The Red Clay Strays Stay True to Their Alabama Roots While Out on the Road
By Kelly Baughman
The Red Clay Strays are as cool and laid back as their appearance with a sound that’s effortlessly infused with southern songwriting that speaks to their Alabama roots. Armed with phenomenal locks of flowing hair the rock God’s gifted to each of the members that most musicians only dream of, The Red Clay Strays are a collective treat for the eyes and ears.
Consisting of Brandon Coleman as lead vocals/rhythm guitar/piano, Zach Rishel on lead guitar, John W. Hall on drums, Andrew Bishop on bass, and Drew Nix as backup vocals/rhythm guitar/harmonica, The Red Clay Strays (a name that they say pays homage to their ‘red clay’ Alabama heritage) formed in Mobile, Alabama just about two years ago.
Coleman, who hails from Turnerville, Alabama, said he’s been singing as long as he can remember.
“I’ve always been a singer, and I picked up the drums around eight years old and kept with that through high school. At 15, I decided to try the guitar, and took the chords from guitar and figured out how to transfer them on to the piano by the time I was 16,” he said.
Rishel, a native of Mobile, said he picked up a guitar at the age of 15 and taught himself to play thanks to the musical influence of greats like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimmi Hendrix had on him.
“I really liked the rock and blues, and I spent a lot of time trying different things to figure out what kind of guitarist I wanted to be,” Rishel said.
Nix, from Hoover, Alabama, said while learned to play the guitar in high school as “a way to get girls”, he put playing away while in college and initially joined the band as their manager and booking agent.
“They guys found out I could sing harmony and play a little bit, and made me get on stage with them one night. At first, it was bad and my volume was almost at zero, but now I’ve found my stride,” Nix said.
Hall said he began playing the drums on pots and pans at the age of three, and was eventually gifted a drum set by his parents who saw his raw natural talent. As he honed his talent growing up, Hall joined his dad’s band the John Hall Trio and cut his teeth in bars and honky tonks since the age of 13. His bandmates said of Hall, “Music is his thing. He’s not good for much else,” they laughed.
“Music, welding, and maybe a little drinking,” they jokingly continued. “He’s a rock star,” Coleman said.
Bishop, who also hails from Mobile, laughed when he said, “I’m the bass player, so I’m not very interesting. But I’ve been told I have great hair, so I’ve got that going for me.” Bishop started playing music at age eight on the trumpet, but decided he wanted “to rock” and switched to the drums when he was 13.
“I played drums for a while, but I found a bass at a yard sale for $15 when I was 16, and I knew it was for me,” he said.
When asked who their favorite artists are, Coleman laughed and replied, “pretty much anyone who’s dead now”. The band went on to say that ‘living’ artists like Sturgill Simpson, Marcus King Band, and Jason Isbell are among their favorites.
“We appreciate great musicians in all genres that write songs that mean something,” Nix said.
Signed with Skate Mountain records out of Daphne, Alabama, The Red Clay Strays are working on their first album that is set to be released in the next few months. The guys said they consider themselves a ‘rock band’, but admit that you can definitely hear the influences of blues, country, jazz and more in their songs.
When it comes to their record deal, the guys aren’t disillusioned.
“Most people think when you get a record deal, you’ve made it. But essentially, a record deal is just a loan and that’s when the real work begins,” Coleman said. “We lucked out with our deal because they really look out for us and support our music. It’s a family environment, and they’ve helped us out a lot as a band.”
The Red Clay Strays feel fortunate to be working with a team in Nashville, including booking agent Cody Payne with Conway Entertainment, who they call a “hard working and hungry dude”. Bishop said a chance meeting with well-known managers and publicists out of Nashville, who they refer to as Jimmy and Bobby, has helped the band take their following to the next level.
“We met them in Boston and then ran into them again a few days later in Charleston. It’s like it was meant to be. From there, they hooked us up with Cody, and now we feel like our band is getting the kind of attention we couldn’t have drummed up on our own,” Bishop said.
As young guys living the high life on the music scene, when asked which member is the most responsible, the group looked around and said jokingly, “We’re all pretty irresponsible. As long as we make it to the next gig. In all seriousness though, we look out for each other.”
The Red Clay Strays said they love life on the road, and hope they can continue taking their act all over the country.
“We’ll keep traveling and playing as long as people keep listening,” Coleman said. “We are writing and recording as much as we can, and while we don’t really have any set plans, they sky is the limit for us. We want to take this as far as we can go,” Bishop added.
With songs about family, love, and finding their way in the world, these young men show that The Red Clay Strays are old souls at heart.
As for what’s next for The Red Clay Strays, they will be playing The Hangout Music Festival on Sunday, May 19th, thanks to a personal invite by owner Shaul Zislin. Their first album with Skate Mountain Records is set to be released this summer, and the band is touring all over the country throughout the year.
For more information on The Red Clay Strays, visit www.redclaystrays.com, visit their Red Clay Strays page on Facebook or contact Cody Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 353-2740.