Texas honky-tonks are blasting new tunes courtesy of Clayton Gardner ’08, who kicked off his music career while a student in College Station. A fresh face on the Texas country music scene, Gardner saw his star rise this year with the release of his EP, “Here to Stay,” which debuted at #19 on the iTunes Top 100 country albums chart in May.
With a genuine heart for music, a rich singing voice, straightforward sound and Aggie roots, Gardner has given the Texas bar circuit and the Bryan-College Station community something to two-step about.
Just Getting Started
Gardner first experimented with music during his three years at A&M, eventually teaching himself to play the guitar. His first show was in 2008 at Shotzi’s on Northgate in College Station.
He now plays all over Texas, sharing the stage with the likes of Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Kevin Fowler, Josh Abbott, Rodney Atkins, Aaron Watson, Stoney Larue, Rick Trevino and Brandon Rhyder, whom he credits with inspiring him to pursue his career in music.
“Clayton is good people with mad skills,” said Rhyder. “He is only just getting started. Look for great things from him.”
“I write about my own life experiences, my past relationships and personal trials, as well as other peoples’ experiences and trials,” Gardner said. “Whenever inspiration hits me, I just sit down and write a tune. It can take me anywhere from 15 minutes to 15 months.”
Gardner’s music has been described as reminiscent of both classic country and Texas Red Dirt, but either classification meets his approval.
“The cool thing about music is how it can mean different things to different people. One person might see me as having classic country influence and another as purely Texas country, but they’re both right,” Gardner said. “It doesn’t matter to me what genre I’m labeled under as long as I’m connecting with people.”
College Station Connection
“For a long time, College Station has been a community that identifies with the live music scene and thrives in developing talent,” said Adam Drake, program and music director and afternoon drive host on 98.3 KORA. “People realize this is a market where they can make a name for themselves because A&M students love being on the cutting edge of who’s cool and new.”
As an Aggie himself, Gardner understands the spirit of the local community and acknowledges that his A&M ties have helped him gain a reputation.
“A&M teaches you not to settle for anything less than your best. When you’re an Aggie, you’re expected to do well and excel, and my A&M background gave me the courage to go after my dream,” Gardner said.”
And that dream, if Gardner has any say in it, will continue. He hopes to play at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth and be able to make a living and travel with his music — for as long as people come to listen.
By Dunae Crenwelge ’14