Clint Roberts Releases Debut Single 'Nero's Waltz'
Last updated 9/23/2020 at 4:22pm
"Welcome to paradise, take off your coat/Well find yourself seated and enjoy the show."
With those opening lyrics, Brevard native Clint Roberts introduces fans to the newest chapter of his career as he releases "Nero's Waltz," the debut single off his latest album, on Friday.
At 26 years old, Roberts is already a popular figure in the local music scene, having released an independent EP in 2015, followed by his debut record – "Hamlet Blues" – in 2017. But this new project is his most ambitious, featuring a production team and backing band of highly acclaimed talent.
It's also his first record since signing as a management and recording artist with Carry On Music, based out of Raleigh, earlier this year.
Last fall, Roberts was in discussion with other record labels to produce an album, but those negotiations fell through. So, it was a bit of good fortune when Carry On approached him earlier this spring.
"I realized it was a good fit after talking to them and seeing what their vision was and how it aligned with my vision," Roberts said.
In putting together the new album, Roberts said it would feature some songs he previously recorded, only with a much higher production value. The recording budget for "Hamlet's Blues" was only $1,000.
"I think we did really well considering the resources we had but this is a much more professional attempt and a lot of these songs still have life in them," he said.
"Nero's Waltz" is one of those songs, as Roberts originally wrote it six years ago. However, he feels the message of the lyrics is even more appropriate, given the climate of today's society.
"What made me write that song was the cognitive dissonance between apathy toward fellow man and being a good friendly person on the surface. It's really a song with the statement of practicing what you preach," he said.
Roberts recorded the single at Music Way Studios in Nashville, Tenn. The head of the production team, Ben Fowler, is a Grammy Award winning producer who has worked with artists including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush and Eric Clapton.
Fowler, Roberts said, allowed him a great deal of artistic freedom during the recording process, ensuring the songs were pure and true to their essence.
"Ben is a producer that ultimately seeks to honor the vision of his artists. There are a lot of producers that want to take over the steering wheel and Ben couldn't be more the opposite of that," Roberts said.
Roberts said he came into the studio with a vision for what he wanted the album to be, as he's performed most of the songs on the road over the past few years and honed in on the exact sound he's been looking to achieve.
Aside from Fowler, Roberts was privileged to work with a remarkable team of musicians.
Fred Eltringham, drums, has worked with Sheryl Crow. Mark Hill, bass, has played alongside Kelly Clarkson. Dan Dugmore, pedal steel/lap steel, has graced the stage with Stevie Nicks and Neil Diamond. Brian Sutton is an accomplished acoustic guitar and mandolin player. And Gordon Mote, piano, is a three-time winner of the Piano/Keyboards Player of the Year award from the Academy of Country Music.
"To say that everybody I worked with is significantly more established in their careers is an understatement. The band was as good of a band as you could possibly ask for on your debut release," Roberts said. "I'm lucky enough that I have a switch in my brain to where, in a music context, I allow myself to become another person. So, I wasn't quite as nervous as I should have been."
When he arrived at the studio in Nashville, the band got right to work, which took Roberts a bit by surprise.
"I was told that everybody would be setting up when I got there, but when I showed up to the control room everybody was already set up and ready. So, I had to take control. I introduced myself to every one and said, 'Hey guys. I'm Clint. We're here to play my songs today and here's what they sound like.' Ben had heard these songs, but nobody else had. So, we sat down and I played the songs for everybody. Brian Sutton was charting the songs as I played them and after I was done he would walk into the next room and print off copies for everybody to use and the band played it perfectly immediately. The professionalism involved is pretty remarkable," he said.
While "Nero's Waltz" is cut and ready for release, Roberts said he's still working on the rest of the album. He has a meeting with Fowler and record executives to determine the final songs to make the cut, and expects to get back in the studio and record them later this month.
"Everybody works so efficiently we expect to get the bulk of the recording done in three days. From there it's mixing and overdubs. The record is by no means done but I can say pretty confidently that I'm going to content with what comes out and it should go pretty seamlessly."
However, as with most musicians, live shows have come to a grinding halt in the wake of the COVID pandemic. In that downtime, Roberts has recorded demos from home, done some online streaming shows and performed at a handful of small, private gatherings.
He's also been preparing to get back on the road when touring is a viable option.
"I've been taking it easy and getting ready for shows starting back up next year – who knows when. I've been practicing with the band and getting ready. I don't make assumptions about how successful the record will be but whatever happens next year I know I'm going to be very busy on the road and I'm just prepping so that when that happens we're putting on the best possible shows that we can," Roberts said.
As for the local reception to his new album, Roberts said he hopes fans that have followed his career will appreciate the new sound and recognize his growth as an artist whose stock continues to rise.
"I think people are going to notice a pretty big jump, qualitatively," he said. "I felt good about what my last record was at the time but you take the next step in your career at some point and this is a considerable step for me. A lot of my last record was in the southern rock wheelhouse but this record is more what I call roots rock and country rock. It's a lot of Americana songs that feature country instruments.
"These songs are finally what I envisioned them to be. They are truer to what I was aiming for than when I initially recorded them. Some of them won't change massively, but I hope the subtle changes we made are for the better. I'm very excited about everything and I hope it's well received. I'm eager to get these recordings in people's ears."
"Nero's Waltz" will be available this Friday on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music and other online music providers.