When you listen to music that just truly gets you, you have to add every piece of their discography to your playlist.
Drawn in to soulful vocals, which were wrapped up in melody, grit and goodness, Kevin Warren Clark, encompasses the true Southern rock vibe. I had a chance to interview Kevin Warren Clark, to get the know the band and to learn some insight on their new (for my show) music in an unadulterated, unedited interview. Make sure to check out Kevin Warren Clark, their music and always #spreadtheloveformusic by sharing the music you love!
Tell us a little about the band, where are you from? How did you meet?
I grew up in western Wisconsin, and I’ve spent about 3⁄4 of my life here. I was gone for 12 years in the military and on other ventures but returned in 2018 to raise a family. As far as the band goes, it’s just me on the recordings. I built a make-shift studio in my basement, and I use software for the drums, and then record the guitars and bass. Live drums are kind of out of the question at the moment because my youngest daughter has autism; so, the loud, staccato nature of drums can upset her sometimes. She absolutely loves music though and loves to dance and sing along. Anyway, after the drums and guitars are done, I come up with a melody and harmonies and put the vocal tracks on, and then the lead guitar work. I have a great wife, four kids and a full-time job that take up most of my time, so when I get a day off to record, I try to get an entire song done. I work better that way anyway since I tend to be naturally hyper-focused for short periods of time. A lot of times I come up with the first guitar riff at about 5 a.m. while I’m drinking my first cup of coffee, and then I’ll be putting the final guitar solo on the finished track 12 hours later. Most of my stuff is written and recorded in the same day.
Aside from my solo stuff, I’ve been playing in bands for years and I currently front a band in Wisconsin called Dirt River. We play original music and a lot of classic rock, but the edgier stuff from the 1970’s and 80’s; ZZ Top, AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Led Zeppelin, and others like that. It’s the kind of stuff that you’d listen to with your friends in your parent’s basement while sneaking beers and smoking shitty weed as a teenager. Growing up in Wisconsin in the mid-to-late 90’s, we had a big revitalization of the 70’s style that came along with the release of “Dazed and Confused”and “That 70’s Show.” Suddenly, that music was cool again and so were the trends, and I was all about it. I had an uncle that was a rock-and-roller in the 70’s, and he introduced me to all the musical greats from that era. Seems like everyone has at least one “cool uncle,” who knows how to play guitar and would slip you a joint every once in a while, or buy beer for you and your friends; the kind of guy that never really grows up. Because of him, I was raised on that all the 70’s stuff and absolutely loved it. It felt like the mainstream kind of caught up with my interest for a bit when it all came back.
What kind of music would you describe your sound as? Who are some of your musical influences?
I would say my style is kind of a mixture of grunge, old metal and classic hard rock. I don’t write songs to sound a certain way, so I can’t really say there’s any specific thing I’m trying to sound like or any style I want to fit. I have a very eclectic volume of influences. My dad listened to the Woodstock era stuff, my mom was an Elvis fanatic, my stepmom was a big Beatles fan, my brother got me into 80’s thrash and I came of age at the tail end of the grunge movement. Mix all that in with the influence of my crazy uncle and his 70’s music, and that’s me in a nutshell. Some of my favorite bands are Black Label Society, Down, Alice in Chains, Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, Bon Scotte era AC/DC, and Black Sabbath. I really just love music as a whole. It saved my life more times than I can count and it’s the only thing that ever made the world make any sense to me. I feel like my first twelve years of life were like some large, strange, dark chasm of alien activity. Then I picked up a guitar and suddenly the world had light and color; like someone washed all the dirt off a window and I could finally see.
Let’s talk about the newest single “Nothing Left”.
The new single, “Nothing Left,” kind of wrote itself. I had the melody stuck in my head for two weeks before I finally recorded it. I sometimes hum riffs and melodies onto the recording app on my phone if I can’t get them out of my head, then come back to them when I have time. “Nothing Left” was like that. It’s a pretty simple chord structure, and it’s the first time I’ve recorded anything with an acoustic guitar. I tried to build the song up slowly, verse by verse into something that would all come together into something heavy at the breakdown. When it was done it felt like I accomplished what I set out to do. I don’t have a producer or an engineer. I had a little engineering experience and few courses I took at the Art Institute of San Diego, but nothing that I would say would label me much above a novice. I use Studio One for Artists to record, and most of the techniques I use are the same as they used in the 70’s, which is to say, just try to get it right the first time. I can’t afford autotune, and I’m too dumb to use it anyway, so I just try to get the best takes possible when I’m doing everything. The only thing I have going for me is that I practice the guitar and singing as much as I can so I’m in descent shape when I sit down to record.
As far as lyrics go, most of my songs are about mental health issues, substance abuse and PTSD. I deployed to a lot of less-than-friendly places in my military career and came back with a lot of anger issues and a hell-of-a-drinking problem. The department of Veterans Affairs has labeled it as post traumatic stress, but I pretty much just call it a natural reaction to unnatural circumstances. My generation bore the weight of two large-scale foreign wars, and we did so with minimal manning when compared to previous conflicts. So, for the first time ever, there are men and women walking the streets right now who have more than ten combat deployments under their belt. How exactly are they supposed to readjust to society? I write about that a lot.
“Nothing Left” is about a failed relationship. It was failed by both parties. My past relationships usually failed due to negligence, self-centeredness, and the inability to admit my own faults. When you’re with someone else who has those same qualities, you’re doomed, but it’s always easier to blame someone else than to look inward. If you blame the other person, then it’s out of your hands. If you blame yourself, you can make changes, though that means work and work means suffering. Even if the other person is 97% at fault, you’re still in it for the other 3%. Most people just dump it all on the other person and go on to screw up their next relationship the same way. I ruined a lot of relationships in my past, but I’m slowly learning and getting better. I’m going on two years of sobriety now and trying to be a better husband and father. Hopefully someday my kids will understand my struggle, though I pray they never have to experience it personally. I grew up in abject poverty, went to war and came home a different
person. It’s not a new story by any means. Hopefully it resonates and maybe helps someone else.
How does it feel when you put all your hard work to the test and perform live?
Do you have any crazyperformance band/fan stories?
My band, Dirt River, plays my original work as well as covers. One thing I like to do is slip in original songs between some classic covers everyone knows to see how well people get into it. If you’re playing some of the best music ever written by some of the greats, and you’re able to get a good reaction when slipping your work in there next to it, I call that a win. I really do care how my work is received by regular people. It’s good to write songs for yourself, but if you can get people engaged and they can relate to your music, there’s nothing better. Our fans are generally proudly blue collar and most work their asses off during the week, sometimes 50 or 60 hours. They spend all their free time raising their kids and loving their families. Sometimes they just need to get out and open their pressure-release valve on a Friday or Saturday night; have a few drinks, listen to some good music and jam out like no one is looking. If you can keep them going and having a good time, that’s what it’s all about. There’s nothing better than helping people feel better and getting your work out there at the same time. Music heals. I always have time to talk to fans, even if it’s 1 a.m. and they’re sloppy drunk. I’ve had people come up to me out of nowhere and tell me, “Thanks for playing all night, I really needed it.” People have told me that their dad just died, or their kid is sick, or their brother just got back from Afghanistan and is having a hard time. Those are the conversations that matter. I’ve never cared about much else.
Let’s shake it up a little. Tell us some strange facts about the band, that virtually no one would
I spent all my free time when I was in Iraq in 2009 relearning how to play guitar. I grew up playing a lot of metal and I thought everything had to be played a thousand miles a second. Once I got a little older and had some baggage in the “life experience” department, I realized that I had no feeling in my playing. I couldn’t play what I felt inside; so, I spent a few years listening to almost nothing but old blues music and slowing things down, trying to bend the strings it like I mean it instead of getting to the next note as fast as humanly possible. Musically, it’s the most important thing I ever did. Every note matters if you’re playing it just the right way.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
I’ve got a few more gigs to fill in the rest of the year, mostly at dives in western Wisconsin. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s where all the real people are: the lonely veterans, broken construction workers, overworked nurses, and bartenders with decades of one-night stands and wild stories of patrons’ past. I’m going to try to get one more single out before the year’s end and spend as much time as possible with my family. If you don’t have family, you don’t have shit.
By: Not the Girl Next Door Show/Angela Mockbee
Make sure to tune in and turn it up every Monday-Friday from 9AM-Noon Eastern to Not the Girl Next Door Show. Playing you the #musicyoulove and #musicyouwillfallinlovewith!
Written by: Road Dog