Stephen Clair

Key to the Highway: Stephen Clair

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Stephen Clair photo by Hillary Clements

Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road for music. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Stephen Clair. 

Americana Highways: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Stephen Clair: Is there anything better than coffee in the morning? Yes. Coffee in the morning in the sun. There is no better way to start a day. In fact, it’s such a high that I’d be willing to go so far as to say if I could start my day with a strong black cup of coffee (in a mug, not a paper cup) while also being smacked in the face by direct sunlight, then I’m pretty much good. Anything else that happens is gravy.

AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road for music?)

SC: I’ll say I am most disturbed by those motels that are situated so close to the highway, that when you put your head down on the pillow it’s hard to believe a tractor trailer isn’t going to wind up in bed next to you.

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

SC: As long as it isn’t one of my own albums; touring is narcissistic enough. One time a Jim Lauderdale record did this very thing, and we only benefitted from it. For three thousand miles Jim gave us a crash course in great hooks — and singalong harmonies.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

SC: I carry an old Paris metro ticket tucked into a crevice in my wallet. It would almost always be better to be in Paris, not that I need to be reminded.

AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

SC: It’s bleak out there. But you learn. You just have to think ahead. Like 400 miles ahead. Go to a grocery store. Buy actual food. Stuff that came out of the ground. Not all food has to have an ingredient list, especially with 5-syllable words. But then, of course, there’s BBQ.

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

SC: You know, this whole north–south thing will never end. Yankees and Southerners still talk out the side of their mouths about one another — until of course they meet one another. I’m gonna say Birmingham, a place I have played over the years. It was kind of stunningly beautiful, vibrant, and the people I met elevated the whole experience.

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

SC: When I did some dates opening for Robert Earl Keen, I would come off stage and pedal steel player Marty Muse would snicker and say to me, “fooled ’em again.” I mean let’s face it. At the end of the day, this is a dog and pony show.

Find more information about his new album out November 17 and tour dates for Stephen Clair, here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Vince Herman Jimmy Smith  Ben Nichols Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Nicki Bluhm Jim White Danny Barnes  Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Sadler Vaden )

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