Listening to Clay Rose on the mic, singing with his band Gasoline Lollipops, and you know he’s seen more life than many.
Stories, bright and dark, lurk in his rich voice, and he’s not afraid to unveil the stories of his turbulent past. This is, after all, what brought him here and now, and enveloped him in an aura of survival.
Boulder, an amalgamation of outlaw country, punk, folk and psychedelic rock, will perform at Lulu’s Upstairs Standing in Manitou Springs on Friday. Their latest album, “All the Misery Money Can Buy” from last year, is a “letter to the 45th president,” Rose said, “and the growing gap between the middle class and the 1%. We’ve had a flashback on that. ”
Gasoline Lollipops has twice won Denver Westword’s Best Country Group Award and three times the Colorado Daily Best Local Band Award. In 2018, they were ranked in Billboard’s Top 10 Spotify.
Recently, Rose explored these painful life experiences and how, even as they were happening, he felt they had inherent value.
“I knew they were adding depth to me that a lot of people never would have,” Rose said.
As a child, he traveled back and forth between Boulder, where his father lived, and the countryside of Franklin, Tennessee, where his mother resided. It was a difficult way to grow up. “Culture shock,” he called, bouncing from one part of the country to another part of the country. In high school in Tennessee, he wore a mohawk and clearly expressed his love for punk music, which only turned residents and classmates against him. He fought after fight, eventually ending up in a psychologist’s office at age 15, where it was decided he had serious homicidal and suicidal tendencies. He was taken to Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, where he remained until his recovery.
Already a musician at this point – piano lessons started at age 7, bass guitar at 13, and a punk band at 15 – he began honing his songwriting skills in the hospital. However, he refused to write his dark lyrics, lest the staff find them and use them to keep him trapped inside even longer. It is a habit that he still has today, memorizing his songs as he writes them.
At 17, post-hospital, he made his first solo singer-songwriter show, and that’s it. Music was to become the common thread of his life.
Today, in addition to touring with the band, he works as a facilities manager for AIM House, a young adult treatment center in Boulder. He has a 2 year old and a 9 year old and a puppy. He’s been sober for six years.
That first year of sobriety was a particularly powerful time to release what was alive in him.
“If you’re an addict and alcoholic like me, this freshman year you don’t have to do anything else,” Rose said. “You burned your relationship, lost your job, your house, you don’t have rent, I hope you didn’t cut your guitar. You have time to reflect on the wreckage of your past.
These days he writes more than ever, in the wee hours after the kids go to bed and the house is quiet. And he’s in deep thinking mode, analyzing all he can glean from his decades of life and paying homage to singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, whose tape he found when he was 12. There was no name on the tape, so he didn’t know who was behind the voice and the melancholy growling words, but it resonated then and now.
“He was the first person I heard who was broken and did something really beautiful with it,” Rose said. “He did something that crossed time and space, a lonely, suicidal preteen boy, and told me something that no one else was saying, namely that I am not alone. There are other people who are broken like me and that has value. And if you learn to make a trade out of it, you can reach out to other people you will never meet and help save them as well.
Contact the author: 636-0270
Contact the author: 636-0270