INTERVIEW with Clay Maselle of STRUNG LIKE A HORSE!
Their new album Transoceanic CD "WHOA!" - Can't miss!
In the middle of the pandemic, a few solid Bluegrass/Country/Americana acts decided they would not hold their music back. Chattanooga's Strung Like A Horse was one. After the November digital release of their Transoceanic debut "WHOA!," the fantastic foursome found themselves perched at #2 on Billboard's Bluegrass Chart just behind Sturgill Simpson. One month later, the band was further rewarded when they made the Top 50 albums of the year as chosen by the readers of No Depression. Now with "WHOA!" out on CD, founder, and Mississippi native Clay Maselle took time to discuss the formation of the band, how they got here and where they are going.
T-BONES: What are the beginnings of Strung Like A Horse?
CLAY MASELLE: Strung Like a Horse started off as a weekly bluegrass jam born from picking around a bonfire. I was at a party playing music around the fire when a banjo picker started playing a Split Lip Rayfield song. I sang it for him, since he wasn't a singer, and we immediately were stoked about our mutual musical taste. I didn't know anyone else that listened to SLR and I don't think he did either so it was a cool introduction. Ben later chose to leave the band just due to touring restraints - but he is a great friend. That weekly picking soon turned into a band playing original punk leaning bluegrass music, and we hit the road.
T-BONES: When did you know you had songs that you knew would connect with an audience and just the right band formula to deliver them?
CLAY: I think it took a few years to realize how much we connected with folks. We were just doing our thing because we were having fun. In the beginning, our music really connected with the fans. The crazy-fast, wacky, unorthodox structure really grabbed hold of folks that were looking for something different. I think my songwriting has developed over the years where now we have more of a connection with the lyrics and stories. But we still have that wacky sense of fun in the music, it's just more tastefully sprinkled in.
T-BONES: We remember you playing here in Hattiesburg several times, and you detail your memories of Mississippi on "Gold In Their Souls." What is your history here in Mississippi and how do you feel it filters through your music as you take it to the world?
CLAY: I love Mississippi. I'm proud to be born and raised in the birthplace of American music. Some of the most beautiful people in the world live there, and I really wanted to highlight that in this album. The character that I feel is rooted in the culture of MS is kind, caring, and so forgiving. I also love the natural dichotomy that I find in MS. I write about that in "Pelahatchie Nights," which is another track on the record written about the bay that I grew up on. Wonderful little bay with small islands, huge oak trees reaching out over the channels, big swaths of still water covered in lily pads, flowers, and wildlife all over it. We would build huge rope swings out there and swim all summer in the water. You could also go out there at night and in the same place and the sounds, the shadows, and the mood could give you chills. Gator eyes lining the shores with red dots, strange sounds bellowing out of the abyss, and creatures larger than you just below the surface of the water. I love it.
T-BONES: Now "WHOA!" has dramatically developed your audience at a time when you have not been able to tour. How does it feel to enter 2021 with the head of steam behind it from making year-end lists and high chart numbers?
CLAY: It is a weird time to be releasing a record for sure. We pushed it back a few months because of the pandemic but decided folks needed music even more during all this. I think people are lacking connection now more than ever and we know that our music gives folks an escape from all the madness.
T-BONES: When you were writing "WHOA!," was there a central message you wanted these songs to get across? Do you think you connected in this time of general disconnection?
CLAY: I didn't have a central message. I usually treat each song as its own project. I'd say more so the selection process of songs to create the album is how we make the record come together, not with a central message per se, but more so to create a cohesive experience. I don't necessarily try to send a message to an audience with a song. I'm telling stories whether real or from my imagination. I am hopeful folks find what they need in there. "WHOA!" covers a lot. There are songs about my wife when she was pregnant with our new daughter - "Glowin." Songs about where I grew up in MS - "Gold in Their Souls'' and "Pelahatchie Nights." Songs about losing my Grandfather - "Without You." Songs about being yourself and learning how to connect with folks on a meaningful level - "F*** What They Think." And several other stories songs that aren't so personal.
T-BONES: As you listen to it now, what are some of the memories that hit you from making it with Matt Ross-Spang and seeing it gestate over the last several years?
CLAY: Making the record with Matt was incredible. He is very good at what he does, and his process was perfect for us. We recorded the record live, tracking the whole band, vocals, and all together. Mostly in one room together which really comes through in the energy and cohesiveness. We've never been able to do that before. I don't think I'll ever track things separately again.
T-BONES: Are you already writing the followup? Will there be a continuation of the "good vibes" you seem to emit on "WHOA!?"
CLAY: I have a couple more albums of songs already written, but yes I am still writing and putting together new ideas with the band all the time. I can't say whether it'll have the same vibe, but I can say it'll still be Strung Like a Horse. We are who we are.
T-BONES: Finally, I know touring is a difficult situation now - but since you guys have a more intimate sound than a lot of artists now - are there plans for webcasts or a small outdoor tour in the Spring?
CLAY: We are feeling it out now, and trying to see what is next. We do have a few things booked for the Summer and hope that things are getting better and we are able to finally see some real faces enjoying some real live music again soon! We are all about the live show and we cannot wait to get back to that and get back to Mississippi!
Big thanks to Clay and all the members of Strung Like A Horse as well as producer Matt Ross-Spang and Transoceanic Records. "WHOA!" will be back in stock soon as the first run sold out instantly. Special order yours with T-BONES today.
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