I’m sitting here at a sandwich shop in Houston, TX, across the street from The Big Easy, H-town’s most well-known Blues joint, talking to Clay and Tiffany Shelburn. Clay is performing in Houston (video) this evening to join a host of surprise guests invited to participate in Miss Annika Chambers’ 30th Birthday Party, being celebrated at The Big Easy(video). I asked him if he wouldn’t mind us chatting a bit for the purpose of giving his many new fans an opportunity to learn more about this sudden internet sensation.
Friday, September 7th, 2015 – The first internet exposure happened when Clay and his new bride decided to marry. They got married this year, February 27th, 2015. They were quite the human interest story around town due to the fact they had an outdoor wedding planned, and the weather decided to step in and give them a ‘White Wedding’, literally. And now, every time I re-read that line, I hear Billy Idol. You can find out all about THAT particular viral event by typing in ‘Clay & Tiffany Shelburn wedding’ into Google for the news segment on YouTube.
Who is Clay Shelburn you ask? Have you ever heard of the ‘WalMart Rockstar’? Same guy. But more on that in a moment…
I asked Clay how he knew Annika Chambers, another very good friend of mine, and a girl who is taking the Blues world by storm since hitting the scene in Houston about three years ago.
“I started driving down to Houston on Tuesdays for the Jive Bar jam, after deciding to spread some roots out in other places”, Yeah! Absolutely, I say. That’s where I met you. “Yeah, I met you, James Roosa, Corey Tice…” I say, James Roosa was conducting it at the time. Other friends of mine had conducted it previously, but he was doing it then. “Yeah, James was running it, and Oh man…I fell in love with his drummer Corey Tice. He’s so good!” I know! He’s another really good friend of mine. “He’s so good! And Wes Covington is another really cool dude I enjoyed meeting, and still kind of keep up with.” Oh yeah, I say. He’s on that video I took of you doing ‘Gimme One Reason’ (video) that has done so well on YouTube. He’s got some comments on there too. “He’s good! Brother can play. He’s got soul. I love Wes Covington.”
“Anyway, they were all telling me about Annika, and actually I came down with a friend a year later to go to the John Mayer concert. It ended kind of early, so I said Hey, Annika’s playing tonight. Let’s go see her. We need to go see this chick. She’s great. So we go there. It was The Big Easy, actually.” Ah, full circle, I say. “Yeah. Full circle. There’s a lot more to the whole story where that’s concerned, but yeah. She didn’t even have her actual album out yet, just some, y’know jewel-case CDs with writing on them. Lol! She gave a big ol’ lipstick smooch kiss on my CD. So that’s the first time I met her.”
“I’ve been keeping up with her, promoting her stuff [unofficially] up in town. [Dallas/Ft Worth] Then she came up with the Paul Ramirez Trio to play Keys Lounge.” Paul is the best! “Oh yeah.” I think Paul Ramirez might be the best guitar player in Houston, I say. When he gets into it he just SMOKES! “Oh yeah. I bought his CD! The way they did it was really smart. Paul and his guys did their set and opened, then they backed Annika and did her thing. It was like an old school band show kind of thing.”
You say you used to come down to play at Blanco’s? [Houston] “I used to come to Houston a lot with a guy named Jamie Richards, who was a Texas country artist. One of the more traditional ones. An incredible song writer.” How old were you back then? You must’ve been just a young’n. “When he found me I was twenty. Maybe twenty-one? I played with him for three years, took a year off and played with Charla Corn, then went back with him for a year. Between those two artists I played a lot of places down here, like the Galveston County fair, I played Blanco’s, I played on the City Hall steps in that big shebang they have there. I’ve gotten to play the Houston Rodeo Cookoff, on the big outside stage, not inside the Reliant Statium. It’s a big two-week-long ordeal. People are SERIOUS about that stuff, man! We used to go down there and they’d hire us for a week-long at this tent, then another week or a couple days at that tent…it was fun. A lot of funny stories around then.” It’ll be nice to see you on the big stage, I say, beaming. …on the inside someday, and I have no doubt. “I’d love to be there one day. I’m shooting for it.”
Now, the thing that got you attention, from the WORLD. The WalMart video. It went viral. Everyone has seen it. Since that has happened, can you tell us about what kind of new things are happening for you because of it? “Yeah! That video thing was crazy. We shot it two years ago. Zac Stokes and I played a gig together and we were bored afterwards, so we went and watched some movie. I think it was Transformers or Avengers or something.” So, you played a gig together. You weren’t in a band together? He has his own band and you have your own band? “Yeah. We have our own bands, but sometimes we do song swaps. Acoustic song swaps. Or sometimes there are times when Zac needs a bass player and I go play bass for him.” So you’re like, com padres in the music scene up there? “Yeah. Like Zac might call me and say ‘Hey man. I got a show and my P.A.’s broke. Can I borrow yours?’, and I’ll show up and set it up for him, or whatever. We’ve known each other for a while. I think that night I was playing bass for him. So we went to WalMart in Lakeworth and …the rest is history. He started playing this keyboard and I tuned the guitar up and we started playing the song. We didn’t record the first take, and I stopped it in the middle and said, ‘Hey. Why don’t you record this because it’s just stupid? People might laugh at it.’ Never expecting it to go viral. I joke around now and say if I had known it was going to be seen, I’d have sang louder, in full voice, like actually the way I sing. I was trying to not draw attention. So next thing I know BOOM! Four and a half million people have seen it, at least on MY channel, and some of those viral sites have three or four million hits also. It’s crazy.”
Who’s attention has it grabbed that might further your career? Have people contacted you in the music industry? Booking agents? Have things opened up to you because of the attention of that video? Because that is what your new fans want to hear. They’ve seen you singing full voice in other videos, kicking ass. Taking names. Is there anything you can share with us that’s on the horizon? “It’s definitely opened a lot of doors that were slammed shut. Some of the venues that were never calling me back are coming to me now, wanting me to play shows. Venues are calling and offering shows that never would have before.” WalMart reached out to you, right? The WalMart meeting that you played? “Yeah. That was really cool. WalMart flew us out for their Saturday morning meeting and we had a lot of fun doing that.” And you can see that on YouTube as well. “Yep. It’s on YouTube. ‘WalMart Rockstars at WatMart AMP‘…or something. It was a really cool experience.”
“Labels have approached me. I haven’t found the right deal, I guess.” Then we talked a little bit about Clay’s new CD. As of this writing, the CD was just about ready for release, so in the interest of having more details and a link to the album later on, I’m going to stop here and finish in a ‘Part Two’ installment of my interview with Clay Shelburn in a few weeks. Stay tuned!
While we wait for the CD, and ‘Part Two’ of the interview, get ready for a special treat. Clay will be in Houston on October 2nd at Dosey Doe – Big Barn in The Woodlands with his full band. Starting around 7:00, I believe. Come see this great Texas Blues/Rock/Country artist who is also a very approachable and loving young man. (And …have you seen those EYES?!?!) One of those guys you feel you have known all your life. Ditto with Mrs Shelburn too. Best wishes for a long and happy life together, you two. See you at Dosey Doe!
Copyright 2015 – Abby Owen
Image Copyright 2015 – http://www.katiereynoldsphotography.com and by permission – Clay Shelburn
Video Copyright 2015 – Clay Shelburn
Video Copyright 2015 – Abby Owen