"I often remind my personal community and my larger community that 'small' impacts are of the utmost importance."
During a writing session back in 2018, LA singer and activist CLAY walked in determined to write a song about Donald Trump.
"He ruined the color orange," she told me. But the glossy track is a snappy burst of neo-soul, and is melodically optimistic, camouflaging its dark sentiment. "You took away my color," CLAY calls out. "You know that was my favorite one."
The young queer artist recently announced the start of the ANTI-ORANGE campaign, a collaboration with The Equity Alliance, a Nashville-based nonprofit that combats voter suppression and "seeks to equip citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process." It's an imperative cause, and one CLAY felt personally connected to. "Voter suppression is rampant in this country," CLAY said. "I often remind my personal community and my larger community that 'small' impacts are of the utmost importance. We must all figure out exactly what we have to contribute to the movement."
What is it about your song "orange" that inspired you to start the ANTI-ORANGE campaign?
It's since taken on a life of it's own and so many people have different interpretations of the song, but that's the impact art is meant to have. I wanted to connect back to its original meaning and do a campaign around the song leading up to the general election, donating both the song proceeds and the merch sales to the Equity Alliance.
How did you connect with The Equity Alliance? What about their mission and their platform in particular spoke to you?
I was specifically looking for a grassroots voting justice organization that was led and run by black womxn. Voter suppression is rampant in this country. It poisons so many different aspects of voting. From challenging IDs, to dumping people off of voter registration rolls, to convincing people through messaging and disenfranchisement that their vote doesn't matter and won't make a difference. The Equity Alliance tackles each of these oppressive tactics head on.
Tell me more about your personal connection to The Equity Alliance? This corrupt system of government we have in the U.S. so clearly doesn't support the empowerment of the people.
Black womxn are creating the future that I want to live in. As an artist with a growing platform I seek to use my voice and any ounce of power I have to move capital towards people on the ground doing the work. It's so easy to feel small and insignificant, especially when the changes we must make as a country (and as a planet) are so vast and seemingly endless.
How do you push back against these feelings of hopelessness in your own community, and inspire those around you to feel empowered?
I often remind my personal community and my larger community that "small" impacts are of the utmost importance. We must all figure out exactly what we have to contribute to the movement. What our unique talents are, as well as our personal privileges, and to leverage that power to empower and uplift others. What keeps me going is the notion that in my getting through one door I can hold it open for someone else, hopefully many people.
CLAY - orange www.youtube.com
What has your experience been like in the music industry as a biracial LGBTQAI+ artist? How have you had to navigate the industry differently in order to maintain an established career?
I think that because I am an independent artist I have yet to encounter many of the bureaucratic hoops that so many other marginalized people have to jump through. I have heard so many horror stories of artists being influenced, changed or even silenced by their labels. In terms of my being queer and a biracial womxn raised in a city that gave me the passion and vernacular for social justice at a very young age, there isn't a world in which I would be able to keep my mouth shut about certain issues.
This, however, is speaking to my immense privilege as a white presenting person. Although I have the insight and had the cultural upbringing of being both Black and white, I have not (and never will) experience what it feels like to be seen as a person of color. And as we well know, optics can mean everything in this country. In terms of my role and my purpose in music, I have always and will always navigate this industry as I navigate my way through life: doing everything in my power to create safe space for people to be free to be themselves.
Tell me about your experience in quarantine. How have you been? What have you been doing to keep the peace and stay inspired?
In this tumultuous time it's been hard to really plant my feet in anything concrete. I just take each day as it comes. I try to write first thing in the mornings, even if it's just a couple pages of musings, but I can't say that I have done anything epic! I wish I could tell you I wrote an entire album but really, I've spent a lot of time doing nothing in a variety of different ways! I think it's extremely important for me, and perhaps for other people, to treat myself with patience and kindness and allow myself to simply rest. Knowing that resting itself is productive.
New music in the works? What can we expect from CLAY in the coming months?
Yes!!! I am just finishing up an EP, and I honestly have never been happier with a body of work. I'll be starting to release the songs in the earlier part of 2021, and as soon as we find a way as an industry to safely tour, I cannot wait to perform these songs live!
How are you feeling about this insane election so far?
I can't really speak on the election as it all feels too overwhelming. I will say that I am hopeful.
100% of the proceeds from CLAY's single "ORANGE" and ANTI-ORANGE merch will go towards The Equity Alliance.