Interview with Joe Armstrong of Independent’s Day

Episode 164: Nellie Clay

Air date: 7.13.2016

Nellie Clay came to Nashville by way of rural Alaska, where she’d spent the better part of the last decade living more or less off the grid. In remote parts of the world without modern conveniences and distractions like electricity and televisions people are forced to entertain themselves - and one another - in the manner in which humans have been doing so since time immemorial, by passing around instruments and singing songs. Clay had fallen into this sort of primitive existence after years of restoring early Russian paintings in Minnesota. A vacation to America’s largest and northernmost state planted a seed in her soul that would soon grow into a limitless forest with a magnetic pull that she felt called to inhabit. In short order, Clay gave away most of her possessions and lit out for Alaska. In that simpler, Thoreauvian setting she experienced a musical rebirth that was kindled by the rich, local campfire folk music scene. When numerous musicians travelling through town urged Clay to consider a move to Nashville she took heed and uprooted herself once again. Since arriving in Music City, USA - where the local music scene is currently white-hot - she has assembled a crack band that brings her crafty songs to life. Clay possesses a torch and twang, tight-vibrato alto voice that was custom-made for slapback echo, and the aching in her melodies reflects the downtrodden, wandering characters that inhabit her songs. For now, at least, Nellie Clay’s musical true north is a little farther south in Tennessee, and in the two short years she has spent in Nashville, she has established herself at the legendary songwriters’ foundry, The Bluebird Cafe, and released a new album with a title that could serve as her personal mission statement, Never Did What I Shoulda Done.