By Tonya Little
Oklahoma City – Mike McClure is one of those people I could probably sit and talk to for hours, about random things that may or may not have anything to do with music. I kind of felt like that was exactly what was happening when I got the chance to sit and talk one on one with him at the Wormy Dog on Valentine’s Day. I had to keep redirecting myself to stick to the topic at hand instead of venturing off into other territory.
McClure of course is a household name in the Red Dirt scene, having been a founding member of The Great Divide back in the 90’s. He then moved onto his own project, The Mike McClure Band, as well as opening his own studio at his house in Ada called The Boohatch. I have gotten the pleasure of hanging out at the Boohatch twice now, once just a few weeks ago when McClure hosted a StageIt show with Dylan Stewart, Bryon White, Adam “Biggie” Rittenberry and Taylor Reed. I got there long after the show was over, but they had simply moved it outdoors around a fire. The Boohatch is one of those places that just swirls with magical musical energy. It’s a unique place with various structures that have been built by McClure and friends, and populated with a wide variety of animas including feral guinea pigs that roam free on his property. Just being out there is an adventure and you never quite know what kind of madness will ensue. It’s definitely my kind of place. I think it has the same kind of musical adventure properties that The Farm in Stillwater once had. Many of the younger generation of musicians flock to the Boohatch to soak in the camaraderie of like-minded song writers and to write music with McClure. It’s a place to explore different creative styles and bounce song ideas around.
I also think that McClure is much more than just a singer/songwriter. He’s a poet, a wordsmith, a story teller, an artist, and a creative visionary. These things all shine through in his music, but also in his other outlets, like his blog, or the things that he builds and comes up with at The Boohatch. It’s all a form of art in one way or another.
McClure is a busy man these days too, he’s got quite a few different projects going on, and he was happy to talk to me about some of them.
“Actually I’m working on a soundtrack for a film called The Scent of Rain and Lightning that was shot in Grove, Oklahoma. A guy I knew from a long time ago, we used to hang out together, he was a movie producer and I didn’t know he had done any of that. He called on me to do the soundtrack, so I’m going to be working on that for a while. Cody (Canada) is going to come in and write with me and Jason (Boland). Cody hadn’t been there (The Boohatch) and Jason hasn’t, but it’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve read the script and I like the script, there’s some darkness in it, you know all my friends are dark. But that was super exciting, I hadn’t said anything yet, but the contracts are signed. I’ll be able to rent my own studio and record songs with friends of mine and get a Grammy.”
Of course Canada and McClure have gotten together recently to put out their collaborative album Chip and Ray: Together Again for the First Time as well.
“Chip and Ray has been great. As people tend to do Cody and I drifted apart for a while, as life does. Just getting back together a little older and a little wiser, both of us, it’s cool. He’s still the same guy that came over to The Great Divide practice when he was 16, with a cowboy hat and a starched up shirt, yeah boy,” McClure said with a little whoop and a laugh. “But I’ve loved him ever since I met him, got a good heart. We’ve been writing together, and we’ll be working on the new Departed record together too, I’m excited about that.”
There’s a lot of musicians that have come through the Boohatch studio and albums that have been produced by McClure, including Tom Skinner, Susan Herndon, The Turnpike Troubadours, The Damn Quails, Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition, and Kaitlin Butts among many others. I love the description for the studio that is on the website: “Tucked into the basement of a stately ‘30s farmhouse is Mike Mcclure’s brilliantly bizarre recording studio, a cross between a rock ‘n’ roll man cave and a psychedelic antique mall that comes with a petting zoo on the side.” That sums it up perfectly.
“There’s just cool things for the studio going on. There are definitely nicer studios, but vibe wise is what is important to me. I try to approach it as to how I would like to have had when I went to record and I had great experiences with Lloyd Maines, but other people I have worked with have been difficult sessions or something and you just take that out of the equation. Llloyd is one of my heros, and a hero to me is someone I saw what they were doing and I wanted to emulate it, he was a big influence,” he explained.
Maines is a Grammy Award winning music producer, as well as multi-instrumental musician in Texas. John Cooper of the Red Dirt Rangers actually told me during an interview recently that he thought McClure was Oklahoma’s Lloyd Maines, so I think McClure has been successful at emulating his hero.
“Fullbright is going to come in on this soundtrack and that’s going to be fun. I’m excited about Boland who’s going to come up in May for a couple of days and we’re going to write something for the soundtrack. Just whatever we can come up with,” he said. “There’s a good spirit of songwriting kind of coming back around in a way. I love writing with them. Dylan (Stewart) and I have written a couple together, and Bryon (White),” he said.
McClure has his own way of playing with words and trying to find the best fit for songs as well.
“It’s my favorite thing to do, and it takes a while for other songwriters to get used to the fact that I flip every line a hundred times just looking at it different ways. Like I still like your idea, I’m just seeing if there’s another way that makes a difference. I’ll sit and flip songs all the time even if they are already recorded. Sometimes a line will just come shitting out and I’m like that was a thousand times better,” he explained.
I think that’s where his wordsmith skills come into play. As a lover of words as well, I can definitely understand his excitement about word play.
“But that’s my favorite thing is to find a new way for words to lay together that work and I get excited and that’s nerdy but that’s what I get excited about. With writers, Charles Bukowski was one of the first that really just struck me as this guy is writing the truth with just no bullshit at all on top of it, just cut through to the truth. I like that,” said McClure. “Writers are my heros, Thompson, Kerouac, I liked Burroughs, I mean just neat characters. They jumped out of their own pages. I think about “On the Road”, that was one of the first books that I picked up, because of a Jerry Jeff song; I was on the road with Kerouac. I was like who’s Kerouac, and it was pre-internet, you had to do research.”
As a writer and bookworm myself, I can fully appreciate that form of nerdery. Which is also why it was quite easy to get off topic with McClure and chat about books and authors and things that had little if anything to do with music.
Although The Mike McClure Band is his main musical project, now McClure will be just as busy touring with Canada for their acoustic duo shows, as well as working on his various studio projects. You can find out more about where you can catch a show on the website at www.mikemcclureband.com as well as his various social media sites. I suggest you go read the blog on the website too, McClure is as talented of a writer and poet as he is a songwriter.