It is a shame that ‘American Idol’ is finishing its run this year. Without the long-running FOX talent competition, we would not have discovered several talented musicians. Among the countless singers that this iconic show has found includes Clark Beckham.
While he only received a “Yes” from Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban during the Judges’ Auditions round in Nashville, Tennessee, the 23-year-old Blue-eyed soul singer slowly began to win over Harry Connick, Jr. Throughout Hollywood Week and the House of Blues, where he broke away from the pack with his powerful rendition of the late Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” that earned him a spot in the Season 14 Top 24 and eventually in the Top 12.
Week after week, Clark continued to prove his versatility as a musician as he delivered show-stopping performances of “Takin’ It to the Streets,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Make It Rain,” “Superstition” and “Earned It,” which earned him a spot at the finale. While he came in second, Clark continued to prove his bright future in the music industry with a fiery piano duet of “Takin’ It to the Streets” with music legend Michael McDonald.
After he finished the ‘American Idol’ cross country tour, Clark returned home to White House, Tennessee and began to create his music library. He released his own takes on Top 40 favorites such as “Hello,” “Chandelier” (with fellow ‘Idol’ alums Tyanna Jones and Rayvon Owen) and “Can’t Sleep Love” (with Ben Platt).
In this edition of A Conversation, Clark reflected on his entire ‘American Idol’ experience and what type of music that fans can expect on his new album.
Jacob Elyachar: How have you grown as an artist since your time on ‘American Idol’?
Clark Beckham: ‘American Idol’ showed me how to take crazy amounts of pressure and perform no matter the circumstance. The show also taught me how to perform professionally and put together a refined product. I learned to do vocal runs when it is called for and sing with conviction. It is something my dad always told me and it was something that I learned while I was on the show. Another lesson that I will stand by 100 times and that I always share with singers if they can do vocal runs is that one note sung with conviction beats eight notes sung correctly.
JE: What were some of your favorite memories from the show?
CB: I loved Top 48 Week at the House of Blues. I enjoyed rehearsing with the band and going through my arrangement of “Georgia on My Mind” with them. I also enjoyed being around the people I met in the Top 48; it was such an elite group of musicians and we bonded when we ate together, hung out and watched movies in each other’s rooms. While I loved every single bit of my ‘Idol’ experience, it got difficult near the end of my time on ‘Idol,’ not because of stamina or other factors, but I felt that I faced an uphill battle which I did not mind at all. But, I loved every single bit of my ‘American Idol’ journey. There were sweet spots at every single moment that ranged from my first audition in Nashville (where there were thousands of people auditioning) to the finale. I truly had a great experience.
JE: Throughout your time on ‘Idol,’ numerous sites and fans praised you for being one of your season’s most versatile artists. How important was it for you to showcase your versatility?
CB: Instruments are as important to me as my voice. I love instruments, and I love music! If there is any way that I can experience her (music), I will. I am addicted to music! I want to experience it on the electric guitar scale, playing different jazz chords on the acoustic guitar, and I love drums! Drums are my favorite instruments to play, and they were my gateway into the music world. I loved showcasing the unique hits, grooves and funk elements of the drums. I also like playing the bass when I am playing with a band. Instrumentation is so important to me that it was imperative that I showed that on the ‘Idol’ stage. If anyone goes on the ‘Idol’ stage, they must demonstrate that you are different, unique and do things that no one else could do!
JE: One of my favorite performances from your time on Idol was your encore performance of “Georgia on My Mind” at the Season 14 finale. How important was it to revisit that particular song?
CB: The producers told me that I could do over any song that I performed throughout the season. I just knew that I was going to play “Georgia on My Mind” once again. I performed my arrangement of the song that I played, and it is not a simple song to perform. While there are different chords throughout my arrangement, it still stays true to both the late Ray Charles and “Georgia on My Mind.” It is one of the best songs ever recorded, and I think I did it in a way that no one has ever heard before. I also sang my face off. I went for the low notes at the beginning of the song, and I screamed and shouted at the end of the track. (JE: You took us to church!) I did! It did get churchy, so it did work out!
JE: Speaking of taking the audience to church, you took us to piano rock heaven when you joined Michael McDonald in a fiery rendition of “Takin’ It to the Streets.” Could you describe the moment you found out that you were going to perform a duet with him?
CB: I remember feeling shocked when the producers told me that I was going to be performing with him. I did not know who they (the producers) were going to pair me with for the finale. I loved every minute of my duet with Michael McDonald. It was incredible! He’s so amazing that you cannot talk about him enough.
JE: While you had a great experience on ‘Idol,’ one of your fellow castmates recently revealed their own experience. Jax released a music video that not only featured some of your fellow Season 14 alums, but also put the show in a negative light. In your humble opinion, did she correctly interpreted what happened behind-the-scenes?
CB: When I first heard the song, I recognized certain phrases in there. For example, when Jax said: “Great! Let’s get it again with a little more personality.” We got that a lot and I thought that it was funny because they (producers) would tell us that all the time in things we would do. But after watching the video, I wasn’t happy and to be completely honest with you, the video upset me. ‘American Idol’ was good to us. Sometimes, they (the producers) had to make decisions for the show, because it is a TV show and we were on THEIR TV show, that we did not like, but that’s what we signed up for – literally. But the people of ‘Idol’ are good people and treated us really well. What I am scared of is that Jax’s video is going to give the producers and crew a bad reputation. A lot bothered me but one lyric in particular was “I am feeling a little under the weather, here’s a little pill from Beverly Hills that will make you feel better.” All of us had the flu twice during the season. (JE: What?) They (producers) took us to the best doctor in LA and had him open up his practice in the middle of the night and prescribe us. They made sure to give us medical attention from the best of the best at all times. They did not have to do that for us but they did and it seems to me that she took that and used it as a line in her song to punish them.
JE: Several other alums from your season (Adam Ezegelian, Michael Simeon, Rayvon Owen and Daniel Seavey) were featured in Jax’s diss video. Were you surprised to learn that they participated in this music video?
CB: While I was surprised to see them in the video, I have not talked to them about it yet. I am pretty sure that they did not co-write the song, but I do not know how it worked out. However, when a contestant comes from the show and puts out a song that, in my opinion, is an extremely inaccurate representation of the show, the public doesn’t know any better but to take their word for it. I was on ‘American Idol XIV’ as long as any contestant on the show. I was in every green room, every rehearsal, every hotel and I want to say that every ‘American Idol’ staff member from the producers to the unbelievably caring contestant coordinators (Kate Tucci and Grady Chambless) and from the band to the vocal coaches treated us well, and I am very proud to say that I loved my ‘American Idol’ experience. They did a fabulous job with coordinating everything and I am not happy that these good people now might have this poor reputation that, according to my near parallel experience of the same season of the show, is entirely inaccurate.
JE: Let’s move on from ‘Idol’ and talk about songwriting. Could you describe your songwriting process to my readers?
CB: Most of the time, a song will come first in the form of a melody. Words and melodies come almost immediately, maybe just one phrase, and I will put chords to that lyric. Recently, I have done a lot of co-writing where I will have an idea, put down a couple of chords and then handed off to my collaborator and then we will go back and forth. However, sometimes the instrument comes first and then I will write to the groove. It feels like this ethereal spiritual thing that just comes out, at least initially, and my creative process continues from there.
JE: Over the past few months, you released several fantastic covers such as “Hello” and “Chandelier,” your collaboration with fellow ‘Idol’ alums Rayvon Owen and Tyanna Jones on YouTube. Will you be releasing these types of songs on your debut album? Or will there be more original material?
CB: I can tell you and your readers that my debut album will be filled with originals. If I decide to put a cover on the album, there would only be one cover. If I found a cover that suited me well and would work for an album, it would probably end up being a bonus track.
JE: Who are your dream collaborators?
CB: I would love to work with Nile Rodgers. He is one funky musician who knows his chords and musicality of music. I love the stuff that he produces and the material that he puts out. I would also like to work with Babyface! He is someone that I listened to growing up and has put out some of the best sounding records over the past 10 years. In addition to these two music icons, I would also like to work with Jon Bellion, who is a musical revolutionist and he actually has become a good friend of mine. As far as artists, I got to write with Brian McKnight (JE: Wow!). I wrote a song with him that might make the album. A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to open for Allen Stone. He is a wonderful guy who loves people and has a great feel of music. I would also like to collaborate with Tori Kelly. Her talent is just absurd and she is one of the most talented artists in the world right now. However, my number one dream collaboration choice would be John Mayer. He is somebody that has created high quality music that is so easily digestible to the masses and he is someone that makes great music not for one specific corner in the music industry (R&B, soul and rock) …but for the world and that is something that I am looking to do.
JE: What can your fans expect from you for the rest of the year?
CB: Right now, I have been working on this album. I am writing a lot and setting up co-writes all the time with really incredible people. I have also been looking for the right producers and other requirements. A lot of people ask me: “Why is your album not out?” People need to realize (and I recently realized this) that there are so many things that have to happen to make an album. I am sure that Nick Fradiani (‘American Idol XIV’ winner)’s album is coming out this year. He has been working on it for months and has shown me a couple of potential tracks that could be on the album. While Nick has everything (a team, management, a record label and agents) set up and people to make stuff happen, I was released from all ‘American Idol’ contracts and 19 Entertainment. Right now, I am still searching for management and read through a couple of deals…but it did not feel like the right fit for me. Because I do not have a label or management…I am doing this whole thing on my own, and I am not going to rush the creation process, just because the iron is hot. While that phrase is true, no matter what happens music will always come first! If I released something right after the finale, it would have gotten a lot of initial sales, but the quality would not have been close to where I wanted it to be. I am gathering the right team to produce the best musical piece that can come out of the vessel that I am and the quality of the album musically will not be diminished because of the rush of getting it out. I am going to make sure that my album is the best musical product that I can make.