Scott Clay — “Open Country”
Americana Highways is hosting this video premiere of Scott Clay’s song “Open Country,” from his forthcoming album Let It All Lay Bare, due to be available on September 23. The song will be available on August 12. Let It All Lay Bare was produced and engineered by Mike Davis; mixed by Steven Aguilar; and mastered by Rachel Field.
“Open Country” is Scott Clay (the songwriter) on guitars and vocals; Sean Lane on drums; Keith Lowe on bass; and Daniel Walker on keys.
The video was conceptualized by Britt Warner and Scott Clay; with cinematography by Scott, Britt Warner, and Nathan Schweiger; and production by Britt Warner (https://www.brittwarnerphotography.com/)
We were able to chat with Scott about the song and the video. The video premiere is just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: What was the inspiration behind this song? Did something in particular prompt you to write it?
Scott Clay: “Open Country” was inspired by the many decades of my life I have spent backpacking and hiking throughout Washington State. A majority of my songwriting is done while I’m spending time out in nature. Most of it happens in my head while I’m hiking alone and letting my thoughts run free. Oftentimes, I bring a notebook along and jot down lyrics and song ideas as I’m spending the day and night out in the wilderness.
AH: Tell us about the songwriting process for this song.
SC: “Open Country” started as a simple guitar riff and a simple melody, I had several ideas for lyrical composition, but as the songwriting process went on, I settled on the final lyrics. I did not yet have a bridge written but was inspired by some other songwriting that I came across to expand on the idea of a musical bridge, which is the climax of the song, followed by a strong lyrical bridge. I really like the idea of the song building into a musical moment that does not have any lyrics. It allows the listener to imagine a journey and let their mind wander in the way that I let my mind wander as I’m writing my songs or hiking.
AH: What was the recording process like? What kind of sound were you going for on this song? Did it end up sounding the way you’d imagined before it was recorded?
SC: When I brought this song to the producer, Mike Davis, he immediately felt the connection to our previous single, “Time Will Tell” (a 2020 release). He said it was a “sister song” to “Time Will Tell,” and I feel like there’s a shared nature between the two songs. We built this song very rigorously in pre-production and recorded all the sections methodically, starting with scratch vocals and guitar. I feel like the most important part was the drums; once we added the timpani-type hits in the musical bridge, I felt like this song really took form. Also the Mellotron synth was a fun addition with some string and synth parts that really helped certain feelings come across in the music. We also added some amazing tape delay and echo in the background of the vocal bridge that really gives a spacy and starry feel. It was an amazing vintage tape machine that had so much character and groove to it. I wish it could have been an even more prominent part of the song.
For the vocal recording I was able to use the studio late at night/early in the morning, so I set up a bed/mattress on the ground at the studio and we propped the microphone up so it would point down at my mouth as I was lying in bed. I turned off all the lights and went to sleep in the studio and set my alarm to wake me up at 3am. I woke up and immediately hit the record button, and the first take that you hear on the first verse is the words I sang as I immediately woke up. I wanted to capture a sort of thought-free, unrefined approach to the vocals, and I felt like starting immediately from waking up would provide that. It was a very fun process, albeit a little exhausting, and Mike immediately connected with the vocal take when he heard it the following afternoon.
AH: Tell us about the video. Who directed the clip? Where did you film this? What was it like shooting the video?
SC: The video effort was a joint collaboration between Britt Warner (http://www.brittwarnerphotography.com) and me. We recorded the entire video in Olympic National Park, across the Puget Sound from Seattle. I spent every weekend in August leaving Seattle to go backpacking/hiking in the Olympic Mountains, and I took my video camera with me. The flyover takes were recorded from my brother’s airplane. We took an afternoon flight from Olympia to Port Townsend along the Hood Canal. We mounted two cameras on his wing and tail and captured some really fun footage.
The majority of what I focused on was getting starscape/time-lapse footage on my own. I took several trips deep into the alpine lakes where I could get amazing dark skies to be able to film the Milky Way. One trip was with my friends Justin and Sherard at Flapjack Lakes. And there was another scene at Royal Basin with Anya and Gina. I also spent a weekend hiking the High Divide Trail with my friends Katie and Brandon, and my brothers, James and Nathan. We captured some of the Olympic mountain scenes and the high ridgeline scene that are seen in the film. It was an extremely fun recording process, and we even ran into some black bears along the way! It was warm enough during those nights in August that we could easily sleep without sleeping bags. That made the trip very fun to be able to just relax at night and not have any cold weather affect our stargazing.
And then Britt met me for four days to track the vocal takes. We spent some time in and around Sequim, WA, as well as Rialto Beach, Crescent Lake, and Hurricane Ridge. I’m super happy with the vocal takes and feel like they capture some of my best shots that we’ve had to date.
AH: Whose idea was it to use the locations you did? Was it difficult filming in the remote locations? What do you hope people take away from watching this video?
SC: I truly hoped to make this a video for someone who never has the chance to visit Olympic National Park. I’d really like to show them as much of the park as possible from watching the video. It’s such a remote location that I really wanted to share it with people who may not be able to hike many miles deep into the park. Carrying all the camera gear into the filming locations was quite a daunting task! There are plenty of days where I would do a full 12 miles with 30 extra pounds of camera gear and batteries. It was exhausting but well worth the effort!
Thanks for talking with us Scott Clay! Enjoy the beautiful footage of Olympic National Park freely shared in the video. Scott delivers the song in the open country with the voice of a gentle breeze, and it’s a highly moving experience. He creates pretty, moving songs, and in this visual context this one is fulfilled in a breathtaking fashion.
Pre-save link: https://ffm.to/scottclayopencountry