In our latest interview with songwriter Kēvin Clayton Jr, we talk about about how he got his name and how his love of poetry, combined with his guitar playing and singing abilities made him destine to become a songwriter.
Q: Why the accent over the ‘e’?
It comes from a set of creative grandparents who, in naming my father, combined two names they couldn’t agree on. One phonetically loved the first ‘ē’ in Stēphen, the other preferred the name Kevin. So, they put that ‘ē’ in Kevin, to make it Kēvin.
The ‘ē‘ sound is a double ‘e‘ (ee) and is commonly referred to as a ‘long e,‘ much like the sound you find in words like kēy, dēed, and bēliēve. Believe me when I say, it’s been a name that I’ve grown to love.
Q: Where do you call home?
I was born and still live in a small suburb just east of Atlanta, GA.
Q: What is your ideal setup for writing music?
Ideally, I’m at home with my journal and phone (so I can listen back to the different ideas and melodies I’ve recorded). For me, melodies and lyrics come first (most of the time) so I’ve learned to keep myself prepared. There is always a small notebook within an arm’s length, just in case something comes to mind. My guitar and keyboard are always close by as well.
Q: How did you get started as a songwriting?
I was unaware that I’ve spent the better part of my life songwriting until recently. I’ve written poetry since high school, played the guitar since my early 20’s, and been singing for as long as I can remember. Not sure why I never thought of putting everything together, needless to say I’m glad I did!
Q: What books are you currently reading?
I just finished ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall. If you’re interested in running at all you should check it out! I also follow some artists via Facebook and Twitter. One blog I have followed for some time now is ‘New Music Strategies’ founded and lead by Andrew Dubber.
Q: What album are you currently listening to?
There are two. I just purchased John Mayer’s ‘Paradise Valley,’ keeping that close. I also recently discovered a band named ‘Lord Huron.’ Their album ‘Lonesome Dreams’ is amazing!
Q: When it gets tough, how do you stay inspired?
This would have been a tough question for me to answer a year ago, but it’s an easy response now. Experience. Living life and being aware of it. It’s not hard to find sources of inspiration in conversations, news, the tree that knocked the power out the night before, etc. Also, I like to research artists that inspire me, then discover artists who inspired them, and on and on. Pretty soon I am able to piece together a musical family tree. From Jimmie Rodgers to Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan to The Avett Brothers and beyond.
Q: As a Songwriter, what is your biggest challenge?
Staying in that place of ‘original creativity’ is difficult. My job can be demanding at times, I come home and I’m exhausted physically. If I have an idea in those moments, It’s hard to stay in it. If I put the idea down, it’s hard to get back to it.
Q: What time of day do you prefer to write your music and where?
Any time is a good time. Because of the different stages I go through, I don’t mind coming across ideas at work or other places. Wherever my mind SHOULD be, it’s nice that it seems to gravitate back to music. It’s a welcome distraction. The weekends are also extremely important to my process as well, those days off where I can hollow out my mind and focus on writing. There’s usually a weeks worth of ideas to go back through.
Q: To date, what has been your favorite memory as a Songwriter?
Last October I played an open mic at the suggestion of a good friend. It was the first time I played my songs in front of an audience (outside of friends and family). It was nerve wracking, but completely worth it!
Q: How do you maintain your professional growth?
Community, community, community. Building and maintaing relationships with like minded people. In fact, it doesn’t matter what your profession is- songwriting, culinary, electrician, etc. Whatever you do, network yourself into a community of your professional peers.
Q: What is your Songwriting process?
The initial idea is usually messy and disorganized for me. A melody and a half-thought-out lyric sung into my phone, and a few notes ferociously written into a journal. It gets cleaned up later.
There are two stages of discovery in my process. The first is the discovery of the idea. The second is the discovery of it’s possibilities or limits. I have written, what I thought to be a great chorus, only to figure out that the idea had more limits than possibilities. I save those, who knows what could come of them? Limits often help me rethink possibility.
Q: Who are your top three favorite artists or songwriters?
Clay Cook, Dallas Davidson, and Bob Dylan.
Clay Cook is incredibly talented. One of those talents you can’t comprehend. He’s produced, done sound engineering, been a songwriter, is a multi-instrumentalist for The Zac Brown Band, also toured and been a temporary member of the Marshall Tucker Band. Oh yea, and he’s only in his 30’s.
Dallas Davidson is an extremely successful Nashville songwriter. In exploring some of his songs, I’ve found that he primarily writes with only two chords. Some people may think that’s easy, but it’s actually harder because you have to find so many other ways to keep the song entertaining to listeners. It’s become an exercise of mine to try and write using the two chord method. No luck yet!
If you’ve listened to any Dylan you’ll know that he comes in many forms. He’s released Folk albums, Rock albums, Faith albums, Pop albums, Country albums, and albums that just break the rules that ‘genre’ sets. He is, without a doubt, my favorite.
Q: What advice would you tell up and coming Songwriters?
I’ll share something another experienced songwriter told me, since I still consider myself an ‘up and comer.’ He said, “write for you.” It’s simple and honest advice. Write because you enjoy it. If other people enjoy it too, great. If no one seems to care, guess what? You care. What’s that saying? “Dance like no one’s watching?” Well write and sing like no one’s listening. Did I just stretch that to make my point? Maybe.
Q: How do you think Frettie (An online songwriting community to help you get feedback on your music as you write it) will benefit the Songwriting Community?
Frettie has quickly become an extension of what I talked about earlier. Community is extremely important for both aspiring and professional songwriters. It’s within that community where we challenge ourselves to become better and more established. Frettie is a great tool that helps me do that.
Q: What online tools do you use today for songwriting?
There are certainly tools that have helped me show and market my music online, but none that have helped me with songwriting. That is, none until Frettie.com.
Q: So what’s next for Kēvin Clayton Jr. and where can readers find you online?
I’ll continue writing and recording demo tracks, working out the kinks in my process, and co-writing soon. I’d also like to see if I’ve got what it takes to be a demo singer, we’ll see.
You can find me on Twitter, Facebook and Reverbnation. And of course you can also find me on Frettie!
Q: Do you care to add anything else?
Keeping perspective has always been important to me. There is a bigger world out there than we realize. Hunger, unrest in the middle east, natural disaster, I could go on and on. I have been incredibly blessed to have peace and abundance in my life, that which I believe only God provides. We should be humbled in our blessings and all be thinking and praying for those that live in impossible situations, those that live in fear of violence and scarcity.
Thanks Kēvin for taking the time to answer these questions. We appreciate all of your support and looking forward to connecting with you more on Frettie.
Did you find this enjoyable? You will certainly enjoy Frettie!
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Interview conducted by The Frettie Team. If you are interested in being interviewed for our next “Songwriter Showcase”, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.