We had the good fortune of connecting with Clayton Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clayton, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
One thing I’ve seen that most people outside of the music industry are unaware of, is that you don’t have to be a household name or have a record deal to make a full-time living doing music. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been asked by people, “So, what else do you do?”, or “What’s your day job?”, in which I kindly respond, “I actually make my full-time living doing music.”
As one can imagine, these type of questions can easily provoke a person’s pride; they sure do mine! But in those moments I’m humbled and reminded:
1) They just don’t know, and that’s okay. Be kind and gracious; and don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to.
2) I’m not defined by my work or what other people think of me. Though modest, I get to make a living entirely from music. How many people can say that? I don’t need to be proud, or envious of anyone else’s accomplishments. I’m simply called to be content and grateful for the provision and opportunities God has given me.
So what does “full-time music” look like for me personally? I actually earn my living from three avenues:
1) My personally artistry, which includes songwriting (royalties, SYNC placements, etc) and live performances.
2) Studio session work – I get the privilege of being hired by other songwriters to produce/sing on their demos, and help bring them to life.
3) I get to lead and coordinate the music for my local church.
So if you’re looking to make a living doing music, the options are out there! But in your professional music pursuits, don’t ever forget the reason you fell in love with music in the first place.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My music journey started when I was 12 years old, and my mom forced me to take guitar lessons. I’m the youngest of 3 kids, so I was her last hope at one of her kids learning an instrument and being able to play her her favorite song, “House Of The Rising Sun”. About 2 years after beginning guitar lessons, was the first time I tried to sing and play at the same time. Something about it clicked for me. From that point on, guitar become a means for me to sing and share my voice with others. It wasn’t long after that until I began writing my own songs at the age of 14.
I performed and released music as a solo artist until I went to college, where I formed a band with 3 other guys called The Madison Letter. We would go on to play together for 7 years before deciding to part ways. We had a great run and were given some great opportunities. Two highlights for me were getting to open for my all-time favorite band The Script, and being featured on MTV as a nominee for MTV’s College Artist Woodie Award.
Since the band parted ways in 2017, I’ve returned to being a solo artist which has been refreshing for me. Since my latest solo album release in 2018, I’ve begun to take things a bit slower when it comes to my artistry, however. After so many years of pouring out song after song and chasing the “next opportunity”, I needed time to take a breathe of fresh air, without feeling pressured to constantly produce content.
It’s been both a hard and great season to be in. Since The Madison Letter days, I’ve reflected a lot on the motives behind why I do music. As a Christian, I had convinced myself for many years that I was doing music for God’s glory, but in reality I was doing it mostly for myself; for the attention of women, and my own name’s sake. Thankfully, God has since humbled me and reminded me of who gave me my gift in the first place, and that’s Him.
Though in all honesty, I’m more confused than ever on “what I’m doing with my career”, I’m more content than I’ve ever been. I finally realize that no amount of worldly success will ever satisfy me, and that only what I truly do for God’s glory will last. The pressure’s finally off. I just want to be a good steward of the gift that’s been given me, whether I labor in the spotlight or in obscurity.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
TOP PICKS IN ST. LOUIS, MO
Forest Park – Rent Bikes/Scooters
St. Louis Zoo (top rated free Zoo in the country)
St. Louis Arch
Any restaurant – Toasted Ravioli (St. Louis Original)
The King and I – Thai Food
Urban Chestnut Brewery
Triple 3 Vineyard (1 hr away)
Hike at Don Robinson State Park or Hawn State Park
Bass River Resort – Float Trip
St. Louis Cardinals baseball game
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My first shoutout goes to Sheree and Lou Spoltore at Global Songwriters Connection, in Nashville, TN. They have been friends and mentors of mine for many years and have been instrumental to my growth as an artist and songwriter. At least half of my demo clients have come from their referral.
Second, I want to highlight my former manager Mike Scott, and owner of Rhythm Music Studio in St. Charles, MO. Mike believed in me early on in my career, and managed me for several years (insisting on doing it all for free; all while running 2 other companies and caring for his own family). To this day, he is still a faithful friend of mine.
3rd, a big shoutout goes to my vocal coach Kim Franca. She is a mastermind at bringing out a singers’ full potential. I wouldn’t be half the singer I am today without her. She as well, has always insisted on coaching me for free.
Lastly, I want to thank Diann & Mitch Hammer, as well as John Hussman. When I look around my home studio or play a live show, a large amount of music gear I own, which allows me to do what I do, has been gifted to me out of their generosity.
Firestorm Photography Ashley Wright David Thulin Ben Vogelsang Colman McVaney