Taking in the musical range of The Clay Colton Band
by Bart Mendoza
May 01, 2013 | 2963 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Few local cover bands are capable of ranging from The Eagles to Rage Against the Machine while also throwing in choice originals. That rare combination is one of the things that makes The Clay Colton Band a standout. The band plays at Humphreys Backstage Lounge on May 9. Courtesy photo
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Few local cover bands are capable of ranging from The Eagles to Rage Against the Machine while also throwing in choice originals. That rare combination is one of the things that makes The Clay Colton Band a standout.

Appearing at Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge on May 9, the group includes guitarist and vocalist Colton, as well as drummer BJ Morgan, guitarist Sergio Gutierrez, bassist Andrew Pena, fiddler Paul Castellanos, keyboardist David Winter and harmonica player Joe Doyle.

Colton has released three albums to date: “Looking Back Ahead” (2006), “The Irish Sessions” (2012) and “Rustic” (2013). Fans should note he can also be found on the album, “Two Months.” Recorded with friend Matt Bongiovanni, it was released under the name “Bender.” Notably, the indie film “My True Self” included three of Colton’s songs.

Though he is now a well-established musician, Colton’s decision to become a performer was inspired by necessity.

“I have been performing regularly for 14 years now. I count my 21st birthday as the starting date,” he said. “I was in the Navy at the time, and ended up penniless on the big 21. Since my birthday fell at the end of the military pay period, none of my friends had enough money to take me out either.”

Thinking quick, Colton borrowed a buddy’s guitar and hit the smoking pit of the barracks for an hour.

“I sang the few songs I knew over and over for whoever would stroll in for a puff, with a tip jar set up on the table next to me.”

One hour later, he had $46.

“So a couple of buddies and I headed out for $2 beer night to make a memo’t take long for me to discover the difference between that hourly rate versus the Navy’s wages, so I was then a performer.”

The roots of the Colton Band’s expansive sound go back to his childhood.

“My first love for music, besides the Care Bears Christmas album — which was awesome — comes from my mom’s 8-tracks of Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor,” he said.

Of other influences, he notes, “My heart always finds its way to Pearl Jam, somehow. But in the last five years, since I turned 30, country music has taken over my senses. Somehow, country became very cool for me. I played Irish music for years, then converted the mandolin over to bluegrass jams, and now all I’m listening to is stuff like Tim O’Brien, Leftover Salmon, Zac Brown and Old Crow Medicine Show.”

While Colton is known for his guitar work and songwriting, he was originally a drummer.

Picking up the guitar was almost accidental, he said.

“We would always rehearse at my place, so everyone would leave their guitars behind. I would sit around playing them after the guys left. The singing came from being a choir boy and always performing in musicals.”

He plays other instruments, though he claims less-than-virtuoso status there.

“I have picked up the mandolin over the years to add to the Irish jigs and rustic country feel of the new band, but I have a lot of learning to do on that thing,” he said.

After 14 years, Colton is still happy with his decision to become a performer, particularly when he truly connects with his audience.

“I always aim to give the audience members something to take them through one more day, he said. “I believe life is challenging at times and the world needs music to keep its workers inspired. It’s my job to make sure everyone goes back to work on Monday ready to make the world a better place because they had an inspiring, uplifting musical experience that weekend.”

• The Clay Colton Band performs at

7 p.m. on Thursday, May 9 at Humphreys Backstage Live, 2241 Shelter Island Drive. $5. www.humphreysbackstagelive.com
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