Early on, The Clarks were once described as a bunch of out of tune country hicks. The band took irreverent offense to the comments, saying they were never country hicks. Eleven studio albums and a couple of guitar tuners later, The Clarks have struck again with Madly In Love At The End Of The World, a lively ride down a rural lane, laced with love, mourning, and questions about where it all goes from here.
The band recorded the eleven song album in a converted A-frame church, which helped highlight a series of warm, rock and Alt-Country tunes. The four original members, Scott Blasey (vocals, acoustic guitar), Rob James (6 and 12-string electric guitars, vocals), Greg Joseph (bass, vocals) and David Minarik (drums, vocals) are joined by fellow touring mates Gary Jacob, Skip Sanders and Noah Minarik, tossing out some spanking pedal steel, Hammond organ and tasty guitar. “We’ve never had more fun composing and recording songs,” says bass player Greg Joseph. “With our storied recording history, it’s really heartening to know that music can still captivate the band as much as it has on this album.”
With a highlight reel that includes the Late Show with David Letterman, The Simpsons, and others, The Clarks are enjoying their stage time together now more than ever. “It’s one big extended family,” says guitarist Rob James. “Dave’s son Noah plays on this album, and with us live, so saying that isn’t just a metaphor, it’s fact!” Singing and playing the songs of Madly In Love At The End Of The World has rekindled a fire in The Clarks’ sometimes broken, sometimes mended hearts.
From the outside, Paul Luc’s story is seemingly normal. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, he started playing guitar and joined a garage band in high school; from there, he attended a small college just south of the city, studied economics, and got a business job in healthcare. On the weekends, he'd play local shows, write music, and even put out his first album. But after years of working a grueling 9-5, Luc woke up one day, tired, bored, and unhappy with his situation -- and without a plan, quit corporate America. Since then, he’s harnessed his full energy toward making music. He’s toured throughout the country and caught the ear of the Americana world. As he gears up to release his third album, Paul Luc’s story has rapidly grown into one with an authentic sound and relatable message for the masses.
Luc’s love for music dates back to early childhood, when he found his parent’s record collection at age five, “I'd sit there with big, olive green headphones on, spiral cord plugged into the stereo, just caught up in the sounds.” Those early influences aren’t hard to hear in his music; traces of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, John Lennon, The Band, and Elton John are uniquely weaved throughout his melodies. And by elementary school, he'd gained a brand new perspective of music from mentor and well-known jazz saxophonist Don Aliquo. “He would pick up things quicker, and you could see he had talent,” Aliquo says, “It was very evident to me he had talent over and above most of the kids in the class.” Luc studied trumpet under Aliquo for years, before eventually finding guitar in high school and touring regionally with his rock band, Simon. But Aliquo’s support, the skill set he learned, and the importance of music were things that would never leave Luc, along with his myriad of influences.
In 2014, Luc came in full force with the release of his second full-length album, Tried & True. The ten-track album caught the attention of major, mainstream radio station WDVE, who championed the record and played it on heavy rotation. The album showcased Luc’s ability to merge upbeat rhythms with brutally-honest and relatable lyrics. When he was ready to start his newest project, Bad Seed, Luc turned to Dave Hidek, the same Pittsburgh producer that helped him the attain the folk rock sound in Tried & True. But this time around, the duo wanted to attempt the unknown; they formulated a plan to travel to Nashville, TN, and decided to recruit musicians that they'd never met, much less worked with. “I had this sort of romantic idea. I’d see photos of songwriters and musicians on a studio floor together, no computers, just doing things in that moment, which is probably what made the records that a lot of us idolize so great,” Luc says, “So I got this idea that I wanted to get acquaintances or strangers together and just do that.”
Recorded at Welcome to 1979 Studios, Luc might've gambled -- but didn’t place his bets on just anyone. The lineup of Nashville badasses featured on Bad Seed includes bassist Cameron Carrus, drummer Paul Griffith (John Prine, Jason Isbell, k.d. lang), backing vocals from Leah Blevins, and pianist Jefferson Crow and guitar/pedal steel player Laur “Lil’ Joe” Joamets, both part of Sturgill Simpson’s band from the iconic 2016 album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. And while his studio lineup turned out to be a recruitment of some of Music City’s most valued players, Luc was working on a tight timeline and budget, “We had no rehearsal time, we didn’t rehearse at all actually,” he says, “So we decided to record to tape, it gives you less options to change things. It forces you to make decisions.”
But even with an abundance of unknown variables, Bad Seed found its way. “It would either work or it wouldn’t. Luckily, it really did. We all clicked and worked things out take-by-take.” It’s impossible to ignore that Bad Seed was fated for success, not only because of Luc taking a chance on the setup, but also his ability to organically build songs. While in the studio, Joamets even dubbed his songwriting ‘healing’ which Luc hopes to achieve with Bad Seed, “I try to write about personal experience, and people usually relate in their own unexpected ways. There’s something beautiful about music and the unpredictable ways it connects people.” And if anything, that’s what Bad Seed is -- proof that even out of the unknown, something beautiful can surface.