When is it too late to pursue your passion?
That’s the question rising local rock-pop singer-songwriter Clay Melton tackles with the announcement of the release of his latest single, “Pass You By.” He’s made it available as an exclusive first-listen to Byline Houston before it’s official release this Friday. Listen to it here.
Raised in Cypress, Texas, by way of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the 24-year-old, fresh-faced Melton has the bayou in his blood, coming up in the nurturing Houston blues scene. His talented guitar playing meshes with sensitive lyrics to recall the best parts of John Mayer, but Melton claims Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, and Manchester Orchestra as influences as well. The blues plays a big role in his songwriting, serving as the anchor to his more forward pop sensibilities.
Performing since he was 15 years old, Melton made a splash with the well-received 2017 album, Burn the Ships, which featured The Suffers’ Kam Franklin on the single “Wind & Wave,” placing on Billboard’s Heatseeker Album chart. Since then, he’s released the single, “Body Map,” last August. “Pass You By” is part of Melton’s goal of releasing songs every few months rather than concentrating on a bigger project.
“We are kind of straying away from that because most people aren’t consuming albums,” Melton said over a beer near his home in the Heights. “I like listening to music as an album, but I also like the idea of singles from the standpoint that it doesn’t have to be one idea that you put together with others. It can be a singular feel or genre and just have it be that.”
The new single came to life with the assistance of producer Sebastian Cure at White Room Studios in Austin, mixed in Houston by Dan Workman, mastered by Christopher Longwood. It was recorded with a batch of other songs with his band, bassist/synth player Raymon Minton and drummer Zach Grindle.
“Pass You By” starts as a slow burn before giving way to an uplifting chorus. Around the two-minute mark, Melton welcomingly turns on the funk, featuring a sweet clavinet solo from Billy Justineau of buzzy country act Brothers Osbourne before ending with a flurry of thrilling guitar work from the young wunderkind.
Musically, it signifies a move for Melton towards the pop spectrum, with vocals upfront and less focus on heavier guitars. Lyrically, “Pass You By” is an ode to ignoring doubts to chase your dream that Melton wrote at a young age, but it’s relatable at any age.
“I wrote those lyrics in high school,” Melton recalled. “Every kid feels pressure to do school, do this and do that. I wanted to do music, so I was like if I want to, I just need to go out and do it. The lyrics had just kind of sat there for a long time and I started singing them for this song and it fit, it felt good.”
Melton will celebrate the release of “Pass You By” at The Rustic (1836 Polk St) on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 8 pm. Admission is free. He’s also currently a member of The Voice semi-finalist Sarah Grace’s band, Sarah Grace and the Soul, which will play a sold-out show at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck on Saturday, Feb. 23.