Ten Toes Up: Funk-infused Rock Quartet

Written by: Frank Iacono

Ten Toes Up

During the summer of 2012, while vacationing with my family in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina we went to Plyler Park and had the pleasure of seeing Ten Toes Up. Ten Toes Up (TTU) is a funk-infused rock quartet from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. With a nod to the rock bands of old, Ten Toes Up incorporates the funk of the 70’s mixed with southern rock and roll and the blue-eyed blues of the Allman Brothers. The instrumentation is percussion heavy with a dual-drumming rhythm section led by bass and guitar.

Ten Toes Up started with founding member’s drummer Adam Miller and bassist and vocalist Charles Freeman playing together in a small church in a small town. After playing with several different musicians around the beach, they invited percussionist and vocalist Joshua Gregory to join the band after he sat in to jam with them during a show at Drunken Jacks in Murrells Inlet. While playing a show in Charleston, South Carolina, William Craven sat in as lead vocalist and guitarist and was offered the job full time.

Ten Toes Up swept entertainment magazine The Surge’s 2011 reader’s choice awards winning best band, best lead singer, best drummer, best bass player, best song writer, best guitar player and best original band in Myrtle Beach. They’ve been featured both on the cover of The Surge and Coastal Business Life. The band has been endorsed by Haywire Custom Guitars, Hercules Stands, Clayton USA picks, Mental Case Road Cases, and Axekisser Guitar Cables.

Recently, Ten Toes Up rocked-out on ABC’s “LowCountry Live” on Fox’s “Not The News” and Time Warner Cable’s “Live at the Jam Room”. Three of their songs were played in daily rotation on a local TV station. Additionally, they’ve headlined at The House of Blues and their wide appeal has given them opportunities to share the stage with Uncle Kracker, The Wailers, JJ Grey and Mofro, the hip- hop star Twista, The North Mississippi Allstars, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, The Bod-eans, and Cowboy Mouth.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Gregory, the percussionist and vocalist of Ten Toes Up, and asked him questions about the band’s unique sound, musical influences, favorite performers, passion for music, songwriting and upcoming projects.

Q&A Session

CS: How did you come up with the band name Ten Toes Up?

We bought an old moving company’s truck and it was called Ten Toes Up. We all are really laid back so we just went with it… (Fib). We honestly despise this question… sorry 🙂

Ten Toes Up Truck

CS: How would you describe your music genre (i.e., funk, rock, classic rock, alternative, hard rock, etc.)?

Our music is eclectic, we like traditional sounds as well as some more modern. We would like to be known as rock, just rock and nothing but rock but, it’s all subjective. We have been described as roots rock, whatever the hell that means.

TTU in Plyler Park

CS: As a band what famous musicians do each of you admire and how have they influenced you collectively and individually?

We all admire real rock bands of old including, Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and many more… Some of our more recent influences include Jack White, The Black Keys, Cage The Elephant just to name a few.

CS: How do you market TTU songs, albums, merchandise, and appearances (i.e., Band Website, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, or advertising such as print and online marketing?

Pretty much all of those things. Our website www.TenToesUp.com; it has links to all of those sites as well as iTunes and an online store. Obviously though, Facebook rules all.

You can also visit us on the following sites too:

CS: On your website, tell us what your fans can do or learn about TTU?

Mainly it’s set up to be a quick look at our tour dates. We do have artist information pages and personal bios if you want to get all stalker and find out where we’re all from; and our favorite color is green.

Ten-Toes-Up-Website

CS: Take us through some highlights of the 2011 studio album Sleeping Lion including the hit “Set Me On Fire”?

The Sleeping Lion record was the first time we hired a producer instead of self-producing it all. We had Danielle Howle, a local SC music legend , come in and work with re-writing songs and filling in the spaces that we were having trouble with. It’s funny you specifically asked about Set Me On Fire because that is actually her singing the background vocals and it ended up being one of our all-time favorite tracks.

CS: During a benefit show at the Charleston Aquarium you performed what Ten Toes Up calls a signature move can you expand on that?

Basically it started as an accident that worked out great. A few years ago Joshua was doing a drum solo and asked Charles if he could slap some of his bass strings while he held a chord. Somehow it really worked out and it brought down the house. Since then, it has flourished into its own entity, becoming a signature part of our live show.

Ten Toes Up Joshua

CS: What is the best and worst part of being a musician?

Well the obvious, getting to do what we love for a living is definitely the best part! Sometimes people tell us that our music gets them through a bad day or helped them through tough times. There is no better feeling then someone saying your music makes them feel good, or puts a smile on their face!

One of the worst parts is probably the whole 3rd shift lifestyle. Needless to say we eat dinner at 3am a lot. Traveling is also fun, but it wears on you after a while, being away from our families and all. Careful what you wish for kiddies, it’s not all glitz and glamour trust us!

CS: What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on to date?

Well we did a few showcases in Nashville this January. From that, we found a producer who really liked our sound and wanted to work with us. We went back in May and recorded a 12 song full length album at the infamous Sound Emporium studio. This is by far the biggest thing we have ever done. The record is being mixed and mastered now, and should be out later this fall!

Ten-Toes-Up-The-Band

CS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

Jack White and The Raconteurs self-titled album” The Raconteurs ”

CS: What aspect of making music excites and discourages you the most?

The exciting part is creating a new sound or different approach, the discouraging part is realizing it’s already been done before when you are finished! You know it’s awesome when you write a song and one of your band mates says that sounds just like… (fill in the blank)

CS: Describe the last time you wrote a song highlighting how it came about and describe how it turned out?

The last song we wrote collectively was an instrumental. We were asked by our producers in Nashville to write one for the new record. It ended up being one of our favorite songs to record and was just all around fun! The instrumental is based on a true story using sounds as emotions and dialogue. Sorry, can’t really tell you what the story is about because there might be a hint of incriminating evidence involved.

Ten-Toes-Up-The-Band-Playin

CS: What’s the most unusual place TTU has ever played or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording (i.e., please describe where, what happened and how TTU handled it)?

Can’t really think of an unusual place, we did open up for JJ Grey and Mofro at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater and it poured down rain on us in the middle of our set. To this day people that were at that show said that was one of the coolest rock and roll moments they have ever seen. The bottom dropped out on us and we didn’t skip a beat, fear of electrocution and all!

CS: During appearances, does TTU play a combination of cover songs and originals? If so, what is the blend of covers to originals?

In our home market we are very lucky to have made a mass of fans that enjoy our original songs. There aren’t really any other working bands in this area that do what we do. Any given night you will usually hear 80/20 percent of originals to covers.

CS: Musically what is TTU up to right now (current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc.)?

Our biggest thing right now is we need a national booking agent. We have offers to play from here to Oregon but putting it all together is the hardest part. We have a live album being released in a week and, like we said before, our big Nashville album is due to come out later in the fall. We hope this album helps us find representation and gets some radio play in markets we haven’t been to yet (so when we do show up they will already know the musical styling’s of Ten Toes Up!)

Ten-Toes-Up-The-Band-playin

CS: Does anyone in the band ever get nervous before a performance or a competition? If so, how do he and/or the band deal with that extra adrenaline?

Sure we all deal with nerves from time to time but honestly I think we all feel more at home on stage than anywhere else. It’s in our blood to be performers and it’s what we do best!

CS: How do you think our world would be if music was never invented? And, why?

Music is one of the few things that everyone on this planet can relate to. I can’t think of a time when a war was started because of different tastes in music. Now you through religion into the mix and BOMBS away!! A world without music is nowhere any of us would want to live, especially because we would be out of a sweet job!

CS: How often and for how long do you practice as a band?

Most of our rehearsing is done in the offseason. We work really hard during the summer months so we try not to burn ourselves out.

CS: If you weren’t musicians what would each of you be doing?

Adam – History teacher
William (BJ) – Engineer
Charles – Chef
Joshua – Gigolo

Ten-Toes-Up-The-Band-Member

CS: What advice would you give to kids wanting to start a band?

Don’t! Rock and roll is dead and pay attention in school! (just kidding) Our first bit of advice is to find some people you get along with. Being in a band is like being married to four people at the same time and you have to keep them all happy.. Most importantly leave your egos at the door and have fun. If you’re having a blast your energy will spread through the crowd like wildfire. If your attitude is bad it will have the same effect on your audience.

Song List on Live Volume 2

Ten-Toes-Up-Live

1. Set Me On Fire
2. Alabama Roads
3. Instant Karma
4. Jesse James
5. Struggles
6. Walk Again
7. Secrets
8. Sleeping Lion
9. Howlin’ For You

Song List on Sleeping Lion (2011)

Ten-Toes-Up-Sleeping-Lion

1. I Know You’re Coming With Me
2. Set Me On Fire
3. Sleeping Lion
4. The Fortune Is Easy
5. Walk Again
6. Feel It All Over
7. Twenty-One
8. Emma Be Patient
9. Just a Woman
10. Make You Happy
11. Carolina Mess
12. Struggles

Song List on Bridges & Breakdowns (2008)

Ten Toes Up Bridges & Breakdowns

1. Summertime
2. 1939
3. Don’t You Realize
4. Can You Help Me
5. Waiting for the Sun
6. Homeless
7. Slow Sunday Drivers
8. Alabama Roads
9. One Drink a Day
10. Pleased to Meet You
11. Soldier

Song List on Trip On Troubles (2006)

Ten Toes Up Trip On Troubles

1. Secrets
2. Gracene
3. Trip On Troubles
4. Devil’s Tea
5. She Was Right
6. Faith Is
7. Places
8. Knows the World

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Advertisements

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

Written by: Frank Iacono

Tim Williams

Since releasing his debut independent EP entitled We Begin back on July 1, 2009, to a packed house downstairs at World Café Live in Philadelphia, Tim Williams has been busy building a loyal and enthusiastic fan base. Tim’s tireless desire and passion for performing keeps him on the live music circuit constantly — playing approximately 300 live shows annually.

Through the years, Tim has become a mainstay at Manayunk’s Bourbon Blue on Sunday Nights and has performed at renowned local venues such as World Café Live, Tin Angel, The Trocadero, Milkboy, Steel City, The Grape Room, Dawson St. Pub, The Note and Riverstage at Penn’s Landing. Tim regularly embarks on national acoustic tours, having played all over the United States and beyond. His travels have landed him as the musical guest at The Second City Mainstage in Chicago as well as The Bitter End and Rockwood Music Hall in New York City.

Tim has received solid regional radio play thanks to 93.7 WSTW’s Mark Rogers of Hometown Heroes, Wendy Rollins at Radio 104.5 FM Philadelphia and 93.3 WMMR’s Jaxon’s Local Shots the Podcast. In 2011, Tim was chosen as a finalist in Wawa’s Welcome America Contest thru Live Nation and he was voted into the Final Four thru Radio 104.5’s Local Band Search in both 2011 and 2012. On July 28, 2012, Tim and his band performed to 10,000 people at the Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party as direct support for JJAMZ and Of Monsters and Men.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing the singer, songwriter and guitarist to ask him a few questions about his childhood musical influences, his favorite performers, his passion for music, his career and his upcoming CD release of Blue Ribbon at World Café Live.

Q&A Session

TCS: Take us back to when you first started playing guitar and fell in love with the instrument? And, what was the first tune you learned to play?

Tim Williams: My first guitar was a Black Fender Squire Electric with a White Pick guard and a whammy bar. A very cool guitar for an 8-year-old! I remember learning “One” (an instrumental) by Metallica and “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by Poison.

TCS: Did you decide early on that playing guitar in a band was going to be your life?

TW: I didn’t consider pursuing it as a career until after college when I was in my early 20s.

TCS: What was the first genre of music you loved?

TW: I grew up listening to Don Henley, Journey, Bruce Springsteen and etc. through my parents. The first tapes that I bought were Guns N’ Roses, Poison, Metallica and etc.

TCS: Who were some of your early musical influences? And, why?

TW: Pearl Jam TEN really woke me up musically. So did Counting Crows, Matchbox 20 and a lot of mid 90s alternative rock.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: When was the first time you stepped onstage?

TW: It was during a 3rd Grade Talent Show at Uwchlan Hills Elementary School in Downingtown, PA. It was in the middle of the Gulf War and I sang "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood.

TCS: Why do you think the guitar became such an important part of your life? And, what motivates you to continue doing what you do?

TW: The guitar was always a means to an end for me as a singer. I’ve been taking piano lessons for the last year now to back-learn that instrument as well. I guess to properly answer your question; music is such a big part of everyone’s life that being able to play an instrument really connects you to that aspect of life… You can be a part of the soundtrack. It’s a form of expression but it’s also a form of nostalgia. Maybe even more so.

TCS: If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing instead?

TW: I initially set out to be an actor. I’ve done quite a bit of theater, TV and film. But if I were to get away from the arts all together… hmmm. I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid! Then I realized I’m afraid of heights. These days I find myself reading a lot of Physics / Science books. So, I think in another life I would’ve been a Quantum Physicist or Astronomer.

TCS: How did the current band lineup come together?

TW: Sachino “Cellonator” Tsinadze (cello) and Clay McElwee (lead guitar) were the original band members. I was bartending and gigging at Agave Grill in Amber, PA and we met there. Matt Galletti (drums) and I did a musical together at St. Joseph’s University. He was in the pit band and I was making a cameo as an alumni. Kat Bowman (keys) is my producer/friend Matt Santry’s keyboard player/teacher. Pete Ahern (bass) is a friend of a friend I met 5+ years ago and he’s in a killer full-time band called Kristen and the Noise… so I split bass time with him and Sean Smith whom I met on the local music scene through mutual friends. Dan O’Brien rounds out the band on guitar/mando/vocals and is a friend on the local music scene. I also play with Mr. Mike on Cajon (Latin percussion) on acoustic tours and Val Vuolo on fiddle.

TCS: Could you share with us your connection with Clay McElwee, who was recently featured in a previous edition of The Creative Spotlight?

TW: Clay McElwee has been a close friend, guitar teacher, band mate and mentor in many ways to me over the last half decade. He’s a guy that has taught me quite a bit about guitar (2 years’ worth of lessons) and we’ve shared the stage probably 100 times. We met by happenstance while I was bartending in Ambler as he would come through as his acoustic duo “Clay Pigeons”. I could tell how good he was and luckily got him on board with my band!

TCS: Do you have a favorite style of guitar? If so, please describe why it is your favorite and why it is so special to you?

TW: I love Acoustic, open tunings and dynamic, hard/fast strumming patterns – i.e. Glen Hansard, Matt Nathanson, etc. It’s emotive. It’s also highly relatable to me because most nights I’m out there solo with an acoustic guitar in my hand.

TCS: Describe the last time you wrote a song highlighting how it came about and describe how it turned out?

TW: I usually write the music first and hum the vocal melody. The song “Course Correct” (conveniently available on iTunes! Hint hint) came about this year on St. Patty’s day. I was playing a Country Club, and no one was listening. So, I hit record on my phone’s voice recorder and improved a song for 4 minutes. I sang gibberish and barely rhymed it – if anyone had been listening they would’ve thought I’d lost my mind. But, I went home that night and listened back with my guitar and notebook in hand. Because of that improv session, the backbone of that tune was written that night. It took another couple of weeks to iron out the structure/lyrics. That was the most unconventional way I’ve written. Usually I have an idea of a verse or chorus, I record it, and come back to it when I’m feeling it… but those usually don’t amount to full songs. I will say though that any song that I’ve recorded has come together in one sitting (most of it). There’s something to be said about feeling it in the moment and getting it down on paper (or recording it) when you’re feeling creative.

TCS: Can you share with us your song recording process?

TW: I work with producer Matt Santry out of Tin Ace City Studios. We start by recording scratch acoustic demos with just guitar and vocals to a click track to lock in a tempo. From there we record drums and bass together over at East Coast Recording Company with James Cravero. From here we layer Keys, Electric Guitar and etc. Lastly, I sing and add harmonies. We don’t record the record live because the parts aren’t written until we go into the studio. I’m primarily a solo musician so the orchestrations are collaboration between me, Matt and the musicians in the studio. That’s always a fun process discovering which direction we are taking the tunes. When it’s all said I done, I use Sterling Sound in NYC to Master.

TCS: What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever played or made a recording? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording (i.e., please describe where, what happened and how you handled it)?

TW: I play about 300 shows a year so there have been many strange gigs in the last few years. One of the most special was last October with the show I play music for, My Fix It Up Life (myfixituplife.com). We were invited to Joplin, MO to take part in rebuilding Cunningham Park for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s final 200th episode. Mr. Mike and I played a full gig on a working construction site to hundreds of volunteers, crew and cast members of the show. That experience led to the song "Joplin" on my latest CD, Blue Ribbon.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: How does the size of the venue and/or audience affect your performance?

TW: Smaller venues like Tin Angel or Bourbon Blue are fun because you get direct interaction with individual audience members. I usually prefer these because it’s a more intimate, laid back, personal experience for both me and the audience. This summer we played to 6,000 people at the Piazza at Schmidt’s for Radio 104.5’s Summer Block Party and that was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. But I have to say, those 30 minutes was the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Playing to that many people can NEVER get old. Everyone in the crowd puts out this great energy and you feed off of it on stage.

TCS: Do you have a big record collection? And, what bands are you listening to today on your iPod?

TW: I have a record collection handed down from my parents of about 100 records. On my iPod, these days, I’m listening to Butch Walker, Ryan Bingham, Drew Kennedy, Simplified (playing World Café with us Sept. 26th), Colin Hay, fun., Mat Kearney, The Script, Ryan Star & Needtobreathe.

TCS: What’s your favorite song? And, why?

TW: That’s tough. “Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley reminds me of my parents and is a song I remember hearing very early on… “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen reminds me of home back in Monmouth Beach, NJ… “Best Thing You Never Had” by Butch Walker is my favorite song to see performed live.

TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise, and appearances (i.e., website, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn or advertising such as print and online marketing (list all available web properties)?

TW: Everything gets routed through TimWilliams.com – it’s my marketing home. Facebook, Twitter and etc. it’s all linked up through there.

TCS: On your website, tell us what fans of you and your music can do or learn about Tim Williams?

TW: Head over to Timwilliams.com and sign up for my mailing list, visit the BIO page to read up about me, the MEDIA page to read this article along with videos, songs and lyrics… and "follow" me on Twitter @timgwilliams or "like" my on facebook.com/officialtimwilliams to stay up to date.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: You’ve been a staple on the north east’s music scene for some time now, playing 300 live shows annually so who have you shared a stage with during you career?

TW: Of Monsters and Men, JJAMZ, Ryan Star, Jeffrey Gaines, Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies), Diane Birch, Adam Kowalczyk (formerly of Live), Tim Blane, Bronze Radio Return, Jenn Bostic, Shovelhook, and many, many more great people. Some of these gigs have been thanks to Radio 104.5 and World Café Live.

TCS: Tell us about some of your recent TV and radio performances?

TW: I’ve been shown a lot of love from the TV show Eye Opener on PHL17! I’ll be back on Tuesday Sept. 25th to promote my World Café Live CD Release show. I’ve been seen on NBC’s the 10! Show in Philly with my band, the NBC 10pm News, and have performed in studio at Radio 104.5, 93.7 WSTW Hometown Heroes with Mark Rogers, and 1370 AM The Buzz with Mike Holliday. I travel the country with Mark and Theresa Clement of “My Fix It Up Life” as their house band… and because of that role I’ve been lucky enough to appear on Restaurant: Impossible on the Food Network and perform for 4 “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” builds.

TCS: How special is it going back to your alma mater St. Joseph’s University and singing the National Anthem before Men’s and Women’s Basketball Games?

TW: It’s surreal actually. It wasn’t too long ago when I was the red shirt wearing, painted face screaming freshmen in the stands cheering on Jameer Nelson. To be back singing is an honor I don’t take for granted. The Hawk Will Never Die!

TCS: So, how did you get involved with hosting open mic night on Thursday nights at Original Baxter’s Paoli on Rt. 30 at the corner of Rt. 252? And, describe for us what types of acts are featured?

TW: I had been playing Baxter’s on Thursday nights for about the last 3 years thanks to Red phone Entertainment, a local booking agency… it slowly started gaining a following of local musicians that would come out and sit in for a song or two. After a few months of this we decided that the natural progression was to make it an official open mic. We get piano players, song writers, guitar players… We’ve had a 4-year-old sing before and just last week we had our first stand-up comedian! It’s always a great time… and I encourage anybody who’d like to come out, regardless of age or ability, to do so.

TCS: How excited are you about the upcoming release of your second studio album and first full-length release, Blue Ribbon, due out on Wednesday, September 26, 2012?

TW: Very excited! I’m really proud of this record, Blue Ribbon, and I think it’s an honest example of where I am as a songwriter right now in 2012. I’m constantly learning and trying to better myself so it’s an improvement from 2009’s We Begin, which I love dearly but as it is with any art… you don’t want to be defined by one project. For 3 years, I have been defined by one album so I’m very excited to get more recorded material out there! I’m knee deep in piano these days, so the 3rd album may focus more on that… who knows. That’s the beauty of it. I believe that the album you make should be a direct reflection of your styles, abilities, and tastes of where you are at that moment. If you follow a country album up with a rock album, that’s cool. So long as you’re honest with yourself.

TCS: Back in July of 2009 you released your first EP We Begin at World Café Live and now you are returning to the same stage to release Blue Ribbon (produced by Matt Santry ) so tell us how this came about i.e., mention the appearance of Jenn Bostic too)?

TW: The talent buyer at World Café Live remembered my first CD Release from 2009 and was cool enough to book the band and I again for this show. I heard that we broke records for Food/Beverage sales at the first Release so I’m shooting for that again! Jenn Bostic is a dear friend from Nashville by way of MN and will be opening the show along with Simplified (from Charlotte – recently appeared on the Rock Boat and their latest CD Brighter Days was produced by a member of OAR). I think Jenn’s one of the best in business. No question. She’s a friend but I’m also a fan and anything I can do to help her build a bigger crowd in Philly I’m happy to. Come out to the show and you’ll see what she’s all about. Her song “Jealous of the Angels” has surpassed 690k views on YouTube.

TCS: What is the best way to contact you about attending the CD release night, booking an appearance, purchasing one of your CDs or learning about your upcoming events?

TW: My website TimWilliams.com has ALL of that info. There’s a ticket link for World Café, there’s iTunes and Amazon links for both of my CDs, my schedule is always up to date and you can email me directly through the site.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: What is the best and worst part of being a musician?

The best part is that I’m living my dream. I’m working in a job that is pure and honest, I can curse (ha), and it’s cathartic and therapeutic. Music is a universal language. I’ve jammed with countless musicians and strangers and music brings everyone together, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or whatever. The worst part is that there is no long-term plan financially. You need to be very proactive about booking in advance, and you need the help of so many good people (booking agents, radio stations, bar owners, and fans). You can’t do this on your own and if you think you can you’re sure to fail.

TCS: What do you think our world would be like if music was never invented? And, why?

TW: Quiet. I think it would be very quiet.

TCS: What advice do you have for kids wanting to play guitar, form a band and get into the music business?

TW: Sing! AND play guitar. If you do both, you’ll never go hungry and you’ll always be able to find solo work in restaurants, bars, weddings and etc. Practice, practice, practice. Realize that you need to work very hard to succeed. And most importantly, define what success means to you. We can’t all be John Mayer or Tim McGraw or Lady Gaga. The reality of a working, professional musician is being open to every sort of gig and opportunity there is… weddings, cafes, and bars with 3 people listening… and TAKE those gigs and play them like you’re playing Madison Square Garden.

Song List on Blue Ribbon (2012)

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

1. Come What Will
2. Course Correct (Featuring Ernie Halter)
3. My Fix It Up Life
4. Falling Away
5. Retreat
6. Joplin
7. Back Again
8. Part of the Plan
9. Heart of the Matter (Live)
10. Blue Ribbon

Song List on We Begin (2009)

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

1. Breeze
2. Separation
3. He Just Knows
4. Chained
5. Seem To Miss
6. Back Nine Course Correct (Featuring Ernie Halter)

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Clay McElwee: Guitarist and Guitar Educator

Written by: Frank Iacono

Clay McElwee

Over the last 15 years, Clay McElwee has been a prominent guitarist on the Philadelphia music scene. Clay has played and experimented with various artists and musical formats, including Rio, a 10 piece high-end wedding and corporate band, Solid (funk rock), Clay Pigeons (an acoustic solo, duo, trio), the Dave Weiner Band (instrumental guitar-driven music) as well as a Solo Project (rock and blues-based).

In February 2011, Clay teamed up with local singer/songwriter Tim Williams to record the single, “My Fix It Up Life.” The song featuring Clay on lead guitar was produced by Philly-favorite Matt Santry and written for and inspired by Williams’ friends Mark and Theresa Clement of MyFixitUpLife.com. The Matchbox 20-like single is available for download on iTunes.

In March of 2012, Clay finished production on 2 new original songs: “Seven Steps” and “The High Ground”. Clips of both songs are now available on his MySpace under the Music section.

I recently caught up with the self-employed musician, singer, song writer, guitarist and guitar educator to ask him a few questions about his childhood influences, his favorite performers and his passion for music. And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, allow me to introduce to you Mr. Clay McElwee in this edition of The Creative Spotlight.

Q&A Session

TCS: How old were you when you first developed an interest in playing music? And, what was the first instrument you learned to play?

Clay McElwee: I was about 8 years old when I got interested in playing music. I played the piano for about 2 years. I played pretty much until my mom couldn’t handle my incessant demands for a guitar any longer!

TCS: What was the first tune you learned to play?

CM: I can’t honestly remember what my first song was on piano, but I do remember first learning Van Halen’s song “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” on guitar I believe.

TCS: Who or what influenced you to become a musician?

CM: Several things…My parents had a lot of 60’s and 70’s records in their collection. Their collection included a lot of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Rush, and other “guitar-heavy” music. That was a big influence on me. I also had a neighbor that was a few years older than me that played guitar. So he was a big early influence. He actually helped me buy my first guitar from a Philly pawn shop!

TCS: What motivates you to do what you do?

CM: Just being able to create music and share it with others is motivation enough. This business isn’t for everyone. You have to really be a self-starter, diverse and prepared to work odd hours, long nights, weekends, etc…


TCS: Which famous musicians do you admire the most? And, why?

CM: There are so many great musicians and styles out there, it’s hard to name them all or even single out a few. I’m a big rock/blues guy so I’d say musicians/guitarists that have been around for decades get the most appreciation from me.

I admire guys like:

  • BB King
  • Billy Gibbons
  • Jimmy Page
  • Jeff Beck
  • Eddie Van Halen

TCS: Which famous musicians have you learned from?

CM: As I mentioned above I admire guitarists like BB King, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen. Honestly, I subconsciously learn a little from everyone, whether they are “famous” musicians or some of my own guitar students. I’ve learned over the years that you never know where your next lesson is going to come from!!!

TCS: What are your favorite Groups, Performers and Albums?

CM: My favorite groups are the “supergroups” from the 60’s and 70’ such as Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Beatles. Anything and everything from them appear on my iPod.

TCS: Why do you think the guitar is such an important part of your life?

CM: Quite honestly I just never got tired of it. In fact I’m more into the guitar now than I’ve ever been before in my life. Every year I get into it more and more. The more excited I get about it, the more there is to learn. There are so many styles, techniques, etc… You’ll never know it all!

TCS: If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing?

CM: I have a few college degrees (Master’s degree in Business and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry) so I’d probably end up somewhere in that field/fields. It’s always nice to have a backup plan!

TCS: How do you think our world would be if music was never invented? And, why?

CM: The biggest thing would be that memories would be different. When’s the last time you heard a song and it reminded of you of some event or person in your life? Music is an interesting soundtrack to our lives (past and present). It’s hard to imagine life without music!

TCS: What is your favorite type of guitar?

CM: I’ve always been a big Fender Stratocaster fan. It sounds great, and it is designed for comfort. You really can’t go wrong with that. I have a bunch of other random guitars that I use on specific projects when I need a certain sound but the Stratocaster is the perfect “Swiss-Army Knife, Alone on a Deserted Island” type of guitar.

Clay McElwee: Guitarist and Guitar Educator

TCS: Do you have a website(s) and what can fans of your music do or learn about you on the site?

CM: Yes, my website is http://www.claysmusic.com. The site features pictures, audio clips, live performance dates and detailed descriptions of my latest projects. It’s an ever evolving process. Eventually, I’m working towards having video guitar lessons set up on the site as a free service to all of my existing guitar students.

TCS: How do you market your songs, appearances, event bookings (i.e., referrals, advertising such as print and online marketing)?

CM: To market my songs, appearances and event booking I use the website as well as social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

TCS: Have you embraced Social Media to promote your musical career?

CM: Yes, I’ve embraced Facebook especially. It’s a great way to remind people of my public performances. It almost always results in people turning out at a gig. I get a lot of people periodically asking me what I’ve been up to musically. Facebook is a great way to answer them all at once.

TCS: What is the best way to contact you about booking an appearance, purchasing one of your CDs, scheduling an event or arranging for private lessons?

CM: My website http://www.claysmusic.com has all of my contact info. Additionally, I can be reached by phone at 610.764.5310, via email at claymcelwee@comcast.net, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/clay.mcelwee and on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/claymcelwee.

TCS: What is the most exciting project you have worked on to date?

CM: My recent original project is by far my favorite. I spent so many years working on other people’s albums/projects that I unfortunately neglected my own. In 2010, I made a big commitment to start working more on my own personal material. I’m loving it!

TCS: What is the best and worst part of being a musician?

CM: The best part is that you get to make a living doing what you love every day. The worst part is having a schedule that is almost completely opposite of most of the working population. I work almost all nights and weekends. I miss out on a lot of events geared towards the typical “9 to 5 person”.

TCS: What bands did you listen to when you were growing up and what bands do you listen to today?

CM: I listen to many of the same artists now as I did growing up such as Van Halen, Rush, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin and most late 70’s and 80’s rock. Additionally, I listen to many instrumental guitarists such as Jeff Beck and Django Reinhardt as well as “old” jazz players such as Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery.

TCS: What distracts you while you’re on stage?

CM: Nothing really distracts me. I’ve been performing almost 20 years now…it’s pretty much like an on and off switch between onstage and offstage.

TCS: What’s the saddest song you’ve ever heard?

CM: Kermit the Frog singing the “Rainbow Connection” from one of the Muppet Movies. And, yes I am serious.

TCS: If you had to listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?

CM: There’s a band out of Canada named “The Tea Party” that a friend of mine got me into about 20 years ago. I never get tired of hearing their songs. Virtually unknown in the United States, they have been extremely popular in Canada and Australia for decades.

TCS: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What’s one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

CM: My favorite Tea Party album is called “Splendor Solis”.

TCS: What aspect of making music excites and discourages you the most?

CM: The most exciting aspect is that a new idea can come from anywhere and at any time! This unpredictability can also be the most discouraging aspect when you are not in front of the instrument. I actually have sung melodies while driving so I wouldn’t forget them until I arrived home so I could properly run inside and record them!

TCS: Describe the last time you wrote a song highlighting how it came about and describe how it turned out?

CM: Most of my song ideas come from just noodling on a particular chord sequence or solo pattern. I often build “Frankenstein” songs by recording little bits of a song and then matching them up with previously recorded ideas that seem to fit well (same key, style, etc…). Not an easy process most of the time (i.e., kind of like “Musical Tetris” if you remember that video game) but it usually ends up working for me.

TCS: What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?

CM: Wow! There are too many to remember them all. However, there’s one that sticks out in my mind. Years ago I played a fraternity party at Lehigh University. It is a beautiful campus but I performed in a very old building and the breakers kept blowing out after every song or two. Luckily a lot of spare fuses were on hand! It was a pretty funny night.

TCS: What are the names of the bands you have been in since you started playing guitar?

CM: Another question that there are so many that it is “hard to remember them all”. Let’s see there’s some interesting ones: Macbeth, Empty Season, Shudder Dogs, Mental Floss, Action Figures, The Delicate Few, Rio, Solid (2 videos shown below), Clay Pigeons, Blue Tile Fever and the list goes on and on…




TCS: How would you describe your music genre (i.e., funk, classic rock, rock, alternative, hard rock, etc.)?

CM: My musical genre is pretty diverse. I enjoy so many different styles that they tend to leak out into my own music. I’d say I’m a blues/rock guy at heart. The sound can be hard rock at times, but I’m not afraid to try and pull off a pop song every once and a while.

TCS: Do you play a combination of cover songs and originals at appearances?

CM: Usually it’s either an “original performance” or a “cover performance”. Every once in a while (when appropriate) I’ll throw one of my own songs in a cover appearance.

TCS: Back in 2006, you toured with Dave Weiner, a touring guitarist for legendary guitarist Steve Vai, can you tell us about that experience?

CM: Dave’s a Philly guy and we became friends through a mutual musician friend. Touring with Dave was certainly a fun experience. The instrumental rock guitar genre is a smaller but very devoted market. I met some talented musicians and passionate fans during that experience. A lot of practicing was involved in getting those songs right! Because his music is so complex and there are many guitar parts going on simultaneously, we spent many hours figuring out who would play this part, that part, etc…

Clay McElwee: Guitarist and Guitar Educator

TCS: Recently you appeared on the new Tim Williams Single “My Fix It Up Life” so how did that come about? And, where can someone listen to and download that song?

CM: Tim is a former guitar student of mine and a fellow musician on the Philadelphia music circuit. We’ve done a few projects together over the years. Tim is currently involved with the production of “My Fix it Up Life”, a home improvement show. He was asked to write the theme song and I ended up playing guitar on it. I believe that song (and many of his other songs) can be purchased on iTunes.


TCS: What are you up to right now, music-wise (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc.)?

CM: My main focus outside of my “normal” workload (teaching and performing) is recording my own music. Most people don’t realize the amount of hours involved in the process. Very time consuming, but it’s very rewarding to hear your own ideas come together into a finished song. I probably have over 200 song ideas that I’ll eventually consolidate into full songs and record. Should keep me busy for the next 30 years or so!

TCS: When did you begin teaching private guitar lessons and where is the place located?

CM: I’ve been teaching for over 10 years now (since 2001) and I currently teach at Beam’s School of Music located in the Frazer/Malvern area off of Lancaster Pike.

TCS: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

CM: Just keep going. Forget it and move on. The funny thing is that usually the only one that notices that you’ve made a mistake is yourself!

TCS: Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?

CM: No. I’ve been doing it so long its second nature at this point.

TCS: How often and for how long do you practice?

CM: It depends. I have long stretches of consecutive performance days where I may only get a few minutes here and there to really practice. I try to practice at least for an hour a day.

TCS: Do you have advice for kids wanting to get into the music business?

CM: It can really be summed up in two words: Diversify Yourself! Learn to sing as well as play an instrument. Be prepared to learn as many styles as you can. Jam with different people. They always say it’s “who” you know, not “what” you know. This is certainly true in the music biz to an extent, but there are many different ways of making a living with music…the more you know the better.

TCS: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous about playing the guitar?

CM: Realize that EVERYONE starts at the beginning. Make a commitment to set a specific amount of time to play/practice each day and do your best to try and stick to it. You will see improvement! It will be slow at times but you will improve. And, lastly don’t forget to have fun. It’s hard work but very rewarding!

Why Should You Hire Clay McElwee

Why Should You Hire Clay McElwee: Guitarist and Guitar Educator

If you’ve been considering guitar lessons, if you’re a beginner and want to learn everything about guitar from the ground up or if you’re a seasoned professional player who’s looking for new ideas and a fresh approach Clay McElwee can help.

Since every student has different interests and needs, topics may vary but will typically include:

  • Reading Music and Guitar Notation (tablature)
  • Proper left and right hand techniques
  • Understanding scales and placement in different musical styles
  • Learning and using common “riffs” based on scales
  • Understanding chords/chord shapes
  • Typical chord progressions/transitions and their placement in different musical styles
  • Common guitar techniques (bends, slides, hammer-ons, etc…)
  • Understanding timing (to develop accuracy and speed)
  • Playing songs that the student wishes to learn (see below)*

*An Effective Way of Teaching:

Whenever possible, topics for a given lesson are derived from guitar techniques found within a song that a student has interest in learning. This method of teaching keeps the learning process flowing while providing the student with exciting “exercises” to practice at home.

Clay is currently teaching private guitar lessons on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at Beam’s School of Music in Frazer, PA. To check lesson availability, please call him at 610-764-5310. For additional information, including music, videos, tour dates, photos and an opportunity to sign up for his mailing list, please visit http://www.claysmusic.com.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.