It is a welcome bonus, and in the true spirit of an EP, when in addition to the music itself, a band can showcase their range and dimensions over a relatively short collection.
Yesterday, we saw the release of six-member T.A. Clayton & The Soulminers’ versatile five-track EP, Young Again, demonstrating their ability to reach into many music genres corners, and pull out an authentic and original take on each.
The collection seems void of any one particular genre, jumping from the soulful and funky “Never Looking Back” to rock-country jam “Kentucky Moon.” And “under the Kentucky moon” is exactly where this band hails from—or, at least, frontman songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Todd Clayton.
The title track, “Young Again,” offers another change of pace, sailing along with its slow, groovy tempo to give Clayton’s husky and emotive voice room to shine above the gospel-like overlapping background vocals, altogether generating a pensive mood. Fast and fun, “Rubble and Brick,” flips the coin entirely, galloping along as surely and freely as a wild stallion.
It’s Lyssa Halley and Haley Stark you hear on those background vocals, with Tom Hnatow on keys, Roddy Puckett manning the upright bass, Rod Elkins holding it down on drums, and Jamie Ritchie on percussion.
Clayton gathered his Soulminers back in 2016, when they debuted with their EP Crookeder Past, Vol. 1, followed with the 2019 album Shortcomings. This most recent project was produced and engineered by Hnatow, mixed by Duane Lundy at the Lexington Recording Company and mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering.
We spoke with Clayton to dive more into the band’s history, the meaning behind Young Again, and what else the Soulminers might be up to this year.
So I was hoping you could talk about the origins of the band and how you came together.
I’ve had this band in some form for the last few years. But really the focus during this past year was to take a really solid set of tunes and record them really well. So it’s somewhat of a jumping off point with a newfound freshness. I worked with Tom Hnatow, who produced, engineered and played on the EP, to bring together the right players. Tom and I had a similar vision for this EP. We were really going for a sound! Once we brought in Rod Elkins (Tyler Childers drummer) and Roddy Puckett (upright player for Wolpen Branch/and previously The Wooks) things started shaping up. Then it’s just adding the right flavors, and you can’t underestimate the power in the female backing vocals of Lyssa and Haley.
How did you come up with “Soulminers” as the band name, and what does that mean to you?
Well, there was a decent amount of time when I wasn’t playing out- some years in fact. I just kept writing, but wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with the tunes, if anything. Having an outlet for the art, I find, is important for my overall health. Even if no one ever hears it, you do it because it’s part of you. So, the name is just that. Diggin’ a little deeper for that part of you where the magic lies.
Give us your best elevator pitch for those wondering who T.A Clayton & The Soulminers are and what your music is all about.
We make music that is true to ourselves, and we certainly aren’t trying to be something we are not. It’s an attempt to let the creativity flow, and not steer songs to fit nice and neat into a particular box. We let the songs go where they want to go. There’s a bit of freshness found in that approach, and you can see that play out in the differences of the five tunes on the EP.
What’s it like being a part of the Kentucky music scene, and how has your evident pride in the state shaped your music, such as the single “Kentucky Moon”?
When you’re born and raised here, it’s hard to step outside and think of what it would be like if you pulled your roots from somewhere else. It’s just who you are. There is a ton of talent all over this region. The cool thing is, everybody’s got a role to play. You do your best, try to keep making good music and let the rest fall where it will. Every once in a while it does come out in a song like “Kentucky Moon”.
Where did you turn to for inspiration when making your EP, Young Again?
Up until recently, I almost exclusively wrote on an acoustic guitar. So when we started shaping this batch of tunes in the studio, it was fun to draw ideas off of guys like Bill Withers, Petty, The Stones, and Dylan. Things have a way of revealing themselves, and you gotta trust the process and go with it. For instance, “Never Lookin’ Back” went down a whole J.J. Cale road, and I love it!
I was hoping you might share some of the stories behind the songs on the EP. Are there any common themes or characters between the songs?
Below the surface, the EP tells a story in five songs. Love is found, shenanigans and chaos ensue, mistakes are made, redemption is sought, but in the end love is lost. It reflects life in many ways. Every part of life has something beautiful to offer.
What do you hope listeners will take away from the EP? Feelings, messages, advice?
I can only hope anyone who listens finds something within the music that leaves them satisfied and hopefully wanting more. Everyone comes from their own perspective, ya know? So, whatever it is someone may need or be seeking, whether consciously or subconsciously, I hope they find it.
Are there any memories from writing or recording this collection that stand out from making your previous projects?
Overall, working with Tom and flushing out the songs the way we did in the studio was the biggest stand out to me. The songs were strong from the get go but with each layer it became more exciting. In the end, we managed to produce a product that I am proud of.
What else might you have planned over the summer or the rest of the year that fans can look forward to?
We have some good shows coming up, but the thing that has me the most excited is the next batch of tunes we are working on. Which no has heard, and we are nearly halfway in the recording process.