Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Thriving Ivory

I first heard about this band in the back of a Rolling Stone Magazine. I saw advertisements numerous months in a row and I was immediately intrigued to what the album was going to sound like. Having not been released yet I was forced to wait patiently for what proved to be a big surprise. The wait was worth every minute. When their album was finally released I immediately went out and bought what I hoped was the first copy. The album has been playing nonstop in my iPhone for last few weeks. I am happy to be sitting with Clayton Shoope today, the lead singer of this incredible band. I am pleased to introduce Thriving Ivory.

How long have you been performing?

We have been performing as a group for about six and a half years. I met Scott and the rest of the guys in Santa Barbara where were all going to school. We started playing in the college community to about 20,000 kids. It was a built in audience for the music. We then started playing LA and San Francisco where a couple of us are from. It has not been until last year when the record came out when we started touring nationally. This is our 4th time out around the country. We have a good sense of how we want to play live. We are more than comfy with one another touring and on stage.

Where did you meet the others guys in the band?

Yeah, I met them all through school. One at a coffee shop, one at a party; we stole our bass player from another band. It was a small community. It was cool and crazy at the same time. The first shows were massive. They were like Animal House parties. We still get emails from people saying that they were at our first show. We had speakers on beer kegs.

Tell me a little bit about them.

Brett is sleeping and his ass crack is peaking out. Drew is on the phone in another interview. Everybody is similar. We are all similar in the fact that we all have a common vision and how we want to sound. Everyone’s influences are fairly different. You would find different stuff in everyone iPod. Everyone brings a different element to the music. Scott is our piano player and songwriter. He listened to a lot of Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and musical type stuff. I grew up listening to more of the classic rock from my dad, like Bad Company and Foreigner. My perception of the term ‘rock singer’ came from that stuff. Also, everybody dresses cohesive. I was looking at some old photos and we used to look like a bunch of idiots. (Laughs)

What is the largest crowd you guys have played in front of?

(Laughs) we opened for Journey a long time ago. Not our crowd but there were probably like ten thousand people there. We did a show with Third Eye Blind. There were about five thousand people at that one. This is our first headlining tour. These are some of the bigger headlining shows. We did seven hundred people in Mobile, Alabama last night. That blew us away. We are really starting to see the radio take off and people at a lot of shows in a lot of places we have never been. This whole process is a trip. It has been gradual but really cool.

The smallest?

Oh dude, 0. We did a show in northern California at some bar in the middle of nowhere. Literally the sound guy left. He set the levels and took off. There were zero people in the club. That is smallest you can get.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

Singing I would say the more powerful front men. Musically, in general, we are really big U2 fans. We really like the big, larger than life anemic sound that those guys bring live. To a certain extent we go for that. We are big fans Keane and Muse. We listen to a lot of Coldplay. Anything that is powerful and emotional we really like.

How did you get hooked up with Lee Ann Womack for her video Last Call?

(Laughs) She saw our video and liked the look or something. She called and asked if we wanted to do it. It was funny, they called, and she is much older than me, and I am supposed to be her love interest in the video. I showed up with this caveman beard. They told me not to shave for a week. But it was a cool experience. It was country but whatever. They didn’t make me play a banjo or fiddle or anything.

Who did your album artwork?

That picture was taken in the same photo shoot we did the back of the cover. The house is in Malibu. It is the same house at the end of Terminator 2. The one they blow up. It was done by one of the art directors at the label. They put it against some white background. She was 6’2 with these crazy wings on and she just showed up at the shoot.

What are you guys drinking on stage?

I am drinking water. Scott writes the songs in the key of X so I have to keep chugging the water. I have to be able to hit the highs and the lows. Most of the guys keep a mellow during the show. The tours, especially this one, have been so grueling as far as a lot of shows in the row and promo the next morning and then travel. We learned really quick you can’t survive partying every night. Especially singing, my voice will get fried really fast if I am drinking and smoking cigarettes. The more success you get the crazier it gets. For us it’s the opposite. We want to make sure we deliver. People come to hear something from the record and they expect to hear that live. We want to bring it. No Axl Rose moves.

Tell me a little bit about working with Wind-Up Records.

It has been a dream. We showcased for Sony and so many different record companies. Major labels mostly. One flew us out to New York three times just to say no. We were never thinking about being on an indie label. In hindsight I am really glad that it worked out again. Given the state of things and how the major labels are doing, I feel lucky to be on Wind-Up. They tick with their artists and they are behind us 100%. It is a small enough of label and you can call the president. It is awesome. You really feel like you have a team behind you that believes in the music. The support feels really good.

You guys have a very distinct image. Did that come before or after the music?

With the label we have gotten access to better clothes and better photo shoots. It is being around each other all the time you start sharing clothes. Everyone starts to look alike anyway. We are not going for the 70’s retro look. We do not want to be pigeonholes. We try to keep it rock. What we can pull off, you know. I am not at the leather pants stage yet. But when I can wear leather pants on stage on stage and no one cares then I know I have made it.

What has been the reception from your latest single Angels on the Moon?

It has been crazy. It seems to be a song that I think the lyrics are general enough that people are able to make their own interpretation of it. Their own interpretations seems to be deep and emotional. It is crazy. Last night people were crying and people calling the radio station to request it. They are all getting emotional about the song. It is hard for us. We try to never say what its about. It is a hopeful song in general but the lyrics are open to interpretation. The reception is awesome. It has been really gradual. I feel lucky because we are competing Akon and Beyonce for these radio slots. To hear the word #1 song is pretty trippy for me. I am excited. It is going to be a good year.

Where does inspiration come from when you guys sit down to write a new song?

Everything starts on piano with Scott. Once it is 50-70% done we work out the rest of the melodies and arrangements.

Where are you originally from?

Four of the five of us are from the San Francisco area. Scott is from the O.C. But we all met in Santa Barbara.

PC or Mac?

Mac. The only reason now is because we all got robbed in Montreal and Wind-Up Records, the cool label they are, went out and bought us all Mac Books. We are sporting the new Mac Books now. It is better for media and recording software and stuff.

Where do you guys practice?

We have been touring so much we haven’t had any practices. We have played so many shows. Our normal practice spot had always been Drew’s basement. We recorded 90% of the record there. Angels on the Moon was recorded there. We tried to redo it in a full studio and we liked the basement version better. Kind of trippy when radio programmers and people on VH1 hear that the song was recorded in a basement it trips them out.

What is your favorite venue to play?

There has been a lot of really cool ones that we have done. I would say the Midland Theater in Kansas City is an awesome one. We are doing the Bowery Ballroom in New York. I hear it is really cool. The Murray Theater in Salt Lake City is awesome. It could be a dump and there is a 1,000 people there and it will be the best venue of all time. There are so many places that we have never been. We are going to a bunch of theaters in this tour. There will be some good ones.

Let’s say that you are about to headline at Madison Square Garden. Who is your opener?

A 5 cover band? That’s a tough one. Maybe we will be nice to the guys and will let U2 open the show. They might be able to sell a few tickets too.

Where do you guys see yourselves in five years?

Either recording a third album or touring. I really get the sense that the fans that we are getting on this first single and the touring that we are getting right now are fans that will be there for the long run. We try to make the personal message or by signing everyone’s CD after the show. We are trying to make that personal connection to ensure some life long fans. We want to tour and play great shows whether we have single out.

Pepsi or Coke?

Coke, I think. Although I have been working with this vocal guy to maintain on the road. There are foods that I would have never thought of that I would never have to eat. I am not allowed carbonated drinks, caffeine, chocolate, tomatoes. Basically I have the diet of rabbit on tour.

What is it like being featured on VH1’s You Oughta Know?

It is crazy. There have been some radio stations that have been behind the song. They have been playing the video for over 30 weeks. We feel really fortunate to be part of that family.

What was it like performing on Jimmy Kimmel?

That was one of these surreal moments. It was like shooting the video or signing the record deal. It was a milestone. It was a trip. Of course everyone’s family is tuned it. It was way cool. He was really nice. We also got to meet Randy Jackson.

You guys won the Yahoo! User Choice Who’s Next. You were up against some incredible talent. What does that victory mean to you?

It was huge. It was nice to have the support of Yahoo! We are on their homepage for their music last week. With MySpace and the net there are so many places you can reach potential fans. It has taken a lot of hard work and a lot of time and everything we get we acknowledge and appreciate.

Is MySpace good or bad for musicians?

I think it is good. It is a great way to connect directly to fans. That is if you use it. We try to answer as many messages as you can. They find bands, even the people that don’t listen to the radio. We have been averaging almost a million plays a week. That is pretty insane. We couldn’t be happier. If people like the music enough they get the record and come to the show.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

I think we want to be remembered for a great live band. That is the most important thing to us. A great live band that people are excited to see. Whether we are 25 or 45 we want to be doing this when we are old and gray.

Where did the name Thriving Ivory come from?

Everything sounds stupid when you are trying to come up with a name. We are going to start making up stuff for interviews. Say we were on some African safari hunting elephants.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

We are just really excited about this year and turning on the country to Thriving Ivory. We want people to get out to the show. We are going to battle and we will see you on the road.