Not taking love songs into account, it only happens once in a while that an artist will pay tribute to another person in the form of a song. When it does happen, it’s usually to honour a fellow artist, but today we present the premiere of the debut single from Austin-based artist Clark Twain. In Fly High (Like Richard Branson), he dedicates his virgin solo offering to the founder of the Virgin empire. This single is being released on July 18, perfectly timed with Branson’s birthday.
This is the first single off the coming debut album Life is Wonderful, slated for release this autumn – that is, unless Branson gets his hands on it before then. After all, this is the kind of stuff that Virgin is now made of, having cut their teeth with such bands as the Sex Pistols and XTC.
Fly High is catchy, memorable, lively and positive – it is very much in the same vein as Elliot Smith, Ben Folds, Coldplay, Ben Kweller, and Death Cab for Cutie. With an ardent sense of optimism, he looks forward to a “world with color; a journey with many turns”, asserting “where we’re going, it’s going to be one hell of a ride”.
But this track also throws two X-factors into the mix, making this song a total winner. First we encounter a soundbite of Richard Branson speaking excitedly about flight at high speeds, and eventually we reach a beautiful trail-end to the sound. In place of a typical outro, Clark Twain goes big, adding toppings to his Virgin tribute by melding into an excerpt from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, the first album released on Virgin Records (the label was originally created for the purpose of putting out this record), a massive international success that kickstarted the growth of Virgin Records and the Virgin empire as we know it today. Clark Twain’s approach to classic pop stylings, combined with several innovations, puts him in a league above as far as debuts go.
“I want to live a life like my biggest hero Sir Richard Branson, so I figured the best way to start was to do things that terrified me. I got my hands on a houseboat (Branson lived on one until he was 30) and then a private jet, and the vision for reenacting his life story in a music video was born. Making this music video terrified me. With it behind me, I learned that fear is always smaller when its behind you! Thanks for the inspiration Richard to challenge myself and push my own boundaries,” says Clark Twain.
“Fun, adventure, and business as a force for good – these are the ingredients of Branson’s life and my own. We both love rock n’ roll and shaking things up for good. That’s what this video is all about it. It honors Sir Branson and I hope it inspires others to take this on!”
Clark Twain is the solo moniker of Clark Nowlin, who began playing guitar at 10, cutting his teeth on Metallica and Nirvana covers with friends in the attic and starting his first band a few years later. He eventually quit his day job to fully immerse himself in the world of music “because the gig money put enough gas in my tank”. After touring and recording with Tim Halperin and Marshall Young for a few years and supporting various artists, he amassed recording gear, learned the ropes, and began producing various musical projects.
“I knew that if I didn’t make a solo album and put out my own music, it would haunt me. That’s what I’m doing now. In an honest state of writing about what’s real for me – a song that embodies my own aspirations – that’s how this single was born,” says Clark Twain.
“Last November, I went to Cozumel for 11 days. The only book I brought with me was Richard Branson’s autobiography ‘Losing My Virginity’, which inspired me to write this song and make a music video re-enacting the big pieces of his story: adventure, business as a force for good, and of course fun. I decided to throw myself into all of these situations… a life like Sir Richard’s is one of great fun and chaos!”
Clark dedicated a solid 6-month block of time to working on his new material, beginning in January of this year, and splitting time between Elmwood Studios in Dallas, Clark’s home studio in Austin, and in Denton, Texas with Brack Cantrell, one of Clark’s favorite producers, who also mixed his new material. Mastering was performed by Jon Törnblom.
“If music is to serve any purpose, it’s to remind us that we’re alive and that we’re not alone. For me, making it is a sign that I’m alive. Connecting with it is a sign that this big mysterious journey called life isn’t new territory and that whatever situation we’re in – someone’s already been there and has made it through,” says Clark Twain.
“I’m an eternal optimist and truly believe the best is yet to come in our experiences here on Earth. If there’s a shred of this hope embodied in this music, I’ve achieved my goal. I hope that these sounds put a little wind-in-your-sails when needed on a still day.”
The fun, high-flying video accompanying this track was directed by Vanessa Pla, who also co-produced it with Clark Nowlin.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop and you can follow him on Twitter as @hiapop, and on Facebook here.