You grew up in a small town in Bedford, Indiana. How has that had an influence on your music? Growing up in Bedford which is a small town in southern Indiana influenced me so simply and yet so much just with the everyday relationships between the people who I was fortunate to be around. Friends and family. Hard working blue collar folks who had to show up every day to make our town go round. There are so many great stories to pull from whether it’s those relationships, our great sports heritage or even having John Mellencamp a couple towns over. 

I read in your bio that you still have an Indiana phone number so your grandmother can still call you. Is that true? Because if so, I think you’ve just won the hearts of many girls reading this. Yeah, it’s true. I was advised to get a 615 number when I moved to Nashville but I couldn’t get rid of my 812 number solely so my grandma could still call me.  Her and my grandpa still use that landline. The girls better watch it though cause she’s pretty protective and gets a tad jealous… but those are funny stories for another time.

When did music really begin for you?  Did you know at an early age that you wanted to one day make this a profession? Music was always around growing up. My mom loved Elvis. My dad had awesome Kiss and Aerosmith records. My grandma had some old Conway Twitty 8trac tapes. But I was so involved with sports that any instrument I picked up, we didn’t get very far together. Once my sports dreams were over, I started playing guitar and singing towards the end of my senior year of high school and got hooked on it in college when I figured out how well it got girls’ attention.

You recently attended the 50th CMA Awards here in Nashville and worked alongside host Kelly Sutton giving fans an All Access experience. What was it like working on the other side of the microphone interviewing the artists? It was a huge opportunity to work with ABC on the red carpet of the CMA Awards, a right of passage even that artists like Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan have done. It was also a true honor, but I’m not gonna lie I was so nervous. It’s so easy to get on stage and do my thing, but this was a whole new ballgame and with it being the 50th-anniversary show I wanted to be great. Huge shout out to Good Morning America’s Eva Pilgrim for coaching me up though. Her advice was a huge help. Also, Kelly Sutton is such a pro and made it much easier for me. It was a very long day but so much fun. And when your friends like Thomas Rhett win, it makes it more fun to talk to ’em like ya normally would. I was speechless when Dolly got within 10 feet of us though.

After graduation, you won Kenny Chesney’s Next Big Star Competition.  How cool is that, can you tell us more about that experience? I was toying around with what I was gonna do. People would tell me I needed to grow up but I kept dragging my feet because I didn’t wanna give up playing music. When I won the Next Big Star competition it gave me the courage to burn my ships and put everything I have into my music. It was a very fast 15mins of fame but I tried to make the most of it, and getting to be backstage at a Kenny Chesney show taught me so much. There is so much hard work that goes into it and ever since I’ve been busting my butt to get back to that level.

What does being an “artist” mean to you?  And what message do you want to send to your fans? This might sound silly but my mom raised me to set a good example and be a leader. Rather it was with sports or being a D.A.R.E. role model I took pride in doing the right thing because others were watching. Nowadays, it seems to be whoever can be the craziest and the most sexual or far out there will get the media’s attention. Every time I thought of going a little too far with an Instagram post, even if I think its funny, I think of what my niece would think. When I write songs I have this rule, W.W.M.G.T., (what would my grandma think). Although she’s a huge Conway Twitty fan, I don’t think she knows he wasn’t talking about a real tiger in those tight fitting jeans. I’ve never been the coolest. Nashville is always looking for something specific to give an artist an edge, but I honestly and truly think that just a regular well rounded nice guy can be an artist and that that kindness can be his edge. Now, I’m not by any means saying I’m a goody two shoes and I’m nowhere close to perfect, but I think it’s super important to just be who you are and nice to one another.

You recently released a new single “In The Dark”; I’m really digging this new tune. How satisfying is it to see a song go from just an idea, hook, or melody to being released into the world? In The Dark has been one of the most satisfying songs I’ve ever written. It started off as a catchy melody I had in my head and progressed into words like kiss her in the dark, to finally love her in the dark. I took it into a co-write with some buddies and the stars aligned. We nailed it. The nerve-wracking part was putting it out into the world and praying people liked it. It’s a very different song than what I’ve done in the past. It’s more produced but at the heart of it, “In The Dark” is just a catchy little tune.

You have opened up for big stars like Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker and Eric Church. What did you take away from having the opportunity to share the same stage as such acts? When you get to open up for established national headliners it’s such an opportunity to learn. Just sitting side stage I’ve learned how to treat your crew as well as what is expected from them. Everyone is always so professional and it takes an army to put on a big show. These artists go out and nail it every night. It’s very impressive. 

What artist inspires you today? I have a dream to play arenas. I’ve always considered myself an entertainer first and the bigger the crowd, the better. There are a lot of steps to get to that level so I’m trying to work on what I can control like continuing to write great songs and having a great live show at the level we currently are at. I have so much drive to get there. I’m not sure exactly which path will get me there but I am gonna get there.

You spend a lot of time on the road touring. What is the one thing you will not leave home without?I pretty much live out of my suitcase, so I gotta have that but I also gotta have my guitar close by and a box of CDs because ya never know when the opportunity to win over new fans will present itself.

Who do you have on your playlist right now other than your own music?
Once I put music out I never really listen to it anymore, but I take pride in the playlists I create. Currently, I’ve been on a Hailee Steinfeld and Nathaniel Rateliff kick. They’re always eclectic. I’ve got some old school Bellamy Brothers, Matchbox 20, Blink 182, Steve Earl, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger.

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Get To Know Country Singer and Songwriter Clayton Anderson

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