“I’m having the time of my life. I have a love affair with music, but being able to entertain people is what I get out of it.”
So says Country artist Jake Clayton, the gifted singer, thought-provoking songwriter and talented multi-instrumentalist who is attracting the attention of Country fans and radio programmers everywhere with his hot new single, “What Not to Do.” Jake is the rare artist who is able to enthrall a packed house with not just his vocals, songs and showmanship, but with his amazing instrumental ability as well. Playing over 20 instruments as an in-demand Nashville session musician, he is now stepping out on his own to take his place among the greats of Country music. “What Not to Do,” a song about the consequences of poor decision-making from his album By the Light of the Moon, is an uptempo, guitar-and-fiddle-driven romp that brings Charlie Daniels to mind. But Jake’s highly-recognizable tenor is all his own, inviting comparisons to Garth Brooks, The Eagles and Tim McGraw.
A native of rural Mexico, Missouri, Jake was raised by musical parents who sang professionally in the area. He was given his late grandfather’s fiddle – which he still plays to this day – when he was 13. But he wasn’t able to stop there, soon taking up just about any instrument with strings or keys, including banjo, organ, pedal steel guitar and more, while developing his singing and stage chops. “I learned about playing music by watching VHS tapes of concerts that really captivated me, like Garth’s show in Central Park,” he recalls. “But most importantly, they showed me how an artist entertains an audience.”
As he learned every instrument in sight, Jake also began to understand the importance of delivering captivating vocals and crafting a good song. “The Dixie Chicks picked great, but their songs and their harmonies were powerful, too,” he remembers. “That’s when I started to take singing and songwriting more seriously.”
At 17 Jake was fronting his own shows. “I actually had my own theater in Missouri for a couple years, an old restaurant we converted into a venue where I could perform,” he recalls fondly. “I was doing mostly classic Country for older people who understood and loved music, which was great. Because of my age I really didn’t do bar gigs much. Then I took a fill-in job playing fiddle with The Oak Ridge Boys at 19 and moved to Nashville when I was 20.”
Jake has since been a utility man in the live bands of Tanya Tucker, Collin Raye, Jimmy Wayne, Joey & Rory and Jamie O’Neal, and travelled for several years with singer Sunny Sweeney on two major tours. And in 2015, Sweeney enlisted Jake and his own band to support her on Miranda Lambert’s 2015 Certified Platinum Tour. Opportunities like this have made it possible for him to be part of opening slots with such Country music headliners as Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, The Band Perry, George Strait, and many more.
As an in-demand studio musician, Jake’s credits include playing violin and cello on Thompson Square’s #1 single, “If I Didn’t Have You,” and playing fiddle, dobro and lap steel on Sunny Sweeney’s critically acclaimed album, Provoked. He was the featured dobro player on Joey & Rory’s Inspired DVD and TV special, and he recorded and co-produced the theme song for The Sportsman Channel’s Legacy Trails TV. Jake also recorded an acclaimed instrumental album, Barnyard Stomp, which was distributed by Rock guitar legend Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label.
As a solo artist, Jake has opened for Charlie Daniels, Jon Pardi, and Jerrod Niemann. He’s seen his childhood dreams come true as he’s graced the stages of Madison Square Garden, The Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and other legendary venues.
Jake is a natural singer, with a distinctive voice that is right at home on today’s Country radio. “My vocals are one of the reasons I get hired to work with other artists, besides the fact that I play so many instruments,” the gregarious artist says. “I’ve been influenced by the best. I could listen to Don Henley sing the phone book, and Garth, of course, really knows how to deliver a lyric. I love Collin Raye, and Jared Leto from the band 30 Seconds to Mars. And I learned so much from being on the road with Tanya about how to do things inside a melody, and how to connect with people.”
Every song on By the Light of the Moon was written or co-written by Jake, whose songwriting heroes include some of the legends of Country as well as today’s most successful young writers. “I’m a fan of Kacey Musgraves’ writing, and I really love Sunny’s writing,” he says. “I think Bob DiPiero (David Nail, Martina McBride) is one of the greats. I love Tom T. Hall. And you can’t beat Marty Robbins, who was the pinnacle of what an artist and writer should be.”
Jake and his band play about 50 shows a year right now, and he looks to do more with the success of his new single. “We play all over the country and have been received really well everywhere we go,” he says. “While I still play for other artists, I see myself doing less and less of that in the future, because my main goal is to continue to release my own music and to give people a show they won’t forget. We’re all about the music and getting it out to the fans.”