Texas country singer-songwriter William Clark Green sneaks a Lone Star geography in the title tracks of his albums with songs inspired by cities in the state. “Misunderstood,” the title of his second album, was inspired by Lubbock, where Clark attended Texas Tech University while “Rose Queen,” his last album, points to his hometown of Tyler.
His latest release, set to arrive April 21, has a circus ringling to it, “Ringling Road,” and continues the streak: The town at its roots is Eastland, the West Texas town where Green now lives and a former stop for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus trains on their national tours, a bit of history captured in a street name.
Clark drew his song from a story told to co-writer Ross Cooper by a former circus roustabout in a Nashville bar, which somewhat explains how circus folks spent their time while the elephants were watered: “beer for the bearded lady,” opium for the Siamese twins and cocaine for the high-flying trapeze artists. “Everybody knows if there’s a party on Earth, it’s down Ringling Road,” the chorus concludes.
It is, obviously, not your usual country song, but Green hasn’t been one to follow the Nashville crowd.
That may be one reason for his mushrooming popularity, and “Ringling Road” already is drawing attention with its first single, “Sympathy,” topping the Texas Music Chart earlier this year.
“Sticks and Stones” is the second single out and the two should inform listeners that, no, “Ringling Road” is not a concept album about the circus.
“They call those career-ending,” quipped Green during a tour stop in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Green returns to Waco, where he has a strong following, for a Friday night show at Wild West Waco. He and his band just finished an East Coast swing that pulled out the Texans in cities like New York City and Washington, D.C.
“Texas kids move to these cities where they are lobbyists or senator’s aides or whatever,” he said. “And they turn out for our shows. They’re rowdy . . . and intoxicated.”
Clark’s spring has been rowdy as well, chocked with touring. One of the leading bearers of the Texas country/Red Dirt movement, the 2004 Tech graduate’s on a roll, but hardly an overnight sensation or, as a “Ringling Road” song has it, “Next Big Thing.”
“In the grand scheme of things, I’d have to pinch myself at how far I’ve come,” he admitted. “But it’s been a slow process, about six years to get to this point.”
Green’s solid song-writing and driving sound has gotten him and his band this far, but he’s quick to praise the Texas country music scene, in which trailblazers like Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green (no relation) and Waco native Wade Bowen showed how to build smaller, but independent and sustainable careers in Texas first.
It’s also a scene with stars willing to give helping hands to those below.
Case in point: Green’s “Rose Queen” album. On the verge of recording the album in Nashville, Green ran out of money at a time his main investor was out of the country.
Desperate to keep the recording session on track rather than dissolve it because of nonpayment of bills, Green called Bowen to ask for an emergency loan. Bowen agreed and authorized a check to cover expenses. “Rose Queen,” Clark’s biggest hit to date, got made.
“It speaks volumes for the (Texas) scene and the camaraderie we have,” he said.
Texas country radio also supports the scene, something that not all country artists have, as do towns and cities with pockets of loyal fans — such as Waco for Green, who said audiences here aren’t quick to say goodbye to performers on the stage.
“Waco was always a very long night,” he said.