Fred Clark has been writing songs and singing for nearly 30 years. His first album/CD, “Just Another Day” was released in 1997. “Living In Dakin’s Neighborhood” was released three years later, in 2000. Clark’s latest release, “Happy Fun” which became available in October 2009 is a children’s album.
Loretta Snyder: How long have you been singing professionally?
Fred Clark: I’ve been doing it off and on for about 28 years now. I started when I was 18 in a punk band. Not sure I would call it singing. It was more like screaming at the top of my lungs. Luckily, for my voice, that didn’t last too long.
Loretta Snyder: Where did you get your “big break”?
Fred Clark: I don’t think I’ve experienced the “big break” yet, but I’ve had lots of “little breaks”! It seems like every time things slow down a little bit, something happens that creates a buzz or interest in what I am doing. I’m talking about receiving some radio airplay, some positive press, performing on a tv show, that kind of thing. I had a song in an independent film that led to the making of the first album. There is a lot of luck involved, but I’ve put myself in a position to have that luck. Lots of “behind the scenes” going on.
Loretta Snyder: Which song was in the independent film and what is the name of the film?
Fred Clark: The song was “Just Another Day” (the title track of the album). The movie was “Manifest of the Heart”, which had some screenings at the Tivoli and submitted to some film festivals. It did not see a wide release and was not released on video/dvd, but I got a lot of publicity out of it and it provided me with other opportunities.
Loretta Snyder: How would you describe your style of music?
Fred Clark: Sometimes I tell people I am a “hippy punk Irish folk mod rocker”. I have many different influences. My grandfather passed away when I was very young, but I remember him playing country, folk, and bluegrass tunes on his guitar and banjo. I had an uncle who played in a rock band performing songs like “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals and “Hang On Sloopy ” by the McCoys. My mom had some old 45 vinyl records from the ’50’s that I loved—Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and of course Elvis. I had a couple of older cousins I spent a lot of time with that were into the Beatles, Byrds, Dave Clark 5, Paul Revere and the Raiders, stuff like that. The first concert I went to was actually country star Tanya Tucker. I was really into the Ramones for a while. REM. They Might Be Giants. Bob Dylan, Irish folk music. Kind of a diverse background, but it all had an influence on me.
My first album (Just Another Day) had an alt-country feel to it. Some might say it was Uncle Tupelo influenced, but the truth is the beginning point of that album was the song “Alone”. I wrote and performed that song before they were a band. Most people don’t realize this but before they were Uncle Tupelo they were called the Primitives, and their first couple of shows, they opened up for my band, The Rockouts, and headliner Joe Camel and the Caucasians. Of course, Uncle Tupelo later split into Wilco and Son Volt, and they’ve had some great major label success.
My second album (Living In Dakin’s Neighborhood) has more of a modern folk-rock Byrds kind of a sound to it with some Irish influenced songs and a great power pop-rock song, “Unrequited Love”.
The new album has elements of the first two albums (minus the Irish influence). I know it probably sounds like it all has too much diversity to it, but it works out quite well if I do say so myself! One of my goals for “Happy Fun” was to make it enjoyable for both kids and their parents, and if the early reviews are any indication, I’ve succeeded.
Loretta Snyder: What instruments do you play?
Fred Clark: I play guitar-acoustic 6 string, electric, and acoustic 12 string. I mention it that way because there is a slightly different approach you have to take to them. I also play bass and a little mandolin. I played trumpet as a kid, and have been thinking about picking it up again to use on future recording projects. I’d love to learn how to play cello, but not sure I will ever have the time. I’m too busy now as it is!
Loretta Snyder: What process do you take writing your songs? What inspires you?
Fred Clark: Well, I have different techniques I use in writing songs. I have a notebook of phrases, quotes, and possible song titles. Usually I just try to play my acoustic 6 string and come up with a combination of chords that sound good, and match it up with something I’ve written down or something that just pops up in my head. With the Happy Fun album, and other kids songs I’m working on now, my daughters are coming up with some of the ideas and they are helping with the writing process. I have some other techniques I use, but I keep that to myself. It’s a secret!
Loretta Snyder: You recently released a children’s album. What inspired you to go in this direction and are there going to be more children’s albums in the future?
Fred Clark: I had been on a musical hiatus for several years. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and decided to pick up my guitar and start writing again. There was no real plan when I got back into the game. It just happened. I have 6 children. 5 of them are under the age of 10, so I guess it was inevitable, but honestly it came about by accident. One day about a year and a half ago I just started singing “Bridget Rode An Elephant” and played a few chords. My wife, Lauren, thought it was cute and encouraged me to finish it. I had my daughter Bridget help me write it. She was four at the time. She is six now. After that, it just snowballed. Colette, who is nine, and Bernadette, who is seven, helped me write some of the songs. Lauren helped write one too. It has truly been a family project.
I have a non-children’s album planned for my next recording project, but I am hopeful there will be many more children’s albums in the future. The girls already have several ideas for new songs and I’m excited about the prospect of working on them.
Loretta Snyder: Where can people hear samples of and buy your music?
Fred Clark: You can listen to the songs on my reverbnation site. You can sign up for my e-mail list there. We are in the process of releasing “Happy Fun” and re-releasing the other two albums to CDBaby.com and everyone they distribute to, including iTunes, Amazon, and the other major outlets. These things take time, so if you don’t see it there yet, it will be there soon. You can check my website for updates or you can contact me for ordering info.