He’s been known as one of Nashville’s primo multi-instrumentalists, and a member of Tanya Tucker’s touring band, for more than a decade, playing over 20 instruments and making life easier for producers who need to overdub entire string sections. Now Jake Clayton, who has also recorded four albums of his own as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, is raising his profile with a dobro-driven cover of Cage the Elephant’s hit “No Rest For The Wicked.”
“I’ve been a fan of that song, and that chorus, pretty much ever since the Cage the Elephant song came out I guess,” said Clayton, whose primary instrument is the fiddle, even though he can wail on anything with strings. “We started incorporating it into our show and people really liked it and asked if we had a recorded version of it. So that was one reason for it. But for me, while country music has always been known as the storytelling genre, there are some great stories out there in the rock world. The story in this song just reaches out and grabs you – it’s a story about three different people, you’re not just entangled in one person’s life, you’re entangled in three different things that go on. And I couldn’t think of as better time to record it than right now while a lot of people aren’t working. It’s something different for the audience.”
Clayton has also played for Chris Young, Thompson Square, Canadian country star Jess Moskaluke and many more, including up-and-coming country singer Candi Carpenter. “I’ve been working with Candi Carpenter on her new album, which is being produced by Brandi Carlile,” he said. “Working with Brandi has been amazing, and we’ve recorded four or five songs so far.” On one of those songs, Carpenter’s single of Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow,” Clayton plays dobro, fiddle and cello, and was also involved in a technologically groundbreaking event, as the song was purportedly the first song ever produced via Facebook’s smart display and camera, Portal.
In his studio east of Nashville, Clayton and various collaborators have been busy working on a number of projects. “I’ve been doing a ton of writing and recording original music, all brand-new stuff. I write a lot of music that’s all over the place, so we’re trying to get a compilation together that will work. We’ve also got some [covers of] rock and metal songs we’re recording with fiddles, banjos, mandolins – they aren’t necessarily going to be bluegrassy or country, the arrangements will still be true to the original songs. I feel that sometimes, in those metal and rock tunes, the lyrics and the message can get lost.”
“We believe that right now, a lot of people just want music that’s comfortable and familiar,” he continued, “and there’s some great stories in those songs that I feel like people are missing. We’ll be doing a single at a time, and will most likely combine them into an EP. So in quarantine I’ve played all the instruments, a lot of funky stuff. But instead of just recording basic versions on acoustic guitar of these songs like some people do, we’re doing true-to-form versions with the same intensity the songs had when they were originally released.”
Most people have to work hard to become proficient on just one instrument, but Clayton is one of those wunderkinds that is able to play practically any instrument he picks up on a professional level. “It’s been a gift is the only way I can describe it,” said Clayton, who hails from a small town in northeast Missouri. “I would like to say that I’ve spent hours and hours and hours working at it, but I don’t really feel like I have. But I guess if you ask anybody that was around me growing up, they’ll tell you that that’s all I ever did, just played instruments, I didn’t do anything else. While everybody else was going out and doing things, I was parked in front of the TV watching videos of Garth Brooks or the Dixie Chicks or the CMA awards, watching what they were doing. It was one of those things where one particular instrument never really grabbed me, all of ‘em did! Once I started learning all the different instruments I couldn’t stop.”