As soon as Clayton Waller graduated college and released his first album, he went to summer camp.
He had just released “Blanks” under his music moniker, Rock Eupora; for the next three months, Waller worked as a head counselor at Alpine Camp for Boys. With no technology and an allotted amount of free time every day, he began work on his second album.
“I thought I would regret the decision to be gone for three months and kind of lose momentum, but actually, I had some downtime everyday, an off period where everything was slow,” Waller said. “I would try to write everyday, and it kind of gave a structure to the madness. When it was all said and done, I had like 23 songs.”
Waller continued writing into the fall. That winter, he recorded all 23 songs. Last month, Waller released his 12-track album, “Soon the Sun Will Come.”
One can almost hear the sounds and heat of summer permeating from the pop rock album. Waller, however, said the album reflects the ideas of springtime — change, transitions, growth — more so than any other season. This is apparent in the bright, colorful painting by Oxford native Theora Hamblett that Waller chose to use as the cover.
“I love her art,” Waller said. “She’s one of my favorite artists. That painting was in my grandparents’ house in Jackson growing up. It’s always struck a chord with me.”
The painting now hangs in Waller’s parents’ house, and when Waller decided he wanted a piece of art for the cover of “Soon the Sun Will Come,” he said he thought of it instantly.
“The artwork shows colorful trees and children, and it kind of reflects the theme of the album: growing up, changing of time. A lot of that plays into how the album feels and the themes in it.”
Though Waller grew up learning piano and cultivating his own musical ear with the support of his parents, he didn’t want to pursue music as a career until he was about halfway through with his undergraduate degree at Mississippi State University. In a bit of foreshadowing, Waller met the two members of his first band, Wolf Cove, his first year at Alpine Camp. They began performing covers around Starkville. Soon, Waller suggested they take the next step.
“I was like, ‘Hey, we need to do some original stuff and record.’ And that’s the first time I kind of dipped my toes in recording,” Waller said. “So, we recorded our first EP with Garage Band, which was a total nightmare. But after it was all said and done, and we had music, it felt like it was what I wanted to do. I had never felt so in my element. It was just amazing to have a piece of music that was original, that we did and we played live. Recording and performing, I just fell in love with it.”
The name Rock Eupora came from a combination of influences — the irony of pursuing rock-n-roll, the tendency we have to take home with us when we go, and, Waller said, “rocking the boat.”
“Eupora’s only 20 minutes outside of Starkville, and I thought it’d be cool to take something from my surrounding environment, like where the music started for me,” Waller said. “And I feel like I was indirectly influenced by my surroundings when I was writing the album, and Eupora’s right down the road. It just felt right.”
Waller has lived in Nashville for two years now. He spent the first year at Belmont University, studying for an MBA in music business. Now, he puts that degree to use as he grows as a musical act. He’s been touring for most of February, playing shows he’s booked himself, and he plans to continue touring into the spring.
Waller records, writes and manages his own music.
Catch Rock Eupora with The Red Thangs 9 p.m. tonight at Proud Larry’s.
– Zoe McDonald