An Interview with the The Red Clay Strays

A conversation between local Aikenite, Rob Heilig, and The Red Clay Strays ahead of their Aiken Music Fest show on July 3:

Slightly ahead of the 2:00pm scheduled time, my phone rang with a (251) area code that said “Alabama.” Just before answering, I thought of the CB chatter that opens the song ‘Roll On’ by the group Alabama.

On the other end of the line was Andy Bishop from Mobile, Alabama, bassist for The Red Clay Strays, who will be our featured act on July 3rd at Aiken Music Fest. After some formalities, I cut to the chase on my most pressing question I’ve been wanting to ask them!

AMF: Y’all’s somewhat secretive hashtag, #HBYCO, where’d it come from?
AB: One of the guys in the group, he’s always said it, and it was always said in his family, so we’ve just kind of run with it from there.

AMF: 2021 was…
AB: Interesting. We had a big gap, we had to get real jobs, but we played. We actually played a bunch of one-off shows up through the heartland- if they didn’t cancel us, we played- we picked up some along the way – a Texas run we just finished, as well as up through Nebraska and Ohio. We’re all glad to be back to something close to normal and have a schedule and dates before us- miles on the road makes us happy.

AMF: Asking for a sound is really close to pigeon holing an artist. Y’all are…
AB: Unique. We’re a rock band, but all of our members draw upon different influences as their base. We’re all big Skynyrd fans. Gospel, Blues, Honky Tonk. Someone on the Texas run asked us what part of Texas we were from. (there’s definitely a little Texas swing in some of their numbers if you haven’t listened to them yet)

AMF: What are y’all listening to in the van right now?
AB: The radio is broken. (laughs) Brent Cobb, Tyler Childers, Sturgill, Jason Isbell, Billy Strings. But whoever is playing DJ, there’s a good chance you’ll get something WAY out of left field.

AMF: Y’all are putting in the miles. Any great memories of shows you’ve played or been a part of?
AB: We sold out 1200 people for a show in Fairhope, AL- that was a blast. And we had a whale of a time at New Year’s in Mobile.

AMF: Songwriting- collaborative amongst all 5, or how’s that working these days?
AB: Brandon’s younger brother, Matthew, does a lot. As does Drew. Sometimes it’s a group effort to get things fine-tuned.

AMF: I hear there’s an Aiken County connection?
AB: Brandon has family there- we’re looking forward to seeing them.

AMF: The current run?
AB: We’re at a special place to us tonight (7/1) in Jackson Gap, AL at Camp ASCCA- a summer camp for children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. We head to Dadeville tomorrow, then see y’all in Aiken on Saturday. Back to Alabama for a 4th of July show on Sunday.

AMF: 4 guitars and a drum. That’s a dense front…
AB: We’ll have a harmonica, as well as a traveling baby grand when we see y’all.
(Brandon Coleman: Lead Vocals and Guitar, Drew Nix: Vocals, Guitar, and Harmonica, Zach Rishell: Lead Guitar, Andrew Bishop: Bass, and John Hall: Drums)

AMF: Y’all have been together for…
AB: Let’s call it 5 years. Drew (Nix) and I met in college, everything else came together through mutual connections and it’s working how it should.

AMF: What to expect Saturday?
AB: 90% originals and 10% covers. We’re proud of what we do, but we like to throw in a few of the ones of someone else that we really dig. We look forward to seeing y’all on the 3rd!