Friday, December 14, 2007

Clark Brothers still in it; taking one show at a time

We talked to Franklin County's Austin Clark, who said he and his brothers are happy to have another chance to perform.

NOTE: The Clark Brothers advanced from Friday night's show, and will compete again this week.

Austin Clark

Photos courtesy of Fox Broadcasting

Austin Clark, of the Clark Brothers, performs on Fox's "The Next Great American Band."


The Clark Brothers

The Clark Brothers perform on Fox's "The Next Great American Band."

"The Next Great American Band"

  • When: Tonight at 9
  • Where: WFXR (Channel 21/27)

Three Franklin County musicians are amazed at their good fortune, seven weeks into their run on a Fox network reality show

The Clark Brothers -- Ashley, Austin and Adam -- have continued to impress judges and fans on "The Next Great American Band." The next episode airs at 9 tonight.

Before that episode is halfway over, the Clarks will know whether they've survived another week. They're among the last four bands left on the show, which was created by the producers of "American Idol."

As with that show, performers' survival depends on audience votes.

However it ends tonight, the Clarks count it as a win, Austin Clark said.

"I have no idea how we're doing this," Austin Clark said by phone on Monday. "Just waking up, thanking God for this opportunity and the blessing to be able to do this, for sure, and just showcase our talent."

Another shot

It started with a family jam session in Nashville, Tenn., Austin Clark remembers.

He and his brothers Ashley and Adam were picking down in Austin's basement a few months back. All of a sudden, Ashley Clark set up a video camera and got some music on tape.

What Austin and Adam didn't know was that Ashley sent that video to the production company 19 Entertainment, which was looking for bands to audition in Las Vegas for its new reality show.

None of them really thought about it again, Austin Clark said. Then the phone rang. Would the brothers come to Vegas to audition?

"Ashley was like, 'Dude, I was just kidding. I didn't know that they'd call us,' " Austin said.

It seemed like a huge gamble, the Clarks thought. They had been in the Billboard Top 10 charts a few years back, then just as quickly, it seemed, they had fallen out with their label. A chapter 7 bankruptcy filing destroyed their six-brother band, The Clark Family Experience.

But the brothers were free for the first time in years to pursue different dreams, Austin Clark said.

He, Ashley and Adam eventually gravitated back to Nashville, and were re-establishing themselves among the city's top-flight touring musicians. Ashley and Austin were set to go on the road with Carrie Underwood. Adam was with SheDaisy's touring band.

Should they give up those steady gigs now, for a long shot at new success with their own music?

"We just had to really sit down and pray and decide, do we want to just play for other people our whole lives, or ... step out and be our own boss ... and really play the music that we want to do," Austin Clark said. "We were scared, because there's no security in it. It's kind of like, you could get booted off the first week. And then at that point we would've had nothing, because we quit" our touring bands.

"You can imagine the dilemma. What do you do? Pay mortgage payments and water bills and light bills, or go take a leap of faith and go be your own band -- again."

Leaping on

Not only did the band, now called the Clark Brothers, make the audition, but they also have hung on.

Longtime music industry executive and "Australian Idol" judge Ian "Dicko" Dickson does not take it easy on acts and performances he doesn't enjoy. But he has mostly praised the Clarks, Austin said.

On Friday, the band performed its country-Americana style cover of Queen's "These Are the Days of Our Lives." Afterward, "Dicko" told singer and multi-instrumentalist Ashley Clark that he needed to step up his showmanship.

"You're probably the best frontman we've got here," Dickson said. "But you might be a reluctant rock star. Don't fight it, mate. You'll love it."

"Dicko" also was tough on the band's original song, "Homestead," with its stated desire to go "back to the farm, eatin' fried chicken with the girls in the yard."

It was a "crap song," from the "country 101" songwriting class, Dickson said, to a chorus of boos from the TV audience.

"I'm looking for potential hits, something I can hum in the shower," said Dickson, who has been a record company executive and a talent manager. More boos rained down.

Austin Clark said he and his brothers would like to thank their fans, but Fox has locked down all the competitors' MySpace pages after one of the bands leaked some show information.

But they're still getting plenty of feedback through other channels, and are gratified that many of their old fans and friends from around Roanoke and Rocky Mount are catching up with them, he said.

"I'm just so thankful that people are actually watching and really still care about us, after everything that's happened to us in our whole career. ... I'm just honored, really."