INTERVIEW WITH ANNIE CLEMENTS
by Janelle Landauer
How and when did your first big break in the music industry come about?
Well I guess you could say my BIGGEST break was when I got the gig with Sugarland but there were many breaks along the way that led to the Sugarland gig, starting with my father (a guitarist in New Orleans) being willing to take a chance on me and encouraging me to be in bands with him. That's what lay the groundwork for everything that came after.
What goals have you accomplished and what do you still hope to accomplish with your music career?
Performing with a band full of amazingly talented and kind people for a living is a huge goal I feel I've accomplished. Also, being featured on a platinum record and in a few music videos is pretty cool!
What is your motivation behind your accomplishments and what continues to motivate you?
Family is something that is of utmost importance in my life. So much of my motivation stems from the pride that my family takes in my accomplishments and the knowledge that they believed in me all along.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life (music related or not)?
Definitely my dad. He taught me so much about music and I rely on him for advice constantly. He's a great person and everyone who's ever played with him loves him. When I first started out, people would give me the chance to play with them because I was Cranston Clements' daughter.
If you could collaborate with anyone musically (whether on the road, or in the studio, etc) who would it be and why?
Stevie Wonder. Although I'm not sure what I could necessarily contribute. I'd just like to hang around with him. He's one of my all-time favorites.
What advice would you give to those who plan to get into the music business?
A lot of people ask me this question and I'm never really sure how to answer it. I was ushered into this buisness at a very early age and had a lot of advantages being the daughter of a well-known musician in town. I certainly had to be able to back it up when given the opportunites to play however. I figured out pretty early that I was interested in being a sideman and took steps to be the best I could be in that regard. I worked really hard at singing and playing simultaneously, which has been by my "ace in the hole" for landing various gigs. Also, I think it's almost equally important to be a person who is easy to get along with as well as possessing the talent to play the gig. Nobody wants to live in a van or on a bus with a jerk. People usually find out pretty quickly if they have the temperment for the musician lifestyle.
Do you have a preferred brand that you like to play and would recommend to others?
Fender 100%. I've always played a Fender. They're reliable and sturdy and sound great. Over the years I've discovered that I prefer a Precision body paired with a Jazz neck. I always recomend Fender to anyone looking for a bass.
Why did you choose to play bass over other instruments when you were younger? Do you play any other instruments? If so, what and when did you start playing them?
My dad bought me a bass for my 13th birthday after about 8 years on the piano. I was ready for a change and he needed a bassist for his own projects! I started fooling around on the guitar a few years ago but I need to do a lot more practicing before I would dare label myself a guitarist. And I've been singing forever.
How and when did you initially get in touch with the Jennifer and Kristian of Sugarland?
I got a call from Kristian in Feb. of 2006. I had been recomended to Sugarland by my good friend David LaBruyere, bassist with John Mayer and long-time friend of Kristian's. I drove up to Nashville from New Orleans to audition for them and got the gig!
How long have you been playing with them?
We started our first tour with Kenny Chesney in March of '06 which was my first tour with Sugarland, so about 2 years.
What is your favorite Sugarland song to perform live?
That depends. I've gone through several favorites. I always enjoy "Down In Mississippi" and "Everyday America". I also love to play "Who Says You Can't Go Home." We usually play that towards the end of the set and I'm relaxed. That's when I really start jumping around. Our tour manager likes to watch me from the side of the stage and point and laugh.
Do you have a favorite memory of being on the road with Jennifer and Kristian so far?
Man, there are way too many to list. We've had so many good times. Making the video for "Settlin'" was an incredible experience. We just have so much fun sitting around on the bus or in the dressing room. It's hard to pin down a specific event. We've thrown some good parties on Kenny's tour. Jen and I have a lot of fun dressing up in costumes out here as well. We also like to sing songs from musicals and Disney films. She's one of my only friends who knows all the words. And, I mean ALL the words.
What do you like about touring and what do you dislike?
I like touring because you get into a rhythm and a flow. When I'm home I find myself slightly confused about how to budget my time. Plus, I get tons of free food out here which is awesome. I dislike how infrequently I get to see my family in New Orleans.
What do you like to do on the road in your free time?
I'll take this opportunity to plug a charity race that I'm doing with a couple of the guys in the band. We've been working really hard out here training to get in shape for the half-marathon we're running in Jan. for Team in Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I spend a lot of my free time these days sending out emails trumpeting the cause. Also, we look up local races to participate in every city we play on a Saturday. You can keep up with our progress, donate, and cheer us on at local races in your area by visiting our page: myspace.com/teamsugarland
While you’re on the road, how do you balance your career with your family and friends?
It can be pretty tough. I try to go home to New Orleans any time I get a substantial break. I still don't know my way around Nashville very well since I'm always going to see my family when I get time off. I have a couple of very close friends that I talk to several times a week but I rely on MySpace or on my drives from Nashville to New Orleans to find time to catch up with most people. I have found though that I've managed to maintain a lot of friendships by meeting up with people while out on tour. I've met all kinds of distant relatives at Sugarland shows!
What other artists have you played with in the past? Do you have any fond memories of being on the road with the artists listed in the previous question?
Right after I graduated from Berklee, I moved back to New Orleans to play with an artist named Theresa Andersson. She and I performed at London's Wembley Stadium for the 50th Anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster along with Joe Walsh, David Gilmore, Brian May, Ronnie Wood, and a slew of well-known guitar heroes. That is one of my fondest musical memories of all time. After working with Theresa I toured with the Sons of William, a Southern Rock trio. I had some of the most fun of my entire life touring with these guys, especially while opening for Marc Broussard. We put out a record I'm really proud of which you can find on my website: annieclementsmusic.com
Can you talk more about your experiences of working in the studio on Sugarland’s latest CD, Enjoy The Ride? What is a typical
day in the studio like for you? Do you have any favorite experiences from that project?
Being asked to be a part of this record was a complete surprise to me. It's pretty unusual that Country super-stars invite the touring band to be a part of any record. I had a blast being a part of it. It was very low-key. We just went in and played through the Everyday America just like we would on stage. I also sang background vocals on a couple songs. I LOVE tracking background vocals in the studio. It was fun to track them with Byron Gallimore. I very quickly became comfortable with him and could tell him bluntly to scrap a previous take of mine and barrel through the parts like a machine. It was great to go in there and knock it out.
Have you worked on any new projects in the studio lately that you can tell us about?
I sang backgrounds on 4 of 5 tracks being released on Sugarland's upcoming Christmas album. I'm really excited about it. I think it's going to be a really cool Christmas record and I love Christmas music!
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to all the country fans and all our readers?
Thanks for your support! Please keep buying the records and coming to the shows! None of this is possible without you! Thanks!