Interview with Paige Clem

Interview with Paige Clem, Marin Magazine

Paige Clem’s “Firefly” album release show: Terrapin Crossroads, Friday, March 9, 2018 8 p.m.

ER: Tell us how you became who you are today, Paige Clem, singer-songwriter extraordinaire. Were you always singing? What was your first instrument?

PC: My first musical memories at my grandmother’s piano. I used to like to make sounds on it when I was little and would visit her. I did take piano for a few years when I was in elementary school, but it was always more natural for me to “create” music than just play existing pieces or learn things. It’s always been hard for me to practice and learn new music…I seem to prefer to just do what sounds/feels natural to me.

ER: How and when did you break into the Bay Area scene?

PC: I moved back to the Bay Area in 2010 and started reconnecting with music later that year after having not played much for about a decade. An acquaintance knew me to be a bit of a deadhead and there was a new Grateful Dead tribute his friends were putting together and they were looking for a female singer to cover the Donna parts when they did 70’s-style shows. I met up with the guys and it worked so I started singing and performing out with that band, The Eleven. There wasn’t nearly as much Grateful Dead being played around here then as there is now so we developed a nice following pretty quickly that helped me become more known in the area. Around the same time I started an Americana/Folk-Soul band around my own music called Clem & Them and we would gig pretty regularly as well. Overtime if you play enough it seems you just meet more people and it grows. One of the things I love about this area is that there always seems to be some sort of showcase or tribute or benefit going on and those have always proven to help me connect with more musicians and fans.

ER: Was there a point where you started to “take it more seriously”? I know you have your debut album coming out soon! (Give us those details if you have them!)

PC: Well, I always wanted to play music, but when I was younger I lacked the confidence or belief in myself needed to sustain the vulnerable aspects of performing and putting your art out there. It was hard enough for me that I actually put music aside for nearly a decade and let my artistic self go dormant. A series of circumstances in my late 30’s lead me to reconnect with my musical self and it was such a real and true feeling that I realized it was more painful to not play and create than it was to deal with the stuff in my head that said I wasn’t good enough. So I just got out of my own way and it’s been an amazing ride ever since.  

As far as my album, yes! I’ve been writing and playing since my 20s but in keeping with the title of one of my songs on the new record, it’s been a “Long Time Comin”!  As an independent artist there’s so much ground to cover and figure out when you decide to record music. I had to sort out the funding first (I gratefully raised $14k in crowd-funding) and the what to record and who to produce it…then there’s everything that happens from there in terms of the actual music. It’s taken quite a while but I’m excited to say that my record will be coming out in the next few months and I’m super proud of and happy with it. I’m also beyond grateful to have an amazing band of players to support me. We’ll be doing a “pre-release” show this coming Saturday, 1/20 in the bar at Terrapin. The band includes James Nash (The Waybacks), Joe Craven (Garcia/Grisman Band), Jordan Feinstein (Jordan & The Ritual), Robin Sylvester (RatDog) and Gabe Ford (Little Feat). It’s truly a dream team and I can’t wait to share the stage with them.

ER: What’s the Bay Area like for singer-songwriters? Do you have favorite venues? Do you prefer the coffee shop vibe or the the thrill of the bar scene?

PC: I think it can be tricky sometimes for local artists because there is SO MUCH music around here…so many places, so many artists. One of the beautiful things about music is how it can bring people together for a sense of community, but I think that can sometimes get diluted when there are just so many choices. So I’d say finding your tribe and the people that you connect with can be difficult depending on what you do. Persistence certainly helps.  Personally, I’ve been very grateful to The Ivy Room in Albany for giving me a home for my Songs About Something: Old, New, Borrowed & Blue Tunes in the Round series. I’ve been hosting songwriters there each month for over a year now and that consistency has definitely helped develop a nice community there. I’ll always be grateful to The Bazaar Cafe (in SF) for giving just about any and every songwriter a place to share their music and for not allowing any cover tunes…it’s all about the songwriters. Terrapin Crossroads of course can’t be beat for the vibrant music loving community of fans and musicians, and I really love the mix of original and tribute type shows they offer.  There are so many great places to hear and play around here but obviously what makes a show feel great is the faces in the room.

ER: What advice do you have for singer-songwriters just starting out in the Bay Area?

PC: Ooo…good question!  For me, it’s all been about community. There are a lot of great resources out there to help folks connect and get resources—Balanced Breakfast, KC Turner’s Open Mics, SF Bay Area Musicians Facebook group, West Coast Songwriters…so many great ways to connect. Research stuff, check things out, if you don’t find what you’re looking for then make it! Then get out there and play your heart out!

Emilie Rohrbach

Emilie Rohrbach has taught music and theater to grades pre-school through 8th in San Francisco and Marin counties for the last 20 years. She has been a freelance writer for Divine Caroline for five years, and her writing has appeared in Narratively, Hippocampus, Common Ground, Travelers’ Tales, and Marin Magazine, among others. She is passionate about Room to Read, Shanti Bhavan, and Destiny Arts and serves on the board of Knighthorse Theatre Company.