When Clay George stepped off the plane at Pochentong Airport, the average standard of expat musicianship in Phnom Penh was brought up by a few notches. He arrived in November 2015 with an acoustic guitar, a suitcase and an inclination to explore the Cambodian music scene. Originally from Vancouver Island, Canada, Clay found himself with a choice of re-locating to California or exploring South-East Asia. Fortunately for us, he made the right choice!
The former postal worker has a deep, sonorous voice and a silky- smooth guitar picking style. He also has three albums of great songs, authentically reminescent of the Austin, Texas 'outlaw' country singer-songwriters such as Steve Earle, Guy Clark and the master Townes Van Zandt. What becomes immediately obvious, upon hearing the opening bars of one of Clay George's tunes, is that this guy is 'the real thing'. While classic 'Americana' music is quite a common currency in the music bars of South-East Asia, Clay is an extremely refreshing change from the usual succession of clapped-out wilburys hacking their way through a Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash number.
Leng Pleng asked Clay George a few questions:
Hi Clay, your Cambodian adventure is continuing with a weekly slot at The Exchange, what's happening up there?
Every Sunday afternoon from 1-3pm I'll be performing there solo. It's a great venue, and I really enjoy playing there. A very relaxed atmosphere.
You're a travelling man who has lived and played in many different places. What inspired you to check out Cambodia?
I had heard great things from friends who had travelled here and wanted to see it for myself. It's also much warmer and less expensive than where I was.
Your finger-picking style of playing the guitar seems very relaxed and fluid. What is your musical background? Did you study music?
|Clay performing at Sharky Bar in Phnom Penh. pic: Steve Porte/Clay George Facebook|
I did study music when I was younger but that had more to do with vocals and piano. I started learning finger style guitar playing in my early twenties and spent a lot of time listening to old folk and blues musicians. I'm glad it was before You Tube. I really had to use my ears. My first experience as a performer though, was as a vocalist in a heavy metal band. I still bang my head on occasion, but that has more to do with the architecture of my building than it does music.
Conrad Keely recently commented on the gig audiences in Cambodia: “Playing here is so hard! The crowd is never listening to you..." ...what has your experience been with audiences here ?
I think maybe it depends on the venue, but I haven't really been here long enough to say whether it's any different from other places I've lived.
Cambodian pop music is a real mix and melting pot of styles - have any Cambodian-influenced sounds entered your songwriting mind yet?
The women's voices. They sound like angels. I could listen to them forever.
You are known for your high standards of sartorial style. If you could set a dress code at your next gig, what would it be?
|The elegantly-dressed Clay, chatting with Touch Tana of Drakkar Band|
pic: Steve Porte/Clay George Facebook
That's just the way I've always been. A dress code? For the band or the audience? Always suits on stage, or least something close to professional. The audience can wear whatever they want.
Clay George is an award-winning singer-songwriter and performer. He has been a featured artist on Much Music, Austin Music Television Network, and CBC Radio. His music has appeared in both film and television, and can be heard most recently on the hit television series “Justified.”http://www.claygeorge.com/BIO.html
Listen to and purchase Clay George's music via https://claygeorge.bandcamp.com/music
Check out Clay's website: