Clemons Road
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Clemons Road

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Plant City music lovers should be aware, if they’re not already, of the Clemons Road band and their fast-growing fan base. This group of seven talented locals can lay claim to the fact that their first demo CD, which is entitled “From Florida with Love,” was produced locally by a Grammy-Award winning songwriter.
That songwriter would be Cliff Brown, the band’s founder. He earned the Grammy Award in 2007 for the song “No One Will Do” on Mary J. Blige’s album The Breakthrough.
Clemons Road recorded the seven songs on “From Florida with Love” in a small room in Brown’s home studio in Plant City.
Brown and Josh High, friends since high school, are “the heart of the band,” according to the other five members. This friendship is evident during shows and interviews as the two respond easily, passing the baton back and forth to fill in the blanks when questioned about the hows, whats, and what fors for Clemons Road.
Enjoy reading their responses and learn a little more about this group before they bec0me famous. They would appreciate your continued support. As you follow the band’s music and attend their shows, one day you’ll be saying, “I’ve known those fellows since before Clemons Road became a household name and now look at ‘em.”
Focus: Hello, Cliff. Will you introduce the guys in the group to our readers?
Brown: Sure! I’m Cliff Brown and I started playing at 14, after I found a guitar in my dad’s closet. I was grounded a lot as a kid, so I spent that times trying to teach myself how to play and sing. I write all our songs and sing for the band as well. Josh High, our in-house manager, plays guitar and schedules the group’s performances. Eric Long, my best friend, plays bass guitar and does vocals, too. His heart and soul is music. Chris Williams, our drummer, has played drums for 18 years and 13 of those were with Josh in different bands. Chris was also captain of the Plant City High School band’s drumline. Our fathers used to hang out together at What-a-Burger here in Plant City. Matt Richardson, our youngest member, plays guitars and sings. Gavin Baulac from Lakeland is our banjo player and Jason Baker from Ft. Meade plays fiddle.
Focus: How did the band get its name?
Brown: All of us, in this and various other groups, have spent time practicing at houses on or near Clemons Road in Plant City. During high school Josh and Chris were part of a group called Southern Fusion and they practiced in a building at the corner of Clemons & Coronet roads. Eric and I practiced nearby in a different band. Chris’s parents, Billy and Laurel Williams, let us practice at their home in Coronet, which is where we made our music video. That road is a part of all of our history and it means something to us – reminds us of our roots.
Focus: How did you get together and begin to organize for steady work with the band?
Brown: Several of us went to Plant City High School at the same time, so we’ve grown up together. After high school, I made my family nervous when I spent $17,000 of college money in 20 minutes on band equipment (and I shopped local, of course). I worked under contract for Warner Bros. and wrote and produced songs all over the country. When we decided to make a go of Clemons Road, I called all the best musicians in the area to ask if the were interested in joining a band. As we practiced and could see that our personalities meshed, I e-mailed everyone in the group, explaining the expectations we had and asked them to bow out if playing would only be a pastime. We wanted a serious commitment to every member of the group, to practices, shows, and to building the fan base together. We are all focused on this work and ultimately want to earn our livings making music. This is not a hobby; it’s what we want to do for the rest of our lives.
Focus: What were some of your early musical influences?
Brown: Listening to the music our parents loved, for sure. Then we began to discover our own favorites and preferences. Josh and I love listening to chicken pickin’ guitar players, so Vince Gill and Brent Mason have influenced us as well. Growing up in Florida, we’ve been surrounded by water and beach sounds and tropical beats So, naturally, we like Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet. The Eagles, Alabama, the Zack Brown Band, Sublime, Kenny Chesney and Alan Jackson have also been influences in our blended style.
High: I was always around instruments and music as a kid. My uncle owned a vintage guitar shop in Orlando, so I learned a lot about guitars and playing during that time.
Long: My dad has had a band since the ‘80s, the Jealous Guys. They were originally known as Running Hard. They played southern rock and blues. I’ve played with Cliff 15 years.
Richardson: My brother bought a Metallica “Reload” album and I played it front and back every morning. My parents gave me a guitar, amp and radio for Christmas and said, “Teach yourself to play,” so I did.
Williams: Josh and I have played in different bands for 13 years and I was in his wedding. Matt is my brother-in-law’s brother.
Focus: So, were you totally confident performers during your high school years?
Brown: No, but we enjoyed music so much it didn’t matter. We just kept doing what we love.
Focus: Cliff, do the songs you write revolve around certain themes?
Brown: Not necessarily. I can sing about anything. We try to tap into different perspectives on life. For example, the song ‘Hey Bartender’ is about a man who’s depressed over lost love. By the song’s end, he’s talking to ‘Hey There, Preacher’ hoping faith will help him through.
‘The World’s Gone Crazy’ involves the perspective of life’s purpose. We can work hard, use our talents and pay the price, but ultimately, it boils down to a dependence on God and trusting in what He has planned for us.
Focus: Do you think the group is headed to Nashville?
Brown: Eric and I used to live in Nashville together. We think at some point we may have to go back, but we want to bring Nashville here. We have the tools and talents to do it right here. We’re all happy to be living in Florida.
Focus: Can you describe the thrill of being onstage and doing what you love?
Long: It’s a huge adrenalin rush.
Brown: We respond to the crowd and feel their energy, which fuels us.
Williams: We want to put on a show and we like to see them dance.
Focus: How about your fans?
Brown: Our fans are nuts in a good way and they go to great lengths to promote our music. Radio station 97 Country 103.5 received more than 500 requests for one of our songs. When we played our first show (at O’Briens in Plant City), the fire marshal was called because so many fans showed up, it was over the occupancy limit! People were parking at the gas station across the street. It was nuts!
Long: We love our fans and try to think of them as friends and family. They’re known as the Clemons Road Army. Playing at the stadium for the City’s Fourth of July celebration was great. We want people to come out and have a good time with us and enjoy each other.
High: Honestly, our fans are the biggest thing we have going for us at the moment. It sounds cliché, but we wouldn’t be able to have 1,200 Facebook fans and almost 10,000 YouTube views if it weren’t for their loyalty. They have elevated us and they motivate us. People ask us all the time, “How do you keep getting new fans every day?” We are so appreciative of their support.
Williams: The fans purchased tickets and came out in a big way when we produced our first music video at my dad’s property. That helped us with the funds to make our demo CD and pay Jesse Starr of www.jessestarr.com and Wrap It Up Tampa for the cover art. Fans love it.
Focus: What advice can you offer other young musicians who are following your career?
Brown: Practice your music and persevere. Don’t give up. Nobody will ‘give’ you anything. You have to go after it and work hard. Get a job, make money and invest in your band. You will need CDs to sell, so the fans get something in their hands to remember you by and share.
Focus: Speaking of jobs, you are each employed in a field other than music, right?
Brown: I’m a Deputy Sherriff for Hillsborough County and work nights at the Faulkenberg Jail. I just want to make sure to thank the Sheriff’s Department. The support and encouragement they have give me to reach my dreams is incredible. All my supervisors believe in me and it’s amazing to work for an agency like that.
High: I’m a bank analyst with a large national bank.
Long: I own U.S. Body Source in Lakeland. We build more than 3,000 after-market parts for racecars and sell them on more than 50 websites.
Williams: I use my Doctor of Pharmacy degree (from University of Florida) to work with Sweetbay Supermarkets and Manatee Your Choice Health Plan.
Focus: What do you enjoy most about the business aspect of music?
Williams: Cliff & Josh are big on social media and work at strategic postings, too.
Brown: As for the business aspect, Josh is the heartbeat of the band.
High: I like knowing I’ve done something to make the band work. I don’t like loose ends. We just know how important it is to have the support of fans. When they come to our shows, tell their friends and purchase our CDs and T-shirts, we can invest that money into the group’s future efforts, equipment needs and operating expenses.
Focus: Do your families support your career aspirations now?
Brown: My wife April endures coming home to a house full of guys and working late night on music. I know it has to be hard on her, but she knows this is important to me.
High: Yes, and the Williams and the Longs are total enablers. They’re so helpful. Sometimes when we’re practicing or getting ready for a show, they’ll even cook dinner for us.
Focus: How can fans reach you and why should they?
High: They can message on our website (ClemonsRd.com) and at Facebook.com/clemonsroad. We enjoy the interaction and do our best to respond quickly. We like talking to fans after our shows, and of course, we sign autographs. We’re on YouTube, too, and appreciate all comments and feedback.
Focus: So what would you like your future to hold?
Williams: We’re excited to be opening for Dustin Lynch, whose current hit is ‘Cowboys and Angels,’ on August 24 at Boots and Buckles in Lakeland.
High: We’re working on our new CD. The plan next year is to tour. We have some great marketing ideas and sponsorships would be a great help.
Brown: I want to do this full time by the end of next year. We hope to eventually buy a tour bus, have it wrapped and hit the road. It’s hard right now because we all work day jobs, too. But we believe it will happen and the fact that we can produce our own work is a huge advantage.
Focus: OK, Plant City. There you have it. Local guys who will be bigger than life before you know it. Do them a favor and “follow,” “like,” “comment,” and ATTEND when you can. It’s our job as a community to “Support our local musicians!” - Focus Magazine


All the guys in Clemons Road, a fast-rising country band from Plant City, have day jobs. But that might not be an option for much longer.

"Performing on weekends in front of a live crowd is a shot of adrenaline, like flying a fighter jet," said guitarist Josh High. "So going back to our regular jobs on a Monday can feel like driving a Volvo or something."

Clemons Road, which formed in February, consists of High, Cliff Brown (lead vocals/guitar), Eric Long (bass/vocals), Matt Richardson (lead guitar/vocals), Jason Baker (fiddle/piano/vocals), Chris Williams (drums) and Gavin Baulac (banjo).

Those day jobs run the gamut — from business analyst to cowboy to deputy.

"I just want it known that the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has been very, very good to me in terms of letting me do my thing with the band," said Brown, a detention deputy for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

"I like to joke that if we all wore our uniforms from our day jobs, we would look like the Village People."

The band gets together two or three times a week to rehearse, depending on their schedules.

"Usually, we play Friday and Saturday nights and drive back on Sunday if we're out of town," High said.

Clemons Road gets its name from a 1.5-mile stretch of road between County Road 574-A and East Trapnell Road in Springhead, which is between Plant City and Lakeland.

"That's where we grew up playing," said Brown, referring to himself, High, Williams and Long.

Richardson is a jack-of-all-trades musician who connected with the band through a friend of a friend. Baker has played with bluegrass and Western swing acts on a national level, and Baulac has played banjo with several bands across the Southeast in the last decade.

Touring with so many people is unusual.

"I mean, we've got a full-time banjo player," High said. "Most bands just have their keyboard player or a guitar player pick up the banjo for certain songs."

But the chemistry works.

"People kept coming on, and it kept working," Brown said.

Brown typically writes the songs and produced the band's debut album, "From Florida with Love." In 2007, he won a Grammy as a member of J.U.S .T.I.C.E. League — which stands for Just Undeniably Some of The Illest Composers Ever — a collective from Tampa that has produced several platinum albums.

Clemons Road is committed to capturing the eclectic essence of their home state with their music, Brown said.

"Growing up in Florida, you listen to everything," said Brown.

As a result, the band's sound incorporates elements of bluegrass, pop and reggae to reflect the idea that Florida has an equal amount of farms and beaches. Band members' influences include the Zac Brown Band, Jimmy Buffett and Sublime.

"I know there are more than a few Nashville artists who come down here for inspiration," Brown said.

That eclectic background shows in Clemons Road's fans.

"We don't just play at country music clubs," High said. "Our audience includes a huge cross section of people."

"We've got fans from ninth grade all the way up to people in their 60s," Brown added.

The seven-track "From Florida with Love," released in August, was recorded in Brown's home on a meager budget.

"We'd been jamming for a while, and we really wanted to get a product out to the people as fast as we could," High said.

The band is committed to maintaining that connection between Clemons Road and its fans, High said. Band members are active in social media, using their Facebook and Twitter pages to offer sneak peeks at new music, or share behind-the-scenes photos from the recording studio or backstage at a live show.

"We're not trying to make fans, we're trying to make friends," Richardson said.

The band's first live performance was June 22 at O'Brien's Irish Pub of Plant City.

"That first performance was a real eye-opener because the place was packed," Richardson said.

"A lot of other country bands are more on the mellow side, but we bring the high energy of a rock concert," Brown said. "The craziest part was that it was our first live show, but people were already singing along to all our songs."

Several Central Florida shows, including a gig at the Fourth of July Plant City fireworks show and a performance at Ybor Cigar and Spirits in Lakeland, followed soon after. On Aug. 24, Clemons Road opened for Dustin Lynch at Boots N Buckles in Lakeland.

On Aug. 31, the band returned to Boots N Buckles to compete in the Central Florida portion of the Texaco Country Showdown, a nationwide country music talent search.

The competition began at the local level with radio stations selecting regional participants for preliminary rounds. WPCV97 Country selected nine from Central Florida, including Clemons Road.

"We were very impressed by the sound and production values of their submission," said Mike James, the station's operations manager. "They have a very fresh and contemporary sound."

Clemons Road won the Central Florida preliminary round, but did not advance beyond the next round, featuring winners from all over Florida.

Right now, the band seems on the verge of something big.

"If they were willing to make the move to Nashville, which nine out of 10 acts have to do unless they win a TV singing contest, I think they very well could be approached by a label," James said.

But the plan is to remain in Florida, build up the band's fan base and continue to open for bigger acts, Brown said. Jimmy Buffett and his legion of Parrotheads are on the band's wish list.

"We really want to get into the colleges in the state because that's a rotating fan base every few years," High said.

In the meantime, Brown hopes to take a leave of absence from the sheriff's office to work on material for a new album — maybe with a spring break theme.

"When we recorded our first album, we had more time because we weren't gigging or practicing as much as we are now," he said.

If Clemons Road keeps picking up fans and booking gigs across the state, quitting their day jobs may not seem like such a bad idea.

For information on the band, go to www.clemonsroad.com, or check out Clemons Road on YouTube or Facebook. - Tampa Tribune


Discography

From Florida With Love - EP
I Love The Way You Move - Single

Photos

Bio

Florida is a place where the water meets the woods. A place that has as many farms as it does beaches. A place where children are raised on Hank Williams Jr. and Bob Marley. It is in this diverse state that Clemons Road calls their home. Blending Country music with an island feel or vice versa, the band always starts a party as soon as the first note rings! Pulling their influences from Sublime to Alan Jackson, Dave Matthews to Jimmy Buffet, or Lynyrd Skynyrd to Zac Brown Band, Clemons Road can keep all audiences heads bobbing and feet moving.

The band has taken off to a great start since forming in early 2012, releasing their first EP, "From Florida With Love" and doing very well in the club circuit around Central Florida. Their CD release party/concert drew over 650 people to the show in September.

They won the Texaco Country Showdown for area, competing against 7 other country bands from Central Florida.

They have opened for Dustin Lynch, Tyler Farr, Jusin Moore and others during their national tours.

The band was invited to play at the Redneck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda as headline entertainment for their New Years party.

Other venues include:
House of Blues, Orlando
Renegades, West Palm Beach
Boots N Buckles, Lakeland
Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak
High Octane, Homosassa
The Abbey, Orlando
Keel and Curly Winery, Plant City