ClayBank is a red hot blue grass string band from the Blue Ridge Mountains making serious waves in the bluegrass world. The group’s heterogenous mixture of young talent with veteran experience has combined with their “straight ahead bluegrass” style to set this force of nature on a rapid path of success since its formation in Jan. of 2015.
This Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m., the band will be celebrating their national success with a special release concert in West Jefferson at the Ashe County Civic Center.
The concert is in support of the group’s newly released debut album Playing Hard to Forget, but the show will not simply be another gig for this bluegrass supergroup on the rise. The concert will be a triumphant homecoming for ClayBank.
This homecoming release party will be the second for the band who recently sold out the Harvest House in Boone with a similar event.
“We decided we would do one in Ashe County because Jacob and Zack, our guitar player and mandolin player, are from Ashe county,” says veteran bassist Gary Trivette. “We wanted to have a party over there to give people a chance to hear our CD live and to pick up a copy of it.”
This homecoming concert, which will feature tunes from the newly released album is taking place just over two years after the band’s formation.
The timeline marking Claybank’s quick and deserving rise is an exciting one:
Forming in Jan. of 2015, ClayBank gets its name from the group’s rehearsal space located on ClayBank road in West Jefferson, NC. Fast forward just over a year, and ClayBank takes third place at the SPBGMA Bluegrass Music Awards National Band Championship in Feb. In March of the same year, just a month later, ClayBank wins 1st place in the prestigious band competition at Renofest in South Carolina. Building on those successes, which won them scores of new fans and attention from industry players, ClayBank signs with the Andrea Roberts Agency in April of 2016. The group then begins the spring of 2016 by signing with Rural Anthem Records in May.
“We got together mostly just to pick and to make music together. When it started sounding good, we kind of got a little more serious about it.”
In the four month stretch between Feb. and May 2016, ClayBank stirred significant waves in the greater bluegrass community, gaining attention with awards, signing with a prominent agency and signing on with the record label that would produce their first album.
“The success of this band is really something I had never dreamed of. It’s just the right combination of people that got together I think with what experience I had to offer and their youthful exuberance,” says Trivette. “It’s not hard for us to pick out songs to do because we like the same styles and types of bluegrass.”
Claybank is ready to build on the momentum and attention their accomplishments have earned them with the release of their new album, which debuted on Sept. 30.
The single, “Up On Claybank,” from the album has been warmly received on bluegrass radio and has enjoyed time in the top 20 on bluegrass charts. The song features Zack Arnold’s lead vocal and captures the culture and charm of growing up in the rural community from which the band derives its name.
“Our single, ‘Up On Claybank,’ that Jacob and Zack wrote, took about a month or so to start appearing on the charts. And ever since probably June it’s been in and out of the top 15,” says Trivette. “And it peaked out so far at number 4 last week on the bluegrass today weekly airplay chart. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am. It’s like a dream come true.”
The full album promises to continue building Claybank’s notoriety and success in the bluegrass world. In fact, Playing Hard to Forget, Claybank’s new release from Rural Rhythm Records, was sixth on AirPlay Direct’s global radio play chart last month.
With their music causing a reverberating commotion around the bluegrass world, Claybank remains centered on the community and culture that grounds their music. The release party on Saturday is a clear reflection of the band’s close-to-home priorities. Claybank is a band that encompasses the High Country. They are excited to return home to share their music with the people and culture that it describes.
While the group has risen with incredible speed, their success is anything but premature. ClayBank is composed of four lifelong musicians deeply steeped in the bluegrass tradition.
Zack Arnold (mandolin)
Now 16, Arnold began singing before his second birthday. Before long, he developed a love for bluegrass and began singing harmonies.
Originally taking lessons on the mandolin, Arnold eventually found that he was most interested in learning to play the guitar. Since Claybank’s formation, Arnold has picked up his former instrument, honing his “hard-hitting mandolin style.”
In addition to his impressive mandolin playing and accomplished flatpicking skills, Arnold has developed powerful vocals that contribute heavily to the band’s overall sound.
Jacob Greer (guitar)
Now 17, Greer also began his musical training at a young age, picking up the electric guitar when he was eight. After a few years of playing electric, Greer was introduced to bluegrass music, which he immediately loved.
Moving away from the electric guitar, Greer has now spent “countless hours studying the techniques of guitar greats Tony Rice and Kenny Smith.”
In 2012, Greer was asked to join bluegrass and gospel band Heritage. After four years of playing with the band, Greer joined ClayBank, refining his style to fit in perfectly with the group’s other members. His “dynamic rhythm and impressive lead guitar playing” are essential elements in ClayBank’s style.
Tyler Thompson (banjo)
Born in Watauga County, Thompson was also introduced to bluegrass at a very young age. Inspired by his bass-playing father, Thompson began guitar and banjo lessons when he was 10.
Shortly after he started lessons, Thompson became a remarkably talented musician, winning awards for both his guitar and banjo playing. Now focusing on his banjo playing in ClayBank, he is also an accomplished songwriter and singer.
In addition to his musical career, Thompson is also a paramedic and a United States Army veteran.
Gary Trivette (bass)
Growing up in Watauga County during the ’60s and ’70s, Trivette is ClayBank’s most experienced member of the band. He was born to a very musical family, leading him to pick up bass playing at the age of eight.
With prominent local musician Auborn Trivette as a father, Trivette has deep ties to the High Country’s music scene. Inspired by The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene, Trivette spent 17 years as the banjo player for his bluegrass band Southern Accent. After his time with the band, he also spent several years as a member of Carolina Crossing.
With his rock-solid bass playing, wide vocal range and impressive songwriting abilities, Trivette provides a firm foundation for the rest of the band’s members.
The incredible and unique wealth of musical skill and experience that the members of Claybank each contribute to the band has proven a perfect recipe for pristine bluegrass music.
Drawing from the influence of their home in the mountains, ClayBank’s straight ahead style is making such a stir in the bluegrass community because of the raw and diverse talent exhibited by each member.
There is no weak link in this rising supergroup. Each member is at the top of their field playing their instrument of choice.
The real golden ticket for the band is their highly acclaimed vocal abilities and tight aggressive harmonies.
ClayBank is comprised of a group of highly industrious individuals who were raised on gospel and bluegrass in the High Country. The music they make is a celebration of the rich musical heritage of the High Country, from which they naturally grew and gathered together like the creeks that run the banks of clay.