Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Clint Zimmerman

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Clint ZimmermanNot sure why, but I love country music. Maybe it’s because I am from a small town. Or maybe it’s because I have found an appreciation for the lyrics that are pumped out of Nashville. (Well, I say Nashville, as that’s the stereotypical place that produces the best in country tunes.) I enjoy guys that have that twang in their voice, producing a sound that is raw, authentic, and just sounds country. There are only a few guys out there that have it… the guy I am sitting with is one of them. He is out there busting his butt riding bulls, drinking beer, and singing his songs for people all over the country. I actually had the chance to see him perform live not long after this interview, and was blown away from the sound of his voice to the lyrics he writes. (He writes all of his own lyrics.) It’s exciting to find a talent like this in the Hoosier state. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Clint Zimmerman.

I assume it is, but is your real name Clint Zimmerman?

Yes, sir it is. Most people don’t know it, but it’s Clint. It’s not Clinton. It’s not anything different, just Clint. Some people call me Cletus. I think it’s awesome.

How long have you been performing?

Performing, I would say for probably ten years. Well, probably eight years. But I have been playing music for about twelve years. I started playing when I was fifteen years old. I started playing music because my grandfather. My grandma got sick, and when she was on her deathbed he pulled his guitar out and started playing. I took an interest then and it was a way for me to cope with the stress of my grandma dying. I have been playing ever since.

What’s your first memory of the guitar?

My first memory is watching my buddies play. I have always had buddies that played music, and its’ kind of funny. I had a few buddies that lived in the trailer park near where I grew up. There wasn’t anything to do in the trailer park but play music. My first memory comes from my buddies.

It started off; they were all heavy metal guys. They all liked that stuff. That never really was my style, as you can tell! (Laughs)

Where are you originally from?

I am from Martinsville, born and raised. But I have lived several places. Just along with the rodeo, I have buddies that live all over the country. I have lived in Kentucky, Arkansas, Michigan, and Illinois… I even lived in Kansas for a while. I have lived in my truck; I have an SUV now. It’s easier for me to haul my equipment; it never gets wet. It’s easier than a truck.

It seems like every time I see a picture of you, you have on a cowboy hat. How many cowboy hats do you own?

Oh man, I really don’t know. I only have one good one. This is the one that I wear all the time. This one has seen the action. I always keep them for my nephew. He likes to wear them around the house. I have piles of them around the house. I have quite a few of them now that I think about it.

All right, let’s stay on this cowboy theme for a second. Cowboys like to eat… they like to eat steak. I remember growing up and going to a place in my hometown called the Blue Mule. They used to have a steak called that. Do… what’s your favorite steak?

I like a ribeye. I like it cooked medium. I like it with a beer. Sometimes I like it marinated in whiskey, but a ribeye is probably my favorite cut of beef. As a matter of fact, there is only one way to eat a steak… knock off the horns, wipe it’s ass, and throw it on a plate. That’s a quote right there!

So how do you know Russ Baum?

I met Russ through my brother. He had been hanging out with Russ for years, and Russ wrote a lot of songs about the times they all had together. You know, him and his friends. On my 21st birthday Russ was playing at the Walnut Street Tap. He was on the front of the stage, watched the whole show, and my brother asked if I wanted to meet Russ.

My brother got me backstage, and from there on we have stayed connected. I opened a show for him. Actually, it was a festival. There were like six hundred people in the crowd; the opening band backed out. They didn’t make it and the promoter was running around freaking out. Russ was backstage there, and he heard me. I actually went to school with his wife. I have known her my whole life. Russ met me through that, musically, and we toured for a couple of years. Then I slacked off music a bit, and went back to rode a little bit. Then Russ called me one day, out of the blue, and since then we have been jamming.

Bull riding? Isn’t that dangerous?

I ride buck and horses. But I fight bulls. But yeah, it’s dangerous. I have been pretty lucky. I have been beat up, but the worst thing that happened to me was I broke my neck in Kansas. It was just a fracture, but till. It didn’t even hurt.

If you are asking me if it’s dangerous, it’s Americans most dangerous sport. It’s fun, though. We actually put on rodeos. I just got off the phone with my business partner, and we are going to be having one in Clermont at the Lion’s Club. I am hoping to have some events around here in Indianapolis. I want to get some of these people here in Indianapolis to come out. It’s what I write about… what I sing about. People have such a misconception about it. All these people out here loving on Carrie Underwood… and she is trying to stop the support on these. Country music? Get her out of there.

Do you have a band, or is it just you up there on stage?

Right now, it’s just me. I have been through several band members, and musicians are flaky. They are one of the hardest people to deal with. I have seen them with my experiences, and I am in the process of searching for a band right now. So if anyone is looking, I am looking for a drummer and a bass player. I have a lead guitar player, and a mandolin player. They don’t play with me yet. It’s mostly just me up there. The way I look at it, Townes Van Zandt did it, why cant I?

It comes form a story. When Russ first started out, he was… if you would have heard his first band, you would have thrown tomatoes at him. He played electric guitar and kicked amps and jumped around on stage. Their band name was called Loaded. It was horrible. He worked down in Bloomington, and discovered Van Zandt. He said, from then on, if he can’t do it alone he couldn’t do it with a band.

Do you write all of your own lyrics?

Yes I do. I write every song, and maybe an occasional co-writer with me every once and a while. My mandolin player has helped me a few times. He helps with one or two words here or there. Russ helps me with my philosophical meanings, but mostly myself. I would like to keep it that way too. I never wanted to be the one that took songs from Nashville and made them my own. Even though it’s still talent, I didn’t write them.

How can you put feeling into what you’re playing if you don’t even know what it’s about? Unless you wrote it you have no clue the emotional tie. I have always wanted to be my own writer, my own singer.

I have written a few songs that I think someone else’s voice would be better for, but I really just want to be my own artist. I want to be me. I want people to hear what I have to say.

In your opinion, who is the greatest guitar player of all time?

I would have to say Tony Rice. He is a bad boy. He is a bluegrass picker. Him, Ricky Skaggs… I am trying to remember… bluegrass was their thing. It was him, Skaggs, and Todd… but Tony Rice is his own musician. He wrote a lot of bluegrass songs. He is one of the fastest flat pickers I have ever seen in my life.

Look him up. He plays an acoustic Martin… he makes that guitar sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn makes an electric sound. But I would have to say that Tony Rice is the best guitar player in the world.

How has the Internet changed the way people absorb music?

The Internet is just totally opened a new market for musicians. Not even musician, but actors, comedians, anyone in that sort of filed twenty years ago, musicians didn’t have that option. They had to be in the right place at the right time. Now you can sit in the living room, record your stuff, and you’re discovered. You can be discovered the day you put it on there.

I like the way people base things on the number of hits you get. It has opened the world up to where you are your own marketing team. You don’t have to pay big bucks to get he exposure. Everyone has a computer. The Internet is outrageous. It can be a good thing, or a bad thing. It can be, like Facebook. It can be used in one way, then in another way it can be horrible. It can be a big drama circle.

I think the Internet has changed things substantially.

What’s the largest crowd you have ever played for?

I would have to say about six hundred. That was on an outdoor stage at a hometown party. We pulled six hundred to that. I would say that’s the biggest crowd I have played for.

The smallest?

I have played for three or four people. I have played for one person. I have played to my dog before. He lets me know if he likes it, or if he doesn’t. I am hoping to change that biggest crowd thing soon. I am hoping that grows to 1,000. And I’m not that far off. I just have never played a venue that big.

Tell me more about Tin Can Entertainment.

Tin Can Entertainment started with a buddy and me. We had another buddy that was putting on parties, and people started complaining about them. Heck, we used to put on parties and just having fun with it. We were standing in his front yard one day; he had this old barn. We wanted to turn that into a venue. We worked for three months and turned it into a great venue.

Russ came out, and said, “Let’s call it the Tin Can… it looks like a tin can”. We have been putting on concerts ever since. We want to get into some bigger acts, and we are trying to get our feet wet. We are just a party company, really. We do everything from supplying the stage, the sound, and the alcohol. We supply everything. From the bands to the party accessories; we do everything.  We are starting to become pretty successful at it. We are hoping to grow. The sky is the limit.

Where do you get inspiration for a new track?

Life, man. Life throws me lyrics. My girlfriend, or my buddies… sometimes just driving down the road and I will start thinking about things. Riding my horse, I get inspiration… I get inspiration from riding all the time. Then my rodeo life has a big inspiration on me. Love lost and love that I have… it’s a lot of life in general. Life inspires me to write.

Music is everywhere. It’s in everything we do. It’s part of your life, where you want to hear it or not. With the wind or the thunder… all the sounds around us are music. There is a move called August Rush. It’s a great movie. It really opened my eyes to saying, “Music is everywhere.” There is music everywhere. The typing of the keys on your keyboard is music to me. There is a way that it can be incorporated.

What’s on your iPod right now?

I don’t have an iPod. If my demo weren’t in my CD player right now it would be Sterns County 17. They are a band out of Minnesota, and they… right on the same lines of what I’m doing. I got hooked up with them; they used to come to Chicago. They used to come down to bull rides, and we got to know them. Some buddies of mine introduced me to them, and the first time I heard them… he sounds just like me. I love those guys.

They are not scared to tell you what they think in their music. They are really blunt about things. They don’t wear masks to hide who they are… they really are who they are, on and off stage. They are the same people; that’s what really drives me to listen to their music.

So modern day country has basically turned into pop. Who are some of your favorite modern day country artists?

I would have to say Jamey Johnson. Modern country really doesn’t do it for me. How modern are we talking? Garth Brooks, obviously. He is one of my idols. The Zac Brown Band… I really like those guys. I like Lady Antebellum.

I know they are not country, but Old Crow Medicine Show… they are a killer band. As far as county, I really don’t listen to much modern day. Its turned into pop, it’s not Nashville. It doesn’t even seem like a country town anymore. It’s turning into LA.

Tell me more about these rodeos you are involved in.

Right now I am involved with the Backwoods Bull Company. That’s my buddies’ rodeo company that he started, and he brought me in. I’m his bullfighter. I do that from announcing the rodeos to feed and hauling stock. That’s really what I’m moving on with right now. I have been top fifteen in the world four times now. I have been to the finals four times in Oklahoma City.

I have rodeo roped my whole life. I rode bulls for about six years. I’m involved with the Central States Rodeo Association. They are all over the Midwest. They act as a hub for this type of thing. As well as the PRCA. The IPRA as well. The CVR. It’s a cowboy’s bull riders association. I’m not a bull rider there, but we haul bulls to them. I have affiliations with the PBR. About any association in rodeo, I am involved with it in one way or another.

I have heard you say, “I don’t care if I become famous.” What do you want to become.

I just want to be a musician. I want to be heard. I want people to listen to my music and give me feedback; regardless if it’s negative or good… all feedback is jus that. Even if people don’t like, it’s going to make me better because even if they are talking negative about… the people they are talking negative to about me. If people talk negative, it will cause more people to come.

I just want to be the humble musician that plays music. I do it because I love it, and I want to be the musician that gives back to the communities and to the people that helped me. To the people that need it more than I do. I don’t need my name in the hall of fame. I don’t need to play for 50,000 people. As long as I am playing to someone, and someone is listening, that’s what I want. Just to be heard.

Who are some of your biggest influences in both life and in music?

In life, I would have to say my grandma was a big influence on me. Russ Baum has been both musically and life inspiration. Chris LeDoux was a big inspiration as well as Garth Brooks.

What’s this I hear; you make your own beer? Tell me more about that.

We are just making fifty gallons at a time. Its’ not on the market or anything like that. The only people who have really had are the people who have tested it are the people we invite over to do just that. We pick the hardest people to come taste it. Everyone said it was really good. We are trying to move to one hundred gallons, and get our license and move on from there.

We figured, why not… we have Tin Can Entertainment. If we can knock out a deal with a beverage company, and supply the beer ourselves, we cut a lot of costs. That is why it got started. It was really, at first, we just started brewing ten gallons at a time. We just wanted beer to drink. The people that had it thought it was good, and here we are. We have been in the process ever since. It’s a long road, and we are not even halfway there yet.

Record labels have changed so much in the last few years. Are you actively seeking a label?

Right now, I am trying to seek the same label that Russ is on. He is working with Stormy Tuesday Productions. I am trying to get in with them. As far as a label, I’m not really looking. If one comes around, I’ll jump on it. I have had thoughts of starting my own label. But I want to get a little more established. I want to get more toward the national level before I start thinking about that.

If one picks me up, I’d go with them. As long as they hold up their end of the bargain, I am fine with it. Some labels say they will and won’t… that’s what scares me. I give my all for them, and they do nothing for me. Stormy Tuesday is local, it’s close… Mike Perry is a great guy, good sound quality, and he does everything from recording your album to your music videos. That would be the one that I am trying to punch myself on. They are out of Clayton, Indiana.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you go?

Australia. I would really like to live in Australia. It would just be really cool. I love Canada too. The reason I like Australia, it’s still wild there. There is still a lot of untamed land there. The United States is getting over populated. We are losing farmland, forestland… we’re losing everything. It’s all still wild over there. I have a few good friends form Australia, and I have never been… but I have seen the pictures watched the movies, and heard the stories.

I would love to play in Sydney. I would love to play the Theater there. That’s one of Russ’s big goals too. We are trying to make that happen. We are trying to get overseas. I know a lot of guys that never made it until they went overseas. When they left, they were no one. But when they came back, they were gods. No one even liked Jimi Hendrix in the US until he went to Europe.

What are you drinking on stage?

On stage, most of the time I drink Jim Beam. If it’s beer I am drinking Budweiser. They should sponsor me.  I was working on a plan where I was trying to get at their brewery. I wanted to work something out to play at their distillery. I know that Jack Daniel’s does concerts. Not sure if Jim Beam does it or not. That would be killer.

What’s a typical Friday night look like for you?

Well, here lately its just been hanging out with my girlfriend. We just hang out and watch movies. Usually I’m just playing music somewhere. Whether it’s for a big crowd or at a friend’s house. Music… I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You are working in a studio down in Bloomington. What studio and what are you looking to get?

It’s the Bloomington Recording Company. I am working on my first album. It’s a red dirt country album. It’s going to be a mix of rodeo songs and love songs and a couple of lost love songs. Other than that, it’s y first album. I’m pretty excited about it. The sound engineer is an amazing engineer. I have worked with a few, and by far this is the best one I have ever worked with. He actually was the one that recorded Rich Hardesty’s album.

The studio is small. It’s in a basement under a head shop. It’s cool; the atmosphere is cool. The way that they cater to the artist, and the way they care about the artist, is like no other. They do a lot of live feeds for 92.3 and 91.3 at the studio. Russ is also doing work down there too.

It’s a big family down there. We are all working out of the same studio. If someone is looking for a studio, they are going to be your best bet. He has really good prices… seriously good pricing. The quality of the sound engineer, you should be paying double. He’s just that good. He knows how to make you sound like you’re supposed to sound. He’s just got it. Have to give mad props to Dave Cocalis.

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

The best concert I have ever been to was Eric Clapton at Verizon Wireless Music Center. It was in the rain, it was a massive storm… the lighting was amazing. The place was packed; you couldn’t even find a place on the lawn. It was just pouring down rain. It was the best concert I have ever been to.

Chris LeDoux , in New Mexico. It was the second best! He had this song called Bareback Jack. He was singing, with a wireless microphone. He was on stage, and putting his chaps on… the gets on this mechanical bull. He stops, gets off the bull, and never missed a beat. God bless his soul.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself at the national level in five years. Playing major venues, on tour… hopefully have my own label by then. I just want to spend time with, which will hopefully be my wife by then, and we are not too far from it. Just spending time with my family and playing music. Just keep on trucking. Life’s a garden… dig it.

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

I just want to be remembered for my good fun loving ways. Having a good time, caring about my fans. I want to be remembered for caring about the people that supported me, and giving back. I want to be known as the underdog that made it to the top, and once he made it to the top, he gave it right back… to everyone that supposed me along the way.

Fame and fortune are the further things from my mind. I would love to do a lot more benefit stuff. The music should be free. You cant put a price on it. Russ told me, “You’re not getting paid for the music you’re performing that night. You are getting paid for the practice up until then. But even if doing it for free, when the crowd is on their feet… it’s worth doing it for free.”

I play for free a lot because of that. We don’t want people to pay to come see us; we want them to buy our album. That’s what I want o be remember for… is giving back.

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

I want to tell everyone that reach for the stars. The sky is the limit. There is no limit on what you can do if you truly believe if you have love in your heart and your soul. You can succeed. It doesn’t matter where you come from. You can be somebody. You can go from rags to riches. It’s not who you are and who you know, it’s who you want to be and whom do you want to know. Will you take the effort to go meet them, and get to know those people?

Don’t ever give up on your dreams because they failed the first time. I have given up on things that I wish I had never given up on. Things that I was really talented at, but could never get to work. To sum it all up, just pursue your dreams and just be true to yourself.