Clayton Bellamy wants you to find religions. He wants you to have faith, to be welcomed into his church. But this is not a church filled with prayers and a belief in the Lord above; this is a church steeped in guitars and whiskey and the eternal, riotous, righteous riffs of rock ‘n’ roll.
Bellamy, the Juno Award-winner known to many through the country rockin’ sounds of The Road Hammers, also fronts The Congregation, a rock outfit that makes blissful guitar-driven tracks built for muscle-car stereos, backyards and Saturday nights.
Two new tracks, “Lie to Me” and “Soundtrack to the End of the World,” were released last week. Expect to see an EP in 2022, produced by Top 40 Under 40 alumnus Dan Davidson and celebrated English knob twiddler Dan Weller.
And COVID hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for this record, which he thinks has a more modern sound than anything he’s done before. It’s the product of not being able to go on the road, and being forced to be at home in Bonnyville for most of the previous 18 months.
“Nothing is going to replace the coming together of live music,” he says. “I think it’s one of the last moments of magic left on this Earth. In that live setting, every molecule of energy is taken by the audience and then they give it right back. But, not being able to tour, it did create a renaissance for me. I was writing more, and better, than I ever have before. When you’re a professional musician, it’s always ‘what comes next’ and tour-write-record, tour-write-record. And you’re always looking to create during those little breaks in the chaos. But, this time, I had the chance to breathe.”
The new music was recorded at his home studio, with Davidson in Edmonton and in Calgary. Weller was able to coordinate the recording without having to get on a plane. Through a virtual feed, Weller was able to work the soundboard from England, even though the sessions were taking place in Alberta. And, because of that, Bellamy used more loops and effects than before, and it’s created music that has, dare we say, some very get-up-and-dance elements. “Soundtrack to the End of the World” starts with a frantic rhythm line, punctuated by snarling chords — almost an homage to the style of rock music that’s made several bands from the California desert famous (thinking of you, Queens of the Stone Age).
The video for “Lie to Me” has just been released, and it was filmed in Bonnyville, with plenty of local extras. It’s a creepy rethink of a tent revival.
“Because of the music I’ve done before, I think maybe some of the people thought it was going to be a country music party in the field,” said Bellamy. “It was much more Children of the Corn.”
While Bellamy’s rock ‘n’ roll persona shows off some hard edges, he’s also got a big heart. He’s a small-town kid who grew up loving the arts. He’s a dad. And he wants other small-town kids to embrace music, and find themselves in the process.
He’s established the Clayton Bellamy Foundation for the Arts, which offers scholarships and chances for kids in rural Alberta to access arts programs. There’s already a partnership established with MacEwan University, and Bellamy envisions creating a “safe space” for kids in the Northern Lights Public Schools catchment area (the Lakeland region, of which Bonnyville is a part) to experience music and express themselves.
“Growing up in a small town, if you don’t play hockey, you think your life is over. I want to create a program that gives kids a safe place so they can experience something other than hockey.”