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14 Jul 2014

With Conviction: Gay Americana Singer Jeremiah Clark, Playing at the Purple Room, Finds Inspiration in Christian Music

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Jeremiah Clark. Jeremiah Clark.

Up-and-coming artist Jeremiah Clark has played at LGBT festivals and has opened sold-out shows for other artists throughout the country—and he’ll be bringing his show to the Purple Room in Palm Springs on Saturday, July 26.

Clark’s songs are deep, inspired by artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Alison Krauss and Tracy Chapman. They are usually sad in theme, but very powerful and sung with a soulful voice that can fill up a room and grab an audience.

Clark grew up in a devoted Southern Baptist family in Memphis, Tenn. Music was all around him.

“I would say my grandparents were more religious than my own parents,” Clark said during a recent phone interview. “My grandfather was a minister of music in the Southern Baptist church for about 30 years. … Being from the South, it’s part of your everyday life.”

During his childhood, he was deeply inspired by Christian music. He performed in choirs and recorded his first demo when he was in his teens. 

“I was into Christian music when I was a teenager, but I also grew up on country and classic rock,” Clark said. “Christian music inspired me quite a bit when I was growing as a writer and an artist. I think the one thing that really stands out with religious music is that unlike other genres, you find a strong sense of conviction in the words and the voices in it, and just the energy of the music. You don’t find that in rock or pop.”

He said that while he’s no longer a Christian, he still finds inspiration in the conviction found in Christian music.

“With that conviction, I feel like that is something that has carried over to my music,” he said. “Even though I’m not a Christian, it keeps me coming back to that genre as a listener. You’re not just singing about an intimate relationship; you’re not just singing about what’s going on your day; you’re singing about something that is so far beyond you. There’s such a strong sense of faith and belief that you have to have to say that and sing it well, and to write it, too.”

That conviction can definitely be felt in the gay independent artist’s songs.

“I think for me, a lot of the Christian background, the country roots and the Southern heritage has inspired me to do something in my acoustic performance that’s very intimate and very personal,” Clark said. “My writing is an expression of who I am, not just as a gay artist, but as an artist—someone who uses music and lyrics with a voice to express what I’m going through, and watching what other people are going through.”

Clark’s following and audience has continued to grow, despite the fact that he has had no major-label support.

“I have to give credit to some amazing mentors throughout my career: Musicians who have … shown me how to book shows, how to tour, and how to deal with situations as they arise. I’ve listened to and learned from some of the best,” he said. “I’m able to send this amazing, positive message out to so many people—not just the gay community, but the mainstream as well. That’s really why I do music. I do it because I really want to bring the same sense of joy I get from music to every single person who comes to a concert.”

What can be expected of Jeremiah Clark at the Purple Room? The supper club sounds like a perfect venue for him, based on his answer.

“I’m very casual onstage. I love to tell random stories about my family and my past,” Clark said. “I had someone ask me at a show in Salem, Ore., yesterday, ‘Are you a musician or a comedian?’ But I think it’s a lot of fun.

“I don’t like to have a boundary between myself and the people I’m performing to. I really don’t like to be in venues where the stage is 15 feet above the floor level, or there is just some big separation. It’s an intimate, casual and comfortable setting.”

Jeremiah Clark will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, July 26, at the Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $15; an optional dinner service begins at 8:30. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-4422, or visit purpleroompalmsprings.com.

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