"In a world where artistry would be predictably honored, Clay Parker and Jodi James would be right up there at the top of the list. I love everything about them…songs, music, harmony…everything." -- Jorma Kaukonen
Clay Parker and Jodi James are a duo-band from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The pair's use of dense harmony-singing and subtle musical arrangements indelibly binds them to the tradition of singer-songwriters and positions them well in the folk roots and Americana strains of country music.
Since meeting around 2009 and both being part of the close-knit Baton Rouge music scene, Clay and Jodi could occasionally be found playing on the same bill, but didn't begin collaborating until late 2014. Shortly thereafter they released a self-titled EP and have never looked back. Their following album, The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound (released in 2018), is the product of countless miles, the encouragement of friends, and a creative union whose existence was always inevitable.
Their sound borrows from and transforms traditional Southern cornerstones such as folk, blues, and country. However, though the duo remains loyal to the heritage that brought them together, Clay and Jodi are unafraid of experimenting further, often intermixing mellow psychedelia and cosmic country into their classic harmonies.
In fact, Clay and Jodi aren’t afraid of much. Just six months after they wrote their first song together, they set out on their first tour together, all without the perks of an advance, a tour manager, or even social media to guide fans to their first shows. “I think we both appreciate old-fashioned methods and ways of doing things,” says Jodi. “We’d rather play a different town every night… traveling and bringing our music to all these different people and places organically.”
Though the duo’s nomadic way of reaching listeners may sound daunting in the age of social media, their method has had a rippling effect on both the sleepy Southern towns and large electric cities they’ve passed through on tour. Winning over audiences every night meant that Jodi and Clay built up a long list of industry insiders who believe deeply in their talent. For The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound, the duo worked closely with multiple engineers, studios, and mixers, including long-time friend Denton Hatcher at the Blue Velvet Studio and Joshua St. Moblo at the Bakery Sound Studio. For their 2019 single Shame On You, Shame On Me, they cooked up a borderline chaotic rocker of a song with Ryan Tharp in his Fort Worth studio. “We love all the people that we worked with,” says Jodi. “It’s not just somebody whose production style we heard and then met for the first time. All the people that we worked with are close to us.”
Just as Clay and Jodi’s work with their collaborators is intimate and founded primarily on trust, the duo’s own collaboration method is so deeply ingrained that, to others, it projects a secret, enigmatic quality. Writing their first twelve songs together remotely over the course of just a couple of weeks, while Jodi was spending time in Nashville and Clay remained in Baton Rouge, the duo soon learned that they shared something unusual. “We very quickly saw each other’s nuances,” says Clay. “It seemed that when we did this just the two of us, it held more power than just us doing our solo songs as a duo. We started writing songs that will always be done as a duo.”
When speaking, Clay sparks and trails, sketching profound comparisons and images whereas Jodi’s steadfast way of unearthing details brings a certain warmth to Clay’s notions. Their complementary personalities are immediately apparent not just in their songwriting, but in the way they communicate with each other. The duo’s magnetic nature is so transparent that even strangers become curious. One such stranger, Ethan Hawke, decided to cast Clay and Jodi for musical and acting roles in his 2018 film, Blaze, after meeting them at what Clay describes as a neighborhood “hootenanny” in a small town just north of Baton Rouge.
Also in 2018, Clay and Jodi were invited to play the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The duo delivered an electrifying set, bringing the seated crowd in front of the Lagniappe stage to their feet at the end of their finale. They were welcomed back to the festival in 2019 for two performances which were received in kind.
After an uncertain couple of years through the pandemic -- within which the pair released The Quarantine Tapes (a series of one-pass home recordings) and embarked on a tour with Bonnie Bishop for a run of shows featuring stripped-down acoustic performances of both acts songs -- Clay and Jodi are gathering the pieces once again to return to the road.