hit, or did you have to record this song remotely?
The pre-production for this song was done entirely in lockdown. Mike Davis and I worked remotely over Skype to toss around ideas for the song. He was working remotely from the Hall of Justice Studios, with all the amazing amps and outboard gear at hand, and I was working from my apartment with my little laptop and my guitar set up in my office. It was a very fun process because we could each go off on our own tangents and explore things by ourselves, and then come back with ideas fresh for each other to bounce off of. After we had the raw elements of this song constructed, we were able to reconvene in the studio as the lockdown orders lifted. The final electric guitar and vocals were recorded in the studio with Mike Davis. I had also done some touring before we recorded the song, so I was feeling very fresh with performing the song in the studio since I’d had some stage time with it.
Let’s talk about the video. Who filmed the video? How did you come to work with that person? Where did you film the clip?
When I filmed my very first music video, “Time Will Tell,” I worked with a company named Handcrank Films. We filmed in the beautiful mountains in central Washington, near the Leavenworth and Peshastin area. The cinematographer that I worked with for that video shoot was named Spencer Johnson. He and I connected during the shoot, and after Handcrank Films broke apart, I reached out to Spencer directly and we talked about the new album and some video ideas for it. We also worked with Britt Warner, who I had filmed a few previous videos with at Sanders National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. She was instrumental in picking some of the locations for the video shoot and planning the travel route from Moab to St. George. She also edited the video footage, and we will release some of the videos she filmed with me in the near future.
Whose idea was the video treatment? What made you choose the location you did?
We wanted to find a stark contrast to the dense forests of Washington State. And since this video was about sparseness, openness, and vastness, we wanted to find a landscape that exemplified those characteristics. Spencer had also said he had made a career goal for himself to shoot in the slot canyons, so his desire to film in a slot canyon helped us to choose northern Arizona and southern Utah because of the amazing slot canyons those areas offer.
We really enjoyed playing with the inverse relationship between deep slot canyons and extremely tall arches. In the Southwest, the landscape is just so dramatic, and seeing a massively tall arch on the same day as the deep narrow slot canyon is a total trip in your mind. The dramatic Horseshoe Bend and Wilson Arch were such special experiences to visit. Also the incredible color shifts from one location to the next as you’re driving or hiking are completely psychedelic. It’s hands-down one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever spent time, anywhere in the world.
Any great stories to share from the video creation process or the video shoot itself?
When we filmed at the slot canyons, it was a long hike down from the trailhead deep into the canyons. We had to bring the guitars and film equipment, lunch, and water along with us. There were also some steep passageways we had to navigate, handing the gear over ledges as we descended further and further down into the canyons. On the surface, it was around 100 degrees, but down in the slots it was somewhere in the ballpark of 60 degrees. The beginning of the hike down was very hot, and it was very much a welcome respite from the heat once we got deep into the canyons. Parts of the canyon were so towering and immense, there was almost an architecture-type feel to areas where the walls extended upwards for what felt like forever. In the slots, it feels like you’re in a mammoth art installation.