Today’s Feature, June 4-5, 2007: Antsy McClain

January 18, 2008 at 6:24 pm (Today's Feature)

Thankfully I get to write rather than speak at the moment, because my
mouth is killing me from smiling so much. The source for all this
excitement is Mr. Antsy McClain. Antsy, is not his real name but has
to be one of the greatest nicknames I’ve ever heard. His high school
football coach gave it to him because McClain could never sit
still…which works for me, since I can’t stop telling everyone about
him. Everything about McClain makes you want to smile. Maybe it’s his
50’s inspired hair do or retro shirts or the thick-rimmed glasses,
straight off Buddy Holly’s face. McClain’s Kitchen Table Tour
reconstructs Antsy’s own kitchen on stage, complete with fridge, table
and chairs, even a lava lamp, to create a unique, intimate concert
experience. McClain developed this concept after realizing that many
of his songs were created at the kitchen table, and his favorite
musical experiences have taken place around the kitchen table,
casually jamming with friends after dinner. It this attitude that
makes Antsy so enjoyable, he still is that guy playing with his
friends, with only fun on the mind. He brings this trait with him
wherever he performs. I find this part of McClain ironic, since he
still has a hard time referring to himself as an entertainer. Sorry,
Antsy, you can’t deny it; you are the meaning of an entertainer. He
has made a living off being himself; a true sign of an artist. People
often refer to McClain as one of our generation’s best songwriters,
you may not know about…yet. Well Antsy, I hope this helps. Give
yourself a chance to grab some tissues before you read his
XXQs…he’ll have you in tears!

XXQs: Antsy McClain

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get interested in music?

Antsy McClain (AM): Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits was in my mom’s
record collection, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I was 10 years
old, and I would put these big head phones on and listen. About the
same time I discovered The Beatles White Album and oddly enough Martin
Mull, who most folks know as an actor, and don’t realize he is a very
good songwriter and guitar player. He made some very funny albums in
the 70s. Martin and George Carlin got me into humor, and this cross
pollination kind of happened, and I started listening to Dr. Demento
and the King Biscuit Flower Hour. It all merged in my head.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to
record your own music?

AM: Well, it was pretty surreal. I have video somewhere of me in the
studio – my wife was filming me – and we’re recording our first album,
Doublewide and Dangerous. It was late, and I was the only one left,
but we had background singers scheduled to come in, and I stayed to
help direct them, and they were all laughing at the material and
singing their hearts out, and at one point I try to motion the camera
away because I was getting choked up. This is a dream for all of us,
and it hits you pretty heavy when you see it taking shape. And then
the next day, Waylon Jennings just drops in. (Richie Albright was his
drummer and producer, and Richie invited him in.) That was pretty
surreal.

PEV: How did you get the nickname Antsy?

AM: I’ve always been pretty energetic, but the name stuck after a
junior high school football coach called me that during rehearsals. I
only played football one year, but the name stuck.

PEV: What can people expect from your solo debut album, Time-Sweetened Lies?

AM: It helps out if they don’t expect too much. Ha. Well, my solo
projects will have some humorous material on them, but it’s more
singer/songwriter stuff — more serious than The Troubadours tends to
be. I had to get those songs out there, and The Troubs stuff can
handle a few serious songs, but fans would start shaking their heads
if I got too serious on them. So, my solo releases satisfy the folksy
in me.

PEV: What was it like to have Lindsey Buckingham on your debut album?

AM: That was a thrill. He’s a very nice guy, and was so accommodating.
Jimmy Jackson who plays guitar on the album also, said we should make
him an honorary Troubadour. Lindsey and Stevie Nicks played with Bob
Aguirre, who played drums with us at the time. They were in a Bay area
band called Fritz. Bob’s a wonderful guy, and he hooked us up with
Lindsey.

PEV: Can fans still expect to hear the original sounds of your musical
comedy band The Trailer Park Troubadours (or “The Troubs” as they are
called by fans)?

AM: Well, Trailercana – our newest release — is our best album to
date. It has some of our best music on it, but I think it also has
some of our funniest songs as well. But I think folks will hear a
difference in this new album. I think it’s clear that I’m growing up a
bit. (Finally! Ha!) I don’t ever want to become one of those
too-serious-for-my-own-good kinds of acts — those guys make me laugh,
and it’s the last thing they want — but I am taking on more
heart-felt topics with my music, and I’ve been mixing them into the
live shows with great feedback. Everyone seems to like the mix now.
It’s been very rewarding to see that. One guy in the audience at a
show last week said, “My cheeks hurt from laughing, and now there are
tears in my eyes.” That’s pay dirt when you’re a songwriter like me, a
weird hybrid of Shel Silverstein and Jim Croce.

PEV: Tell us about the The Kitchen Table Tour.

AM: Well, I traveled around with my own kitchen table and two chairs
and an old fridge that we gutted to make lighter for carrying. I
figured most of these new songs were written in my house around the
kitchen table in the middle of the night, so it felt natural for me to
take some appliances on the road with me. The shows were fun. Just me
and Jimmy Jackson, my guitar player in California.

PEV: You are often labeled with the term, Renaissance Man; artist,
writer, musician, performer. Which do you find the most rewarding?

AM: Yeah, I keep hearing that term, and I guess I’m not sure what a
Renaissance Man is. I can do a few things really well, but that’s the
same with most everybody. With me it’s making up songs and drawing
pictures. Pretty pitiful really. I need help balancing a checkbook. I
went to my first Renaissance Festival last week, and I thought about
all that. I didn’t fit in too well. I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt,
and I was really freaked out by this 35-year-old woman dressed as a
faerie (the correct spelling, I found out). She kept tossing Hobby
Lobby glitter at me and talking in this shrill voice. And it was in
Tennessee, so everyone sounded like John Cleese and Larry the Cable
Guy mixed up. So I don’t think Renaissance Man is the right title for
me.

PEV: What drives you to create music and be an artist?

AM: I drive a Hyundai now. Nice, dependable little four door.

PEV: Describe your creative process.

AM: I believe songwriting has to be done in the act of living. These
guys who sit down at 9AM with a co-writer and a pot of coffee baffle
me. If you’re not writing from life, after awhile things are bound to
get stale. So I write when it hits me. I record things into my cell
phone’s memo function if I’m on the go, or jot it down in one of my
sketchbooks I carry around with me. It’s usually late at night before
I can grab some time to play the guitar and put things together.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Antsy McClain performance?

AM: Fun. Set to music. I want to draw upon my own life experiences and
strike a chord with everyone there on some level. I want you laughing,
sure, but there’s a deeper message to what we do — that material
stuff ain’t what’s important, it’s about the people in our short,
short lives who need to know we love them, and we have to enjoy each
other, and enjoy the ride. That’s the aluminum rule, I call it, to
Enjoy The Ride.

PEV: How have your family and friends reacted to all your success and
popularity?

AM: I have some nieces and nephews who think I’m some kind of a rock
star, and I don’t plan on telling them otherwise. They’ll figure it
out themselves when they get older, so I’m enjoying my celebrity
status with them while they’re young and don’t know better.

PEV: How is life on the road?

AM: Well, there are times when I really have to put my philosophy of
“Enjoy The Ride” to the test, because it can get to you. I’ve
outlasted some good band members and road managers, because it can
really wear on you. But living in the moment helps, and realizing when
your flight is delayed or cancelled, that the only thing you really
have control over is your reaction to what’s going on. Sometimes that
helps. Other times, you blow a gasket, and get it out of your system.
It’s all part of the thing. My good friend and drummer/producer Richie
Albright told me once when we were on a bus heading to Michigan, “I
play for free. You’re paying me for all this travelling.” He’s right.
We would play for free. We love it so much.

PEV: What is something people would be surprised to hear about you?

AM: I can play for thousands of people and never get nervous. But get
me singing in Church, in front of 150 friends, and I shake like a
leaf.

PEV: When you get some down time, what can we find you doing?

AM: You probably wouldn’t be able to find me, because I’d be in the
woods, by a lake, hiking with my wife and kids, in the mountains.
Somewhere as far away from an airport, freeway, mall, and rental car
place as possible.

PEV: What is the best part about playing live?

AM: The immediate feedback of a live audience is an adrenaline rush.
That alone is what can keep someone performing long after they’ve lost
any other desire for doing this. Everybody wants to feel important to
people. And presenting songs I’ve spent hours on, writing, memorizing,
rehearsing, to a large group of people, and getting positive feedback
makes you feel like when you leave tomorrow to go to the next show, or
when you leave this world, that something you did will be remembered.
That’s important to everyone. It’s universal.

PEV: When you’re live, anything can happen. Any crazy or embarrassing
“live” stories?

AM: I am thankfully a fairly graceful person, but I fell off a stage
in Modesto, California once in mid verse. The stage’s edge wasn’t
marked well, and I went down. Luckily, I popped back up, sporting a
sizeable bruise on my left knee. The audience gasped and went deadly
silent for a moment. That’s what I remember the most about it. And
then the applause when I got back up. Having an office in the Humor
Department of the entertainment business allows me license others may
not be able to draw upon, so I get to laugh stuff off more.

PEV: Not many artists and musicians can say they’ve been a teacher, a
tour guide, and a Japanese interpreter and then become a successful
musician. Can you tell us about your early life and careers?

AM: My wife and I have 5 children, and my wife has largely been a stay
at home mom while the kids were younger, so I stay pretty busy earning
our daily bread. I have been fortunate to fall back on some skills I
acquired along the way, such as knowing a second language. I lived in
Japan as a missionary back in the 80’s, and later worked as an
interpreter for 8 years, with the Japanese auto industry. I learned a
lot from those guys, but for a creative person to tell one guy what
the other guy just said all day long — it really started to get to
me, and I had to leave. That’s when we moved to Nashville from
Kentucky. A now-or-never kind of move.

PEV: Is there one aspect of your art and music you find yourself
constantly going towards?

AM: Of all the jobs I’ve ever had, my favorite is teacher. I believe
that’s one of those “calling” kind of jobs. You either enjoy it or you
don’t. So, whether I’m painting or writing a song, I hope that it
teaches something — leaves something behind for folks to ponder long
after I’m gone. That, and bathroom humor. That comes really easy for
me.

PEV: So, what is next for Antsy McClain?

AM: I’m going to hit the send button on this e-mail. Anything after
that is just gravy, and I’ll be excited to see what it is.

To find out more on Antsy McClain, check out: http://www.antsy.net

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