JD Clayton has come a long way from watching his dad strum guitar and sneaking to play his sister’s piano.
In 2018 he released his EP “Smoke Out The Fire,” and he recently performed in the 2019 Fort Smith Peacemakers Festival.
When he isn’t creating or performing music, Clayton, ‘18, works in Nashville, Tenn., at Propak Logistics, a company based in Fort Smith that directly manages transportation and logistics for some of the largest companies in the U.S. His job at Propak enables him to maintain a regular income while developing his art. His trips home let him keep one foot in Fort Smith and one foot in Music City.
As he moves forward with his art, Clayton is determined to remain an independent musician.
“A lot of artists that are independent, like Chance the Rapper, were able to reach global fame, but there’s a lot of independent artists that will never be able to do that because they just don’t have the infrastructure in their business to reach that many people,” he said.
To develop that infrastructure in the music industry, he explained, artists need marketing and connections.
Clayton attributes his ability to move to the next level to his marketing degree from UAFS.
“From where I’m at right now, I owe everything to UAFS,” he said.
By his senior year, Clayton knew many community leaders and mentors to guide him along the way. In fact, he still gets breakfast with his mentor from the UAFS Mentor Connections Program. In mentor connections he was teamed with marketing whiz Jeremy May and advertising executive Fred Williams.
His long term dream is to start his own record label where he can manage and produce his own music and sign on other artists. And he doesn’t limit that to musicians alone. He wants a place where artists, including writers, photographers, and videographers can work within same company.
“I’m not in any realm to be teaching people,” he said. “But I could probably type up a pretty good guideline of what I did to get where I’m at, and maybe help others achieve the same thing I did.”
Clayton not only wanted to establish himself as an artist but help others following in his footsteps.
“To any artist, I’d say, it’s really, really hard, and it’s supposed to be hard,” he said. “If it wasn’t hard, everybody else would be able to do it. So you have to do your absolute very best every single day, wake up and grind it out.”
Clayton plans to perform at as many festivals as he can, starting locally and then branching out. He planned to perform at the Outlier Festival in downtown Fort Smith.